Saturday, January 13, 2018
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
scale replica of S.S. ARROW of New England's Colonial Line, showing her
appearance between 1936 - 1942. The ARROW first ran as the BELFAST for
for the Boston and Bangor Division of the Eastern Steamship Company.
Rex Stewart's profile plan drawing of Hudson River nightboat ONTEORA as
she appeared in 1906. At 1/8" = 1' scale, the actual length of this model was
30 7/8" inches. The plans were produced and copyrighted in 1992.
At last, there is now an amazing trend happening in the world of steamboat collecting - a resurgence of steamboat lore through the acquisitions of models that seem to grace boardrooms, libraries and homes in the Northeast Corridor. Deemed as part of the designer's methaphor to accent rooms which capture American maritime in its heydey of the prolific sidewheeler.
Observing this recent trend has brought me to realize the possibilities to open a door for contemporary collectibles that reflect America's past in its zenith of the Industrial Age. This being the maritime and the beautiful vessels that once graced its waters.
These replicas are reminscent of the sidewheelers that commuted on the Hudson River and throughout the New England Region during the heydey of steamboating. And though my material only address certain vessels, it doesn't limit my abilities to design and reconstruct custom models from other regions, provided there is enough available data.
As a craftsman, my first priority for undertaking a project is to aim for accuracy. Meaning, how can I provide the 'best' accuracy for bringing to the collector/investor a true and concise model.
Hudson River steamboat JOHN E. MOORE c.1853
Most plans for steamboats are non-existant and no hard rules apply to authenticate those plans/blueprints that are available. Plans were blueprints which defined a vessel, but seldom did the 19th century builder adhere to them. To assist my research I carefully scrutinize available documents such as literature, photos and paintings -information necessary for producing non-copied original drawings. Once these drawings are realized, I am then able to produce the model.
Each and every model, whether a reproduction of the first, or a custom 'original'; each has its own elegance and persona. My models are scratchbuilt at the highest standards, using the basic woods of pine and bass. The hull being of select pine and the remaining superstructure and deck details of basswood. The flags are handpainted on treated paper
to present a sense of 'movement' and 'free-flow' as if these were flapping in the wind.
I always attempt to build the models to portray a vessel as it may have appeared in that year. This, of course, is a paintstaking process but one which I enjoy pursuing. To this end I can say, with certainty, that these one-of-a-kind steamboats are truly for the collector who desires accuracy followed by quality and hands-on research.
Since coming into this unique genre in 1982, I have obtained a much learned experience concerning the dynamics of the Northeast steamboat in both design and configuratiuon.
The models, themselves, serve as the ambassadors of my artform where no rival has been evident. These are historical miniatures that represent the period and the vessel.
For more information about this line of work for a custom commission, email: Caseships@yahoo.com or call 1-774-757-7137. I would be most honored to serve your preferences.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Stmr. PLYMOUTH plies through Long Island Sound enroute to New York c.1930
PLYMOUTH was another beautiful sidewheeler of Fall River Line renown that I challenged myself to model. There were no plans available to work from, so I had to pour over many photos to get the configurations needed for an accurate miniature.
This was a tedious project because, unlike COMMONWEALTH, this steamer carried a unique design and mast system that required much research for accurately placing the ties in their proper locations -based on the photos.
Similiar to the other models, I kept PLYMOUTH at 1:182 scale so that both viewer/ collector
could make distinctive comparisons to their
design and length variations.
Fall River had a beautiful monopoly of vessels forwhich I give honorable kudos to those individuals that designed them. For me, as a craftsman and modelshipbuilder, I can only present these as a documented collective body in miniature. To this end history does the rest.
Here, in these supporting photos are views of PLYMOUTH as a miniature wood model. The approximate time of build was one and a half months (45 days).
The model is shown as she appeared three years before she ceased operation from the Line. Like most steamers of her day, she had a balanced career. Not as famous as PRISCILLA or COMMONWEALTH, but she was the public's favorite by way of transportation.
Detail View Amidship -PLYMOUTH c.1935
Concerning her history, PYLMOUTH was designed for winter service and did not carry a walkingbeam engine like her predecessors.
She was built in 1890 at Chester, Pennsylvania by the Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding and Engine Works Company. Her overall length was 366 feet and her beam over the guards was 87 feet. She carried a four-cylinder triple expansion engine built by W. and A. Fletcher of New York.
