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Prairie Schooner OGALLALA by DFellingham - BOTTLE - Complete, 1/96 scale

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On 5 October, National Ships in Bottles Day, the Ships in Bottles Association of America (SIBAA) announced the start of a group build of Fantasy Ships. The only criteria is that the ships are depictions from art, films, books, movies, cartoons, etc, or from the creators imagination. My first thought was one of Hornblower's ships but decided against any of them. Then I remembered that the covered wagons from the western expansion of the United States were sometimes called "prairie schooners" because of their very loose resemblance to ships at sea. That triggered a visualization of a large Conestoga Wagon "hull" fitted with masts and sails from a Baltimore Clipper and I set to work on drawings to work out the details. When I posted my drawings on the SIBAA facebook page several people mentioned a Disney animated short "The Saga of Windwagon Smith" presented as a classic tall tale like the Paul Bunyon stories.




As soon as I saw the beginning of this cartoon I remembered seeing it in the theater when I was about 9 or 10 years old and that my inspiration for Ogallala must have come from it, so I'm giving credit to Walt for my inspiration.


My intention is to present Ogallala as if it was real including the "real" dimensions, correct rigging, deck details, wheels and necessary wagon details like brakes and steering.






In the time since preparing these preliminary drawings as jpeg images, I found the bottle I'm going to use which requires reducing the drawings from 1/64 scale to 1/96 and preparing individual detail drawings of the components, now in progress. I learned by doing how to generate the usual three view line drawings of the hull from my very simple hull. I have reduced the beam a little so the hull will fit through the bottle neck. The hull will be divided into an upper and lower section with separate wagon frame components all to be assembled inside the bottle.


My first problem is how to depict a "sea" of chest high prairie grass but I'm finding information on how model railroaders do fields of tall grass or grain crops.


Please, don't try to tell me that a "prairie schooner" or "windwagon" is impossible. I know and I don't care - it's a fantasy build and just for fun.  :D  I hope you join in the fun by following the build.


Yippee-ki-yay and a yo-ho-ho!



Edited by DFellingham
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Sounds  like a fun project !


Not to digress, but the name Ogalalla comes from the aquifer of the same name.  An aquifer is a subterranean bed of rock or sand that is able to hold huge quantities of water.  In the case of the Ogalalla, it is among the largest in the world, holding a vast quantity of water beneath eight states, most notably Nebraska.  The bestowing of this name on a 'Prairie Schooner' is totally appropriate.


I wish you great luck with the SIB build and look forward to the 'sea of prairie grass'.

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Thanks for dropping by and posting, Piet and Augie.


Ogallala is also the name of a small city (pop. 5000) in western Nebraska near the north east corner of Colorado which was a significant rail head during the western expansion. The name comes from a tribe of the Sioux Nation, but now spelled differently. I used the name Ogallala with all three of those connections in mind.


Yippee-ki-yay and a yo-ho-ho!

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Bob and Wayne: Your seats are reserved and welcome aboard, I'm very pleased to have you along!


It may be a week or so before posting again - I'm still working on the plans and waiting for delivery of some materials.




Edited by DFellingham
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Glad to have you aboard, Mark.


Made some progress. Click an image for the full size photo.



Image of Ogallala inside the bottle. The blue tape indicates the planned "waterline" (actually soil line) inside the bottle. Good fit with about 3/8" (9mm) clearance between the masthead and the bottle.



Hull piece templates attached to 1/64" (.4mm) and 1/32" (.8mm) plywood. Templates were printed onto the paper side of freezer paper, arranged on the plywood, then ironed (waxy side down) to the ply. The pieces will be cut out with scissors and sanded to size. During assembly the paper is easily removed.



Hull under construction, plank on bulkhead technique - never mind that individual planks cover the entire bottom, sides and ends. The two inner decks are spaced about 1/64" apart - the upper and lower hull sections will be separated between those decks at a later stage of the construction.



Decking section, print-out of decking plan and the left over piece of raw deck material. Planks were made from 1/16" (1.6mm) basswood with thin black paper glued (thinned white glue) to one side then the wood cut into strips about 1mm thick. After cutting planks to match the decking plan they were glued black edge to wood edge. Black paper was glued to the end of one plank at the butt joints. Ordinary transparent tape applied to the assembly fixture's bed prevents gluing the planks to the fixture. After the glue dried the deck was sanded to less than 1/32" thickness, ready to glue to the deck former after it is in place.



