SS Java Sea

Eris Kennedy converts the Trumpeter S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien 1:350 scale kit to radio control

Photo 1

Getting into model boating can involve a relatively steep learning curve for a beginner and likewise the experienced modeller who is engaged in a long term project can become a little jaded and in need of some light diversion from what he (or she) is currently doing. Converting a plastic kit to a working model is a practical diversion on both counts and the purchase price of a small plastic model kit is usually not too dramatic, and its basic construction is usually guided by clear instructions, requiring only glue and water based paints to complete. Furthermore, each evening you can expect to see some appreciable progress and a completed model within a fortnight is a reasonable expectation. The smaller model kits such as this Trumpeter S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien kit can be built on the kitchen table which can be useful in winter when the shed becomes uninhabitable unless properly heated. The kit has a reference number of Trumpeter 05301 and is around £40 (UK) or less online.

Even using an airbrush within the confines of the house is possible, although a spray booth is a must and hence the model must therefore be physically quite small. As you will have gathered, the decision was made not only to convert the Trumpeter kit to radio control, but also turn it into a fictitious post-WW2 Liberty Ship, and hence the change of name and colour scheme, Photo 1, which shows the finished model on the water.


Photo 2

Photo 3


It needs to be acknowledged that many small scale plastic kits are not suitable for conversion to radio control, as if too small the resulting model will not float on its marks and probably worse, it will not be stable. The slightest surface movement will result in a capsize and that’s if the model will float upright at all. In my experience, merchant ship models that are smaller than 1:350 scale are unlikely to be successful and should be avoided, so this Trumpeter kit conversion is approaching the limit of practicality. Also, you are going to need a propeller(!) and getting one small enough for a plastic kit project can be difficult, so it is best if the kit comes with a propeller that is useable for functioning propulsion. It is fascinating that such tiny propellers work as well as they they do, Photo 2, and access to the hull’s interior is essential so that you can fit it out and change batteries etc., Photo 3.

This conversion has worked out well, the model just needing a little ballast to bring the hull down to the correct waterline and it is surprisingly very stable. The propeller that comes with the kit is ideal and the deck sections, fore and aft, can be easily removed and the model sails nicely. What follows is not a blow-by-blow ‘Glue Part A to Part B’ article, but more a series of notes as to how the project proceeded, so let’s examine the model and the necessary modifications a little more closely…

Read the full article in Model Boats August 2017

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