Model Shipways Harriet Lane

Want to post a reply to this topic?
Login or register for an acount to join our online community today!

Model Shipways Harriet Lane

  • I notice this kit is newly available from a firm called Model Expo. I have never built a wooden kit before but am obsessed by this ship and have built the Pyro version many times. Is this wooden kit too ambitious for a beginner? I have downloaded the instructions and realise I will have to invest in quite a few tools I do not have. What would be a good wooden kit to practise on? One alternative is for me to buy the kit then get someone to build it for me.
    Replies to this thread are ordered from "oldest to newest".   To reverse this order, click here.
    To learn about more about sorting options, visit our FAQ page.
  • I have to start with an important caveat:  I haven't seen the kit in its current form.  But I can offer some general observations that I hope may help a little. 

    Model Shipways was founded in the late 1940s.  It was a tiny operation, run by two outstanding gentlemen out of a small storefront on a deadend street in Bogota, New Jersey.  (Any customer who stopped in for a visit got the red-carpet treatment.)  One of its first kits was the Harriet Lane.  The kit consisted of a machine-carved pine hull, a handful of cast lead fittings, some pine blocks and birch dowels for deck furniture and spars, and a sheet of plans. 

    Shortly after the company got started, Pyro (known to the proprietors as "Pirate Plastics") issued plastic copies of several MS kits - including the Harriet Lane.   (Pyro did the same thing with a couple of kits from one of MS's competitors, Marine Models.)   That's the plastic kit currently being sold by Lindberg under the name "Civil War Blockade Runner."

    The old MS wood kit got updated several times before, in the late seventies or early eighties, the original proprietors retired and sold the business to Model Expo.  The new owners cut back the line drastically.  They converted some of the kits to the "plank-on-bulkhead" system, and dropped others altogether.  Eventually the solid hull Model Shipways kits disappeared completely.

    Just recently Model Expo decided to bring back some of the old range of MS kits in solid-hull form.  (As I understand it, there was some difficulty in finding a firm with a machine that could make the machine-carved hulls, but apparently that's been overcome.)  I don't know all the changes that have been made from the originals, but I'm pretty sure there's a new set of plans and quite a few of the fittings have been revised.  And the old lead parts have been replaced, generally with castings in britannia metal.  (Britannia is a much better - and longer-lasting - material for that purpose.)

    I think the Harriet Lane would make a good starter for somebody breaking into wood kits.  The deck furniture is pretty straightforward, and the two-masted topsail schooner rig is handsome and challenging without involving a great deal of repetition.  (If you've rigged the plastic version, you won't find a great deal of difference.)  I'm not sure how Model Shipways has handled the paddlewheels and boxes; that's probably the most difficult part of this particular project.

    Elsewhere in this Forum a group of newcomers are doing a "group build" project with the Model Shipways Sultana.  That's a really nice starter kit too (with no paddlewheels).  I have the impression that the participants are having a great time with the project, and the photos they've posted make it clear that they're turning out some excellent models.  But if the Harriet Lane appeals to you more, I say go for it.

    Hope that helps a little.  Good luck.

    Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Thankyou Mr Tilley for your very helpful reply. I downloaded the instructions from the Model Expo website and to my horror the paddle wheels are not complete, just semicircles you stick to the underside of the solid paddle sponson. For me this rules the kit completely out of court. I will stick to Pyro,
  • That is indeed disappointing.  I thought I remembered that the old version of the kit was configured that way; I'd hoped MS had improved it for the revised version. 

    This is the sort of thing that makes me get irritated with people who claim that wood kits are somehow inherently "superior" to plastic ones.  It seems to me that, speaking in terms of sheer rationality, a model that has complete paddlewheels is more accurate than one that doesn't.

    I tried to download those instructions, but my home computer took so long to do it that I gave up.  I did get the first page, which says the kit, in its original version, was first produced in 1965.  It's not for me to tell Model Expo that it's wrong about something like that, but I could have sworn the kit was older than that.  (The Pyro version certainly was around before 1965.)

    If you do want a wood Harriet Lane model, here's a slightly heretical suggestion.  I think the MS and Pyro/Lindberg kits are on the same scale.  You could buy one of each, and graft the plastic paddlewheels onto the wood hull.  It could easily be argued, though, that if your objective is an accurate scale model of the ship, the styrene kit will get you there faster. 

