Most ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy had a network of rails and turntables on their ships. These were used to move various planes on carts or trolleys and other equipment on that portion of the ship. While the manufactures have done a good job replicating these rails on their models in plastic, replacing these with photoetch gives a more realistic look and more closely matches the prototype. Iíve been modeling the Japanese Navy for a few years now and have always been afraid to tackle this particular area. One look at the small rails on the photoetch sets available can make even the most advanced modeler question their construction skills. You also will need to remove the molded rails and turntables on the plastic deck while being careful not to damage the deck and other details you may want to keep, which is another downside to working with these sets. As Iíve seen this photoetch railing being used on several models on the internet, Iíve been amazed at the detail, but the lack of a ďhow toĒ on installing it has made me hesitant to try installing it myself. I decided to write this tutorial in the hopes that others will be willing to give it a try. I decided to take the plunge and install the Lion Roar IJN Aircraft Rail and Turntable set on my 1/700 scale Tamiya IJN Mogami cruiser.

The Lion Roar set is very good. The brass is fairly sturdy, and similar to their other brass sets. There is even embossed, half or relief etched areas, even on the rails themselves. These I decided to have facing outward even though they will likely be filled with paint and not visible, they are so tiny! The set includes two types of rails, I chose the one with the farther spaced rail supports for my Mogami.

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Things to Keep in Mind (i. e. donít make the same mistakes I did.)

  1. Install Early. I decided to install the set well into construction on my model. Being able to come at the deck from all sides without the hindrance of the superstructure and other photoetch would have been better and I recommend you at least remove the molded on deck details as one of the first steps in your building process.
  2. Start Small. I recommend you do a ship with a small amount of rail for your first project to get a feeling for the install. As I quickly found out, the longer the run, the more difficult the rail is to work with.
  3. Plan to compensate for differences. Lion Roarís turntables were almost 2mm wider in diameter than the molded on turntables on the Mogamiís deck. Obviously, this will make a difference on the placement and centering of the photoetch turntables. You might run into similar issues with other ship models.
  4. Work out from a common starting point. Kind of like a cornerstone on a building, select a set of rails or turntable near the center of the deck. Install this first and continue building off of this common point, linking each section as you go. Doing this saved my installation.
  5. Patience. This project was roughly 6\hours of work over the space of three days. Go slowly, especially when removing the molded details.
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Taking the Plunge

The first step was to remove the molded on deck. I used a standard #11 hobby knife that had tape over the sharp blade except for the tip to remove the detail. I went slowly and carefully cut off the rails and turntables in layers. The tape on the blade protected the deck details I wanted to keep beyond the rail area when I made a mistake with the knife. I kept the blade level with the deck as I removed the rails until I got down to where I would start removing the anti-skid tread. I then used the knife in an upright right angle to the deck to gently scrape off the remaining detail and make the rails flush with the deck. A stiff paint brush was used to remove the loose debris and a few flakes that were still barely attached. I repeated this process over again and again until I was satisfied.

For installation, I chose the upper rails near the rear bridge as my starting point. These rails are fairly long and their location was right in the center of the deck. I knew that if they were positioned correctly and I worked out from them everything else would be centered. The photoetch set includes a hole placement guide. I removed it and tried to use it to mark the hole locations. While the guide is useful I had a few issues with it. First it requires a flat surface. There were some raised details on the deck I needed to keep that would make using the guide impossible in a few areas. Also I could not see what was underneath the guide which made me wary to use it for fear a hole would be made where it should not.

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I decided to just manually place the photoetch rails using the visible strips of the removed molded rails as a guide. I cut the rails to the length I needed. There is an extra length of brass underneath a few rail supports; I cut most of this off. Only a small bit, about the height of the rail support, is needed to go into the hole while the glue dries. I placed the rails right next to the molded railing area. Once positioned, I took a sharp pick and gently rocked it back and forth slightly while pressing down to make a small hole where the photoetch pegs would fit into it and made sure to make the hole right In the center on the removed molded rail on the deck. I put a drop of CA glue on some printer photo paper and dipped a fine wire wrapped around a tack in the glue. I then placed the wire tip in the hole filling it with a very small amount of glue. I then maneuvered the rail upright with the peg under the rail support into the hole. Once in the correct position, I dipped the wire again in the glue and added small amounts to the other rail supports as needed to strengthen the rail and fill in gaps between the rail supports and the deck.

Ironically I found the longer rails to be the toughest. The long rails tended to get bent at even the slightest touch and I had to really work to correct this a few times. I decided to start at one end and only do two holes to begin with. Once the rail was in place and the glue dry, I continued down the line making two or three holes at a time, using the then upright rail for hole placement, and inserting them in the hole and adding the glue. Once this length was done, I started on the other side starting with its first two holes. As I worked down along this run I had to keep rail spacing between the pair in mind as well when making the holes. Once the glue had dried everywhere, I corrected any spacing problems with a pair of tweezers and then added glue to all the rail supports on both runs. Once I had all the small and long sections glued down, I lightly sanded the tops of the rail where they had been attached to the brass sheet using a cardboard fingernail file to remove the small bump.

While this installation is far from perfect, I did alright for my first try. I hope that you will find my tips useful and give aircraft rail installation a try yourself on your next Imperial Japan build. While I donít know enough about ships from other navies to confirm if they had these rails, I think this Lion Roar set would be a good replacement for them as well as I see nothing about them that would be strictly Japanese. Good luck and happy modeling!

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