The Greatest Fighting Machines Afloat – The Kentucky and her sistership, Kearsarge, the newest American battleships, regarded by many naval experts as the most powerful, and efficient war vessels in the world.”

So ran the headlines in an article in the Munsey Magazine in one of their issues in 1900. The article written by Franklin Chester went on to tout the power and innovation of the latest battleships to enter service into the USN. Mr. Chester went on to explain to the reader in glowing terms, “Not so many years ago it was said that the United States was practically without a navy. Now our sea force ranks fourth among the powers, and its fighting ability is not to be measured by tonnage alone….There are larger ships in other navies, but it is probable that no foreign war vessel now afloat can meet the Kentucky on equal terms. She and the Kearsarge are the finest fighting machines in the world.” Should John Bull be nervous? Should Kaiser Bill shake in his rather ample Cuirassier boots? Not quite. In the article it was explained that the ships featured many new features never tried in a battleship, which was true, but it was a mixed bag. Some innovations were excellent and became standard on all of the world’s battleships but others were a dead end.

  The Kearsarge class represents a break in some degree with evolution of the American battleship. The first USN battleships had only been authorized 14 years earlier. In the early 1880s it came as a shock to many that the USN ranked about 19th in size, and probably less in power, in a list of the world’s navies. Newspapers thundered that this condition was deplorable. Like so many Chicken Littles, they agonized that Brazil could send their armored cruiser Riachuelo to stand off New York City and demand tribute from the worthy burghers of that metropolis. Likewise Chile could send one of their cruisers up the west coast to San Francisco to demand that her citizens hand over all of their sour dough. The Civil War relics of the USN were powerless to stop them. Something had to be done to correct this manifest imbalance. The result was the new American Steel Navy. The first group authorized consisted of three protected cruisers and a dispatch boat but in three years the US was ready to try her hand at armored warship construction.  

Profile, Plan & Quarter Views
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In 1886 Congress authorized the first two armor plated warships of the steel navy. As the United States had no warship designers with experience in large warships and very few with experience in designing any type of warship, the USN relied on foreign designs. The USS Maine was an enlarged version of the Brazilian Riachuelo, a British built cruiser. In fact the Maine was described as an armored cruiser when laid down and launched. It was only before commissioning that she was rated a 2nd class battleship. The Texas was designed by a Englishman working for Armstrong and was rated a 2nd class battleship from the start. Since America lacked the infrastructure, forgings for production of large guns, armor plate and machinery were purchased from firms in Great Britain and the USN was in the warship construction business in earnest. Clearly these two ships were inferior to the world’s standard battleship. They were of limited displacement and capability. One reason for this was the lack of construction experience but a more compelling reason for their 2nd class nature was politics.

Congress did not like the term battleships. To many of the legislators the word battleships represented empire as best epitomized by the British Empire . Far-flung holdings controlled by the overwhelming power of large battleships. Some politicians thought of American as a Jeffersonian ideal of gentlemen farmers tilling the soil with their sinew and sweat in an enlightened agrarian society. Of course that idea was long dead, as the American Civil War had only increased industrialization of the country. Some saw the country as Yankee Traders to the World’s Markets and failed to see the need of a navy to protect trade. Others were afraid of antagonizing foreign powers into an expensive arms race. The building of small 2nd class battleships for self-defense was acceptable to these groups.

