Reviewed by Devin Poore

The USS New Ironsides was one of the three initial ironclad designs approved by the U.S. Government in the early days of the American Civil War to counter the impending threat of the CSS Virginia and other Confederate armored ships. Instead of the then revolutionary and radical concept of a turret warship that would see the birth of the USS Monitor and her successors, the New Ironsides was a safety measure: a traditional broadside ironclad built along the lines of the well understood frigate layout and thus a way for the North to hedge their bets. The fear that the Monitor would slide straight to the bottom of the ocean at launch was a common one at the time..

The ship mounted fourteen 11" Dahlgren smoothbore cannons on specially designed slide mounts, and two 150lb. Parrot rifles. Her sides were armored with sheets of 4.5" hammered armor that proved superior to the monitor's laminated sheet; so much so that even though the ship was hit by enemy fire hundreds of times during the war she never lost a crewman in battle. With her broadside battery she was ideal for attacking fortifications and spent her entire career doing so. Commissioned in August 1862, she joined the blockading squadron in January 1863 and spent most of the war off of Ft. Sumter in Charleston. She proved such a nuisance that the Confederates offered a bounty of $100,000 to anyone who could sink her (this was double what was offered for a monitor sinking). Several attempts were made, but even the most successful attack, by a spar-torpedo equipped CSS David that resulted in a direct hit on the hull near the rudder, could not take her out of the war. She survived the war only to be lost to an accidental fire while laid-up in ordinary at the League Island Navy Yard on December 16, 1866.

This kit is the latest offering from Old Steam Navy as part of their Siege of Charleston collection. The kit is resin, white metal, and etched brass in 1/240th scale.

The hull is cast one piece, full hull, a solid block of resin 11 5/8" overall length and 2 13/16" wide. This scales out perfectly for 1/240th scale, according to the published dimensions of the full sized ship and plans from various sources. All of the deck fittings are separate castings, leaving a smooth expanse of deck scribed with planking detail. With the omitted details this would be a great subject to try planking with real wood if one is so inclined. The hull sides have the waterline armor belt and the vertical battery armor applied. To my eye this detail is a little soft and needs sanding to even it out in some areas, but it's nothing that some sanding sticks and maybe a scribing tool can't clean up, and is nothing that those used to resin kits will have any trouble with. Please note that the photo of the keel is not typical for this kit, I told Old Steam that I would take a unit with some keel issues as I may build my model as a waterline display. Click images
to enlarge
Besides the hull, the other resin pieces of this kit are the ship's boats. They are well cast on the outside, and the inside is taken care of by inserts from the extensive sheets of photo etch brass. The white metal parts make up the majority of the other fittings, such as the skylights, pilot house, anchors, mast base, rudder and vents. All of the white metal parts are extremely well cast and are free of most of the soft detail problems that one commonly sees in such components.
There are a lot of extra small parts in this kit. Tungsten wire for rigging the barricades. Chain for the anchors. Wood dowels for signal masts. Brass tubing for the stack and smaller tubing for the guns. There's even a selection of injection molded plastic rivets to detail the brass gun shutters. These pieces will allow the modeler to do the various bits of scratch building that are required for this model. I would like to have seen what cast gun barrels would have looked like for this kit, but considering I usually toss those away and make my own barrels from tubing anyway, it isn't that big of a deal.
Yeah, I didn't take pictures of the wire and stuff. Sorry.

The photo etch is my favorite part of this kit. There are two thicknesses to the relief-etched sheets, one is .01" and the other .025". The thinner sheet has standard structural parts one would expect, such as the boat interiors and rudders, gun shutters, mast details, cleats, ladders, etc. Several of the parts are made up by folding into thicker structural pieces, and some items such as the boat davit pulleys are made up of multiple relief-etched brass parts that will build into realistic 3D assemblies.

The thicker sheet has the barricade struts and boat davits along with two etched guides for building up the large barricades that ran along the edge of New Ironsides' deck. The plans include a full size template that you cut out and tape to the deck which tells you where to lay down the drilling templates. You then drill for the etched locating pins in the barricade support struts. The whole process should make for a relatively easy and error free build of what could have been a mess of individual supports and slats.


The instructions come in two parts. The first 14 pages are an extensive history of the USS New Ironsides, complete with photos and sketches.

The second part is 14 pages consisting of an itemized part list, a detailed drawing of each sheet of photo etch that annotates the name of each piece. The balance of the pages are step-by-step instructions, complete with CAD Drawings of assembly, color photos of completed assemblies, and the previously mentioned templates. Also included is a fold out full-size 1/24th scale plan of the ship as she appeared during the war, showing her in plan, profile and stern view. I've included a random sampling of five of these pages to give a feel of what you get.

I'm really impressed with this kit. At first the cleanup that is required on the hull put me off a bit, but when I started to think about it I realized that you have to do cleanup on any resin kit. It then occurred to me that the reason I was put off was because the rest of the kit is so well done. The white metal parts are as good as you will find in any kit, and the photo etch with its relief etching and the ingenious ways that it goes together to make sub assemblies is very impressive. The scale is a unique one. I asked Old Steam Navy about the scale and they said they consider it a good compromise in regards to size and price, considering how large the New Ironsides was, and 1/240th scale works out to a simple 1/2 inch = 10 feet. I personally would like to have seen this kit just a bit larger and in the same size as the Verlinden and Flagship Models 1/200 and 1/192nd scale kits, but the subject matter is unique enough that the model should do well in any scale.

I recommend this kit to any fan of American Civil War subjects who have a minimal amount of experience with photo etch and resin. If the instructions indeed make the assembly as easy as it appears it will be, then it might be a good initial multi-media kit to learn on as well.

The USS New Ironsides is now available from Old Steam Navy for $179.95.

-Devin Poore
July 2008