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Who makes the best kit of the C.S.S. Virginia(Merrimack)?

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  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • From: Philadelphia Pa
Posted by Nino on Thursday, September 28, 2017 3:13 PM

1943Mike

Jim,

My suggestion is not for the carpet sailing or grandson's show and tell - it would be for you. Of course you'd probably have to cash in some treasury notes or Big Blue stock ...

http://cottageindustrymodels.com/?page_id=124

Seriously, I hope whichever kit(s) you get, you and your grandson have a swimmingly good time building it together!

 

 Mike,

     The Cottage Industries Kits are all fantastic with great reviews. And Yea, I still have some "Big Blue" (IBM Stock) left after putting my daughters thru School.  Hate to dump it 'cause the Dividends are good.

      Pictures and Reviews of Cottages'  Keokuk are what I used to compare with the Verlinden and Flagship models.  I always felt Flagship came up with great models but they let me down on their Keokuk.  Yep, Cottage Industry is the one to beat in this scale. A great scale to match to the Alabama, Kearsarge, and even the Sea Witch-if you forget she only sailed into the late 1850's!

Edit: As I now understand it  Rusty White of Flagship bought the Ship line from Lone Star in 2005 so the Flagship Keokuk I have was probably designed by Lone Star NOT Flagship!

   As you can guess I have a Flagship Keokuk but my research indicated the Deck planking was wrong.  So, recently I picked up the Verlinden Keokuk from Scale Hobbyist for 23.79 + 1.66 SH (I usually buy more then 1 thing- to spred out the shipping costs). A really good deal considering the Verlinden ironclad kits are gone.  It is waterline and I like full hull so... I may be able to use the Hull from the Flagship kit.  Flagships Keokuk lower hull seems a bit too large for their upper hull but looks much closer to a fit on the Verlinden Keokuk.

Edit:

The site that I picked up info on a Really Great Build of the USS Keokuk is :
 
http://www.shipmodels.info/mws_forum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=117629&sid=84be4de56be8fc75e4712cbe0a7ff736

    I am hoping to get the oldest Grandson more interested in Building stuff, even if to only play with it.  ( I played with my models as a kid! No tracks on my tanks or rudders on my Revell Flat bottom ships after 20 min of play.  LOL).

Learning to follow directions is an important skill. Dosn't matter what you Build.  

Oh,  The first Question I got on my Interview for IBM was " Do I build Models?".

   Thanks.

         Jim.

 

  • Member since
    December, 2010
  • From: Salem, Oregon
Posted by 1943Mike on Thursday, September 28, 2017 10:02 AM

Jim,

My suggestion is not for the carpet sailing or grandson's show and tell - it would be for you. Of course you'd probably have to cash in some treasury notes or Big Blue stock ...

http://cottageindustrymodels.com/?page_id=124

Seriously, I hope whichever kit(s) you get, you and your grandson have a swimmingly good time building it together!

Mike

"Le temps est un grand maître, mais malheureusement, il tue tous ses élèves."

Hector Berlioz

  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • From: Philadelphia Pa
Posted by Nino on Thursday, September 28, 2017 12:51 AM

CapnMac82

 
Sadly, with Lindberg, that only means that they labeled them the same scale.  Whether they were actually moulded to that scale is a question that remains to be answered.

Those kits dated back to a time when scale accuracy was not a halmark of kit manufacturers.  It was not quite to calling a Hurricane a Spitfire or vice versa, but close.

 

 

 

CapnMac82,
 
     I believe I can answer some questions on the Plastic kits of the C.S.S. Virginia and USS Monitor.
 
The Prototypes:
 
 USS Monitor has been listed as 171’ oa .                                                                                                           
 C.S.S. Virginia has been listed as various Lengths.  275’ oa seems most common.    (Lengths range from  262’,  275’, 281’  and up.)
 
The Plastic Kits:
 
      The original Pyro kit(s) was the Merrimac,(Hensforth C.S.S. Virginia),  followed by the Monitor. These were re-boxed together by Life-like as kit #09257. I have this kit.
 
