The View From The Fo’c’sle

I don’t know why but whenever I try to come up with a title for a post about my ship model I always find myself falling for cliches and jaunty sea language, well it’s probably only jaunty sea language to anyone who’s sea going experience is limited to a trip across Sydney Harbour on the Manly Ferry such as yours truly. I blame my father who happened to be in the Marines during the second world war. I don’t think he ever spent much time actually at sea beyond traveling out to India and back for his period in the forces in the early 40s and his trip to Australia when he migrated here with my mother in the early 50s. He had a real ear for language so my childhood was filled with a mad mixture of Cockney, Indian and sea slang. I’d never heard common Australian slang terms (for those highly unenlightened times) like wog or “too right” before my first year in school, but if it came to heading down the “old Kent road”, getting your laundry back from a “char wallah” or “splicing the main brace” I was your boy! How the heck does one go about splicing the main brace I wonder? My father never did explain πŸ™‚

So how does a railway modeller approach the construction of a ship model? Well in spite of my own expectations, slowly and with a complete lack of comprehension of genuine nautical terms. And this despite my father’s seemingly bottomless pit of weird and wacky ship and sea related terms. I’m convinced he picked most of his nautical language up from English films from the 40s and 50s like Carry On CruisingΒ  and the Cruel Sea πŸ™‚ I’ve made intermittent progress on the ship but after taking a couple of small steps my attention would turn to other things and the project would languish. The main distraction has been building my new layout but I kept saying to myself that as soon as I got a train to run right round the layout I’d make a proper start on the ship. If you read this blog regularly you would have seen what happened the other day πŸ™‚ However there was more to my lack of progress than the distraction and enthusiasm generated by a new layout building project. I think what really pulled me up short was the unfamiliarity of the waters into which I was sailing, where all the language and terms were unfamiliar (I thought clack valves was a strange term at one time), none of the lines were straight and frankly the quality of the instructions and the kit components was less than stellar. However I got a train round the layout earlier this week and I have a trip to take the layout on at the end of the year: it was time to get serious!

Maddi is keeping lookout from the poop deck as I glue in the first of the hull bulkheads a couple of months ago. This was the first in a sequence of wooden parts that are fitted inside the hull, although they require a great deal of cutting and shaping before they fit snugly. The parts are laser or die cut (this is the term used in the instructions but I think they were written prior to the common use of laser cutters and haven’t been updated) but there are no tabs or slots included to aid positioning and the modeller is left to muddle through on their own. One of the real problems of this kit has been the fiberglass hull and and its almost total lack of symmetry. It’s nicely detailed (although if the detail is wrong or lacking it has to be admitted that I wouldn’t know the difference ) but the fact that each side of the hull seems to bear only the most cursory similarity to the other side means that nothing can be taken for granted and every major part needs a great deal of modification. When you add to this the lack of familiarity I have with the names of things in ship models (with the instructions making the assumption that the builder is totally familiar with all things nautical) it’s little wonder I kept allowing myself to become distracted.

I got the first of several bulkheads and the main fore deck glued into position a couple of months ago and have been fiddling about with the parts for the fore castle for the past couple of weeks. However with the first train having traversed the perimeter of the layout and with a rapidly approaching public display of Morpeth (the original core portable layout Morpeth is still theoretically exhibitable) coming up I really needed to stop feeling cast adrift, make my way to port and get something done. So I started by pulling apart one of the few parts I’d already assembled and started assembling it again. Properly this time. Avast ye landlubbers! πŸ™‚

While this photo shows the disassembled parts of the fore castle, which I’d glued together a few months ago, it also shows the first real detail I’ve installed from among the half dozen bags of white-metal castings that came with the kit. Thankfully these all seem to be quite decent quality and I felt on far safer ground in cleaning up and painting them. Yes those are my first portholes, of which this ship has at least 20 , along with some doors (or are they hatches?) and a ladder leading to the fore castle (not the poop deck as that’s at the back! I better say stern or I’ll get keel hauled!!! πŸ™‚

Now that I’ve made these small steps I’m going to keep going, I really can’t afford not to as this model is supposed to be the centerpiece of the whole layout. I’ll keep you posted, or wave a semaphore flag, or flash one of those light thingys all ships seemed to have fitted to the bridge in old B&W war movies. Let’s just hope it’s not an SOS sent from the radio room of the Titanic πŸ™‚

Till next time…

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One thought on “The View From The Fo’c’sle

  1. Bravo Zulu!

    Splice the Main Brace: Tot of rum all round to celebrate a hard job well done. One of the better traditions of the RN and her descendants. πŸ™‚

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