A single stack steamer, PLYMOUTH went into service November 6, 1890. Accidents were commonplace with steamboats during its heydey and PLYMOUTH's career was no exception.
She ran aground on Rose Island, Newport on June 18, 1894. On March 20th, 1903 she collided with Fall River Line's freighter CITY OF TAUNTON. And on March 27, 1906 she was destroyed by a spectacular night fire while at the Line's Repair Shops in Newport.
As officials surveyed the damages, they acknowledged that her hull was still serviceable and she was rebuilt at New York.
The 'new' PLYMOUTH had two fire resisting bulkheads and a sprinkler system throughout the vessel -years before it was law required.
The rebuilt ship was never able to maintain her original speed when first built. However, she was popular with the travelling publc
and was the favorite with many Line regulars. Her last trip was June 21, 1937. Towed to Baltimore she was scrapped the following year.
Fall River Line stmr. PLYMOUTH scrapped at Baltimore c.1938
Fall River Line PLYMOUTH c.1935, 1:182 Scale Model -Wood, Scratchbuilt
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
New England stmr. SS NOBSKA enroute to Nantucket , Summer 1960
Steam transportation to and from the offshore islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket via the Mainland has been an American tradition since its early beginnings in 1826.
The start of this steam phenominon began on New York's Hudson River in 1807 -expanding east to New England and then, south and north. It was the beginning of the Industrial Age; an age of great ideas and innovation. An age of open opportunity, prosperity, and wealth for those willing to endure the vigors of competition.
As companies grew, more and more steamboats began to occupy the waterways of the Northeast. One such steamboat to operate in the New England Region of this area was a vessel named NOBSKA. She was a steel hulled vessel of 1082 tons, having a length of 202 feet and a beam of 36 feet. Her water depth in the hold was 13 feet and she was powered by a four-cylinder triple expansion engine.
Built in 1925 at Bath, Maine by Bath Ironworks, she went south to Massachusetts to operate for the New England Steamship Company. After serving several owners during her five decade career, she ceased operations in 1973 under the owner: Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority (1961-1975). In these photos, I show my build of NOBSKA as she appeared in 1967.
NOBSKA became an interesting subject to model, inpart, because of the many drawings, prints and paintings I viewed at Mystic Seaport, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard during the '80s. From those viewings it was evident that a scale model should be made. However, it was the fond memories that her former travellers had that prompt the building.
Never seeing the actual steamship, that opportunity came in the Fall of 2004 when I was invited to lecture to a shipmodel guild in Boston. She was drydocked at the USS Constitution Museum.
After several attempts with Boston's Parks Department to get some of her wood to build exclusive models, I was refused. What better way to honor a vessel than to build models from her actual structure! I finally thought about the frutal efforts of FON (Friends of Nobska) who tried to get support to keep her preserved for dial purpose, re: a commuter steamer serving as a floating educational museum.
Times were changing and the inland/ coastal steamer was, indeed, becoming a thing of the past.
FON (Friends of Nobska) had hoped to have her restored but all efforts for this failed and she was finally scrapped. This organization attempted to acquire her years prior, in 1975, when the Revitalization Project in Baltimore's Inner Harbor was in effect.
The vessel was sold to Adam Spiegel who tried to have her serve as a floating restaurant in the harbor. But as the development progressed, there was no interest to have NOBSKA as part of the plan. So after 13 years of waiting Mr. Spiegel finally released the historic ship to the FON Membership.
Upon release, in 1988, NOBSKA returned to Fall River, Massachusetts -the same area where she departed to go south in '75.
FON published their excitement in their Nobska News newsletter that prior winter. At that time I had joined their membership, but it was eventually short-lived.
I still went on to build beautiful models of this beloved vessel and appreciated the support from those who believed in my work to commission the models -as it is this day.
The version that I chose to model which, I believe is her most attractive presentation, is her appearance of 1967.
From a professional viewpoint her lines are sharp, and the colorscheme and black markings make her quite appealing. To that end, I found no one to challenge this.
Below are two views of NOBSKA. The model is scratchbuilt from wood and the accessories are handmade, with only the propellor manufactured from soft metal. The scale of this work is 1/8" = 1', overall length of 26 1/4" inches.