Pyro/Life-like Monitor kit is 9.75” long.  This makes it 1/210 scale.
Pyro/Life-Like Virginia  is 11” long.         This makes it 1/300 scale.
 
     Lindberg reboxed the old Pyro kits as Lindberg Kit #00718 . I believe this helped to create confusion since these kits are the 1/210 and 1/300 scale ships. It appears that Lindberg when re-releasing their own Original kits as 70791, 70886 & 77257, kept the reference of 1/210 scale despite the actual scale of 1/245.  See “ Lindberg made their own version” below.
 
My reference for kit 00718 is Scalemates :
https://www.scalemates.com/kits/1100032-lindberg-718-monitor-and-merrimac
 
     Lindberg made their own version of the Monitor and “Merrimac” with motorized kit # 717M.  This kit was re-released again without motor as kit # 70791 and released again as kits # 70886 and 77257. These had a Sea Base/Diorama included. I have access to kits 717m, 70791 and 77257.
 
The description on Lindberg kit boxes70791, 70886 and 77257 is incorrect.
 
The Monitor is listed as 8 ¼” but is said to be 1/210!      The Lindberg Monitor kit is actually 8.37” long.  This makes the Monitor 1/245 scale.
 
The Virginia is listed as 15” long and said to be 1/300 scale. This is incorrect. The Virginia kit is actually 13.26”.   This makes the Virginia 1/245 scale.  (The Sea base happens to be 15” long on the diagonal.) 
   
Scalemates listed these Lindberg  kits incorrectly as 1/210 scale:
 
     So, which Plastic kit(s) are “Better”?  
 
The Pyro/Life-Like/Lindberg 00718 kits  depict the Monitor with the Turret in the wrong place. Also, the Virginia Gun ports are depicted symmetrical Port to Starboard. They should be staggerd Port to Starboard . However, the Surface details are better than the Lindberg versions.
 
The Lindberg version is not as detailed as the Pyro kits, Virginia gun ports are not staggered either, BUT the kits are a consistent scale of 1/245. And the Monitor Turret is placed correctly.
 
The resin and wood kits I located are:
 
Verlinden 1/200 scale   waterline only
Flagship models at 1/192
Blue Jacket 1/192 
Cottage Industries 1/96,
LoyalHanna Dockyard at 1/72
 
    Later edit:  I think Lone Star also did some kits. I know they provided Plans of some Civil War Ironclads to Flagship Models.
 Later Later edit:  I understand that all of Lone Stars ship line was sold to Flagship Models over 10 years ago.
 
Note: I have found that many Resin kits are not to the listed scale since Resin Shrinks. Case in point the Verlinden 1/200 Keokuk is larger than the Flagship Models 1/192 Keokuk.  Based on the length of the Keokuk, the Verlinden kit is to scale.
( Also, Flagship Models depicts the Keokuk with a wooden deck whereas my research indicates it was an iron deck. Verlinden also depicts iron.)
 
That's all for now. I'm researched-out.
 
   Nino
  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • From: Philadelphia Pa
Posted by Nino on Sunday, September 17, 2017 9:36 AM

warshipguy

Gene,

My physician testified yesterday strongly supporting my case.  The Commissioner of Workers Comp then announced that he will take four weeks to decide.  My attorney has my papers to retire with disability once that decision is made.

I have a project that I have been working on . . . the old Constructo HMS Pandora.

Bill

 

Bill,
      It’s kinda weird to say “Good luck with the Disability” but Good Luck anyway.  I never knew anyone who got direct benefits of the taxes I pay so I hope you can get that Workers Comp and/or SS payments.
     The Constructo HMS Pandora looks like fun. I downloaded a Picture of someone’s model while I was looking for references for the Bounty ( Pandora picked up “survivors” from the Bounty expedition.)  It looks like a terrific kit for an exprienced bullder. Seems to be large scale, close to 3 feet long.  Even the Ships boat looked as big as the Lindberg Monitor.
     Jim.
  • Member since
    September, 2005
  • From: Groton, CT
Posted by warshipguy on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 5:52 AM

Gene,

My physician testified yesterday strongly supporting my case.  The Commissioner of Workers Comp then announced that he will take four weeks to decide.  My attorney has my papers to retire with disability once that decision is made.

