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jRatz

Trumpeter 1/350 Liberty Ship

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Bear with me here ….I don't like to just "model" ….

Virginia Dare

Virginia Dare was the first child born (August 18, 1587) in the Americas to English parents, Eleanor and Ananias Dare, of the short-lived Roanoke Colony. This colony, on Roanoke Island in Dare County on the present-day Outer Banks of North Carolina, was an enterprise financed and organized by Sir Walter Raleigh in the late 16th century to establish a permanent English settlement in the Virginia Colony.

The fact of her birth is known because the leader of the colony, Eleanor Dare's father, John White, returned to England to seek assistance for the colony. When White returned three years later (delayed by the Anglo-Spanish War), the colonists were gone, with the only clue the word "Croatan" carved in a tree. Most think this means they went south, to Hatteras Island, to live with the Indians but no evidence has been found to shed light on the fate of Virginia Dare and the other colonists -- now enshrined in history as "The Lost Colony".

Liberty Ships

In 1936, the American Merchant Marine Act was passed to subsidize the annual construction of 50 commercial merchant vessels to be used in wartime by the US Navy as auxiliaries. The number was increased in subsequent years. Ship types included a tanker and three types of merchant vessel, all to be powered by steam turbines. Limited industrial capacity, especially for turbine construction, meant that relatively few of these ships were built.

In 1940, the British government ordered 60 tramp steamships from American yards to replace war losses and boost the merchant fleet. The design was modified by the United States Maritime Commission to conform to American construction practices and to make them even quicker and cheaper to build. The US version was designated 'EC2-S-C1': 'EC' for Emergency Cargo, '2' for a ship between 400 and 450 feet (120 and 140 m) long (Load Waterline Length), 'S' for steam engines, and 'C1' for design C1 -- thus the common designation "C-1 Cargo". The new design replaced much riveting, which accounted for one-third of the labor costs, with welding, and featured oil-fired boilers. The ships were constructed of sections that were welded together. The work force was newly trained—no one previously built welded ships. As America entered the war, the shipbuilding yards employed women to replace men who were enlisting in the armed forces.

North Carolina Shipbuilding Company

This was a shipyard in Wilmington, North Carolina, created as part of the U.S. Government's Emergency Shipbuilding Program in the early days of WW2. A location about three miles south of Wilmington was selected -- it was considered an ideal site with the physical properties of deep fresh water, ample space, adequate feeder railroads, good climate, and a large, high quality labor force close by. Construction of a yard with six shipways began on February 3, 1941. Shipbuilding got underway with the first two keels being laid on May 22. As world tensions increased, the orders for ships increased and three more shipways were added. Work proceeded rapidly, and the first Liberty ship, the SS Zebulon B. Vance, was launched on December 6, 1941, just hours before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The war enormously increased the nation's shipbuilding program. The peak building activity for Wilmington came in May 1943, when 11 vessels were delivered from the company's nine shipways. At the end, the yard had nine shipways, three piers, and 1,000 feet (300 m) of mooring bulkheads. There were 5,822 feet (1,775 m) of waterfront, over five miles (8 km) of paved roadway, nineteen miles (30 km) of railroad track, and 67 cranes. Employment reached its peak of 21,000 in 1943. During its five years of production, the yard produced 126 Libertys and 117 larger ships, for a total of 243. Collectively, the company's employees won every award of the United States Maritime Commission. They took pride in the fact that in five years, thousands of willing but non-professional shipbuilders built a modern plant, solved the problems of training, changing requirements, and manpower drains, and built ships of a quality recognized throughout the world.

SS Virginia Dare

As noted above the first Liberty ship off the ways of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company was the SS Zebulon B. Vance, named for a famous NC statesman and soldier of the American Civil War period. The 3rd ship was the SS Virginia Dare, laid down in May 1941, launched in Feb 1942, and delivered in the following month.

I have attempted to track the history of Virginia Dare, with small success -- any help filling the gaps would be appreciated.

August 1942:- convoy RU-34, Iceland to Loch Ewe and return; no other info.

Sep-Nov 1942: convoy PQ-18, Iceland to Murmansk, returning via convoy QP-15. On PQ-18, Virginia Dare was awarded the Gallant Ship Award for her anti-aircraft defense, accounting for seven German aircraft.

March 1944: convoy UGS-33, Hampton Roads (Virginia) to the Mediterranean. Unfortunately her last convoy as she, and another Liberty, got into a "friendly" minefield off Bizerte. Virginia Dare was towed ashore and salvaged -- her war, and her history, was over.

The Kit and the Build

I'm not going to say much here -- it's the Trumpeter 1/350th kit representing the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, one of two surviving, working, museum Liberty ships. I chose Jeremiah O'Brien because it is the cargo version -- their other kit, the SS John W. Brown, is in the passenger/troop-carrying configuration.

trumpeter350liberty-01_boxart_s.jpg

I have the L'Arsenal update set, and photo-etch upgrades from Eduard, Gold Medal, and Tom's Models. Yes I went a bit overboard (I also have John W Brown kit), but I'm not going to use much of this stuff, just picking and choosing as I feel like it. I have some additional documentation on the cranes and the steam pipes running around the deck that Trumpeter forgot about.

