Rossiya (1896)

Completed in December 2010.
Primarily paper.
1/94th scale.

For my eighth build I am going to do a monster-sized ship, the biggest by far that I've attempted. The subject is the Russian Armored Cruiser Rossiya (or Rossia, or Rossija, depending on your translation of the original Russian). Commissioned in 1896, she served in both the 1905 Russio-Japanese War and WWI before being laid up and scrapped in 1922.

The "Armored Cruisers" of the Late Victorian Era were powerful warships, bridging the gap between the massive battleships and the swift cruisers, a role that would be filled by "Battlecruisers" by the time of WWI. Rossiya was typical of her type, fast, graceful, heavily armed and armored, and optimized for long-distance cruises in waters far from home. By 1896 the Age of Sail had pretty much ended, and the Rossiya was powered solely by coal.

In real life she was nearly 13,000 tons and measured 485 feet long and 68 feet wide. I'm going to build her at a non-standard 1/94th scale (which is pretty close to H/O scale 1/87th), which will produce a finished model that is 61 inches long and 8 inches wide. That's over five feet long! Wish me luck!

For materials I will (of course) be using paper and cardboard exclusively with my usual collection of random bits of wood, metal and plastic.

Not that it matters, but models of the Rossiya are quite rare. There was one European company that made a limited run of plastic kit models in the 1990s, but they were just 1/400th scale which produced a model that was barely 14 inches long (thus not very detailed at all). There is also a 1/100th scale Rossiya on display at the Russian Federal Naval Museum in Saint Petersburg, which is made to the highest professional standards and is far, far, far beyond anything I could ever hope to match (but there's only one of them...). So, not that I'll ever do anything with this boat, but it is nice to know that I'll have the biggest out there : ).

I have a somewhat detailed deck plan taken from a Russian military enthusiast magazine, blown up to the right size on my scanner, and about two dozen assorted photographs gathered from the internet. I also have some photos of a couple of the 1/400 plastic model builds and a couple fuzzy shots of the museum display. This should be enough for me to produce a nice finished model.

Here is the real world ship to give you an idea of what I'm up against...

Rossiya Build Day One:

Day one! The hull of any ship is by far the most tedious and aggravating thing to build, so I always like to get it out of the way first. My first step is to measure and trace out the outline of the hull (top down) on some big pieces of cardboard I got from work (free!). Then it was just a matter of cutting them out and taping them together.

The internal supports are just strips of cardboard, held down with blue masking tape (no need to waste glue). Once everything is bound together, the sides and top decks in place, this should be an extremely sturdy hull. And that's a good thing, because at five feet long, it needs to be able to hold up a lot of weight without bending or warping (don't want her jackknifing on me!).

This is actually just the bottom two-thirds of the hull, as the top layer is shaped differently. So I just cut out a filler deck, so to speak, which, while it provides needed support, won't be visible at all on the completed model. Taped it down well. The actual main deck (on which I will build the structures) I cut out of a scrap piece of foam board I got from work. This will allow me (hopefully) to poke holes through for railing stanchions and companionways and such. It's also perfectly smooth so I won't have the leaning problems that I had with the last two ships.

The forward one-fourth of the ship is a raised forecastle, which I built with just another four layers of cardboard and foam board. It has a jagged look to the edges, but that's on purpose as eventually guns will go there (the jags allow for forward fields of fire). Taped everything down with masking tape, trimming here and there where I made mistakes (which are common with my inexact plans). Finally I put everything together, taping it up tight with a mixture of masking tape and clear plastic packing tape. So far I've not used a drop of glue, and probably won't for a while.

Ok, with the basic structure done, I can start on the hull sides. Careful measuring and cutting gave me dozens of double-thickness cardstock walls, all marked with assorted portholes, hatches, and gun wells. With a 60odd inch hull, and having to double up the thickness, I'm going to end up using around 24 pieces of paper card just for the hull sides alone. That's fine as I'm still working on my 150-sheet pack of cardstock that I bought three months ago. I used my hole-puncher to punch out the holes for the portholes, and my exacto knife to trim out all the assorted notches and niches that line the upper edges of the hull sides. The square hatches and such I'll probably later make out of cardboard or egg carton.