I have a project that I have been working on . . . the old Constructo HMS Pandora.

Bill

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • From: Western No. Carolina
Posted by gene1 on Monday, September 11, 2017 9:18 PM

Nino & Bill that was real nice to hear, John was a great writer & nice man. How is retirement for you Bill, or has it started yet ? I think all model builders enjoy retirement more than most people.

      Flagship is expensive, but do turn out some beautiful kits. I like the Cairo more than about any, because I have seen her at Vicksburg. They found her, I believe, in about 1958 & raised her in 3 pieces & put back together in  about 1962 ???  I'm not sure of the dates. She was sunk with a 5 gal jug of black powder with an electric charge. I think it was the first boat sunk with a mine.  

  • Member since
    September, 2005
  • From: Groton, CT
Posted by warshipguy on Monday, September 11, 2017 9:38 AM

Jim,

Your point is well taken! There are many of those old contributors whom I miss, John Tilley most of all.  Rest in Peace, John.

Bill Morrison

 

  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • From: Philadelphia Pa
Posted by Nino on Monday, September 11, 2017 7:41 AM

gene1

Nino, That's who I was trying to think of, Verlinden made my waterline kits. They are really nice & I think I only paid from $25 to $40 for each of them, but that has been a few years ago. I still have one to finish, but the rest are gone. I might do them all again.

 

     Yea, they had nice Water-Line kits for the price.
      I started "collecting" a Stash several years ago in anticipation of retirement. Verlinden kits were still available then. I had the Monitor, Virginia and Keokuk in my wish list. All just a wish now.  Glad I got as many old Airfix, Heller, and IMAI Molded kits when I could.
     
     I was a "Stalker" here for many years but never felt capable of any worthwhile input. Really need to thank all the long-time members here on all the suggestions that have been posted over the years. These Learned Gentlemen/ Veterans/ and Model-Builders-Supreme make this one of the very best of the Model Forums. (That means you too Gene!)
 
    Thanks.
         
          Jim.  
  • Member since
    November, 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Sunday, September 10, 2017 8:06 PM

Nino
Since he wants “Bigger”

Bluejacket used to offer plans, the plans that had been old kist plans.

I have a (faded) set og 1/8" =1'-0" (1/96) BJ plans for Monitor.  Not a super-detailed set of plans, but the subject is a bit simple, too.  Builds up--if memory serves--about 24" long.  Bluejacket even makes a 10-12" truck gun of about the rights size.

Right about the time I was cobbling up lists of fittings and some raw material sizes, they announced finding Monitor's turret, and promised much more detail on the structure (would be really nice to have more info than "grating" for the turret roof).  Those announcements also put the brakes on gettingthe verlinden resin kit in 1/35, too.

The shapes are nice and simple, so these are not hugely complicated vessles to scratch build--especially in waterline.

I still want to build at least Mointor, in basswood, with .020 & .010 (2" & 1" to scale) brass sheet stock chemically blakened for the iron plate.

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • From: Western No. Carolina
Posted by gene1 on Sunday, September 10, 2017 3:36 PM

Nino, That's who I was trying to think of, Verlinden made my waterline kits. They are really nice & I think I only paid from $25 to $40 for each of them, but that has been a few years ago. I still have one to finish, but the rest are gone. I might do them all again.

  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • From: Philadelphia Pa
Posted by Nino on Sunday, September 10, 2017 1:45 PM

GMorrison

 

Your Pyro kit has a vertical topsides molded below the edge of the deck I see.

Still. I think you could make a new deck using the original as a pattern, and cut out the deck part of the old one. Or make the whole thing. The plate joints are pretty huge looking.

