MidShip Models 1/700 USS Helena CL-50

Reviewed by Timothy Dike

The USS Helena was a St Louis class light cruiser, a sub class of the Brooklyn class. She was the last of the light cruisers built to the restrictions of Washington Treaty which limited her to 10,000 tons. Like the St. Louis the Helena was an improvement over the Brooklyn's and featured her eight 5" guns in twin turrets instead of single open mounts. She also has a more compact superstructure and like her younger sisters five triple 6" turrets. Another new feature was the enclosed aircraft hanger on the stern a feature that would be included on later classes of cruisers. The Helena was at Pearl Harbor anchored at the 10-10 dock when the Japanese launched their attack. She was damaged by a single torpedo and sent to Mare Island for repairs. She emerged in mid 42 with her bridge wings cut off and her superstructure radically altered. More importantly she had upgraded radar installed including an SG set. This would come in handy later when she operated in the Solomon Isles. You can read more of her history here.

This kit from MidShip Models is an upgrade of the old Classic Warships kit. A kit that got me back into ship modeling and was partially responsible for the site being created. It is spot on for a 1942-43 Helena.

The hull is cast in the waterline style. Detail is very good with a nicely planked deck and lots of surface detail. There is some flash along the waterline, but that shouldn't be a problem to clean up.  The hull scales out very close to actual dimension and has the correct shape. Anchor chain is molded on, but it has a 3D appearance and will be fine for most modelers. 
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One thing I don't like is the lack of mounting holes for the main guns, but that is pretty minor and easy to fix. This hull is almost identical to the St. Louis version with the exception of some of the light anti aircraft positions.
The superstructure parts are cast on a thin wafer. Detail is very good and the forward parts will be easy to locate as the tall director mount is designed to pass through the two upper level. This will help perfectly align them. It looks like the only cleanup here will be flat sanding the parts to free them from the wafer. The funnels look pretty good and have cast on piping. Advanced modelers may want to replace this with fine thin wire, but I think it looks fine in this scale.
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These turrets are new resin versions with separate gun barrels. The sighting hoods are cast on so you wont have to fight with that. The shape looks pretty good and closely matches the plans I have of various Brooklyn class ships. The 5" gun mounts need some work. They appear to be single purpose mounts and don't have enough radius on the sides. You can round the sides a little with a file or sanding stick. To convert this gun to dual purpose you will need to enlarge the gun slots from the front face to the edge of the roof. 
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 The directors are nice and look like their 1:1 counterparts. The boat crane base looks good and the boats and rafts are well cast too.
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This kit features the MidShip standard weapons sprue to supply the small weapons and fittings. The rafts are molded in two styles and are both nicely done.   This will supply the small weapons as well as give you a bunch of extra spare parts you can use for other projects.
The SOC float plane and ships anchors are cast in metal. The float planes will need a little cleanup to remove the little gates.
A photo etch fret supplies all the railings, searchlight platforms, and cranes. This is essentially a scaled down version of the 1/350 Yankee Modelworks (ex-Classic Warships) Brooklyn class photo etch and it is a great bonus for this kit. It includes nice searchlight towers, boat and aircraft cranes, catapults. 
Even some nice sky lookouts that you don't normally see in 700 scale. The railings include bow rails that angle upwards. 
The decal sheet is a real treat and includes flags and pennants as well as both prewar and early and late war hull numbers. These are printed by Microscale and are typical of the high quality decals they usually produce. They are nicely registered and sharp.
The instructions are six pages with a bill of materials, subassembly views and exploded views. Pretty good overall, but a nice plan and profile would have been a nice touch.
The kit comes shrink wrapped onto a cardboard insert packed in a sturdy cardboard box. A nice touch to ensure your kit arrives without shipping damage.

It's nice to see Midship upgrading the old Classic Warships line. Even thought this kit has been around for a few years, it still is very nice. Additions such as the photo etch, and decals make it a good value for anyone wanting to do this famous ship. 

List price is $70 US. These kits are available now at Pacific Front and Freetime Hobbies.

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