|Tacoma Class frigates,
based on the British-designed River class,
were ocean escorts built in US Maritime Commission yards. These yards built ships to
merchant rather than military standards. The River design was adapted to US mass
production techniques and equipped with triple expansion steam engines. The resulting Tacoma class could be distinguished from British
River class vessels by the prominent pole foremast (River class frigates had a tripod
foremast) and heavier gun armament. Tacoma class ships bore some resemblance to USN
destroyer escorts in size and layout, but were considered inferior due to their structural
weakness and larger turning radius. They were also hot below decks, but the design
compromises giving rise to these shortcomings enabled mercantile yards such as Kaiser
Richmond to turn out large numbers of escorts. This relieved the burden on US Navy
shipbuilding facilities, and sheer numbers were more important than quality when it came
to escorts. Ninety-six of these frigates were built, 21 of which were turned over to the
Royal Navy. US Coast Guard crews manned the remaining ships, and towards the end of the
war 28 of them were loaned to the Soviet Navy for use in the planned invasion of Japan.
The Iron Shipwright USS Burlington is a Tacoma class frigate in its final WW2 configuration. It is a one-piece full-hull resin model that scales out to within 1% of published dimensions. Cleanup consisted of sanding smooth the jagged casting gate along the keel and filling adjoining pinholes. I use thick super glue smeared over the rough area and sanded smooth. Its not crucial that one remove every blemish on the hull bottom, since this area is largely out of view. Above decks there were some voids in several of the mushroom vents and ready-use boxes. I repaired these with plastic rod dipped in super glue and trimmed flush with the adjoining piece.
The hull casting is very "busy", especially the highly detailed forward 3" mounts and hedgehog launcher. There is much surface detail, especially near the 40mm and 20mm tubs amidships. Aside from guns and fittings, there are only six deck level resin parts of significance: the bridge structure forward of the pole mast, two small port and starboard 20mm tubs below the bridge, funnel, aft 3" gun deck and aft triple 20mm tubs. Fit between these parts and the main hull casting was problem-free.
In studying references I discovered several omissions and minor errors that the modeler should consider fixing.
The prominent pole mast is scratch built from brass rod (included in the kit but not in my pre-production review sample). Two struts support the pole mast. There are no locator holes for these details, though the instructions provide a template. A dimple or some other locator point would have been preferable. The prominent SA radar that sits atop the pole mast was omitted from the brass fret. This oversight will be remedied in later versions of the Burlington kit, and Iron Shipwright will supply them free of charge.
The actual buildup was easy and fast. Both the 3" and 40mm guns are especially nice, and the model has a very cluttered look that makes it visually appealing. There are two depth charge roller racks and eight depth charge thrower racks on the quarterdeck. Add the deck edge carley floats and you have a very busy little frigate.
Two brass frets are included: a generic railing fret (not shown) and a fret specific to the Burlington. I especially like IS etched brass, an overlooked aspect of their kits. It strikes just the right balance between scale appearance and brass thickness. Too thin and the brass deforms easily, too thick and it doesn't look right. The Iron Shipwright brass is also well engineered and minimizes "brass to brass" gluing problems. Insofar as there were problems, they were errors of omission. The SA radar, lookout seats, floater net baskets and rudder for ship's boat should have been included.
Instructions are not a strong point with IS kits, though the Burlington set is adequate. There is a numbered parts list but no paint instructions. Most of the photos Ive seen show these frigates in either Ms 12 or Ms 22 paint schemes. Check out John Sheridans camo site at http://www.shipcamouflage.com/measures.htm for colors and application details. The instructions show the two bridge-level elevated tubs (port and starboard) containing searchlights. This is incorrect. These are observation lookouts. They contained seats with brackets on which were mounted binoculars. These parts are not included on the brass fret. As an aside, Iron Shipwright has informed me that future instructions, to be produced using CAD, will be much improved.
Beginners shouldnt have any problem with the Burlington. Ive pointed out omissions and minor errors to assist in detailing this nice little kit, and Iron Shipwright will supply the missing tubs and radar free for the asking. I find myself building primarily destroyer-size subjects (and smaller) in 1:350 scale. They go together fast and give me the satisfaction of completing something without months of effort. I simply dont have the time to build large subjects, much as Id like to. I recommend the Burlington to those of you wanting a quick build of a rarely modeled (but numerous) WW2 escort vessel.