Title: Yankee Modelworks USS Montana

login ctrl

Forward superstructure - to enclose or not to enclose?

After completing the addition of thicker armor belts to the hull, I decided to next tackle the forward superstructure.  It was at this point that I learned what I consider to be an extremely interesting facet of modern battleship design: not only is the hull armored, but there are additional armored structures throughout the ship designed to increase survivability against specific weaponry.  The most significant of these structures (in the case of Iowa-class ships) is the "citadel," which is essentially a blockhouse within the hull and encompassing the main machinery and fire control spaces. 

An adjunct to this space is the conning tower, an armored vertical cylinder located at the forward end of the superstructure, just aft of Turret 2.  You can clearly see this tower at the far right side of the photo at left (note: as with nearly every photo in this writeup, clicking on the picture will open a larger version of the photo - use your browser's "back" button to return to the current page).  Also in this photo it is possible to see an open hatch leading to the interior of the tower: note the (16") armor thickness of this hatch.

Why is any of this pertinent to this stage of the construction process?  Iowa-class ships were originally designed with a conning tower as shown in this photo, and Iowa was actually completed in this configuration.  However, by the time New Jersey was completed, it was decided to add an additional enclosed deck structure surrounding the bridge level of the conning tower. 

The photo at left shows this structure as added to New Jersey during post-shakedown refit.  This style bridge is commonly referred to as the "round bridge," and New Jersey is the one ship of the class to have carried this style.

The plot thickens...

By the time Missouri and Wisconsin were completed, the design of the enclosed bridge had again been revised, this time to the roomier "square bridge" as shown at left.  Ultimately, all four ships in the class were upgraded to this style bridge.

Information available on Montana indicates that she was originally designed with a tower similar to that on Iowa as-built: ie., with no bridge enclosure.  But this makes sense, since the plans for Montana were drawn up while Iowa was being built, and the designers would have borrowed as many existing design elements as possible.  Speculation: In all likelihood Montana would have carried the square bridge enclosure for several reasons: practical experience with Iowa had proven the design as an upgrade to the original and, by the time Montana's construction would have been complete, all four Iowas had this bridge installed.  The Yankee Modelworks kit seems to be faithful to the original design plans in that it models the conning tower with no bridge enclosure.  However, I personally don't like the look of this style, and feel the square bridge yields a much more purposeful and commanding appearance to the ship overall.  So it is at this phase of the model's construction that I ran into my first "what if" decision point: I had (at least) three bridge styles to choose from, and since the kit represents the configuration I liked least, whatever I chose would have to be scratch-built.

The image at left shows both an early model built during the design process (and culled from the Web), and the components of the Yankee Modelworks forward superstructure.  In each photo an arrow has been added showing the conning tower sans enclosure.  While it is tempting to use the existence of this BuShip model as "proof" of what Montana would have looked like, the reality is such models rarely represent the finished product: even "final plans" are changed many times throughout the construction process, especially in such a large project as a capital ship.

So.... what to do?  The answer turned out to be not so simple.

Planning stage

My first step toward a solution  was to model all major components of the kit's superstructures in a 3D CAD program (in this case, AutoCAD). This would allow me to make "virtual modifications" so I could evaluate how the changes looked, and whether they would at least make some sort of sense from a real-world design perspective.  After carefully measuring each component and building it in the CAD program, I then created an enclosed square bridge structure to see how it would integrate into the existing kit pieces.  The result is shown in the screen shot below.

This process led to a disturbing discovery: the kit-supplied conning tower was one deck too short for integration of an enclosed bridge ala Iowa.  This observation became even more apparent when stacking the YMW parts up against those from a Tamiya Missouri kit.  And since the conning tower is part of the 01/02 deck "block" (see above photo), that meant I'd have to do some irreversible surgery in order to proceed with my plan.  Not to mention scratchbuilding a new conning tower and forward fairing.  It was beginning to feel like every time I came up with a solution, I was increasing the workload by double the amount ("one step forward, two steps back...").    

