Airfix Maudslay's 1827 Paddle Steamer Engine

KIT #:
REVIEWER: Frank Spahr


Ive been a hopeless Airfix addict since my early youth. Ive gone through hard times when the company went bankrupt and any new kits (if there were any) were hopelessly outclassed by the competition. Of late, things have improved a lot in my perception, and apart from drawing what joy there is in their old offerings, its perfectly possible to buy a new kit for reasonable money and enjoy building it. Nonetheless, a lot of their older molds still holds up well, like the one which is subject of this review.

 When visiting London in 2011 I saw the Science Museum and its shipping gallery, then a veritable treasure trove housing hundreds of the finest ship models. I took a lot of photos and hoped to return with more time to really enjoy the exhibits. Well, this is not possible, as the shipping gallery has been closed and is being redeveloped with a different subject. Apparently, ship models were not interesting enough anymore to justify the amount of space. Even sadder, the model collection is currently in storage at a disused airfield and accessible only for research purposes by prior arrangement. Plans to display at least part of the models in Chatham Historic Dockyard did not come to fruition.

 I thought of my visit to the Science Museum when I saw that Airfix reissued a paddle steamer engine in 2012; the museum had similar steam engines on display in its central hall. I immediately liked the kit and planned to get it when in the UK for Scale Model World. Wonderland Hobbies of Edinburgh had a very reasonable offer, and off I went with the box.

 Subconsciously I had already had the idea of presenting the steam engine as a museum exhibit, and soon I realised I could present it together with the model of a ship model in its own display box, with explanatory placards and museum visitors.

 This is what I did, and this is how: I read about Mr Maudslay, the engineer and manufacturer, and learned that he had a private steamer operating on the Thames, the Endeavour. I was sadly unable to find any credible illustration of this vessel, so decided to make do with a generic steamer of the period.


 The steam engine kit looks as if it is about 1:32 scale. So I figured out that a museum model of a ship that size would be between 1:48 and 1:24 scale, and found that if I built my steamer in 1:700 ish, I would be fairly OK.


The steam engine was built and painted as per the kit intructions. Despite the age of the molds, things fit fairly well and built well. Apart from my usual acrylics, I used Alclad II for the metallic parts and was quite happy with it. It seemed better not to try to make the engine workable, as that would have been quite tricky and would probably have been too much for the plastic pretty soon. The engine with its large green paddle wheel has a lot of visual impact and looks good by itself already. But I wanted more:

To simulate a brick plinth for the engine to be mounted on, I used depafit, a fine-grained styrofoam board coated on both sides with cardboard. The material is easily cut and carved, and easily painted and weathered. The tile floor was made from the same material.

The ship model was based on one of the hulls in a Tamiya set of 1:700 IJN auxiliaries that had a good size and shape. It was slightly modified and detailed using styrene stock, scrap PE, wire and brass tubing. For the rigging, PE ratlines by Atlantic Models and UNI flyfishing thread were used. The display case is a box in which HO scale model cars are being sold, its base is a piece of carved and painted styrofoam.

The railings were assembled from styrene tubing, the placards designed and printed via my computer. The three figures of visitors are Preiser prepainted model railroad figures. I think they add an authentic 1960ies air to the scenery. The diorama was placed inside a custom made display case by German company Sudu.


All in all this was another fun project, beyond my normal scope, and one that needed solutions for problems beyond my normal modeling fare. For that alone, it was inspiring and fun.

Frank Spahr

February 2014

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