Reviewed by Timothy Dike
September 2013

The USS Cleveland was the lead ship of a new class of light cruisers. The design evolved from the St. Louis class trading one six" turret for two additional twin 5"38 cal mounts. The Cleveland and follow-up sisters would be the standard wartime light cruiser and would serve well beyond. 

The USS Cleveland arrived in time to help stem the losses the US Navy was suffering around Guadalcanal. Cleveland and her sisters would help advance up the Solomon Isle chain as the tide slowly turned in the Pacific. More on the Cleveland class can be read here

This kit from Blue Ridge Models is not really new, but it does have some new upgrades. The plastic kit is actually the old Pit-Road kit from the 90's, a really advanced kit when first introduced in the 90's. It's still a  good kit, but has been out of production. Blue Ridge Models commissioned a special run of this kit and paired it up with some of the best aftermarket accessories available today. So it's time to take a second look at this kit and see how it measures up.

The hull is nicely shaped and has some very fine deck lines scribed into the surface. There is an insert for the bow decking, typical of a lot of their ship kits. The ship is a little undersize in length and width but this is barely noticeable. Parts fit together nicely and the modeler will have very little puttying to get a good fit. The shape is not perfect, but it's close.  Click  images
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The superstructure parts are very nice, porthole, ladders, and other details are cast on. Splinter shields are very thin and look good even in this small scale.
Two of the Skywave E9 weapons sprue's are included for the guns and other fittings. I like this approach as I get to accumulate a lot of extra parts for spares. The 5" 38 cal dual gun turrets are the best available in plastic. The 6" 47 cal main guns are made up of three separate barrels and separate gun sights. Cranes and catapults are very nice, but better replaced with photo etched replacements.
Instead of the old Pit-Road decals, this Blue Ridge Models sheet is supplied  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.
A simulated wood deck is included from Artwox Models. It features fine laser etching to simulate the wood planks. There are cutouts for the superstructure and deck fittings. This is a peel and stick part and the deck is very thin.  click to enlarge
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Real metal chain is provided to hang those anchors off of. 
CNC turned brass gun barrels are provided for the 6"47 cal gun mounts. These include a mounting pin and drilled out ends. There area twelve in this kit. 
5" 38 cal. secondary gun barrels are also provided to replace those thick plastic ones. Twelve are included. 
Not one, but five photo etch frets are included courtesy of the Tom's Modelworks #7001 Cleveland class set. These include:
  • Railings and ladders,  two,  and three bar styles in a variety of stantion spacing. Ladders are also included. More than enough so you can save the rest for other projects. 
  • Boat and float plane cranes, prop guards, antenna and funnel grills. The searchlight towers fit Brooklyn class CL's.
  • Aircraft catapults to replace the plastic ones. Aircraft props and struts also included.
  • Radar, radars and more radars! SK, SA, SC and SC-2 just to name a few.
  • 20 mm guns to replace the plastic ones. 
There are plenty of extra parts here to save and be used on other projects. 
The combined instructions are nine pages with most of them devoted to the aftermarket part.
Rather than trolling E-bay to find an old Pit-Road kit, you can pick up this Blue Ridge Models version with all the upgrades you need.
This is kit # BM70037 with a list price of 69.95. It is currently on sale now from Freetime Hobbies for $49.95.  Note that the Pit-Road kit had a list price of $42.00 when first released in 1996 and it didn't include the PE, Wood Deck or brass barrels. Do the math, this kit is an outstanding value.