There are a total of ten broadside guns, five to a side, that poke out of small hatches. These are 6inch/152mm Canet guns, fairly typical of cruiser secondary batteries of the era. Since only about 2 centimeters of the barrel will be showing, I just made them out of cut up lollipop sticks with a cardboard backing to hold them steady.

The portholes I made the usual way, with 6mm jumprings set into holes with a scotch tape backing for the glass. I had to paint around the holes first to make them look proper, allowing me to use my new bottle of Gloss Black paint. I've always used flat colors, but I think I'll use glossy ones on this model. Oh, and this ship will have the black hull of the Victorian livery. I'm using soldered jumprings this time, and they fit into the hole made by my puncher perfectly, sitting flush against the deck (will have to be extra careful when painting...).

All for today, more tomorrow hopefully.

Rossiya Build Day Two:

Day two! Back at it today, the first challenge are the inset gun wells on the sides of the stern. These allow a 152mm gun to fire almost directly astern. I made them with four pieces of paper and some scotch tape (I'm always amazed how much scotch tape I use on these models). There are portholes on the inside surface, these I made the usual way. I'm hoping that these wells will give the relatively flat sided hull some depth and interest.

That done, it's time to start putting the side panels on the hull. Simple process, just tape them at the bottom, align them just right with a ruler, and then use Elmer's glue on the top edges to hold them fast. The obvious joints between the 11 inch long sections I will cover up with something later, probably scoot the assorted trash chutes and torpedo net poles around so that they hide the joints.

With the amidships sections done, it's time to work on the more complicated stern and bow sections. Those have more of a curvature obviously, and contain the most portholes. The stern went ok, need to trim to seam up a bit once everything dries. To help the Elmer's do its job, I have about a mile of scotch tape holding pieces together right now. Once everything sets, and I can add some more glue to areas that need it, I will trim away most of the scotch tape to have smooth surfaces. The bow is a bit more detailed as it both has some large anchor hawser pipes and it curves both upwards and downwards to a slight underwater ram bow. There's also a torpedo tube right at the waterline and a 152mm gun poking out of a hatch right at the peak. There will also eventually be an ornate ship's crest on the bow curve, but that's for much later. Still, in the end it's just cardstock and glue and with a lot of tape, it fits on just fine.

Ok, now it's a busy hull with a lot of things scattered around. First up I added 12 vertical strips to the hull sheet joints to cover them up. These correspond roughly to the long torpedo net booms, which were stored flat against the hull in real life. While not exact, of course, once painted black and some bits added to the ends to replicate the hinges and such, they should be ok. And the point is to hide the ugly joints. There are also a bunch of hatches along both sides. First up are 22 7mm-by-7mm square hatches (unsure what they were for). There are also 2 larger 10mm -by-10mm square hatches. Made all these out of egg cartons for that 3-d effect. I'll add wire hinges and such later, after I paint so that the metal shows through. In addition to the torpedo tube in the bow, there are also two more on each side, firing at right angles to the ship. As modeled, these will just be oval hatches with wire hinges and such. In real life, torpedoes on capital ships were useless and they were taken out by WWI, torpedo warfare is best carried out by submarines and small ships.

Now that that's all done, I can go back to the 152mm broadside guns and detail them more. The hatches they poke out of were simple affairs and I can just use egg cartons and some assorted metal bits to model them. Up along the top edge of the deck I cut out notches for ten sponsons, two large and eight small semi-circle platforms that hang out over the edge of the ship and hold either a 203mm gun (2) or a 75mm gun (8). Made them out of paper, cut and folded and held together with a bit of tape and glue. They actually look pretty good, I'll make the guns themselves later.