Thanks for looking.







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Sorry, I tend to forget to include a size reference when I take the photos, I'll try to remember on the rest of my posts. I like to use an X-acto blade - I suspect it's more universal than even a US cent to this crowd. The hull is 4 inches (100mm) long with a beam of just under an inch (25mm).


The bottle is a gallon jug. The model itself will be 6 1/2 inches long X 5 3/8 inches tall (165mm X 137mm). It's a nice change for me to work on a model this big at this large a scale.



I made some progress.



View from port side with deck installed and hull planking complete. It's still planking even if one plank covers the entire side, isn't it? 



Starboard side planking with the freezer paper still in place. The upper line matches to the deck and the lower line is the cut line to divide the hull into upper and lower sections. I cut the plywood about half way through on the sides and ends before gluing them in place. I admit that I'm pleased with myself - and surprised - that all those pieces actually fit the way they were planned and drawn on my three-view plans. 


After taking those photos I discovered that my "sea of grass" materials had arrived in the mail. After inspecting them I decided to post my progress.



I found this HO scale mini kit on a model railroad supply website and bought two of them. The photo on the box blew me away, it's exactly what I was looking for. (I hope I don't get banned from the "dark side" for using kits for a small portion of my scratch build.)



The kit is made up of ten of these to cover an area 4 inches square (100mm x 100mm). I intend to use very small amounts of thinned yellow and darker green paint to give the "sea of grass" a little irregularity in color. The strips with the plants will be glued edge to edge (like planks) to build up a field.



Close-up of grass stalks showing the detail. By giving individual plants a twist and/or bend they will be more three dimensional. The same company molds these in a straw yellow to depict a harvest-ready wheat field but I went for the green of a barley field to better depict wild buffalo grass. Individual stalks are .40 inches (10mm) tall. According to the description each kit has 5000 stalks.


More to come, soon.







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Are you going to include the deer??? :D  :D

They're not in the kit but a good idea. Little seagulls in flight glued to the inside of the bottle are done on some SIBs. I had in mind to try some crows, but some deer or bison or curious Indians on horseback would be cool. I have to see what I can find. Thanks!

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For the tall grass, consider buying a tire brush at any automotive store.  There are plastic ones but sometimes you can find the natural bristle type.

Failing that drive around til you see some dead grass and snatch up a handful.  I'd spray it with a clear dull cost then glue in.



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Thank you for taking the time to look in and make a suggestion, Andy. I do appreciate it.


I'm trying to depict the wild buffalo grass of the pre-Civil War prairie - a species that is now almost extinct except for a few stands of it maintained in State and National Parks in the prairie states. Buffalo grass grew 4 feet or more tall.


I looked at those same mats (and many others) but they were all too short at 2mm to 5mm - 8 to 18 inches at the scale I'm working with. Even those 10mm barley stalks are kind of short at 37 inches to scale, but the best match I could find to what I need. Believe me, I spent several hours looking at the various products available to depict grasses and grass-like field crops until settling on what I purchased.

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  • 3 weeks later...

:piratebo5: Welcome! 


​I worked on several parts of Ogallala - the undercarriage components, several deck detail items and some of the wagon detailing.




The four undercarriage components that will be assembled inside the bottle set in place on the bottom of the lower hull section - from left: front axle, axle tiller, brake / tiller attachment beam and rear axle. The three cross pieces have pegs that fit into holes in the hull section. The tiller fits in a hole in the front axle. I did a mock fit-up in an imaginary bottle with a toilet paper tube neck to check that it can be assembled working through the neck. That test went well, I hope the real assembly will be as easy. The front and rear wheels will be attached to the axles before the axle assemblies go in the bottle.




Hatch frame with cover planks, and fore and main pinrails. The fore pinrail will also serve as the bits for the bowsprit. The belaying pins were cut from .010 inch (0.25mm) entomology pins. Each pinrail leg has a belaying pin reject glued into the end that will glue into holes in the deck upon assembly.