 

Thanks for the replies. 
     You are right. A new deck could easily be fitted in. I wanted to keep some semblance of the iron plates and riveting on the deck . That part had me confused until I recalled a post were someone used pieces of tape to simulate hull plating. (White Glue might work for rivet heads? Or were the Rivets Countersunk??)  Oh, and the Turret has to Turn!
     This is for my Grandson as I expect he will be covering the Civil War sometime next year. He wanted “Bigger” so I am using the Pyro kit because the USS Monitor is a bit larger at 9.77” (1/210) compared to 8.25” (1/245?) for the Lindberg version. He Lives in Virginia, and yea, I know, I should do a CSS Virginia- I plan to get him to do that one with me.   
   Since he wants “Bigger”, I will probably get the Original Lindberg kit too because It had the CSS Virginia listed as 15” long. If the Virginia was 275’ OA then that’s 1/220 scale. Close to the Pyro Monitors 1/210 scale .
 
 Gene1,
    Great Looking Models!  Thanks for the Pics. I am Inspired.
   Lone Star and Verlinden made Resin waterline Ironclads in 1/200ish. For the Cost of a Lindberg kit I could probably get a Verlinden 1/200 Resin Monitor kit if I could find one. BlueJacket and Flagship are out of my price range at this time.
 
  Capnmac82,
       I agree. I do not believe the Lindberg listings of scale on the current kit #77257 are correct.  I won't know the "scale" of the Lindberg kit versions till I get one, and even then it's conjecture on the real length of the Virginia. I'll post my Pyro V/S Lindberg findings.      Anyway, Good starters for young Kids I would think. They'll "Float" on a carpet and not many parts to break off.
 
     Jim.
  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • From: Western No. Carolina
Posted by gene1 on Saturday, September 09, 2017 10:35 PM

GM, are you still looking for Civil War ironclads about 14" long? Flagship Models make a lot of them. Also I built a bunch of Resin kits by, I will have to check. The detail on both are super ggood. Here are a few.

This is Flagships Cairo. I saw her at the Vicksburg battlefield.

 These are waterline kits & about $35. Flagships are full hull & go about$100 + or- .

  These were a lot of fun & easy. I will check who made them, it was one of the big resin makers.

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Saturday, September 09, 2017 7:46 PM

 

Your Pyro kit has a vertical topsides molded below the edge of the deck I see.

Still. I think you could make a new deck using the original as a pattern, and cut out the deck part of the old one. Or make the whole thing. The plate joints are pretty huge looking.

  • Member since
    November, 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Saturday, September 09, 2017 7:16 PM

Nino
P.S. Lindbergs original Monitor and Merrimac kit was same scale, 1/245.



Sadly, with Lindberg, that only means that they labeled them the same scale.  Whether they were actually moulded to that scale is a question that remains to be answered.

Those kits dated back to a time when scale accuracy was not a halmark of kit manufacturers.  It was not quite to calling a Hurricane a Spitfire or vice versa, but close.

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Saturday, September 09, 2017 7:04 PM

From up here in the cheap seats it would seem to be pretty straightforward to make a new deck.

Probably better detail. 

Cut off and save all of the deck fittings and furniture.

Dont bother with cutting a hole for the turret, just glue it on.

  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • From: Philadelphia Pa
Posted by Nino on Saturday, September 09, 2017 3:31 PM

jtilley

I just took a look at the Lindberg website.  It seems the company (which recently has come under new management) is reissuing the old "Monitor and Merrimack" kit.  But now (if the photo is to be believed) they're waterline models - or maybe they come with some sort of base that hides the underwater hulls:  http://www.lindberg-models.com/water_model77257.html

At least the company now acknowledges that the two kits are on different scales.  The Virginia looks pretty clumsy (as could only be expected of a kit that must be close to fifty years old by now), but the overall shape looks about right.  And the Monitor's turret, as my weird old memory remembered, is indeed in the right place (though it looks like it may be a little small.  Maybe not, though).

That website contains quite a few pictures that will stir up fond memories in the minds of Olde Phogie modelers.  The Robert E. Lee is coming back (in all its flat-bottomed glory)...

 

    Thought I'd move this up to the top as there is a host of great Historical (USA and Model Kit related) Info.

   I have the Life-like/Pyro Monitor and "Merrimack"(read:Virginia) Kit. The Pyro Monitor and "Merrimack" versions seem to be more detailed then the Lindberg kit but are not the same scale. The Monitor is 1/210 and the “Merrimac” is 1/300.  As mentioned by JTilley, the Pyro Monitors Turret is in the Wrong spot too.

