This has probably been my longest-running kit build so far - I bought the kit in mid 2007 - though for most of that time it was sitting half-finished on the shelf! I last worked on the model in late 2008 and got it to the stage where the upper yards and rigging needed to be added; for the next 5-6 months it gathered dust, partly because I wasn't really sure what to do about the kit's moulded sails + yards (see below) Over the last few weeks I resolved to get it finished. Rigging was a pain but the finished result was worth it (I think).
USS Hartford was a sloop-of-war (a sloop was classed as a warship with all its guns on the upper, weather deck; a frigate had an enclosed gun deck) built in 1858. Like most ships of this era it had both steam propulsion (single screw) and sails (ship-rigged, with three square-rigged masts). It had a displacement of 2900 tons and a crew of 300. Armament, as built, consisted of 20 9" Dahlgren smoothbore guns in broadside mounts, one 20-pounder Parrott rifled gun on the quarterdeck, and two 12-pounder rifled guns on the forecastle.
USS Hartford saw quite a bit of action in the US Civil War, as the flagship of Admiral Farragut, most notably at the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864.The ship actually survived as long as 1956 but by that date was in such poor condition as to be unsalvageable (a great loss, as no other USN wooden warships from this era have survived). However, numerous relics of the ship were preserved - including the ship's wheel, one of the anchors, and several guns - and are on display in various locations around the US.
For more information on the ship and its history, see here:http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/sloops/hartford.txthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Hartford_(1858)
I've always been a great fan of warships from this "transitional" era and have just about all the plastic kits available - I've already built Revell's 1/96 USS Kearsarge and Pyro/Lindberg's USS Harriet Lane
and also have the Imai USS Susquehanna and Revell CSS Alabama in the stash. It took me quite a while to track down Aurora's USS Hartford, certainly the rarest of the lot.
Aurora's kit was issued in the early 1960s and was part of a range of large-scale sailing ships which also included the clipper "Sea Witch", whaler "Wanderer" and the "Bonhomme Richard". All of these kits were quite good considering their age - certainly light-years ahead of virtually all the non-sail plastic ship models of the time - though not up to the standard of Revell's best kits like the 1/96 Cutty Sark and Constitution. Their only real drawback was the sails which were injection-moulded and attached to the yards - they look very overscale and unconvincing, and to build the model without sails you either have to scratchbuild new yards or somehow cut the sails off the ones in the kit.
The "Sea Witch" kit moulds have survived - the kit has recently been reissued by Lindberg - but I have no idea what happened to the others after Aurora's demise. They are all well worth a reissue, but are long out of production and fetch high prices on eBay when they do appear, probably as much due to demand from modellers as from kit collectors. I paid about $75 for mine (part-built and painted, but complete) including shipping, from a US seller in 2007. Not cheap but probably not much more than it would cost to buy the kit new, given how much Lindberg are charging for the "Sea Witch" reissue.
Aurora's USS Hartford kit measures about 65cm/26" long (including bowsprit) when completed, giving a scale of around 1/130 - very close to Pyro's "Harriet Lane" and Imai's "Susquehanna", 1/144 and 1/150 respectively. There are some omissions and inaccuracies (it appears to be a mix of Civil War and pre-war fit) but overall the model appears quite accurate compared to museum models. Photos of a 1/48 scale museum model were my main source of reference for detailing and painting the model, along with a few photos of surviving relics. I built my model to represent the ship in pre-Civil War fit and paint scheme. During the war it was painted grey and had a number of modifications to fit and armament, including the removal of the upper masts and yards.
I've made many small additions and modifications to the kit but 90% of the basic parts are what you get in the kit - for a 50-year old moulding it certainly isn't bad. The rigging is simplified - especially the running rigging - though I put a lot more work into rigging the model than any of my previous builds. I did not use any blocks as I couldn't find any small enough to not look too conspicuous and overscale.
Some of the changes I made were:
- Replaced the smaller upper yards with spares-box parts (from a cheap SMER 1/200 Cutty Sark kit). The larger lower yards are the original kit parts, with the sails cut off, and carefully trimmed + sanded.
- Made new stern gallery windows from styrene strip (after cutting out the old solid windows) and a nameplate on the stern, made from Slaters styrene lettering. I believe Hartford actually had projecting quarter galleries at the stern, which were removed during the Civil War, but scratchbuilding these, with their complex curved shape, was beyond my abilities.
- Added traversing rails for the aft Parrott gun made from styrene strip.
- Added the 2 12pdr rifled guns (and their traversing rails) to the forecastle. These are made from heavily modified Heller 1/150 guns + carriages. I used "modeller's license" for the exact appearance and locations of the guns as I couldn't find any reference material.
- Modified the funnel/stack and added a scratchbuilt whistle and steam pipe.
- Cut off all the moulded "pin rails" on the bulwarks and replaced with spares-box parts (from Heller kits)
- Replaced the amidships davits with spares-box parts.
- Replaced all eyebolts with copper wire ones (available from Caldercraft in the UK)
I also made a new nameplate for the stand, using Slater's lettering, as I didn't really like the moulded "sea" on the kit nameplate, and most of the text was too small and moulded too shallow to paint neatly.
(edit: "Harford" typo in thread title, don't know why I didn't spot that earlier...)