Bow Detail
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The first true group of American designed and built battleships was the three ships of the Indiana class BB-1 through 3, authorized in 1890. To get these past Congress they had to be described as “Sea Going, Coast Line Battleships”.  They were given low freeboards and limited endurance. Congress was mollified with these caveats, as worries of foreign adventures dissipated with ships designed to stay close to the American coasts. The device that Congress used as a governor to restrain and constrain battleship design was displacement. By mandating the heaviest armor and armament within a limited displacement, the sacrifices had to come in machinery, endurance and size. A small authorized displacement hamstrung the navy and its designers. The next design was USS Iowa BB-4. The Indianas were limited due to their very low freeboard and short range so for the Iowa of 1892 the navy convinced Congress to authorize “Sea Going Battleship No. 1”. The Iowa was designed to take to the open seas as a true deep-sea version of the Indianas , although the phrase “sea-going coast-line battleship” had crept back into her description. Before being finished it was decided that there would not be separate numbering systems for sea-going and coast-defense battleships and Iowa was renumbered battleship #4. At first glance, the Iowa appears to be a slightly larger version of the Indianas . The armament dropped to 12-inch guns instead of the 13-inch guns to free weight for machinery, coal capacity to increase range and for most importantly, raising the forecastle one level higher than on the Indianas . The high forecastle deck ran to the end of the superstructure and made the Iowa a much drier and infinitely superior deep ocean battleship over the Indianas . Displacement increased by 1,000 tons and length by 24-feet over the earlier design. These were the ships with which the USN fought the Spanish-American War. As a result of naval victories over out-matched Spanish forces, popularity for the navy in Congress as well as the public leaped. With the acquisition of distant territories the new Imperial Republic now had to worry about defending them and talk of limited coast line battleships disappeared.  

However, before the victories of 1898 spurred the big battleship for the USN, there were two more classes approved by Congress. The Kearsarge class of 1894 and the Illinois class of 1896 were both of constrained design. Both of these designs still were limited by small displacement limitations, significantly lower than those of foreign contemporaries. In December 1894 President Grover Cleveland asked for three new battleships and the House of Representatives agreed. The Senate however, was suspicious of naval spending and would only authorize two. They were still called “sea-going coast line battleships” but allowable displacement was increased to 10,000 tons from the 9,000 tons allowed for Iowa . Earlier in 1894 the wooden sloop of war Kearsarge, which had sunk the famed Confederate raider CSS Alabama in 1864, had run aground and wrecked. The Secretary of the Navy asked for permission to name one of the new battleships Kearsarge. Federal law mandated that battleships be named after states, so Congress had to pass an exception to the existing law. USS Kearsarge BB-5 was the only American battleship not named after a state. The second ship was USS Kentucky BB-6.  

Even with an increase of 1,000 tons, USN designers still had more features that they wanted to fit than could be accomplished in 10,000 tons. One design called for an enlarged Iowa with the same arrangement of 12-inch main and 8-inch secondary turrets but with the addition of 5-inch guns for defense against torpedo boats. However, another group were unhappy with the lighter 12-inch guns of the Iowa . They wanted to revert to the heftier 13-inch ordnance of the Indianas . To mount the larger gun and keep other improvements, the turret mounted 8-inch guns would have to drop from eight to four. The use of the 13-inch gun finally was accepted and designers had to figure out how the new design could obtain the same broadside fire of 8-inch guns as had been achieved with the Indianas and Iowa . Clearly both 8-inch gun turrets had to be on centerline as did the main 13-inch turrets. How could this be accomplished and keep the ships at 10,000 tons? This quandary and solution thereto created the most distinctive feature of these two ships, the double story turret.

Amidships Detail & End-On Views
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From the start the placement of the main turrets and 5-inch battery had been decided. The entire fervor came with the placement of the 8-inch intermediate battery. For weight savings the guns had to be paired with two groups of two and for protection of this substantial ordnance they had to be placed in armored turrets. Wing positions were out because that would halve the broadside of the earlier two designs. Two different solutions were explored, championed by two different Bureaus in the navy. At this time the USN consisted of a number of different bureaus each run by a flag officer reporting to the civilian Secretary of the Navy. There was no overall naval staff for operations or synchronization of the different bureaus. Each bureau was more or less a semi-independent fiefdom protecting its own interest from other bureaus. So decisions were determined by committee and consensus, as the Secretary had to rely on the advice of his bureau chiefs. The Bureau of Construction and Repair championed a super-firing arrangement in which the 8-inch turrets would be placed higher and behind the main gun turrets. This of course was the arrangement that was eventually adopted worldwide. However, the Bureau of Ordnance wanted superposed 8-inch turrets. If you break down the words the difference is immediately apparent. Super-firing means guns firing over other guns, while super-posed means guns positioned or “posed” over other guns. Because the blast effects of super-firing guns were unknown at the time, the majority of the committee whose mission was to chose the 8-inch gun positioning favored the superposed gun arrangement. As it was, it was not until the French Henri IV that super-firing guns were tried, however, the USN did finally did get back on the right path with dreadnought construction, as all USN dreadnoughts used the super-firing arrangement. It is interesting to speculate the “what ifs” if the super-firing solution had been chosen for BB-5 and BB-6 in 1895. Would the USS Michigan come about five years earlier?  