Deck details in their approximate positions for a photo.




Each cargo hatch has three simulated planks that need handles to use when they are removed for loading and unloading. I decided to try making ring bolts as handles. Here's the first one made from 40 gauge wire (.0055 inch / 0.14mm) with a ring that is 4 scale inches (100mm) in diameter - 1/32 inch (0.08mm) on the model. Yes, it was very fiddly. Just 17 more to make.



No photos yet on the exterior hull detailing, still in progress. Thanks for viewing.






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  • 3 weeks later...

Mark:  I can't decide either. I guess either "it" or "she" is equally appropriate.


I've made some progress. Work continues in four areas:

Wheels (a project in themselves)

Hull (both sections including the deck) painting and detailing

Spar fabrication

Carriage - mostly complete and waiting for wheels - no photos



I cut discs of 1/32 inch (0.8mm) plywood and basswood to the two wheel sizes and glued them into sandwiches of basswood between two layers of plywood. When fully cured the sandwiches were chucked in a lathe and center holes drilled for mounting on an arbor in order to cut the outside diameters.



From upper left: turning the outside diameter of two wheel rims, drilling the rough inside diameter, turning the inside diameter, and the components mostly painted and waiting for my attention. While the lathe was out I also turned the four hubs, shown with bug pins as handles for painting. The yellow ocher spoke material is finished and ready to be cut to length for spokes.



Overall photo of upper and lower hulls with bowsprit, fore mast and main mast in place but not glued. Painting is mostly complete on the hull/wagon body; the bands where the black strips will glue are masked (with Tamiya tape - great product, by the way) so the strips will glue to the wood and not just the paint.



Closer shot of installed deck details. Note the ring bolts in the hatch cover planks. Since this "ship" is too small for crew quarters below deck, there is no need for ventilation gratings in the hatch openings. (I'll use any rationale to avoid making gratings.  ;) )



The hinge near the base of the mast with an X-acto #11 blade for size reference. Although it requires more precision work than the usual simple bent wire hinge it turns out far cleaner and when painted is nearly invisible. I'm very pleased with the look of my deck planking.



Close-up of the main top in progress with trestle trees and two cross trees in place. The mast in the doubling area is properly squared rather than the easier - but incorrect on wooden masts - round. I need to make and temporarily fit my topmasts before the third cross tree can be installed.


Thanks for stopping by.




Edited by DFellingham
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Thank you, Bob and Michael (and the lurkers who don't comment or even hit "like" from time to time ;) ), for your continued interest and support.





Where I am; moving ahead with spars, hull, carriage and wheels.





Photo montage of assembling an eighteen spoke wheel. Clockwise from upper left:  fixture and pattern, and the spoke cut-off station; calculating, cutting and fitting the first three spokes to the same length is important as it makes fitting the rest much easier; fitting some of the intermediate spokes allows the builder to visually check spoke spacing and make adjustments as work progresses; fitting more spokes in the spaces - half way done with this wheel; hurrah, one spoke left; two eighteen spoke rear wheels (1.060 in. / 27mm dia.) and two fourteen spoke front wheels (.860  in. / 22mm dia.) fabricated and ready for a little paint touch-up, further detailing and mounting on the axles.





Close-up of the two piece hull posed for a photo with axles and other carriage components. Strips of black construction paper were glued around the rims to replicate the shrink-fit iron tires. Carbon fiber pins (.020 in. / 0.5mm dia.) were glued into holes drilled through each wheel hub into the ends of the axle to reinforce the glued connection. The black strakes at the sheer line are glued in place; three more (on each side) to go. They seem to take more time to prepare than the wheels did.





Macro of Fore (to right) and Main masts, tops and topmasts. The tops were fabricated from .015 in. x .030 in. (0.4mm x 0.8mm) plywood strips.






Edited by DFellingham
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Thank you all for your comments and likes.  :)


The wheels were outside my experience in ship modelling but easier than expected and fun to make.  I'm glad I reduced the number and increased the size of the spokes from my initial drawing (24 spoke rear and 18 spoke front).


I almost forgot to verify that the rear wheel and axle assembly will pass through the bottle neck. I measured and calculated and measured again but hadn't physically tried it -- until now.







Edited by DFellingham
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