Cottage Industry Models 1/72
Union Submarine "Alligator"

Reviewed by Devin Poore
February 2014


The submarine "Alligator" served with the Union during the American Civil War. Built by French designer Brutus de Villeroi in Philadelphia, the "Alligator" was one of a number of craft that de Villeroi built during his lifetime; his earliest submarines can be traced back to Nantes, France in 1832, where he tested his craft in full view of the village's inhabitants, including a young Jules Verne.

"Alligator", gained power for its 47 foot length from ten men who worked oars which protruded from the hull and gave the craft an odd, multi-flipper appearance. Delivered to the Union too late to participate in the CSS Virginia solution -- likely due to delays with the submarine’s experimental oxygen recycling system -- "Alligator" deployed to Hampton Roads in April 1862. Fearing the Confederates would capture the craft in shallow harbors and rivers, commanders sent her back north, unutilized. Modified with a propeller drive to replace the oars, "Alligator" returned to service only to sink while under tow to Charleston on April 2nd 1863. A search for the wreck of the submarine has been underway off and on for many years now, but no clues as to her location have been found.

The Kit

Full disclosure at the outset: I'm the web site designer for Cottage Industry Models. I have no intention of that impacting my review of this kit, but there you have it.

Consisting of 37 parts (3 resin and the rest white metal), this is likely one of the least complicated kit I've seen in 1/72nd scale, outside of some 1/72nd armor. As with any other resin kit, one will need to use cyanoacrylate glue or epoxy for assembly, and some sanding will be required for clean-up and removal of the resin parts from their casting gates.

Resin Hull and Oar Plates

The three pieces of resin in the kit are the main hull, and the oar plates (which look like oversized bilge keels). The hull is cast in a single piece, 7.5 inches long, and bubble free. I spoke with the kit's producer and "Alligator" and their new CSS Hunley kits in 1/72nd scale are small enough that they are able to utilize pressure casting for the first time. The results look good, and hopefully this trend will continue. The hull has a large casting gate along the lower keel, with appropriate cut-outs so that details such as hatches and portals aren't damaged. The oar shelves are simple strips of resin, bubble free, and perfectly straight.

The model's hull master was made by hand, not 3D printed, so there are a couple of panel lines here and there that the modeler may want to straighten with a little scribing, but otherwise it's a good solid representation, with the portholes and hatches well depicted and cast. When viewed from fore and aft, the hull has a symmetrical tear drop shape, and all hatches and the conning tower are aligned properly to the vertical plane.

White Metal Details

The majority of the kit pieces are cast in white metal. To me, white metal has always been hit-or-miss, but these are well depicted, and details are clear. The usual flash cleanup will be required, but minimal.

"Alligator's" weapons system consisted of a diver in a dive suit that would exit the submarine, walk up to a target, place a timed explosive, and then hurry back to the boat. While that seems insane (yet it's hardly the weirdest weapons delivery system used on submarines of the era), the kit comes with a diver figure and a bit of wire to depict the oxygen hose. My diver has a couple of divots in the torso, but that's easily filled with a bit of thick paint or thin putty.

As stated in the history, Alligator had two distinct appearances during her lifetime: one with multiple oars, and one with oars removed and propeller added. Parts for both versions are included in the kit. Other parts included are snorkels, buoys, hatch handles, and brass rod and wire for various bits and pieces. Besides a base, everything one needs to build "Alligator" is included in the box.


The instructions consist of 4 pages of history, tips for working with resin, and exploded view construction diagrams. While I have yet to start building my copy, it looks as if every piece in the kit is depicted in the assembly instructions.


Overall a nice kit, and if anything qualifies as a "weekend build" in the realm of resin kits, this one is it. Most modelers will be able to build this out of the box and have a great time and finished product. Others will be able to use this as a starting point for a super-detailed replica.

When it comes to American Civil War subs, everyone has heard of CSS Hunley, but most have no idea that dozens of submersible craft were built during the conflict, and that the Union's "Alligator" predated the Hunley by more than a year. With the Cottage Industry Models kit of "Alligator", you can now add this truly odd and historic craft to your collection.

The "Alligator" can be purchased directly from the Cottage Industry Models web site, for $49.95. The photo of the finished model in this review is from their web site, built by owner William Blackmore.