There were advantages to the arrangement. The 8-inch turrets had a far greater arc of fire than the wing mounted turrets in the earlier designs. They sat higher and had a better field of observation. Because of their height they were considerably drier. There was no blast interference with the crew of the 13-inch guns below. Weight was saved since the 13-inch gun barbette protected the 8-inch guns as well, eliminating the weight of barbettes as well as separate machinery for the 8-inch gun turrets. Fire could be concentrated as one officer controlled the fire of the twin 13-inch and twin 8-inch forward and one officer controlled the aft fire. All of the advantages were there but there were very significant disadvantages to the superposed arrangement. There was always the old argument against putting all of your eggs in one basket, or in the case of Kearsarge, two baskets. One lucky shell strike or even machinery failure could disable half of the heavy and intermediate guns. The superposed 8-inch guns were fixed atop the main turret. They could not train on targets independent of the 13-inch turret below. The weight of each combined turret at 728 tons was almost twice that of the main turrets in Iowa at 463 tons. This great increase in weight meant that the turret roller paths and supports would have to be substantially improved, which ate into the weight savings argument of the common barbette. If all four guns of the arrangement were fired at the same time, the rearward pressure at 506 tons was more than twice as much as in Iowa at 220 tons. Shock to the hull and ship’s machinery and fittings was also increased. Because of this general support requirements had to be increased, using up more of the weight savings. Probably the worst disadvantage came with the increased height of the 8-inch battery above the water line. Although the guns had a much better field of fire by being placed so high, the ship’s center of gravity was significantly increased, making the design much less stable. To reduce the center of gravity and increase stability the freeboard was lowered to a level not far removed from the Indianas .  

Stern Detail
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Both ships were authorized on March 2, 1895 and laid down in June 1896. Kearsarge, built at Newport News , was launched March 24, 1898 and commissioned February 20, 1900. Kentucky was also built at Newport News , was laid down and launched on the same days as Kearsarge but was commissioned on May 15, 1900. Originally both ships were contracted to in January 1899 but because of their unusual configuration, the navy kept tinkering with the design and extending the building period. Although the four 13-inch guns were the same 35 caliber as found in the Indianas , the gun was of an improved design. This was the 13-inch Mk 2 and was also used on the Illinois class. The guns in the Indianas were designated 13-inch Mk 1. The new guns were heavier than the old ones so had to be located 14-inches further back in the turret. This created another unfortunate design characteristic. To allow full elevation for these guns located further back in the turret, the gun openings had to be substantially increased in size. The Indiana had gun openings 6.8 square feet in size but the gun openings in Kearsarge ballooned to 9.12 feet. The large openings left the turret very vulnerable to any type of shell strike on the turret face. William Sims was a young officer on Kentucky and was one of the most vocal critics of the class because of this vulnerability. Sims stated that he could stand on the wing of the bridge, spit through the guns opening on the 13-inch turret and his spit would not stop until it hit the handling room below. The large gun openings coupled with the reduced freeboard made the turrets very wet in any seaway. To compensate canvas bucklers were attached over the openings. So what did Kearsarge get to compensate for all of this trouble? The design received a much-improved smaller secondary gun fit. It is probably proper to call the 5-inch battery the secondary guns and the 8-inch battery intermediate guns as this design was concocted in the heyday of the mixed caliber battleship. The fourteen 5-inch/40 arranged in batteries amidship, were much better than the four old 6-inch/30 guns in the Indiana or the six small 4-inch/40 guns in Iowa. Consequently the Kearsarge was in a far better position to repulse a determined torpedo-boat or destroyer attack than the earlier designs. Twenty 6-pdr guns were also provided, eight in hull positions at bow and stern and 12 more on the deck above the 5-inch battery. 

