Blue Ridge Models 1/700
USS Wolverine IX-64

Reviewed July 2016
by Chris Martens
Photos by Timothy Dike

Blue Ridge Models is FreeTimeHobbies’ relatively new modeling company that, until recently, has barely dabbled in the realm of new kits. With the USS Wolverine, this is set to change. This new and entirely original kit depicts a rarely discussed topic: one of Lake Michigan’s paddle wheel and coal-fired carriers. 

Wolverine began life as the SS Seeandbee, a paddlewheel ferry. The ship was taken over by the US Navy in March of ’42 and was quickly cut down, rebuilt, and fitted with a flight deck. Note that the carrier did not have a hanger. USS Wolverine and her near-cousin USS Sable would later help train the bulk of the aviators that served in World War II. 

This kit captures the unique riverboat hull that the Wolverine is built on. The casting is incredibly sharp and wrought with details. Small indentations exist where additional resin and PE parts will later be attached. The kit captures neat details like the bollards and hatches, though the boat cradles are a bit thick. These are easily replaced with generic PE, if the builder wishes. 
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The underside of the flight deck is cleverly slotted to allow the builder to place extensive photo etch bracing. Molding here is also good, though I do suggest using a very small resin saw to even out and deepen the marks, having built the kits. Nonetheless, the feature is extremely welcome. Flight deck detail is nice, with horizontal planking, accurate for the vessel. 
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The island/funnel uptakes/vents are molded nicely on three separate wafers. The bridge appears accurate with plenty of details. Hatches are outlined in recess and would be easily covered by PE detail if the modeler desired. The funnel uptakes and vents look great, cast with fine detail. Removing the island from the wafer proved easy. The funnel uptakes will be place between the hull and flight deck, directly under the four funnels in the island. All parts easily slid into place when building this kit.
All these small parts are fitted on easily removed wafers and feature good detail. The paddle guards, in particular, are pretty cool and easily fit into small holes alongside the ship’s unique paddles. The center bits of the paddles are also cast in resin and easily fit into the provided slots on the hull. 
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Truth be told, this is the biggest accomplishment of this kit. Supper gussets are molded in a thicker brass, making placement a LOT easier with less breakage. Parts are aligned, on the sheet, for placement which makes installation a lot easier. Finer details like railing, cables, and catwalks are present on the other, thinner PE sheet. All are well labeled and easily referenced in the instruction manual. 
As an added feature, Blue Ridge saw to include a paint mask for the flight deck markings. This accessory will save the builder quite a bit of tape related frustration.
TDN Drone
BRM also saw to include a few aircraft that saw service on the Wolverine. As a side note, neither the TDN Drone or SNJ Texan are available in any other medium for this scale. As a warning, these aircraft are extremely fragile and the modeler should take care in construction.
SNJ Texan
The aircraft are also my only real complaint about this kit. No instructions are provided. 
Aside from the note above, Wolverine’s instructions should be taken as a new industry benchmark. Color coded, clear, and extensive pictures make construction of the semi-complicated model a hell of a lot easier than many other resin companies (and some stryrene) have so far been able to provide. Blue Ridge also provides a painting and rigging guide, which will greatly help in final finishing of the kit. 
Being a fascinating subject, I’d have wanted one of these kits even with subpar quality, admittedly. The effort that Blue Ridge put into this excellent kit only makes my new model that much more wonderful. Not only is the design well thought out, but little aftermarket (if any) is needed to build a conversation starting model. 

Bravo to Blue Ridge on this build. I eagerly look forward to future releases I know are coming down the pipeline. You will NOT be disappointed!  

These are kits are available at Freetime Hobbies as kit #BRM70053 1/700 USS Wolverine IX-64 Limited Edition kit for $129.95 MSRP