Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up AND THAT'S AN INVITATION, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up TO MAKE A RESERVATION, roll up for the mystery tour.
The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away,
Waiting to take you away.

Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up WE'VE GOT EVERYTHING YOU NEED, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up SATISFACTION GUARANTEED, roll up for the mystery tour.
The magical mystery tour is hoping to take you away,
Hoping to take you away. (Magical Mystery Tour (Lennon/McCartney)


Roll-up, Roll-on, Roll-off, whatever your preference, you can now do so in a 1:700 scale, Magical Mystery Tour thanks to Ships & Company. RoRo is a modern naval acronym, which stands for Roll-on, Roll-off. This term signifies a cargo ship in which vehicles can drive onto the ship for loading using a ramp and then drive off at their destination. This is much faster than the old fashioned way of using cranes to load and unload them from the ship’s cargo holds. Another naval acronym is LOTS, which stands for Logistics Over The Shore. It has been said that tactics is for amateurs and logistics is for professionals. Well, any infantryman will tell you that tactics are all important for a fire-fight or battle but when it comes to the strategic plan for a ground campaign, the logistics slice of the campaign has the same importance with the maneuver slice. Modern amphibious warfare is centered around specialized vessels designed to unload men and vehicles quickly. In World War One both the British at Gallipolli in 1915 and the Germans at Riga Bay in 1917 used shallow draft merchant ships to land men on enemy occupied territory. Other than some improvised boarding ramps, the ships were simply standard merchant ships. That was awkward but it worked for personnel, not so for equipment and supplies. In WWI, equipment amounted to field artillery, which were fairly lightweight, and maybe a few trucks. The equipment was loaded onto rafts by the ship’s cargo crane. The tank, introduced by the British in the war, was another story. Tanks are large and heavy vehicles and needed heavy lift cranes and larger ships because of their weight. The answer for that came in the form of the World War Two LST, which was designed largely at the prompting of Winston Churchill. Even with the largest LSTs, space was limited and usually went for the most important vehicles and equipment. 

Other specialized craft were also developed for D-Day. The Mulberry was designed for the Normandy invasion. Since the allies landed along the coast without any significant harbor and only anticipated securing a major harbor weeks after the invasion, a floating sectional harbor was invented called the Mulberry. Designed to facilitate the quick unloading great quantities of equipment and supplies, it was wrecked by an Atlantic storm shortly after insertion but fortunately served its role for quick unloading of equipment and supplies early in the invasion, when the allies were most vulnerable. Combat burns up ammunition and equipment at a prodigious rate and a large vessel was still needed to transport large quantities of supplies, as well as equipment. For the most part the allies still used the standard merchant ship for this purpose, as did the axis powers in their supply operations to North Africa. Loading and unloading these ships was a slow process, as vehicles were hoisted by the crane one at a time and then it took time to place them correctly to balance the ship. Something was needed to allow the quick loading and unloading of larger quantities of equipment and supplies beyond the capability of the LST. The answer to that need was the RoRo.

Another piece of the strategic puzzle was that equipment had to be able to arrive quickly to support an emergency amphibious operation in its crucial early phase. If the ships had to be loaded at the US ports and then transported to a hot spot, that would take time and that was time that the ground-pounders did not have. The answer to that dilemma was propositioned supply ships. Ships are combat loaded in advance to support the force structure in an area with necessary combat vehicles, support vehicles, ammunition, spare parts and every other item necessary to support a ground campaign. That way they can be based in a secure port close to potential trouble areas and are ready immediately to get underway. Diego Garcia was the location for these ships in the Indian Ocean. To carry the necessary load, large size was needed. Initially the USN purchased civilian built container ships and converted them for this role. 

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The USN formed a new command for this purpose with the Military Sealift Command Afloat Prepositioning Ships (MSC). Organized in three squadrons with MPS-1 in the Mediterranean, PS-2 at Diego Garcia and MPS-3 near Saipan, the command is assigned not only navy owned ships but also chartered merchant ships. A 4th Squadron was formed to support the Gulf War of 1996 but was deactivated in 1998. Starting with the Bob Hope Class of Vehicle Cargo Ships (AK) laid down in May 1995, the USN designed its own RoRo ships. Before these could enter service, the converted merchants would be the answer. Another of different of shipping lines were approached in order to lease the required vessels for conversion and use on a long term lease. As a consequence there are a number of different designs converted for this purpose. One firm approached was the Maersk Lines, which had a fleet of container ships with the desired size and configuration. Three of these were secured from Maersk and became the Shughart class Vehicle Cargo Ships (AK). The members of the class are Shughart T-AKR 295, originally Laura Maersk; Yang T-AKR 297 originally Leise Maersk; and Soderman T-AKR 299 originally Lica Maersk 3,000 TEU container ships. Before the conversion these container ships displaced 43,325-tons. The container ships were originally built by Odense Staalskibsvaerft of Denmark and entered service with Maersk in 1980 and 1981 and further lengthened by Hyundai in 1987. 