The armor belt was increased to 16.5-inches Harvey nickel-steel at its thickest, from the 14-inch belt of Harvey nickel steel in Iowa . Both were thinner than the 18-inch belt of the Indiana . Also the belt on Kearsarge was at its thickest from the aft barbette forward to the end of the machinery spaces. Past this it was reduced to 10.5-inches to the forward barbette and then a consistent 4-inches to the bow. Machinery consisted of two triple vertical triple expansion engines (VTE) and five boilers. This class was the first class of battleship to receive electrical power. Seven electrical generators were provided fed base power from the steam plant. The electrical system powered cranes, fans, winches and turret machinery.

USS Kearsarge Vital Statistics

Dimensions: Length - 375 feet 4inches (114.4m) oa; Beam - 72 feet 3 inches (22.03m); Draught - 23 feet 6 inches (7.16m) mean; Displacement - 11,540 tons (12,850 tons full load)
Armament - Four 13 inch/35 Mk2; four 8 inch/35; fourteen 5 inch/40; twenty 6 pdrs; eight 1 pdrs; four 18 inch torpedo tubes (aw)

Armor: Harvey Steel Belt - Main 16.5 inch to 10.5 inch 4 inch forward of A turret; Upper Belt 5 inches; Barbettes - 15 to 12.5 inches; Turrets - 17 to 15 inches; Secondary - 11 to 6 inches; Conning Tower - 10 inches
Machinery - 2 shaft Vertical Triple Expansion (VTE) engines, 5 boilers, 10,000ihp Maximum Speed - 16 knots
Complement - 553

Full power trials for Kearsarge were conducted on September 25, 1899. Average top speed was 16.84-knots. In further trials on November 24, Kearsarge maintained an average speed of 16.878-knots for 67 nautical miles. Natural draft trials on April 3, 1900 had the slower speed of 14.99-knots with 8,483 ihp.

Particular interest attaches to later trials of the Kearsarge, because, like her sister the Kentucky, she is built upon the super-imposed turret system, which has already been described in the Naval Annual, there being four 8-in. guns in turrets rigidly fixed on the top of the housing of the 13-in. guns, and turning with them. After the additional trials in April, 1900, Captain Folger, commanding the ship, made the following report: ‘The double turret was thoroughly tested, and is an assured success, both from the military and structural standpoints. There is no interference between the planes of the guns or inconvenience from blast or smoke. The structure was tested with simultaneous discharges from three guns. It is quite strong enough to withstand the united shock of the four guns of either turret, but the absence of a suitable electric device for a simultaneous discharge of all the guns prevented this final test. Both pairs of 8-in. guns were tested in simultaneous firing.’ The trials, however, were not considered conclusive, and are to be continued. Rear-Admiral Philip Hichborn, Chief Constructor of the United States Navy, has recently stated his objection to the double turret in these words: ‘In the last war the vessels of our Navy fulfilled all that was required of them in every particular, despite the intricate mechanism of the modern warship. None of these vessels, however, were fitted with the double turret, and I am so firmly convinced of the disastrous consequences of such a design in actual warfare that I fear the result would have been otherwise had the two battleships fitted with the double or superimposed turrets been in service. The Kentucky and Kearsarge, so far as the double turrets are concerned, are as yet untried, but although the design was widely exploited several years ago, no other nation has deemed it desirable to incorporate it in the construction of its battleships.” (The Naval Annual 1900, 1900, Edited by John Leyland (T.A. Brassey was in South Africa), at page 45) In the April 1900 trials each turret did fire all four guns simultaneously. “During this test, the blast from the 8-in. guns in the super-posed turrets did not inconvenience the people in the 13-in. turrets below.  

As a design the Kearsarge class tried to accomplish too much on too low of displacement. For 10,000 tons the ships were heavily armed with good armor protection. However, all this gun power could be illusory. The low freeboard and large turret openings for the 13-inch guns would wash out the forward turret and 5-inch battery in any seaway. The ships only served 9 years before they were decommissioned in 1909. During this time there were only minimum modifications. The torpedo tubes were removed and the casemate 6-pdr positions were plated over as they were even more subject to wash out then the main turret and 5-inch battery. The pair were brought back in 1912 for duty with the Naval Militia, a nautical National Guard. They did receive a refit, which substantially altered their appearance. The upper works were removed, including the military masts. A simple bridge structure and cage masts, as well as the installation of new boilers replaced them. The 6-pdr armament was reduced to four but four more 5-inch guns were added to the corners of the battery. Gun shields were finally fitted just inside the large openings. During World War I they remained training vessels and most of their five-inch guns were removed for vessels seeing action against U-Boats.

