With the construction of the USS Wichita the USN had maximized the fighting value of the 10,000-ton standard Treaty Cruiser. All heavy cruisers built by the USN had to displace no more than 10,000-tons standard to be in compliance with the Washington Treaty of 1922 and London Treaty of 1930. All of the American heavy cruisers built under the provisions of the two treaties, except Wichita, suffered one serious design defect, placement of catapults amidships. Time after time the placement of the catapults, aircraft and hangars amidships were contributing factors in the loss or serious damage to in action for the USN Treaty Cruisers. The aircraft and their fuel were easily ignited by shell or torpedo strikes, creating an inferno amidships. The Brooklyn class light cruiser developed the remedy to this threat by placing the catapult and aircraft hangar aft. Although this posed itís own risks, this was a far better placement than having this fire hazard amidships. Since the Wichita hull was based on the Brooklyn hull, her aircraft were aft as well.
With the lapse of the London Treaty the USN could start to build cruisers to suite their needs without being shoehorned into the artificial treaty constraints. As a consequence the USN developed what was arguably the best heavy cruiser design of World War Two, the Baltimore class. USS Baltimore CA-68 was the first ship of fourteen in the class. This class greatly expanded on the positives of the Wichita design, including stern mounted aircraft facilities. In contrast to the contemporary Cleveland class light cruisers, which quickly became overloaded, the Baltimore class had the size for additional AA guns without overloading the design. This was because of the over 30% jump in displacement over the preceding Wichita. Displacing 13,600-tons, the Baltimoreís had room to grow. The Baltimore class starting entering service in spring 1943 and Baltimoreís first action was in November 1943 in the Gilbert Islands. The first four ships of the class CA-68 through CA-71 had two catapults at the stern with a Bofors mount between them. The field of fire of this stern mount was greatly restricted because of the flanking cranes. Accordingly the USN modified the design of the stern. Starting with USS Pittsburgh CA-72 only one crane was mounted on centerline at the stern and two Bofors mounts were placed one on either side. One crane was more than enough as floatplane operations had decreased in importance and the field of fire of the Bofors mounts was much improved.
Trumpeter has released 1:700 scale kits of both the two-crane USS Baltimore CA-68 and one-crane USS Pittsburgh CA-72. These kits are apparently based on the resin kits of the same two ships produced earlier by Waveline. Whether you have a resin Waveline kit or Trumpeter injected plastic kit of either of the pair, you still need photo-etch to finish the job. Toms Modelworks has released a brass photo-etch fret specifically designed for these kits. The Baltimore Class Photo-Etch Set 756 is packed with all the equipment and fittings that any modeler would need to finish either a Baltimore or Pittsburgh variant of the class. So, what does Toms Modelworks provide for your Baltimore or Pittsburgh?
Aircraft Handling Equipment
First of all you get two cranes, so the set can be used for either the Baltimore or Pittsburgh variants. The cranes are one-piece parts that fold to the correct shape. Each panel to be folded is connected with other panels by only a few attachment points. As a consequence of the Toms design the crane will be very easy to fold and present sharp, crisp angles. The down side is that they are fragile, as you donít want any of the connected panels to become separated. So included is a separate pulley rig mounted on the base of the turntable. Each catapult is a multi-piece design. As with the cranes the main bodies of the catapults are one piece with four connected panels, which fold together. However, the catapults are probably the most complex assemblies on the fret. Each catapult has not only the main assembly but is further detailed with another 13 brass parts of smaller detail. All of the treadways of the catapult platforms are finely perforated. The cranes and catapults are parts that cannot be adequately duplicated in injected plastic and these Toms parts allow the modeler to replace clunky plastic parts with very fine brass structures.
