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Pic 1: This bows on picture shows the neat deck planking. Pic 2: The steam plant ready for a bench test. Pic 3: The steam plant installed in the model, forward of the cabin.

This was my very first attempt at model boat building, having been into exhibition model railways for many years. Not knowing how hard things can be in the model boat world, I decided to contact Malcolm at Cornwall Model Boats who suggested that Alexandra, a kit by Krick, would be suitable for a beginner like me. However, a twist of fate was about to occur, because whilst on holiday having my sixtieth birthday treat, I called into the local model shop in Guernsey and mentioned that I was considering a steam launch for a novice builder. The owner disappeared into the stockroom and came out with a part finished Alexandra. After much chatting and discussing the pros and cons, my mind was made up, and on the return to the UK the kit was purchased.

It is suggested in the instructions that a different steam engine can be used instead of the recommended one, but the internal layout would have to be adapted to suit. Not afraid of a challenge, I went along with this. The intention was to undertake the construction of Alexandra over the winter period, as I work outside (I am a Dry Stone Waller in the Peak District), so I tend therefore to work long days in the summer. Now, winter is also the worst part of the year, so a small work bench was made in the loft space of my house where at least it would not be too cold.

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Pic 4: The inside of the cabin and the cheeseboard. Pic 5: Alexandra almost finished except for the name decals. Pic 6: In her natural environment, Alexandra moving under her own steam.

The full-size plans are great, but Krick are a German company, so the text of the instructions is translated by them and fortunately came with the kit. The wooden laser-cut parts are all numbered and are easy to locate and cross-reference to the plan. With a few simple tools and fine sandpaper you can make very good and rapid progress with the project. The steam engine came from Graupner and runs on camping gas from its own small gas tank. Its simple operation made life easy, especially as a close friend of mine makes model traction engines and he was interested in my project. After doing some bench testing and getting to know the engine it was final assembled into the hull. I have now steamed Alexandra a number of times using Glynn Guest’s idea of putting 5% glycol into the boiler water to get a more visible steam effect on hot days. This works wonders and as Glycol contains a rust inhibitor and is also a lubricant, I think it can't do any harm (please see Model Boats March 2008 for his ‘Hints and Tips’ piece). Of course no model is the same until it's come alive with a few extras in the form a turn of the century meal on the table obtained from my local doll’s house shop, but period figures have yet to be added at the time of writing.

I am pleased with my first effort in model boating and plan something more ambitious as the next project. A river picnic anyone?