Armament & Superstructure
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By the end of the war they were clearly obsolete as fighting ships. Kentucky was decommissioned on March 29, 1920, removed from the navy list on May 27, 1922 and sold for scrap on March 34, 1923. Kearsarge had a much longer life but under a different guise and later name. On August 5, 1920 Kearsarge was designated Kearsarge, Crane Ship No 1. In 1939 she was designated Kearsarge AB-1 and finally Crane Ship No 1 (AB-1) on November 6, 1941, so as to give her name to a new Essex Class carrier. After over a half of century in service, the ship was sold for scrap in August 1955. Today, aboard the battleship USS Alabama in Mobile Bay , there is an interesting photograph showing Kearsarge in her role as crane ship next to the Alabama , assisting in the construction of the fast battleship. It presents a far different and totally ironic twist on the meeting between the first Kearsarge and Alabama but is symbolic of the fine service rendered by the old battleship of a failed design. (History from: American Battleships 1886-1923, 1980, by John Reilly, Jr. and Robert Scheina; The Naval Annual 1900, 1900, Edited by John Leyland (T.A. Brassey was in South Africa); The Naval Annual 1901, 1901, Edited by T.A. Brassey )

The Commanders/Iron Shipwright Kearsarge
There was almost no structural difference between the Kearsarge and Kentucky, as they were built in the same yard for exactly the same period from laying down to launching. Frequently crewmen from one ship would accidentally return from liberty to the other one because of their almost identical appearance. Therefore, the Commanders/Iron Shipwright kit can be used to portray either vessel. The model reflects the ship early in her career with torpedo tubes and hull 6-pdr positions. As with all of the 1:350 scale kits produced by Commanders/Iron Shipwright, the Kearsarge is a one-piece full hull kit.

ISW tries to include as much detail on possible on the hull casting as possible and the Kearsarge hull demonstrates this tendency. Except for the very bottom, the hull was exceptionally clean and free of defects. The hull bottom had a casting seam to be smoothed and the typical pinhole voids found at the very bottom of ISW hull castings. If you want to fill these in, that’s fine but since they won’t show after the hull is mounted on display I personally wouldn’t bother. The hull seems to be a trifle on the short side as I measured it at 32cm which equated to 112m length overall. Conway ’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905 lists the ship at 114.4m oa.

Stacks, Masts, Cranes, Boats & Fittings
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The top of the armor belt is clearly represented from the cutwater to the aft barbette. Running along the top of the armor belt are a series of discharge ports. I compared the quantity and location of these ports with the plan found on page 85 of American Battleships 1886-1923. They matched except for one port missing on the hull between the aft funnel and aft torpedo port. Both torpedo ports are present with the top hinged doors closed. If you look at photos of either of the ships in drydock, you’ll notice reinforcing panels for the underwater ram. These features are delineated on the sides of the ram on the ISW model. You will have to add bilge keels from plastic card as ISW has marked their location with fine raised lines on the hull but did not cast them on the hull or supply them in the small parts mix. Unfortunately there is no template for their shape included in the instructions, which is a clear oversight. If you don’t get the parts, you should at least get templates to make them yourself, as there are actually two bilge keels on each side, on at the bow and one aft. Fine detail is found at the top of the bow where there are oval fittings for the anchor chain hawse and of course the scroll work at the bow. For the anchor billboards thick supported catheads extend out over the hull but this accurately reflects this feature on the actual ships. The cathead was the spot where the anchor flukes were placed after being “catted home”.  The hull 6-pdr positions are portrayed with doors closed. These doors have good detail and the ships undoubtedly kept these doors closed most of the time, due to their closeness to the waterline. For superstructure detail the rows of 5-inch and 6-pdr positions stand out. For the seven 5-inch positions on each side, rectangular openings are incised along the hull. The positions are not hollowed out but hollow gun compartments are not possible with a one-piece casting. The guns could be retracted and had doors that closed over the openings. However, these doors or shutters were apparently stored inside the hull, as photographs do not show them when the guns are out. Most modelers will want to portray the 5-inch battery as run out, so the most logical solution is to paint the gun apertures black. Locator holes for the 5-inch gun barrels so you’ll have to use a pin vice to drill out these. Most photographs show the barrels running directly out broadside, squarely in the middle of the rectangle. If you wish to portray the ship with these doors closed, you’ll need to fashion thin card stock to the right rectangle shape. A third course of action would be to hollow out the gun positions with a drill and square of the edges with a hobby knife. If done correctly this would present the most pleasing appearance by far but it requires skill and patience, as it is not a quick procedure. The broadside battery positions for the upper deck 6-pdr present a very pleasing appearance. The solid bulkhead found at this level has indented notches for each 6-pdr position presenting the appearance of the crenellations of a castle.