Toms has included a goodly selection of radars on the fret. Some are direct replacements for plastic radar and some are optional radars not found in the plastic kits. One example is the main gun directors. The Mk 8 director was the primary fire control radar of the USN cruisers and battleships. The Mk 8 had a complex box design with a great number of visible dipoles. However, near the end of the war some Mk 8s were replaced with the Mk 34 radar in an enclosed shroud. Even when the Mk 8 was replaced with the Mk 34, it was still common to find a ship with one of each. The Trumpeter kits appear to give a Mk 34 radar, rather than the more common and earlier Mk 8. No problem, since Trumpeter doesnít give you Mk 8 radars, Toms Modelworks gives you two of these multi-piece radars on this fret. Since were talking about fire control radars, what about your 5-inch/38 fire control? No plastic radar has a hope of coming close in appearance to brass photo-etch and the Mk 12/22 secondary fire control radars certainly will look immeasurably better with the Toms parts. There are two of these in the set and each is multi-piece as well. The Mk 22 is actually the small elliptical height finding radar that was attached to the Mk 12 radar at late war, so if you are building a mid-war cruiser, check your references, the Mk 22 dishes were probably not attached to the Mk 12 arrays at that time. Toms also provides to big main search radars. One is the square SK radar with back frame and the other is the convex SK-2 radar that appeared late in the war. Which one you fit is again dependent upon the time frame, which you wish to portray. The SK-2 with nine parts is another complex piece to be assembled. Also in the electronics category are TDY jammers, which are included in this fret.
Your light and medium AA crews will certainly appreciate your upgrading of their battle mounts. The quad Bofors mounts are dramatically improved with thin gun shields. These parts include side and rear mount railing. To use these you will need to remove the plastic shields from the base and then attach the thin brass shields. Toms provides 13 sets of Bofor position parts. The guys on the Oerlikons will also appreciate your decision to use Toms parts for their guns. Set 756 provides 32 complete replacements for the kit supplied 20mm guns. Clearly the guns and gun shields will be much finer than the plastic parts but you may wish to retain the three-dimensional pillar mount. You certainly can choose what you want to keep and what you want to add. Although you can completely replace each plastic Oerlikon with a Toms brass version, you also have the option of selective upgrade. With some simple alterations, you can keep what you like on the plastic mounts and replace the things that you donít like with Toms parts.
Although the main items on this fret are cranes, catapults, radars and AA gun improvements, there is still plenty of other detail to be gleaned from this fret. Brass funnel grates will certainly add detail. There are two-piece brass anchors to replace the plastic versions. Toms provides 24 floater-net baskets, which you certainly will need. Also you can upgrade your carley rafts as Toms supplies six perforated bottom grids for these rafts. Youíll have intricate brass propeller guards on the sides of your hull. You will finally receive a more than ample supply of the most generic fittings. This fret includes nine inclined ladders, seven runs of vertical ladder, four runs of two bar railing and eight runs of three bar rail in three different patterns.
Instructions come on two sheets of a total of three pages. One sheet is back-printed. Page One contains general instructions and then covers specific brass assemblies in 15 paragraphs of text. About half of these paragraphs are supplemented by small drawings to clarify assembly. However, any paragraph covering the assembly of a complex subassembly, such as radars, cranes and catapults, will refer to an accompanying explanatory drawing found on the 2nd or 3rd pages. The second page has the last three textual paragraphs and starts with the sketches of complex assemblies. Included sketches are for floater net baskets; TDY jammers; SK radar; SK-2 radar; inclined ladders and Oerlikons. Page three is single sided and concludes with the most complicated subassembly sketches. Included on this sheet are Mk 8 radars; Mk 12/22 radars; catapults and crane. These instructions are sufficient but complex subassemblies should be studied first, so that it is completely clear to you before you start bending the brass.
Toms Modelworks Set #756, Baltimore Class Cruisers Photo-Etch in 1:700 scale, has everything a modeler could want to dress out his Baltimore or Pittsburgh. Not only does Toms supply essential brass replacements for clunky plastic parts provided in the kits, but also Toms provides essential parts totally lacking in the kits, such as Mk 8 main gun radars. With this set the modeler gets the complete package from intricate catapult assemblies to generous supplies of inclined ladders and railing.