      I want to use the Pyro Monitor but fixing the Turret position is beyond my capability. I could fill in the old Turret position but how do I add the Plating and Rivet detail?

   My Options:

      Give up and spend money on a Resin kit?  Use the Lindberg smaller scale kit (too small)? Or turn the Pyro Monitor version into the USS Canonicus or Passiac or something with a similar hull and Turret placement?  I’d need plans to get the best choice and probably have to re-think the scale. However, John Tilley made a Paper Monitor for his Mariner Museum and I'm wondering if the Pyro Monitor deck could be sanded down and the paper deck from the JTilley's Monitor scaled to fit on top. Might be any easy fix. You lose some detail but the deck plan will be accurate and “Painted”.

  Just some thoughts...  Any Suggestions?

       Jim.

P.S. Lindbergs original Monitor and Merrimack kit was same scale, 1/245. The models in Lindberg Kit 70791 are 1/245 and I believe kit #'s 77257 and 70886 are also. Lindbergs other Kit, # 00718, is a Pyro copy.

P.P.S. I'm gonna get that Robert E. Lee Kit before it's "gone".

Tags: JTILLEY
  • Member since
    March, 2005
Posted by philo426 on Monday, February 11, 2008 3:47 PM
Thanks for all of the thoughtful replies!I would bet that Lindberg's current owners are attempting to cash in on the :Pirates of the Carribean" pheneomna to boost sales.
  • Member since
    January, 2005
  • From: Tampa, Florida, USA
Posted by steves on Monday, February 11, 2008 8:18 AM

Park addresses the site of Virginia's sinking in his book and shows the nautical charts of the area as it was in 1862 and as it exists now.  The site was and still is actually in the channel near Craney Island, but the whole area has changed significantly and the Craney Island of 1862 has been buried within a larger land mass that has been built from the spoil produced by dredging the channel over the years.  Park feels that any remains of the ship would have been destroyed by all the dredging.

 

Steve Sobieralski, Tampa Bay Ship Model Society

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, February 11, 2008 7:21 AM

Good point, Subfixer.  As a matter of fact, the Hampton Roads map in the Rand McNally Road Atlas that I've got in front of me indicates a big, roughly rectangular area north of Portsmouth as "Craney I. Dredged Material Area."

Another vague recollection from the early eighties:  I think Clive Cussler, the novelist, made some effort to find the remains of the Virginia, hoping his name would persuade the Navy to let him onto the grounds of Craney Island and find something exciting that would generate publicity for his next book.  I don't know whether the Navy let him in or not; I do know he didn't find anything.

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

  • Member since
    March, 2004
  • From: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Posted by subfixer on Monday, February 11, 2008 5:44 AM
 jtilley wrote:

The Merrimac/Merrimack/Virginia has always created big problems for modelers, because the available information about her is so scanty.  There's a set of plans for the original (Union) design, and a couple of extremely sketchy measured drawings that apparently were made by the Confederate naval constructor early in the process of converting her into an ironclad.  But no reliable plans of the finished product - and, so far as anybody's been able to tell, no photographs.  A few pieces of her have survived in museums, but whatever was left of the hull (after it was blown up) has never been found.  (If any of it exists, it's on Craney Island, which is a naval installation - and the Navy is reluctant to let researchers near it.)

 

 

 Regarding the remnants of the hull, any remains won't be on the island, but in the island as it has been transformed into a kind of artificial peninsula to accomodate a Navy fuel farm. Dredging the James River to create this facility would have chewed any remains into pulverized pulp. But dredging and other construction work does occasionally uncover other marine artifacts in this area such as Lord Cornwallis' supply fleet at Yorktown and an occasional merchant ship, anchor or cannon in the Elizabeth River.

It may interest some of you that the drydock in which the Merrimac was converted into the Virginia is still in use at the Norfolk Navy Yard (Drydock 1) and is a very impressive piece of work.