New England SS NOBSKA c.1967, Wood Model -Rex Stewart Originals
As with all my models, I work in various lengths. However, with this particular project NOBSKA has been the most prolific at this scale. It took sixty days to complete and became an enjoyable build.
There are those today who remember this popular steamship and the sound of her whistle in and around Nantucket Sound. In operation, I never saw or heard her except for the sight at the USS Constitution Museum in Boston.
As a craftsman/ shipmodelbuilder, I'm honored to have the ability to produce these works for both collector and viewer. On Nantucket several have spoken to me about modeling her. On Martha's Vineyard several have shared data regarding her. And finally, to compliment the triple expansion (like her engine), models of NOBSKA have found homes in these locations -including the mainland of Massachusetts.
Five decades she ran in the Sound. She now sails on in history and in the hearts of those who knew and rode on her decks.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Fall River Line Stmr. COMMONWEALTH enroute to New York c.1925
COMMONWEALTH was the last great steamboat to operate on eastern waters between New England and New York. She was known as "The Giantess of the Sound" by her contemporaries, because of her 421 staterooms and overall length of 456 feet. At the time she was the world's largest sidewheeler -holding that distinction for several years.
Her lavish interior was created by the famous Pottier and Stymus Company of New York and featured several different architectural styles. Most noteworthy, making her a ship apart from her contemporaries, was having the attractive Louis XVI Dining Room and adjoining Grill Room on the upper deck, fifty feet above the water. This was especially desirable in a steamer essentially designed for summer service.
In the Spring of 1937 the Line ceased operations due to 'sit down' strikes that plagued the industry and ultimately placing an end to COMMONWEALTH's career. When reading the history and various stories about this vessel, it was evident that a model had to be made. Many hours were invested studying the steamers' design from bow to stern. I was intrigued by the beautiful upward sweep (at the bow) that this Line carried on its vessels. This distinquished the Fall River boats from their contemporaries.
With the assistance of several SSHSA members, I was able to acquire an outboard elevation of COMMONWEALTH's starboard profile -which would eventually ease the building process and make it simplistic from my past projects.
COMMONWEALTH work-in-progress showing the bow's upward sweep.
My first model build was given by Reverend Paul F. McCarrick out of Fall River, MA. When visiting him at Saint Joseph's Parish, we spent several hours pouring over many photos and documents relating to the ship. I was honored to be in his presence, as I had been with many others who had a close affiliation with these vessels. Aside from these materials, the Reverend provided sharp photoprints of paintings done by famed maritime artists Antonio Jacobsen and Fred Pansing. These were to assist the colorscheme.
Since he had limited space for display, we agreed on a 30" inch model...and not just any model. Reverend McCarrick wanted a detailed model that no one else had -a miniature that carried all the detail of the actual nightboat. There was a noted builder in the region that he made mention of, Charles Fox, who displayed at Mystic Seaport. He enjoyed his work but wasn't satisfied with Mr. Fox' style of painting in the windows. I had to agree on carving out real windows or lose the commission.
This work-in-progress photo show the windows realistic representation on the miniature. The paddlewheels were also a tedious process -constructed with many small pieces of wood.
This portside view of the paddlewheel shows the complicated feathering system which had to be copied and placed on the model.
The overall time process was three days.
It took a few trials and some wood-wasting before I discovered a technique that would eventually become not only time-tested, but an application that would benefit future models in the miniature class of 1:182 scale. I realized in this process that our flaws are truly our hidden jewels for discovery.
During the building, after shaping the hull and laying the decks; I found the basswood was too thick to cut out windows for the cabins and show them effectively. So to achieve this I sanded away a millimeter of surface -by hand.
Handpainted scroll work at the stern.
Because of the bow's upward sweep, the windows had to align properly with the decking so that they would not appear angled. This was also true for the panel work around the windows which had to be carved out with a pen knife.
To achieve this I worked each cabin in sections, including the decks. This way had I flawed, correction could be made. Yet, there were occasions when this wasn't possible and I regretfully had to trash an entire build...the price paid for 'haste'.
From those experiences I learned to adjust my time so to work on highly detailed pieces during the night when concentration and focus was more pliant to the surroundings.
I also found that this proceedure also made for better work -better presentation.