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A contract for $634,900,000 was signed on July 30, 1993 for a long-term lease in which the ships were converted for military purposes. The design and conversion was done at National Steel and Shipbuilding (NASSCO) at San Diego, California. All three ships were named for Medal of Honor recipients are designated as Large Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off ships (LMSR). The ships were operated by a civilian company, Bay Ship Management, Inc., under contract with the navy but can be manned by civilians or naval personnel. Specifically converted to transport an Army Armor Task Force, the ships were designed to preload 58 M1 Abrams tanks, 48 other tracked vehicles, and 900 wheeled vehicles, the ships certainly carry a tremendous quantity of vehicles. Vehicles drive on and off a large pivoting ramp at the stern and side ramps port and starboard with a 160-ton capacity for maximum flexibility. Additionally there are two pairs of heavy lift cranes capable of operating individually or on pairs. Each crane can light 58-tons or when paired 112-tons. Since the ships some of the original container guides from their earlier incarnation as container ships, individual preloaded cargo containers can be stored on deck. The ships are also capable of vertical resupply operations for lighter loads, as a helicopter flight deck was added aft of the bridge for daylight only operations. Vehicles are stored internally on six decks with ramps connecting the decks to smooth traffic flow. Internal capacity is 380,000 square feet. 

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Conversion of Shughart started June 24, 1994 and she entered service May 7, 1996. The other two started their conversions in 1995 and entered service in 1997. In their converted form they are 950 feet (276.43m (259.32m pp) in length, 106-feet (32.28m) in width and have a draught on 10.64m. They displace 33,971-tons light and 55,123-tons loaded. Powered by two Burmeister & Wain 12L90-GFCA diesel engines, which turn one six bladed propeller, he ships have a maximum speed of 24 knots. However, unlike steam plants, the ships can maintain this speed over a long period of time. The diesel plants give the ships a phenomenal range of 12,200nm at 24-knots! The civilian crew is 13 officers and 32 merchant sailors with provision for a naval crew of 2 officers and 48 enlisted. The Soderman under went a further conversion. Tailored to support the USMC, this conversion was also done by NASSCO and finished March 1, 2001. This conversion added quarters for 50 marines, changed the stern ramp to an in-water ramp and changed flight operations to all weather. (Historical information from Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2000, Edited and Compiled by noted naval savant, sage and magi, A. D. "Dave" Baker III

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Ships & Co. Shughart
What is your taste in cuisine? Do you like watercress and cucumber sandwiches served in oh-so-chic fern bars? Do you like dainty 4-inch individual size veggie pizzas? If so and if your tastes in resin kits matches tastes in foods, then the Ships & Co. Shughart may not be for you. However, if you like your cuisine with wallop and in man sized servings with red meat in lieu of cucumbers or full bore Chicago deep-dish pizza from Pizzaria Uno, then the Ships & Co. Shugart will fill your plate. Whether you call it a Whopper, Big Mac or Hearty Man’s Meal this kit has a whopping size. Any kit in 1:700 scale, which portrays a ship almost 1,000-feet long, will be big and this is only further accentuated by the bulky dimensions of this big cargo ship designed to maximize capacity. As with most modern merchants, the design combines a blocky, angular superstructure to maximize internal space with graceful hull curves to minimize water resistance.

The hull starts with a dramatic and very graceful compound curve cutwater that really emphasizes the curves of the hull with the angles of the superstructure. There is a further curved flare upwards and outwards until the curves at the bow end and the vertical slab sided hull necessary for maximum internal storage. One third of the way back on the hull on both sides is a cutout where is found the hinged ramp for the side loading positions. Amidships are gallery windows running with a square design. The slab sided hull then runs to under the superstructure where is found open galleries. Aft of these position the square gallery windows continue, under which are two entry crew doors. Starting about 80% of the way to the stern the hull tapers inward creating to large triangular planes on either side of the hull. At the stern is the large entry bay for the pivoting stern ramp. 

