This winter has seen the release of not one, not two but three new Bismarck kits in 1:700 scale. With brand kits from DML, Pit-Road/Trumpeter and Aoshima, if you include the Pit-Road for the Japanese market and Trumpeter for the outside Japan market and then throw in the Tirpitz kits as well, that comes up to eight kits of the class. Regardless of which ship or manufacturer you chose what photo-etch are you going to use? If your choice comes down to a kit from one of the two Chinese giants, DML or Trumpeter, there is a third company from China that may have your answer for photo-etch. That company is Voyager Model based in the fabled port city of Shanghai. Voyager has produced four different stainless steel photo-etch sets that will allow you to dress your choice to the nines. One set is designed for the DML Bismarck, one set for the Pit-Road/Trumpeter Bismarck, one set is a small supplemental set for the Tirpitz models and the fourth is for the main deck railing.
The set for the Dragon DML Bismarck is Voyager PE 70001 DRA. In packaging, it is totally unlike what you have come to expect in photo-etch. Instead of a flat envelope, the set comes in a thick orange packet. Inside that packet are found five frets, plastic rod for cable reels and two back-printed sheets of instructions for a total of four pages. Each fret is identified by a letter, A through E, and individual parts are numbered. Relief etching is used throughout this set to add depth to some of the pieces. Voyager provides an amazing number of parts in this set. A general rundown of the parts included on each fret follows.
Fret A – The first items that are noticed are relief-etched breakwaters. Not only does Voyager provide the forward breakwater but also they provide side breakwaters. These parts even include individual support gussets for the forward face. Two other relief-etched parts are the mechanisms that rest on top of the crane housings. These are beautifully done. Under magnification, you can actually discern individual louvers the eight relief-etched ventilator louvers included on the fret. There are forty relief-etched doors in different styles. Other parts include aft superstructure platform base, anchor windlass details, aircraft propellers and float struts, foot-ropes for yards, stack platform cranes, vision ports for the front face of the turrets, faces for the front face of the turret range finders, special railing, radar fittings, bridge wings, crane wheels and supports for the arms, plus other items.
Fret B – This fret contains some of the big items. Relief-etched items include platforms on either side and at the base of the bridge and aft platform deck, with the joints between the wooden planks clearly incised. Other relief-etched pieces include the end pieces of the catapult and eight searchlight faces. Other major parts include crane bases, mainmast house, bridge shelters, bow & stern jack staffs, davits, and aft platform. Some items deserve special mention. Voyager includes individual cabins for the ship’s boats so you’ll actually have see-through windows for every ship’s boat with a cabin. There are ten of these on this fret in three different styles. Eleven cable reels are also provided with each reel composed of four parts, two reel sides and two vertical supports. You’ll have to add the cable drum to each assembly.
Fret C – This fret is comprised exclusively of superstructure railing and vertical ladder. The railings are already at the correct length for the part of the structure where they are placed. There appear to be 37 specifically customized rail parts for the ship’s superstructure on the fret. Main deck railing is not included in the fret just all railing other than the main deck. Likewise, vertical ladders come with exact measurements for their placement. There is no need to cut the railing or ladders to the exact length.
Fret D – This fret concentrates on radar components and inclined ladders. There are parts for three large arrays plus smaller structural components to those arrays. The inclined ladders are both accommodation ladders for the hull side as well as some specialty ladders between levels of the superstructure. Other parts include bridge wing walkways, plus more specialty railing.
Fret E – This fret is by far the smallest and just has the crane arms. However the arms have prelocated grooves for the transverse support pieces found on A fret.
If you purchased the Pit-Road/Trumpeter Bismarck, Voyager has a different photo-etch super-detail set for that kit. This set, Voyager PE 70002 TRU-PR, comes in a blue packet and consists of six individual frets, A through F. There is some repetition of parts between the set for the DML kit and set for the Trumpeter kit, but there are also many unique parts found on one set that are not found on the other. Some of the parts that are the same are rearranged on different frets. Instructions include two back printed sheets plus an additional page, for five pages total.
