Model Engineer Exhibition 2011



The number of marine competition entries in this December 2011 exhibition remained at a disappointingly low level, although this was to some extent offset by a rise in the Loan Class entries. It does seem that fewer and fewer model boaters are willing to participate in static competitions these days, despite the fact that the quality models are out there and can be seen on club stands at various shows up and down the country. Participation at the Model Engineer Exhibition is also probably affected by it coming just a month after the major model boating only show at Warwick. However, with the club stand exhibits, there must have been upwards of 70 boats on display and pretty much all of them were of very high quality indeed.

Clubs and trade

Model boating support came from the Blackheath, Phoenix and Victoria clubs as on previous occasions, while there were also a number of fine models to be seen on the general model engineering club stands. Specialist model boat traders were unfortunately conspicuous by their absence although you could stock up in batteries and electrical gear from Component Shop. From an engineering point of view, there was the usual comprehensive range of engineering suppliers.

The competition

In the competition classes the most impressive entry was the 1:72 scale model of HMS Warspite depicted as in 1942 and built by Colin Vass. I had seen this model previously, but this was my first opportunity to get a really good look at it. Sixteen years in the making, it is an extraordinary model in every way. Not only does it demonstrate the very highest standards of finish and workmanship, but it also features numerous working features as well. The main 15 inch turrets train and their guns elevate and fire blanks; the anchor can be raised and lowered, the larger ship’s boats are individually radio controlled as is their handling crane. The model also features lighting and sound effects. Truly a modelling tour de force and an unquestionable Gold Medal award. It of course it attracted a huge amount of interest from the show visitors.

Next to it was something completely different. Raymond Hunt’s interpretation of the ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut’s Royal Barge was almost jewel like in comparison and was a real photogenic eye catcher. Queen Hatshepsut was one of the few female rulers of Egypt and is believed to have reigned for the period 1479 to 1458 BC, during which she greatly extended Egyptian trading relations with neighbouring countries, notably to the land of Punt (Nubia). Modelling a ship of this period is to some extent conjectural, relying on sources such temple carvings and tomb paintings, but this is no reason not to attempt the project and Mr Hunt’s model was both very well constructed and attractively finished, as well as being beautifully displayed. It was awarded a Silver Medal plus the Maze Challenge Cup for being the best model of a pre-1820 or oriental sailing ship, a requirement it amply met on both counts!

One point was of particular interest and that was the arrangement for mounting the two steering oars at the stern. Mr Hunt’s research rejected the idea of the oars passing through a block at deck level shown in a book on building Egyptian model boats as this would have prevented the oar from pivoting up when required in shallow water. The lashing system he adopted as an alternative on the model appeared to be more logical, but in practice and from my own sailing experience, we felt it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to function as shown due to the oar then binding on the ropes. The lashing system used on the full size replica Minoan ship of the same period which featured in Model Boats last year shows a much looser system of mounting the oar. This provided more flexibility, but demanded considerable physical strength on the part of the helmsman and ancient records do seem to indicate that helming these vessels was very hard work. Both Dave and I really liked this model with its colourful decoration and carving and took photos of it from every angle.

Brian King needs no introduction to readers of this magazine and has been a strong supporter of the exhibition for many years, most recently with his series of Victorian era battleship models. This year he treated us to HMS Colossus of 1882, a ship that was noteworthy for being the first warship to mount modern rifled breech loaded 12 inch guns for the Royal Navy in place of muzzle loaders. These guns used a slower burning powder as a charge and longer barrels were required to ensure that it was all burnt by the time the shell reached the muzzle for maximum velocity and range. One side effect was that the barrels dipped into the sea as the ship rolled. There is an extremely interesting interactive website on HMS Colossus which is well worth a visit:

HMS Colossus was perhaps not quite up to the standard of Brian’s earlier Gold Medal winning models with some lack of detail and certain minor flaws in the paintwork and deck planking, but he is incapable of producing anything other than exemplary work and Colossus was accordingly awarded a Silver Medal.

John Engall entered a double position Thames Skiff to 1:12 scale of the type made famous in the book ‘Three Men in a Boat’ by Jerome K. Jerome. This was an exquisite little model, accompanied by some of John’s earlier work in the Loan Class which had featured in previous exhibitions. Construction was from traditional materials including mahogany, oak and beech together with brass and copper fastening and fittings. The gratings on the bottom of the boat were of exceptionally fine workmanship and it was awarded a Silver Medal.

Wooden construction also featured in two Navy Board Style models to 1:48 scale exhibited by Kenneth Clark which were the Sheerness Dockyard Commissioners Yacht Queenborough of 1718 and HMS Wasp, an eight gun sloop of 1749. Both were excellent models and we were particularly impressed with Queenborough and its presentation which included two human figures which brought the exhibit to life while at the same time giving it a real sense of scale, this being a simple but imaginative idea.

HMS Wasp was conventionally displayed under glass. The workmanship on Queenborough merited a Silver Medal but we felt that the deck planking on HMS Wasp appeared to be somewhat too wide and the gratings slightly out of scale, although we were happy to give it a Bronze award.

The entry form from Peter Shires included a photo of his Norfolk Broads sailing yacht Lucent, but this did not do the model justice! At 1/8 scale this was a large model and very nicely built indeed with its traditional construction and varnish work. It was evident that Mr Shires’ workmanship was matched by the extensive work he had done to realise every feature of the classic 1930’s boat in miniature, including taking off the lines of the original vessel. The model was also very attractively presented and was given a well earned Silver Medal together with the H.V. Evans Trophy for Research and Presentation.

Another working sailing vessel was exhibition regular Richard Chesney’s Thames Barge Faberge to 1/32 scale. An attractive interpretation of a popular modelling subject, some commercial fittings and an independently sourced GRP hull kept it out of the medals, but it nevertheless gained a Very Highly Commended Certificate.

Only one entry appeared in the Kit Class but it was a good one. Carl Cooper had tackled the Caldercraft traditional tug Westbourne and made an excellent job of it. This was an unmodified kit, built straight out of the box, and shows just what high quality products many of today’s kits are. A Bronze Medal was awarded and we agreed that the standard of work also deserved the Marine Kit Class Cup.


I was particularly pleased to see just how many models had accompanying information and documentation which was of value to the judges and to the visiting public. Many models were also very attractively presented as the photos show. This really does add to the enjoyment of looking at the models and also wins the entrants many valuable points.

As mentioned above, this year’s show was notable for the number of models in the Loan Class, several of which would have been award winners had they been entered in the competition as the photos show, but it does seem that many people are happier to exhibit their work this way.

So, not a vintage show in terms of numbers, but standards remain as high as ever.