Encore 1/232 USS Olympia
KIT #: EC85001
PRICE: $99.95 SRP
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Mark Hiott
NOTES: Premium edition


USS Olympia (C-6/CA-15/CL-15/IX-40) is a protected cruiser lauched on November 5, 1892. The ship is 344 ft 1 in (104.88 m) in overall length, has a beam of 53 ft (16 m) and a draft of 21 ft 6 in (6.55 m). Her design displacement was 5,865 long tons (5,959 t), with a full combat load of up to 6,558 long tons (6,663 t) displacement. The ship is powered by a pair of vertical triple expansion engines, supplied with steam from three coal-fired cylindrical boilers. Her engines were rated at 13,500 ihp with a top speed of 20 knots, though on trials she achieved 17,313 ihp (12,910 kW) and a top speed of 21.67 knots.

The primary armament is four 8 in (200 mm)/35 caliber guns in two twin Mark 6 gun turrets, one forward and one aft of the superstructure. These guns could fire 260 lb (120 kg) projectiles, either armor-piercing or high explosive, at a muzzle velocity of 2,100 ft (640 m) per second.

The secondary battery is ten 5 in (130 mm)/40 caliber guns mounted in casemates, five on each side of the ship. These guns fired 50 lb (23 kg) armor-piercing shells at a muzzle velocity of 2,300 ft (700 m) per second. Fourteen 6-pounder (57 mm (2.24 in) anti-torpedo boat guns are mounted in casemates. Six 1-pounder guns are mounted on deck, along with six 18 in (46 cm) above-water torpedo tubes.

Olympia became famous as the flagship of Commodore George Dewey at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War in 1898. The ship was decommissioned after returning to the U.S. in 1899, but was returned to active service in 1902. She served until World War I as a training ship for naval cadets and as a floating barracks in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1917, she was mobilized again for war service, patrolling the American coast and escorting transport ships.

In 1957, the U.S. Navy ceded title to the Cruiser Olympia Association, which restored the ship to its 1898 configuration. Since then, Olympia has been a museum ship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is now part of the Independence Seaport Museum. It is the oldest steel US warship still afloat. However, the Museum has been unable to fund essential maintenance for the old ship, and attempts to secure outside funding have failed. Therefore the current steward, under direction of the U.S. Navy has put the ship up for availability to new stewards. It will take an estimated ten million dollars to put the Olympia in a stable condition.

Olympia was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.


 Encore is much like Glencoe in that they take older kits and reissue them. Where Encore differs is that they add upgraded parts to enhance the kit. The particular kit is the "Premium Edition" of their U.S.S. Olympia. The Premium kit gives you 2 photo etch sheets, anchor chain, resin parts, brass barrels, laser etched wood decks, wood base, brass nameplate and brass pedestals. The kit is also available in a "standard" edition (kit #EC80001) that costs less (MSRP 59.95us), but still provides the photo etch, anchor chain and resin bits.

Molded in light gray, the plastic base in my kit was stamped 1982, but you wouldn't know by looking at the kit. The molding is very crisp and there is very little flash and what there is, will clean up very quickly. Detail is nice, given the time period when it was first made.

The instructions are hit and miss. Encore used the old Revell instructions but added some new photos and steps to aid construction. The basic instructions are quite nice and easy to follow. However, the placement of some parts is rather cluttered, but with a bit of investigation you can figure it out. The real letdown is the photo etch "picture" placement guides. They are next to useless unless you have used ship p/e in the past. Some of the p/e parts were shown, but had no numbers to tell you what they were or how to assemble them.

On the subject of the photo etch... I have built many ships and used p/e from a wide variety of companies, and the p/e in this kit is some of the best I've seen. It is finely etched, delicate and easy to use. In fact, some of it is too finely etched and is easily broken. Normally, you can bend a p/e part 2 or 3 times before you risked snapping it apart. With these parts you get 2 chances, tops, to get it right. The aft ratlines in one of the sheets had come lose and was a bit mangled as a result.


I jumped around the instructions during assembly, as I saw that it would be easier for me after looking at the instructions. Since painting a ship is easier as a whole, I started with the hull. After gluing the 2 halves together, I added the fore and aft decks from step 3. Since this has a wooden base with brass pedestals, I drilled the holes and attached the pedestals to the hull. The molded on pins for the kit base will need to be removed doing this. I installed the pedestals and 5 minute epoxy was applied to the inside, around the nuts holding the pedestals in place. I allowed the epoxy to dry overnight, with the pedestals in place, then remove the pedestals. Installing the photo-etch bilge keels is nerve racking as they are very long and quite flimsy. Getting them straight takes a lot of patience. Even then I managed to break one of them. I didn't use the resin bow torpedo tube, as personally I think the kit one looks just fine. Nor did I modify the rudder. The amount of damage that would be done to the detail on the hull to use these 2 parts was just not worth it to me. I did, however, use the resin stern torpedo tube, as it was missing.

I didn't care for the way the name plate just sat on the base, so I carved out a small area and mounted it at an angle. The base was then given a cost of clear polyurethane and mounted, alone with the pedestals, on the hull. This way it provides a nice way to handle the ship during building.

I built the entire superstructure off the hull until it was almost complete. Again, less apt to break things this way. In step 2 I left off parts 14 until later. They will just be in the way and risk getting broken. I also added wood decks #D05, #D06 and #D07 in this step. The white metal 6-pounder guns are difficult to build as you have to drill a hole in the tip of MP5 to mount the brass barrel. I then jumped to step 5 and add the walkways and wood decks. Also in step 5, I attached the funnel rigging to parts #32 and #35. I just folded them under and tape them to the bottom of the superstructure until later.