 For the comparison of the deck of the model with the deck of the ship I used the plan found at page 87 of American Battleships 1886-1923. All of the fittings seem to match between the model and plan, item by item. Of course there is the standard wooden planking on the deck but it is plank incisions are very fine and delicate. There are no butt ends to the planks. One set of features quickly seen are the semicircles around both barbette positions. These were metal plates that were placed along the radius of the 13-inch gun muzzles. These plates could also be found in the battleships of other navies. They were designed to limit blast damage on the deck when the main guns were fired. These plates are not overdone. They are slightly raised above the plank surface and offer a nice contrast to the wood planking. When the model is painted these will offer a pleasing contrast painted buff in the white and buff scheme against the wooden planking. At the tip of the bow there are four guides in front of chain hawse for the chain run. Just behind this are the billboards one on each side. These angular positions provide a lot of interest to the design. In board the are rimmed by the hull scupper. A raised scupper rims both the forecastle and quarterdeck. Centered between the billboards are the bases for the anchor cranes and cable-house used to swing the anchors onto the billboards. There were a couple of pinhole voids found with these fittings, which were among the minimal casting defects that I found on the deck. Immediately in front of the fore turret is a raised chain house for the anchor chain. This raised housing is a common feature in early USN battleship designs. There is very good detail here with forward face hawse openings, side reel heads and access hatches on the top. Four access hatches with hand wheel detail frame A barbette.

The Commanders/Iron Shipwright USS Kearsarge portrays the ship early in her career. During the early part of her life she wore the white and buff color scheme of the United States Navy. However, the pattern of the white and buff scheme changed as to where the white ended and buff started. There were at least four different white and buff paint schemes used for Kearsarge and Kentucky . One scheme maximized the amount of buff paint used. In this scheme all of the turrets were buff and the division between the white and buff was under the 5-inch gun positions. Then there was a scheme that had the white come higher to an intermediate level. With this scheme the division had the lower portion of the 13-inch portion of the turret white and the top part of the 13-inch turret and 8-inch position in buff. The dividing line on the hull was above the 5-inch battery and at boat deck level, below the bulkhead protecting the 6-pdr QF guns. Another intermediate scheme had the 13-inch portions of the turrets in white and the 8-inch portion in buff. On the hull there was a small strip of buff at the top of the bulkhead for the 6-pdr openings. It is not portrayed here but a photograph of Kearsarge in this scheme can be found on page 141 of Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905. The last scheme maximized the white paint used. Turrets were completely white as was the complete hull and conning tower. Buff was limited to only the upper works such as boat cranes, stacks and military masts. In this series of color postcards from the period, you can compare the schemes. In some cards the producer did not tint the buff area and it appears gray. Nonetheless, it should be buff. Also included for reference is the all-gray paint scheme the ships received in 1912 when recommissioned and fitted with cage masts. The ISW kit does not represent this period.
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Although the quarterdeck lacks all of the forecastle anchor gear detail, it has its own unique detail. There are three skylights between the aft barbette and the blast protection plates further aft. Large deck ventilation coamings are found at the base of the superstructure. There are also two deck access hatches and a centerline capstan fixed on the blast plate. The upper deck amidship has its own share of detail. Each of the two stacks have small, short stack houses for their base. On top of each deckhouse are the stack bases into which the stacks slide. The base for the aft stack did have a void that is easily filled. Other raised coamings come in the form of skylights for light and ventilation of the machinery spaces. There are six sets of coamings for ventilation cowls. Other deck detail on this deck include eight deck access positions and coal scuttle plates. At the corner of the upper decks are four crane bases. Bollard plates are found on both forecastle and quarterdeck but they are the plate only. The vertical bollard posts have to be added by the modeler from rod.