I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, February 11, 2008 2:18 AM

I think Ed's right.  If so, nothing would stop the modeler from building the two kits as full-hull display models.

The "diorama" base is a little more believable than some, in that the Monitor and Virginia really did get that close to each other during their one encounter with each other.  (If I remember correctly they actually were in physical contact for at least a few minutes.)  [Later edit:  the word "remember" in the previous sentence refers to my memory of the books I've read about the engagement.  Contrary to what some of my students seem to think, I was not alive in 1862.]  There remains, however, the problem that the two kits are on different scales.

Nothing is going to make those old Lindberg and Pyro kits come up to the current state of the art (though some of them do look pretty good - notably the shrimp boat and the trawler).  I have the impression that the people who recently acquired Lindberg have thoroughly honorable intentions and not a great deal of money.  (Those two enormous new Japanese subs must have set somebody back a great deal of cash, though.  I wonder if the money came from the U.S. concern, or some Japanese one.)  I'm happy to see some of those old kits again, if only for their nostalgia value - and I'd like to see some more of the old "Lindberg Line." (The old "Fulton's Clermont" and the fictitious sternwheel steamboat Southern Belle were my two all-time favorite motorized kits when I was a kid.) 

I wish the company would quit putting silly "pirate" names on the Wappen von Hamburg, the Sovereign of the Seas, and La Flore, and I'd be more comfortable if it would make the age of these kits a little more obvious to the potential purchaser, but money is money.  (If I ever tried to run a hobby manufacturing firm, it, I, and everybody who worked for me undoubtedly would go broke in a matter of weeks.)  I wish the new Lindberg the best of luck.

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

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: Mansfield, TX
Posted by EdGrune on Sunday, February 10, 2008 10:46 AM
 jtilley wrote:

I just took a look at the Lindberg website.  It seems the company (which recently has come under new management) is reissuing the old "Monitor and Merrimack" kit.  But now (if the photo is to be believed) they're waterline models - or maybe they come with some sort of base that hides the underwater hulls:  http://www.lindberg-models.com/water_model77257.html

Probably the same vacuformed base which was included in their moments in history series.  Depressions in which the whole hull sits.   It limits the poses which may be displayed.

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Sunday, February 10, 2008 10:28 AM

I just took a look at the Lindberg website.  It seems the company (which recently has come under new management) is reissuing the old "Monitor and Merrimack" kit.  But now (if the photo is to be believed) they're waterline models - or maybe they come with some sort of base that hides the underwater hulls:  http://www.lindberg-models.com/water_model77257.html

At least the company now acknowledges that the two kits are on different scales.  The Virginia looks pretty clumsy (as could only be expected of a kit that must be close to fifty years old by now), but the overall shape looks about right.  And the Monitor's turret, as my weird old memory remembered, is indeed in the right place (though it looks like it may be a little small.  Maybe not, though).

That website contains quite a few pictures that will stir up fond memories in the minds of Olde Phogie modelers.  The Robert E. Lee is coming back (in all its flat-bottomed glory), as is the Coast Guard patrol boat.  (That's a subject for some rejoicing.  There are scandalously few USCG plastic kits out there.)  And the poor old La Flore is now to appear in two ridiculous marketing scams, under the names "Jolly Roger" and "Glow-in-the-Dark Ghost Ship."  Well, it's nice to have these old friends back.

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

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Sunday, February 10, 2008 3:38 AM

Steves's last post, and his paraphrasing of Mr. Park's book, seem to confirm my recollection of the story of the plans at the Mariners' Museum - with the big proviso that my information was about 25 years out of date.  Sometime after I left, I gather, the museum came to terms with the gentleman in Norfolk and bought at least some of the plans he had.  (My guess is that nobody was willing to pay the price he was asking, so he dropped it.  Or maybe that particular individual died, and whoever inherited the drawings was more reasonable - or needed the money.  Maybe those other members of the Porter family that steves mentioned were in that category.)  I think steves and Mr. Park are right:  for such a repository to acquire those documents was certainly a proper thing to do, but the documents themselves did not, by definition, add anything significant to the extant knowledge of the ship.  I'm pretty sure the MM had photocopies of them as early as the 1930s - and the gift shop was selling copies of the copies when I was working there, in the early 1980s.