The most tedious work involved with the COMMONWEALTH Miniature were the rails, paddlewheels, boat and stack details. Sometimes these items can be ruined (without notice) when the excitement to finish takes precedent over patience.
The key to any project, whether personal or commissioned, is to start and complete it with one objective...and this must be developed, regardless of cost. That objective is PATIENCE.
Without it, quality is diminished and the work has little or no value. When patience is developed, building becomes enjoyable and timeless. Not just for the 'builder', but for all the participants, re: the builder, the collector/investor, the contributor, and the viewer.
COMMONWEALTH c.1925 - scratchbuilt, wood -Scale 1:182
COMMONWEALTH was, and is, a great project for any steamboat enthusiast willing to work with patience and precision. She's a beautiful vessel of which I'm sure was the mainstay of New England's steamboating industry of her day.
I've seen a few models of her nicely done in years past, but I decided to take a different route - making the 1:182 Scale Collection my own signature. To this end, I'm delighted to be part of the family of shipmodelbuilders who can make a difference in preserving an American era by way of this artform.
Kudos to the forerunners that were before me.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
PRISCILLA confounded skeptics by passing through Cape Cod
Canal, June 1937 - the widest vessel of any type to accomplish this.
Some years ago a Catholic priest from Saint Joseph's Parish at Fall River, MA contacted me and asked if I was able to build an exact replica of the Fall River Line stmr. COMMONWEALTH.
His request was the beginning of a new line of steamboats
-a series of beautiful nightboats that operated on Long Island Sound from Fall River, Massachusetts to New York City, New York.
PRISCILLA was a complicated vessel to model. Few builders of my time had the ability to do this, but with this
particular line I challenged myself to be the 'first'.
With the photo-prints Fr. Paul McCarrick supplied, it eased both the intimidation and tension I faced when approaching this endeavor.
In the words of naval architect-designer George Peirce to Commander Stephen Gardner: "Why Captain, the MARY POWELL -Fletcher built her engines, you know...and she's run on the Hudson River for thirty-two years, and she's good for many more. Our new steamboat is to be the 'Mary Powell' of Long Island Sound!"
"I see you're not aiming to joke, Mr. Peirce",replied Cmdr. Gardner.
PRISCILLA was, indeed, to become the 'Mary Powell' of the Sound...and it was then, when I read that piece of literature from Roger McAdam's book "Priscilla of Fall River", I knew I had to build this model. For the men of that day, PRISCILLA became a monumental endeavor. She was to be a state-of-the-art sidewheeler that would awe many in the year of 1894.
Built at Chester, PA by the Delaware Shipbuilding and Engine Works, she became the world's largest sidewheeler -having an unprecedented career. She was the acknowledged queen of the great ships that serviced the Line.
Fall River Line stmr. PRISCILLA c.1894 - Detail, Stern Starboard
The 440 foot steamboat was the masterpiece of famed naval architect George Peirce -a magnificent vessel, the finet to sail on inland waters. Because of her beauty and dependability, the excellence of her service, and the romance and good will which attended her nightly trips, she was beloved by millions of Americans who knew her during the 43 years she sailed Long Island Sound. Because of the automobile and economic conditions, she ceased operations in 1937.
After reading several accounts on this majestic nightboat, I set out to get as much material I could so to build a presentable model. Size was the factor since space was limited, so I opted for a miniature work at 1:182 scale which calculated to 29 inches overall.
The challenging part of the build were the windows, doors and panel work. For the stern detail, I chose to draw 'free-hand' with handpainted application. I found that many serious collectors desired this over computerized templates.
Nightboat PRISCILLA -the model shown as she appeared in 1894.
As I proceeded with the model it was easy to appreciate what author Roger McAdam had revealed in his book.That this vessel was, indeed, a masterpiece which counter-balanced the miniature I produced. No distortions of any kind. Every bit of detail from hull to smokestacks came together to make a breathtaking artform that became the welcoming part of the build.
The designer knew that PRISCILLA would look extremely attractive as both model and sailing vessel.
PRISCILLA is presented here as a handcrafted work, produced in two basic woods, pine and bass. The davits are shaped from paper-clips. Flags were cut and handpainted on soft foil. The steel rods were produced from soft annealed wire. Overall, this was an interesting build...with many more models to follow in the New England Series".