So, I finalized some plans for both a new conning tower and enclosed bridge structure, taking into account how best to integrate these parts into the kit resin, and began cutting styrene.  The result was a new conning tower as shown at right.  Notice how this new tower stacks up to the original kit-supplied part - it wound up being substantially taller.

First attempt

Now that I had the new conning tower built up, it was time to construct the enclosed bridge deck - you know, the part that led me to this point in the first place?  I removed material from the decks per plan, and grafted in the new styrene, with the end result as shown here. Note that I built the window frames out of 0.020" square stock.  After sitting back and looking at  the whole thing, I decided I didn't like the "inset" appearance of the frames (they are attached to the inside edge of the upper/lower bulwarks), so I looked for an alternative solution.  That solution wound up consisting of some photo-etched ladders from my Nichimo 1/200 Yamato set from GMM - these parts scale out almost exactly to what I was looking for.  So, off comes the enclosed bridge, followed by a new one as shown here.  This was a much more acceptable result. 

Now that I had a reasonable solution to the Enclosed Bridge dilemma, I moved on to the rest of the forward superstructure.  Assembly here consists mostly of stacking the 01/02 deck piece with those for the 04 and 05 decks, followed by the forward stack.  At this point I must interject a subjective comment about the YMW kit parts.  Politely, these parts are substandard, and borderline unacceptable.  The castings themselves were not plumb or square.  In fact the forward superstructure  was off vertically by more than a tenth of an inch from front to rear (a span of only about three inches).  The after portion of these components form the base of the forward stack, and should be a monolithic structure.  But the castings themselves were so poorly done as to result in massive gaps between decks, requiring excessive amounts of filler.  Finally, the surface detail was inconsistent in crispness, alignment, and even depth.  I removed all the molded-on hatches in favor of PE parts, but stopped there: anything else would mean basically throwing the parts away, and I wasn't (yet) willing to do that with a $500+ model.

At this point, I've got the forward superstructure assembled and adequately filled: I have the new conning tower installed, and the enclosed bridge deck (the second one) is in place.  I have replaced a minor amount of surface detail with scratch-built parts, and added some PE hatches and railings.  Next up: addition of some of the white-metal parts from the kit, specifically the flag bags and 40mm mounts.  Enter my next major disappointment.

Flag Bags

The photo at left shows the kit-supplied white metal flag bag (down on the work surface), and the scratchbuilt version up on deck.  After spending an inordinate amount of time cleaning up the kit part, there quite simply was nothing left save for a blob of metal.  No detail, nothing resembling an actual flag bag.  So I threw them out and built my own.  Again, not something I was expecting for a kit in this price range.  

40mm gun mounts

I guess it's fairly common in the ship modeling world to expect to replace kit gun mounts with aftermarket parts, and so that is what I did.  YMW's 40mm guns are white metal blobs with nice injection plastic barrels.  Doesn't make much sense to me to put nice barrels on mounts that are nothing more than blobs, so the entire thing went in the trash.  I initially purchased one package each from LionRoar and L'Arsenal, and after building two of each, L'Arsenal's offering wins hands down.  The parts are easier to assemble (the brass used in the LionRoar kits are disturbingly flimsy) and the 3d resin barrels make all the difference in the world.  *HIGHLY* recommended.

Once I had a 40mm mount to play with, I soon realized that the addition of the enclosed bridge left insufficient room in the forward 40mm gun tub - the new bridge deck overhang too far into the tub area (see photo above).  Solution?  Cantilever new tubs further outboard on the existing structure (one step forward...).  Compare the photo at left with the one above: note the modified forward gun tub.

I'm one of those people who doesn't do so well with repetitive tasks, so after scratchbuilding both flag bags and 6x 400 mounts, I added some structural detailing to the underside of the bridge deck and extended gun tubs, then decided it was time to turn my attention elsewhere - in this case, to the after superstructure.


Use the inner scrollbar at right as necessary!