Fret A – The relief-etched parts on this fret are the three different breakwaters with their individual gussets, catapult parts both end pieces and center section, mechanisms on crane cabs, searchlight faces and ventilation louvers. Other parts include bases for bridge wings, stack platform cranes, yard foot-ropes, bridge shelters, aircraft propellers, a seven piece stack grate assembly, main turret vision ports, main turret range finder faces, platforms and supports, specialty railing and other parts.
Fret B – This fret contains relief-etched parts for hangar end, aft platform deck with relief planking, and a multitude of ship’s doors in different styles. Other parts include boat cabins, davits, more crane parts, crane bases, two large platforms, two much smaller platforms, mainmast house, plus other items.
Fret C – Two big headliners on this fret are relief-etched anti-skid decks for the amidships 4-inch gun positions. They are absolutely spectacular. The radar arrays and various forms of inclined ladders are also found here. More foot-ropes as well as some specific rail runs are also present.
Fret D – This fret contains the superstructure railing cut to the exact lengths needed. Six runs of handrails for the stack sides, relief-etched conning tower roof and individual 20mm guns.
Fret E – This small fret contains mechanisms and INDIVIDUAL GUNNER’S SEATS for 37mm AA guns and twelve four-piece cable reels.
Fret F – As with the DML set, this fret is the smallest as it contains only the crane arms plus pulleys.
What if you bought the Tirpitz instead of the Bismarck? Well Voyager has thought of that too. First you need to get the correct Bismarck set and then a small supplemental Tirpitz fret. This set is designated as Voyager PE 70003 TRU-PR. I have not seen another set designated specifically DRA for the Dragon kit, so the parts will probably apply to both Trumpeter and Dragon. This set contains only two frets but these contain Tirpitz specific parts, plus a small back-printed sheet of instructions.
Fret A – Most of these parts are used in place of Bismarck parts where the Tirpitz part has a different design. The Tirpitz bridge wings have open supports, rather than the solid bridge wings of Bismarck. The stack grate has an entirely different design from Bismarck. There are two long ventilation louvers not found on Bismarck. There are also extra detail for the sides of the director, a different platform and a platform that juts from the bridge face. The fret also has three breakwaters. Although the bow breakwater part seems to be the same as that in the Bismarck set, the side breakwaters are slightly longer than those found in the Bismarck set.
Fret B – Based upon the appearance of the pieces for the radar arrays, Tirpitz has different a radar fit from Bismarck. The included parts even include dipoles. This fret also includes an all weather cage that could be enclosed that goes on the front of the bridge, handrails for the stack sides. Other parts include anti-skid footplates for boat rack positions, and a special flying bridge and platform found aft of the stack on Tirpitz.
The fourth photo-etched set produced by Voyager for the Bismarck/Tirpitz kits contains Kriegsmarine railing for the main deck. This railing set, designated Voyager AP020, can be used for either manufacturer’s kit. The specific sets contain all of the superstructure railing but not the long runs for the main deck. This set contains two frets of railing. Each fret contains six runs, so in total you’ll have twelve runs of rails, which should cover your main deck needs.
Instructions – For all of the specific Bismarck/Tirpitz photo-etch sets, the instructions come in a modular format. Each module takes parts from a number of the different frets. Voyager has tried to display everything in a graphic format through the use of drawings and an English alphanumeric parts designation system. For instance in the instructions for the Dragon Bismarck set, the turret module shows isometric drawings of the two types of turrets, one with and one without range finder hoods. Parts needed are A-4A (A fret, part 4A&B, front vision ports), C-81 (C fret, part 81, vertical ladders), and parts A-6L & A-6R (fret A, parts 6L & 6R, left and right front faces for range finders). Also found are some graphic symbols, which show, some form of special treatment. With the turret module there are two symbols, one which indicates repeating on the opposite side and the other which indicates cut away plastic part, in this case apparently molded on vertical ladders. There is a key on the first page that 12 of these graphical symbols with text in Chinese and English explaining the treatment needed for the part. These symbols stand for cut away, rasp away, use filler, bend, optional, repeat opposite side, install (at) arrow, fold (at) arrow, number of PE parts, number of original parts, number of replaced parts and use ABS rod (white rod included in set). The instructions are very clear and well printed. With the Dragon instructions there were 29 modules. The instructions seem very easy to follow. However, for the more complex modules involving numbers of parts, you might want to cross of a part as it is attached, so that you won’t miss some part.