I got some first-hand experience with the relationship between Confederate ironclad plans and reality a few years back, when some of my students and I were working on a project involving the C.S.S. Neuse.  (The remains of her hull are preserved at Kinston, NC, about 35 miles from where I live.  She's in a less-than-ideal state at the moment, but there are big plans afoot for her future.)  There's a set of plans for her, by the same Mr. Porter who worked on the design of the Virginia.  Those plans supposedly were used to build the Neuse and the Albemarle, which supposedly were identical (or near-identical) sister-ships.  Some photos of the Albemarle have been found; they make it clear that (a) she was quite a bit different from the Neuse (though the two ships had similar dimensions and basic shapes), and (b) there were plenty of differences between the Albemarle and the plans.  I drew a new set of four views of the Neuse, based on the best information the guys at the state historic site and I could put together; I ran into all sorts of little problems that made me question just how reliable those old Porter drawings were.  (We had a good deal of trouble, for instance, reconciling the written documentation about the iron shutters over the gunports with the Porter plans - and the photos of the Albemarle.  I'm not at all confident that I got those details right.)  I eventually came to the conclusion that the Porter plans were intended as a "contract draft," a highly generalized set of specifications that constituted part of the contract between the Confederate Navy and the various people who actually built the ship, rather than a precise guide to how the ship was going to look.  It's pretty clear that the actual work was carried out by people who had little, if any, experience with shipbuilding; they built something that worked (well, more or less) and met the requirements of the contract.   Whether the finished ship looked like the drawing probably didn't matter much.

It's perfectly normal, even in much more modern times, for significant differences to appear between the plans that are drawn in advance of a ship's construction and the ship herself.  I stongly suspect that was the case with the Virginia.  The conversion from steam frigate to ironclad ram was done in a great hurry, and nobody involved had ever done such a thing before.  It seems likely that a great deal of improvising took place - and adhering closely to a set of plans probably wasn't a high priority.

I haven't seen the article Al Ross mentioned, but the idea of a faceted casemate certainly is believable.  Logic suggests that a wood and iron structure composed of flat surfaces is easier to build than one with curves in it - especially for people who are in a hurry.  I'm no expert on Confederate ironclads, but my recollection is that none of the others about which any documentation or photos have survived had any curved surfaces on their casemates.  On the other hand, the Virginia was the first of the batch, and the biggest; it wouldn't be surprising if she turned out to be unique in that respect as in so many others.

It sure would be nice if somebody would find some photos of the Virginia, and lay all this speculation to rest once and for all.  But we shouldn't hold our breath.  The photographic record of the Civil War, though enormous, has quite a few remarkable gaps in it.  (For instance, when my students and I were working on that project in Kinston we spent a good deal of time digging in various excellent sources, and consulting with qualified people, in search of photographs of Confederate Navy enlisted men.  We never found any.)  If any photos of the Virginia ever do turn up, my guess is that they'll show some things that surprise everybody.

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

  • Member since
    June, 2007
  • From: Albuquerque, NM, USA
Posted by styrenegyrene on Saturday, February 09, 2008 8:20 PM

The last time I was at the Museum of the Confederacy, in Richmond, there was a pretty sizable chunk of iron bar stock outside in front of the museum.  The label proclaimed it to be the propeller shaft of the Virginia.  I haven't been there in 15 years or so; it may not still be there.  I never thought to ask about provenance, but I was surprised at the size of it. My memory has gone the way of the rest of me, but the picture in my mind has it about 18" in diameter and 15 feet long.

Personally, I'm tickled to see people call her the Virginia.  (Not on this forum!  I'd expect nothing less from y'all!)  The first time I ever saw her mentioned under that name by anything associated with the Yankee (pardon the use of half the word) government was on a postage stamp about 10 or 12 years ago.  Virginia was the name under which she fought, and under which American sailors suffered and endured.  I love seeing her so remembered!