I don't know if I'm going to build waterline or full hull. I probably won't do deck cargo -- it ends up looking artificial, at least the way I do things. I don't usually weather my models heavily, so it'll look pretty clean. I suspect, just glancing at the kit, that my first problem will be getting the multi-piece decks to look good -- I wish they'd stop doing that.

So if you haven't figured it out, I'll be doing the SS Virginia Dare. Now one Liberty looks like any other, and they didn't carry markings, so it'll be hard to tell when I'm done. Maybe I'll take some "liberty" and put her name on somewhere.

Why all the fuss ?

Well, I live in Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina -- life on a sandbar. I can see the ocean from my front windows and from my back deck I can see Roanoke Island and the probable site of the Lost Colony, where Virginia Dare was born, just a few miles across the sound. Down the coast a ways is Wilmington where the SS Virginia Dare was built.

The Battle of the Atlantic was fought off our coastline, also known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Locals have numerous stories of torpedoed ships. In July 1942, Civil Air Patrol Coastal Patrol Base 16 was established on Roanoke Island and flew patrol, search, and escort missions until August 1943 flying small civilian aircraft up to 40 miles offshore. I am curator of the museum telling their story.

Oh, by the way, if you come out my way, don't ask a local for directions -- we've already lost a colony.

Edited by JohnRatzenberger

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What an intro John! Very interesting background, I find it always helps in producing a labour of love!

Looking forward to seeing this one take shape.

Al

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trumpeter350liberty-10_prepwork_s.jpg

Preparatory work. After some thought, I decided to go full hull, so I made a little balsa workstand. The hull was drilled in two places and 8-32 nuts glued in -- they'll take whatever the permanent mount will be. Right now I just have bamboo sticks to hold it in place & allow me to lift the hull off as needed.

I also scraped off the bilge keels -- they are too short and too wide. The Gold Medal set contains PE replacements.

Other than that, I focused on cutting off the cargo hatches, opening the deck rails in two spots, taking off the 20mm tubs, gun mount rails, watertight doors, and some other things that'll be replaced with either PE or resin -- in short, most the major surgery is done and assembly can start.

So, from here, I'll get the bilge keels on, get the deck pieces glued down and the seams out of all that, then I'll look at a simple, non-scale, scribing of the hull (& deck?) to replicate the plates. While that is going on, I can start working on the two gun platforms and the main cabin structure.

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An end of year status report -- it's going along just fine and I really do like the basic kit.

trumpeter350liberty-11_prepwork_s.jpg

I stripped off the kit bilge keels (too short & too wide) and replaced them with photo-etch from the Gold Medal set -- they even provide a jig to get the location right. Also, after test fitting, I put little tabs inside the upper hull/deck to keep the lower hull in place while gluing the two together.

From there, I glued the upper hull to the lower, then glued the two deck pieces to that. While glue was drying, I started to assemble the basics of the deckhouse and gun platforms. Once the hull was dry, I applied filler where needed than went after it with sanding sticks. What you see here is about 75% cleaned up -- I have a couple rough spots to fix, then use successive grades to sanding sticks to smooth things out and I'll be ready for a primer coat so I can check for flaws.

trumpeter350liberty-12_prepwork_s.jpg

More next year …

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No, I haven't disappeared, but have been tied up on another project, now almost done.

Right now, I'm scribing some lines on the hull to simulate plates -- I should be back in full step in a few days.

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Great back story. I have dived a few Liberty Ships, so know a history of a few of them, but this is a new one to me (probably becuase it was broken down, so no wreckage for me to dive!)

Look forward to the build, I am tempted to pick one up and model it as a ship I know, i.e. a wreckage.

Dan

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I have been hung up on another project, a review, and that is now done so I can get back to work.

I have scribed the hull a bit, sanded it down some, then put on primer while I was finishing the above project. Now it is too darn cold to take this outside and finish sanding the hull/primer. My spray booth is in barely-conditioned space, so it's also a bit cold to do that either right now.

So today I started on deckhouse details. As I noted, I do have several aftermarket sets and it is amazing how they can differ -- with the Eduard set being one to watch out for -- for example their mods to the aft 5-inch platform and adjacent deck gear don't match what I have seen, not that I'm an expert.

I'll get some pictures up this week ....

Edited by JohnRatzenberger

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I haven't disappeared, it's just been a bit hectic so I've been getting time on it as best I can.

trumpeter350liberty-21_wip_s.jpg

The weather turned good, so I got outside for the final sanding of the hull -- now I can start with the little on-deck details that I need to get mounted before I start painting. Meanwhile I've been doing some detailing of the structures -- the bow and stern mounts are mostly done, except the weapons. The deck house is started, as are all 3 derrick houses.

I should be able to move along a bit better now …

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