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When it comes to deck detail, there is more than enough to satisfy even the most discriminating modeler. The rounded shape of the forecastle is enclosed in a solid bulkhead. This is extremely thin, which is great for scale appearance, but is susceptible to damage. On my sample the starboard edge of the bulkhead was loose from the hull and there a few minute pinhole voids in it. These are easily corrected by using a little bit of super-glue and tiny drops of white glue to fill in the very small voids. The inside face of the bulkhead is thoroughly detailed with supports or gussets. Additionally there is plenty of fittings on the short forecastle with seven twin bollards in an asymmetrical arrangement. Two large windlasses and one small winch as well as a few other fittings round out the detail found here. 

From the forecastle deck detail drops off as the deck is configured to maximize deck space for the original container-carrying function. On deck edge there are runs of solid bulkheads but primary deck detail between the forecastle and bridge is in the form of various deckhouses. None of these are of the same shape and they are further arranged asymmetrically, creating additional interest. In order of fore to aft; there is a wide rectangular deckhouse, a very thin and high structure, a long narrow deckhouse and an angled structure, which appears to be the overhead for an internal vehicle ramp. There are two large kingposts on each side, flanking the side openings. These are used to secure the machinery, which serve to open the sliding side doors and handle the exit/entrance ramps. Aft of the bridge are two short solid bulkheads, one of which was broken off in shipping of my copy but easily reattached. At the quarterdeck there is more solid bulkheads on the hull edge and a sunken well where the stern ramp enters the ship. 

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There are five large superstructure resin pieces with the smaller pieces cast on resin runners. The superstructure piece is a large blocky affair, in keeping with modern commercial ship designs. The side and front faces have square inset windows with five levels on each side and two levels on the front. The lowest level is a thin bulkhead, which slips over the hull side, creating a gallery in which the lowest level of windows can be open with a hobby knife, creating a more three-dimensional appearance. A large rectangular structure, offset to starboard is found on the superstructure face. The other large resin pieces and four different decks. One is for a deck immediately behind the forecastle but the other three are stacked one upon the other, creating the upper superstructure levels aft of the bridge block. Each of these decks has its own level of detail ranging from solid edge bulkheads to various deck fittings. There are two separate smaller pieces. One is the actual rectangular navigation and control deck, which rests atop the superstructure block and the other is affiliated with the aft support structure for the stern ramp. 

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For the smaller pieces on the resin runners, there is a rich assortment of other superstructure detail. One runner has vehicle ramps and both funnels. The funnels are unusual in that the are not placed on centerline and have two very different designs. One is the traditional streamlined design but the other is of a rectangular design. Another sprue contains the four big cargo kingposts and crane arms for the upper deck. The kingposts have excellent detail. Another sprue has parts for the aft ramp control derrick and mast. Another sprue has more structural elements for the stern derrick, as well as side doors, plus a piece (#17) for which I can not find a location. The parts #11 through #15 are even more structural elements for the large, complicated stern derrick. Two identical sprues have ship’s boats and davits. The sprue with parts #21 through #23 has forward deck parts, including the side door and ramp support structures. Two large side bulkheads share a sprue. They both should be numbered #32 but one is mislabeled #33 on the sprue as that number is for the navigation bridge. There is a small amount of flash with the resin runner parts but this is easily cleaned from the parts. Four small resin wafers contain the balance of the smaller parts. With these four the parts, they should be removed from the sheet, cleaned and gently sanded to slightly reduce thickness. These parts are one #29 whose assembly location I could not ascertain; #30 part of the aft derrick; and two wafers with two #31 each, even more parts whose attachment point I could not locate. There are no photo-etch parts for this kit. 

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The instructions are the weak point of this kit. There are eight color-copied sheets printed only on one side. The first page has ship specifics. The second page has a parts lay-down with all parts given bold yellow numbers, which duplicate those same numbers on the resin runners and wafers. The last six pages have a series of photographs, which show the sequential steps of assembly. The parts used in each step are shown in the photograph as well as there yellow designation number. I have gone through these photographs a number of times and I still can not find a number of parts listed in any of these steps. Where do parts #17,#29 and #31 go? Beats me…this is indicative of the problems with the instructions, they are incomplete. I believe that drawings would better serve the assembly approach than the photographic approach, even if hand drawn. In most cases the modeler can easily ascertain the attachment points but it may not be immediately obvious. A very complete and beautiful decal sheet is included. This same sheet is provided in the other modern USN kits released by Ships & Company. There is no indicator in the instructions as to which decals are used for the Shughart, other than the final photograph, which shows the flight deck warning lines in place. 

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Ships & Company has produced a large and very interesting kit of a modern US RoRo in 1:700 scale with the Shughart. Although minor clean up is required, the parts are uniformly well cast. However, the overall presentation is marred by incomplete instructions.