Smaller Resin Parts
Most prominent in the mix of smaller resin parts are the double story turrets. These replicate the large gun openings for the 13-inch guns and have the five sighting hoods built into the turret design. Each gun, 13-inch and 8-inch, had a gun captain and each gun captain had a sighting hood. The fifth hood was centerline on the 13-inch position roof and that was for the turret gunnery officer. Additionally there are access hatches at the top of the 8-inch position crown. These high rising combined turrets are what make the design and ISW Kearsarge so distinctive and the model so desirable. These turrets are also the last hurrah of the pillbox style for the USN. While the turrets were round in the Indiana , the pillbox style was slightly oval with Iowa and Kearsarge. The design was changed to add counterweight in the turret to balance the weight of the guns. The barrels are resin and reflect the multi-banded appearance of the early USN heavy ordnance. None of them have hollowed-out muzzles. To complete the ordnance, the 6-pdr QF guns are of a one-piece design that combines the gun with support pillar. The 5-inch guns have to be cut from brass or plastic rod but the length of the cut is not designated. The larger barrels will require some sanding along seam lines. 

There is not a great deal of superstructure parts but what there is, is located rather high on the ship. It was necessary to place the bridge at a higher position so that personnel there could see over the double storied turrets. This creates another intriguing aspect of the class, the high superstructure on a rather short and dumpy hull. ISW provided a bridge with only thin resin film covering the windows. You can leave the film in place and paint the windows black or you can use a hobby knife to open up the windows and use Micro Klear to glaze the windows. Do this carefully as the side and upper framework is thin and fragile. I accidentally removed one of the upper frames when I was removing the film. The bridge deck is a little thicker than it should be but this is minor. Detail is cast underneath the bridge with extensive support bracing and this would have to be removed and then replaced after sanding the bridge level thinner. There is another deck that fits atop the open bridge and enclosed pilothouse. This entire assembly sits atop the conning tower, which is part of a long flying deck or catwalk that extends the entire length of the superstructure over the upper deck. This catwalk sits atop the boat skids amidship so in the sequence of construction, attach the boat skids first. The catwalk has notches in the underneath supports where it slides on top of the boat skids. Likewise fit the catwalk before the funnels or bridgework, as those parts fit on top of the catwalk. The stacks are lovely with prominent band work, steam pipes and hollowed tops. The masts go together like a wedding cake. There are three different stages with thick diameter pillars ending with two large fighting tops. These tops have wood panel and support detail underneath. Then there are combined parts with a medium diameter pillars ending in smaller tops. From there you use rod for the topmasts and yards. 

Brass Photo-Etch Fret
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A lot of the smaller parts go into the ship’s boats, storage fittings and machinery. There are four cranes positioned on posts at the corners of the superstructure. These cranes are rather substantial with a tapered, curving I-beam appearance. The ISW parts have some pulleys integral to the castings. The resin boat skids are crucial. There is a series of four of these that are notched to fit underneath the centerline catwalk. The ends of the boatskids rest atop the side bulkheads and have support posts that reach the boat deck. The boat chocks are cast as part of the skids. You may have to replace some of the support posts, as they are susceptible to damage. I received five skids and only one had no damage to the posts. These beams are square, so use square plastic rod for the fix. The propeller shafts and support struts are one piece castings. I much prefer this to cutting rod for the shafts to mate with separate struts. All you have to do is make sure you have a smooth fit with the hull to attach these one-piece fittings. Then add the separate propellers. The anchors are one-piece but do not have stocks. There is no template to make the anchor stocks in their characteristic flat-S pattern. ISW should have provided the parts or a template for these stocks, as these are too significant to not be present. 