And lastly for my workday I'll throw a couple coats of Gloss Black paint on the hull. This is my first time with glossy paints on a large surface, but I'm amazed how good it looks, especially compared to the flats. This task was made easier by our warm Indian Summer that we're having, the sun and the light breeze cutting down the drying time conciderably.

And that's all for today!

Rossiya Build Day Three:

Day three! Now that the paint has dried on the hull, it's time to detail the assorted hatches and ports. Using several different sizes of copper and brass wire, I bent them around various shapes to make rough approximations of hinges and latches and observation ports. As I'm doing this in little bits while the baby naps, I kept everything in a little bowl until I had time to glue them on the hull. As the boat is so big, I have to keep it outside on the patio, which limit's the amount of daytime time I can work on it. 3am lunch hours at work will surely be my primary work time.

Ok, I had a chance to put the wire bits on. This definitely made the hull look better, even if some of them were larger than scale. My Beacon glue dries crystal clear, but it still needs a bit of black touch-up re- painting where I goofed. Any art work, remember, is best viewed from a certain distance, and in the case of most of my models, that's about three to four feet away. At that distance little flaws like this blend away.

Ok, on the hull I still need to put the ship's crest and name on the bow (and maybe on the stern), but that's about all for now. So, I think it's time to put the hull in the storage unit for safe keeping and start thinking about all the stuff that goes on the main deck. I have located a batch of old turn-of-the-century photos of the Rossiya on a Russian website and several of these show various angles of the deck structures. I also have a number of photos of ships that were contemporary with the Rossiya in the Imperial Russian Navy, as many ships shared similar components and design styles, especially those built by the same shipyards. With these, plus my piddly line plan and some luck, I should be ready to start. A casual look at the Rossiya will show that the dominating features to the eye are the four tall smokestacks amidships. On the real ship, from the deck to the top of the stack, these stood 52 feet high, but in my scale they will be about 7 inches high. As they are essentially just hollow tubes, the stacks themselves shouldn't pose too much of a problem to build, it's all the other stuff around the base of them that will be the challenge. I think I'm going to use an assembly line approach, both for speed and so that I can make sure all four are fairly identical. My free time is limited this weekend but I'm hopefully going to have all the pieces I need for the funnels marked and cut out of paper, so that I just have to line them up and glue them together. There's just so little time during the work week to do detailed projects. Back Monday!

Rossiya Build Day Four:

Sadly, this build has come to an unfortunate and sudden end. Sunday morning I went out to bring the nearly completed hull in from the storage unit and grabbed it a little too far back towards the stern. When I lifted it this way it put too much strain on the bow half and the keel broke right at the centerline joint between the two halves. Before I could catch it, the boat bent almost clean in half, ripping up the sides and tearing out the bulkheads all along the amidships section. Obviously I didn't do enough to strengthen the center section where the two halves jointed together. Looking back, I did have several really tight bands of tape holding them together, but I (rather unwisely) cut them when affixing the hull sides, trusting that the glue alone would hold the halves together. That critical design flaw on my part doomed the Rossiya to disaster. I'd like to blame deckhand Kelby, but it was my fault...

Long story short, she's toast, a "total constructive loss", in shipbuilding terms. I suppose I could reconstruct her, rip out all the damaged section and start over again, but after some preliminary damage removal, it's clear that I'd have to replace most of the port side hull plates and about half those on the starboard side, which in turn would mean that I'd have to tear out and reset all the bulkheads that those hull sections are glued to, and then probably replace the entire top deck as well due to the deforming effects of the keel break. It would be far easier to just start over from scratch, which I have to admit I don't have any enthusiasm for right now.

So, a sad and sudden end to the Rossiya, a promising boat, now just a lump of cardboard and paper destined for the dumpster. Oh, well, such is life. I'll move on to something else...

The End. Return to the Prison Art Homepage.