Paper Shipwrights 1/250 #10 Mortar Barge

KIT #: ?
PRICE: Free download
DECALS: None - Prepainted

Card model


 During the American Civil War, ships of the Federal (aka Union, aka the northern states) navy blockaded ports of the Confederacy (aka, the South).  These ports were protected by forts that were bombarded by Federal artillery that fired shells over a flat-trajectory, and mortars that fired shells high into the air, to come down as plunging fire.  To increase their number of weapon platforms, the Federal navy employed mortars on barges that were anchored close in-shore from their target/s so they could lob bombs over fortification walls.  Naturally, they attracted some return fire and so required protection for the gun-crews. 

This is a model of the Federal Navy Mortar barge No. 10 that was anchored in the Mississippi River in 1862.  It displaced 70-tons and mounted a 12” mortar, which probably accounted for its low free-board.  The model was based on drawings from Paul Henry’s book, ‘Ironclads of the Civil War’.  I don’t have information about the underwater sections, but I would guess that there must have been some crew spaces.  And being a barge, I guess that it was towed into position (at nighjt), and anchored.  


While seeking a model (of the HMVS Cerberus – but that is another story) by trolling the Internet, I discovered the Paper Shipwright website, operated by David Hathaway.  David sells sheets of paper with parts printed (in colour) on them that can be cut-out with scissors or a knife, and assembled onto a model using paper glue.  Some parts are to be folded-over to create a thicker, more-robust part, while others are to be rolled to form tubes (aka masts, gun barrels etc).  But this was a free download, so I grabbed a copy.  I started this kit because this is the sort of modelling I did when I was a boy, it looked like an easy build of an unusual subject.   


The waterlined model consisted of a hull/deck/platform supported by an internal spine-and-ribs structure surrounded by a narrow strip - the free-board.  On top of this went a round dais that mounted the short-barrelled mortar, and the weapon was surrounded by a thick open-topped 6-sided superstructure. 

I failed in the construction of the hull because of the fragility of the ribs and spine, and because they lacked tabs to attach to the underside of the deck.  So I replaced it with a plate of balsa-wood that was stiffened with a brass rod (to stop it warping).  But I did use the surrounding narrow strip and deck piece.  The walls of the superstructure were thickened by sandwiching a piece of cardboard between the kit parts, which made bending the angles difficult.  This was solved by sanding and dry-fitting.  OK – I had to paint the tops of the wall where the cardboard showed through. 

I also thickened the dais and the small parts for the gun cradle, using thinner cardboard.  The parts were manageable, but the parts for the trunions and barrel were even smaller.  I found it neigh impossible to roll them into tubes, let alone to join them.  Quickly, I surrendered and turned one from a length of thick styrene chucked into my power-drill.  OK – I had to paint this.  By drilling a hole through the barrel, I was able to replace the trunions with a piece of rod – not that I wanted the mortar to be capable of elevating or anything. 

 The last pieces were bollards to be rolled from small pieces of paper.  After the barrel and trunions, I merely replaced them with short lengths of brass wire that I could drive into the balsa-wood.  I topped them with a small thin plastic disc cut with my punch-&-die set, held in place by epoxy glue.                 

And that was it.  There was no masking or decaling, and only a little self-inflicted painting was required. 


This is a great little model – cost was nothing and it was only a little challenging.  It was a little difficult because of the small size and complexity of some of the parts that I chose to replace.  For those 350-scale fanatics, or 700-scale phreaks, you can always photo-reduce the original sheet (good luck with the building).  But it is unusual, and I’m happy to recommend it, and others of David’s products (especially his lighthouses).    



Just the instructions.

George Oh

October 2012

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