Turning styrene into fantasies for 50 years!
  • Member since
    March, 2006
  • From: Bangor, Maine
Posted by alross2 on Saturday, February 09, 2008 7:44 PM

Volume 42, Issue 4 of "Warship International" has an interesting article on CSS VIRGINIA in which the author proposes that the shape of the ends of the casemate were faceted rather than curved.  It includes a large number of drawings and offers an intriguing alternative view of VIRGINIA's appearance.

 Al Ross

 

  • Member since
    March, 2005
Posted by philo426 on Saturday, February 09, 2008 7:19 PM
Interesting indeed!I guess they were in such a hurry to construct it that normal naval archetectiure was usurped by expedientcy.
  • Member since
    January, 2005
  • From: Tampa, Florida, USA
Posted by steves on Saturday, February 09, 2008 5:27 PM

Park goes go into some detail regarding the existing plans of the ship, but even though I read it several times, I am not sure I completely understand what he is saying.  I believe the situation is this:

The naval constructor, John Luke Porter, made a number of drawings of the ship.  Two of these, a gun deck plan and a three-view drawing (overall plan, outboard profile and section with scrap views of a gunport lid and armour bolting) were copied in 1891 by a man named Hughes and Hughes' copy of the second drawing was copied again in 1932 by a man named Allen.  Copies of these copies have been available for some time from the National Archives.   They were drawn at the scale of 1 inch equals 5 feet and thus were fairly large drawings.  In 2002 the Mariners' Museum purchased the original gun deck plan and another Porter drawing (not of the Virginia) from the Porter family through an agent.   In 2003 they announced that they had also purchased Porter's original three-view drawing from another person who had acquired it from the Porter family some years ago.   There were also four other Porter drawings that the museum decided not to purchase from the family, but Park was unable to find out exactly what those drawings contained.  Therefore, there may be further information on the ship still in the possesion of the family and they may also possess other drawings that no one knows anything about.

While it is nice for the museum to have these originals, they really do not shed any new light on the ship as the information in them has already been available for some time through the copies.  In addition these drawings are very general in nature and do not show construction methods or other details historians (and modelers) would like to know.   They also differ in various respects from the completed ship as described by contemporary writers, including Porter himself.  They do not, for instance, show the bow and stern quarter gun ports, which are well documented by several sources.  Park speculates that they may be "in progress" drawings which do not reflect the later changes.  One of the main themes of the book is the on-going conflicts during construction between the constructor Porter and John Mercer Brooke, who considered himself the inventor of the ironclad concept.   Both men survived the war and despised each other until they died.

 

Steve Sobieralski, Tampa Bay Ship Model Society

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Friday, February 08, 2008 11:32 AM

That's a good point, steves.  In resin kits from cottage industry manufacturers (unlike styrene kits from the "mainstream" companies), materials make up a significant percentage of the price of the kit.  There's probably less than a dime's worth of styrene in the typical Tamiya or Revell kit, but the underwater hull of the Flagship Virginia must be quite a chunk of resin - and that stuff isn't cheap.

I'm going to be especially interested in what Mr. Park says about contemporary plans of the Virginia.  My recollection from my days at the Mariners' Museum is that at least one sheet - an outboard profile, on a pretty large scale - had been drawn up by the Confederate Naval Constructor in Portsmouth.  The MM's library had a photocopy of it, which was used by the museum model shop staff to build its 1/48-scale model of the ship.  My vague recollection is that one of the descendants of the guy in question claimed to have the original locked up in his office (in Norfolk, if I remember right).  The museum's head curator and librarian made some effort to buy it when I was there (sometime between 1980 and 1983), but the guy wanted some ridiculous price - which the museum, already having a good photocopy in its possession, refused to pay. 

I'm sure Mr. Park knows about this document. (I'm not so sure the guy who owned it in the early eighties is still among us.)  I have no idea what its actual provenance is/was - or, for that matter, how accurately it represented how the ship actually looked.  For all I know the whole thing may have been a hoax.  Lots of hoaxes, distortions, and half-truths have surrounded that ship's history for the past 146 years.  It's about time somebody sorted them out and identified, for once and for all, what is actually known about her.

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

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