    I'd be curious to know how the good folks at Model Shipways would respond to this argument - i.e., that, in at least one fundamental respect, their kit is outclassed in terms of detail and accuracy by a plastic kit that's almost fifty years old.   That's the kind of logic that, on more than one occasion, has earned me the label "Blasphemer" in wood ship model circles.

    Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • MS Harriet Lane listed as 1/96 and Pyro/Lindberg Harriet Lane at 1/124. Of course, this could mean nothing as Pyro/Lindberg may be incorrect in their advertised scale. One would need to measure paddle houses to be sure of sizing.
  • Somebody needs to tell the good folks at Model Expo to take a look at their published literature.  Some of the ads for the Harriet Lane kit do indeed say it's on 1/96 scale, but the instruction book (available for download on the Model Expo website) says the scale is 1/12"=1' (i.e., 1/144).  I think the latter is correct.  That's the scale that was always stated in the Model Shipways catalogs back in the Goode Olde Dayes.

    I suspect (though I obviously don't know it for a fact) that the Pirates of Pyro worked directly from the old Model Shipways plans.  I've never held the two kits up to each other, but they sure look like they're on the same scale.

    For heaven's sake, though, nobody should take my suggestion about combining parts from the two kits without checking them out carefully first.

    Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  •  jtilley wrote:

    I suspect (though I obviously don't know it for a fact) that the Pirates of Pyro worked directly from the old Model Shipways plans.  I've never held the two kits up to each other, but they sure look like they're on the same scale.

    For heaven's sake, though, nobody should take my suggestion about combining parts from the two kits without checking them out carefully first.

    I've built both the old Model Shipways Harriet Lane (before Model Expo acquired the line) and the Pyro version and can confirm they are virtually identical in scale: 1:144.  I presented the MS kit to an old friend who is a Civil War buff but still have the Pyro version.  Interestingly, I used Model Shipways fittings to replace some poor parts in the Pyro kit (principally the 9" Dahlgrens and the forward Parrot rifle) - Pyro also neglected to include the ship's wheel and housing and binnacle on the poop and the bell on the wheelhouse.  An error in the Model Shipways kit that was carried over into the Pyro kit is that the gun ports are cut too low.  If not corrected in in the MS kit, you end up with the guns being run out and pointed down (this isn't a problem with the Pyro kit if you use the undersized guns and carriages).  The cure is to remove the rail above the gun port and show it hinged (this was commonly done in many smaller warships in this era - and I think probably correct for the prototype) or if you want to keep the rail intact, file down the gun carriages so that they are lower to the deck and so the gun sits lower in the carriage.  In any event, I wouldn't use the Pyro guns and carriages since they look pretty gross.

    I think that you could use (with a little trimming) the Pyro paddle wheels and paddle boxes on the Model Shipways kit, the biggest problem will probably be in running the crankshaft through the main cabin to attach the paddle wheels.

    Hope this helps.   

  •  Robert wrote:
    Thankyou Mr Tilley for your very helpful reply. I downloaded the instructions from the Model Expo website and to my horror the paddle wheels are not complete, just semicircles you stick to the underside of the solid paddle sponson. For me this rules the kit completely out of court. I will stick to Pyro,
     
     jtilley wrote:
    If you do want a wood Harriet Lane model, here's a slightly heretical suggestion.  I think the MS and Pyro/Lindberg kits are on the same scale.  You could buy one of each, and graft the plastic paddlewheels onto the wood hull. 

    Here then is a slightly more heretical suggestion: Buy the wood kit, and scratchbuild the paddlewheels, and sponsons ( materials of your choice, wood, plastic, and cast metal are all in my comfort zone ). You would already have at least half of the paddlewheel assembly to use as a template for the whole piece. If you have never scratchbuilt anything, here is an excellent opportunity to try. If you have, then this is an opportunity for more research, and more knowledge gained.

       Before I go any further, If I have ever come across as thinking I'm better than anyone else, rest assured, I know that I am not. What I am, is willing to accept that there are better modelers, and that I can learn from them. I look at the work of those who are better, and ask "can I achieve that level, or, at least get closer to it?", then I try. Succede, or fail, no matter. I learn from it. In most cases I improve, or at least become less fearful of trying. That said, use the kit parts as a template. Worst case, you have to build the kit as deleivered, or buy the Pyro version, and use Pyro's wheel assemblies. Best case, you sucessfully build paddlewheels, and will have the satisfaction of your work, and yet one more thing you can do.         Pete

    Lead me not into temptation ..................I can find it myself

  • Thanks to all for your most helpful suggestions.