I followed the rest of the steps assembling the superstructure up to Step 10. In step 8, I left off the search light platforms. The skylight is installed in Step 8 as well and it is a thing of beauty. Consisting of 12 parts, it goes together with little trouble and looks fantastic! Once I finished Step 9, I went back to Step 3 and installed the superstructure on the hull. (don't forget to untape the stack rigging lines) In Step 3, I also planned the rigging. There are several holes that will have to be drilled and this step is the most logical time to do it.

In between doing all this, I started to work on the subassemblies; main guns, smoke stacks, ships boats and the masts. The smoke stacks require a lot of work as one has to remove the molded on detail in order to install the p/e detail. I glued them together and remove the small pipes for reuse later. I then removed all the molded detail with snips and files. Once removed, the stacks were sanded and a coat of Mr. Surfacer was brushed on and sanded smooth. I also opened up the top of the stacks with a Dremel, as Encore provides screens for the tops. The p/e parts were the added, the pipes reinstalled and the stacks painted.

In Step 11, I installed the Aft Bridge, leaving the boats for later. At this point, I began to add the p/e rails to the superstructure. The main bridge, walkway and aft bridge rail were installed. Various ladders were also installed at this point. Assembly resumed at Step 4 and the forward turret and deck. I carefully threaded the anchor through part #26 and applied a bit of CA glue to the backside. Step 12 was next, the aft turret and aft deck.

At this point, most of the hull is finished, now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty. I installed the smoke stacks and threaded the rigging line through the holes I had drilled and out the top. CA glue was used to anchor them, the excess was cut off and the p/e stack screens installed. I didn't install the masts in this step, as they will be one of the last things I install. In Step 15, I installed the anchors and cranes but left off the rest. I also skipped Step 16... we'll come back to that later.

Next I installed the ships boats. Remember Part #14 from step 2? I installed those at this time as well. I also install Parts 117 and 118 from Step 17 and the searchlight platforms. The only thing left now are the masts and the parts from Step 15 and Step 16.

By now the ship is 90% finished and it's time to do the rails. I started at the front and worked my way back, doing one side at a time. Again, the installation pictures are not real clear and it took me a while to understand just where everything went. I also installed the fore and aft hull badges as well. Shown in the pictures is the flying bridge, but there are no numbers. The flying bridge is part B13 and the rail is part A17. The instructions never mention this part or when/how to install it. This was also the only part I had trouble with. The rail does not fit the flying bridge. I had to cut the rail and cobble up the front rails with some left over pieces.

Once the rails were installed, I went back to Step 15 and 16 and installed the last boats.

RIGGING: I installed the masts and got ready to do the rigging. Now I'll admit, I hate doing rigging, but on ships it's kind of a necessary evil... kinda like biplanes. I use 2 types of line; 8lb transparent monofilament for the standing rigging and .005 Nylon for the running rigging. These can be found at the local craft store. Both of them can be tightened by applying a heat source and, for that, I use a pencil type soldiering iron.

There really is no set way to do rigging. I start at the bottom and go up. I attached the line to the masts with an applicator and CA glue. For the bow lines, I trapped them under part #119. I then measured out how long they need to be, added about an 1/8 inch and anchored them in place with a drop of CA. Once all the rigging is in place, I applied the heat. Care must be taken here so, that as the lines tighten, they don't snap or bend the masts. It's best to go slow, it sometimes takes 2 or 3 applications of heat to get them just right. Once everything was tight, I painted the rigging. I also installed the photo etch ratlines at this time. The front ones didn't fit as well as the aft ones. Even the placement guide shows them poorly installed. When I pulled the bottoms in to fit properly, they ended up bowing outwards. Not much I could do about it, so they were left as is.


I chose to model the ship as she appeared in September 1899. I followed the painting callouts in the instructions. I first painted the lower part of the hull flat red, masked that off and painted the upper hull flat white. The entire superstructure was brush painted with White Ensign "Buff". Even though White Ensign paints are made to be airbrushed, you can apply them with a brush, it just takes more then one coat. The parts that called for Mahogany I painted with Humbrol #70. Various deck fittings, the anchors, the guns, the tops of the funnels and the rigging were painted flat black. The photo etch was painted on the fret, and touched up after installation. I debated whether to paint the main deck rails white or buff. The common consensus seemed spilt 50/50, so I decided to go with white. After everything was done, the paint was touched up and a coat of Floquil flat clear was used to even out the finish.


Highly recommended, I love this kit! Once you get past the fiddly parts and the dubious placement guides, it builds into a beautiful replica of the Olympia. The amount of detail is staggering and it looks great in my case next to the rest of my ships.

Yes, the kit is showing it's age and some of the parts are a bit fiddly, but the additions by Encore go a long way in enhancing the kit. However, as nice as the premium kit is, unless you really want the wood decks and brass barrels, I would suggest looking for the standard kit. This was my first time using wood decks and I have my doubts about them. How will they look in 5 or 6 years? Will they start to lift? If so, repairing them could be a problem. They do help hide the nasty deck seams though.

Not recommended for beginners due to the amount of added details, but someone that has used ship p/e in the past should have no problem adding this to their collection.


The internet for photos and the history.

Mark Hiott

August 2012

Thanks to Squadron Products via your editor for the review kit. This one is still available at your local retailer.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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