There is a significant quantity of J-Cowl ventilators. For the most part these are well formed but some sanding is necessary at seam lines. Many of the smaller resin parts have flash but this is normally easily removed. Likewise there are quite a number of ship’s boats, some of which are cradled inside others. Since the boats are on skids and high up above the boat deck, they will be prominent in the finished model. Gently sand the sides to ensure a smooth appearance but other than some gentle sanding, the boats were well formed and have wood-plank bottom detail. In addition to no anchor stocks, I believed the kit omitted some other features that should have been included. The anchors were lifted by small cranes abeam of the billboards. These cranes are not present in resin or photo-etch. Also, most photographs of the battleships show small boats on davits on the quarterdeck and forecastle. There were no davits in resin or photo-etch. I contacted Jon Warneke about these omissions and Jon said they were done in white metal. I then called Ted Paris who confirmed that these parts, as well as searchlights were done in white metal. Basically, the answer was that I had received the resin parts and photo-etch before the white metal parts were ready. So, if for some reason your Kearsarge arrived without these parts, call Ted and white metal relief will be on the way.  

ISW Kearsarge with Dry-Fitted Parts
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Brass Photo-Etch Fret
The ISW Kearsarge comes with one medium size brass photo-etch fret. A good 70% of the fret is devoted to railing. ISW custom fits and produces railings specifically for their kits. As a result of this policy, ISW has some of the best fitting railing to be found anywhere. There is no need in cutting generic railing to the proper shape, as the ISW Kearsarge already has each run of railing done to the correct pattern and length for you. On the fret, you will notice that runs of railing are assigned a letter. The instructions use that same letter to identify the exact location for that particular piece of brass. Other parts included in brass are eight support braces in three different sizes, boat’s oars & rudders, vertical ladder, inclined ladder and six block & tackle for the boat and anchor cranes.

The instructions for the ISW Kearsarge consist of three pages. The first page has statistics, armament, ship’s history and contact information, leaving only two pages for assembly instructions. Page two has two drawings. The top drawing provides outlines of the resin parts. Although it is no problem, certain resin parts use the same number. There is no way to confuse the placement of the centerline catwalk (#1) and the tall thin cowled ventilators (also #1) or the turrets (#11) with the propeller shafts (also #11). The second drawing presents a plan view of the upper or boat deck. It presents the arrangement of the boat skids, ship’s boats and cowled ventilators. Each type of ventilator is distinguished by the same number used in the parts matrix drawing. The third page contains an isometric assembly diagram, showing placement of the resin parts. Some parts are not shown but their location is obvious such as turrets, propeller shafts, and propellers. However some items are not so obvious, such as the stocked anchors used by ships with billboards. There are not that many resin parts to attach to the hull, so for the most part the instructions are simple but satisfactory, with some exceptions. ISW custom tailor’s photo-etch railings to specific locations on the model. Each specific railing is assigned a letter on the brass fret and the location of that railing on the model shown by the same letter in the assembly diagram. The instructions are disappointing in that all parts are not covered. There are three sets of support braces whose location is not specified. From examination of photographs, they appear to be as follows: 2 large double bay braces as midpoint supports of forward bridge wings; 2 medium single bay supports as end supports of forward bridge wings; small single bay supports as supports for aft bridge. Many of the photo-etch parts are not shown on assembly and there is no parts matrix or description of the brass parts. It is not indicated that the 5-inch gun barrels should be cut from rod. My biggest gripe is the lack of templates for the bilge keels.

ISW Kearsarge with Dry-Fitted Parts
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Commanders/Iron Shipwright has produced a very nice model of a truly unique design. Naval designers constrained by a Congressional limit on displacement tried to shove 10 pounds of powder into a 5 pound silk bag. The “weight-saving” superposed turret was the solution. The hull casting of the ISW 1:350 scale Kearsarge is very well detailed and with the exception of lack of bilge keel templates and somewhat incomplete instructions, it seems that all of the parts are there for assembly of a very striking and unusual model.