Favorite ship models
I am very interested in the predreadnought period (c. 1880-1905) as it shows a bendy path to the development of the modern warship through innovations such as steel construction, breech-loading ordnance, double and triple expansion machinery, water tube boilers, range finders, face hardened armor and torpedoes. There were interesting blind alleys in warship development such as the second class battleship, the monitor, the masted cruiser and the ram, whereas the direct descendants of the battleship, the armored cruiser, the light cruiser, and the torpedo boat destroyer were still major warships in the first half of the XX century. I have started a collection of 1/350 predreadnought battleships of different nations:
Lately I am building a series of 1/350 models of ships of the 1898 Spanish American War era. The major sea battles were fought off Santiago de Cuba and Manila. Interesting North American models are widely available. Check for instance: http://www.commanderseries.com/ships.htm. Alas! not so many Spanish ones. Thus, conversions of other similar ships or scratchbuilding are needed.
Though not actually a participant in the war as she was destroyed two months earlier, the USS Maine is always remembered. Sometimes classed as a second class battleship, sometimes as an armored cruiser, though it was actually the former. She never fired a shell in anger but she played a major historic role. Her accidental explosion in Havana Harbor led to the outbreak of the war.
A part from her I am attempting to build one of each major types of warship existing ion 1898 in 1/350 scale:
· Armored cruisers were about two thirds the size of a battleship. They had longer range, higher speed, but weaker armor and less powerful armament. Spain was superior on this category of ship (5 to 2). I have chosen the Spanish Cristóbal Colón, the best Spanish ship of the type. She participated in the Santiago battle.
· Second class battleships were about the size of an armored cruiser, had lower speed and endurance but heavier armament and armor. The US enjoyed a clear superiority over Spain (2 modern ones if we include the USS Maine, against 2 dating back to the 1860's and which were under refit at the time of the war). I have chosen the USS Texas. She participated in the Santiago Battle.
· Protected cruisers were generally smaller than armored cruisers, though this was not always the case. In fact the main difference was the type of protection, limited to a curved protective deck without vertical side amour. The US enjoyed a clear superiority over Spain (7 American to 2 Spanish, which in addition were having fitting out troubles and did not commission until after the war was over). I have chosen the large commerce raiding protected cruiser USS Columbia. One US protected cruiser was somewhat hybrid, the USS Olympia (1/232 scale), flagship at the battle of Manila Bay, which shared characteristics of armored cruisers (main armament in double wholly enclosed armored turrets) within a protected cruiser hull.
· Masted cruisers were survivors of the navies of the 1880's. Some kept their original rigs until the turn of the century and served beyond that without sails. They could be armored, protected with a full-length deck, protected by a partial deck or completely unprotected. In any case, their size was about half that of an armored cruiser; armament, speed and armor being also less. The US and Spanish navies were quite evenly matched regarding this type of ships (6 to 4) though the American ships were better armed and protected for the same size. The popular belief that the Spanish ones had wooden hulls remains a myth, as this was only the case for the Castilla. I have chosen the USS Boston, of the partial deck type. She participated in the Manila Bay Battle.
· Third class cruisers. The divide between large gunboats and small cruisers is a fine one. Some USS gunboats were larger than some Spanish third class cruisers. The Spanish navy had 9 ships falling into this category. The USS navy had only three albeit of a far greater size. I have chosen the Spanish Isla de Cuba, lost at the Manila battle, raised by the Americans who used her in subsidiary roles without changing her name.
· Monitors were very small battleships, slow, with low free board and speed, intended for coast defense and shore bombardment. Their armament and protection were not far below those of a second class battleship but they were unable to fight in rough seas or to make long voyages. The US enjoyed a clear superiority over Spain (6 to none) and over nearly any country at all, due to the prestige that early monitors had gained during the American Civil War. I have chosen the USS Monterey. She participated in the fall of Manila.
· Torpedo boat destroyers were in fact larger torpedo boats with increased speed and gun armament, intended both to protect the own fleet from the attack of torpedo boats and to perform torpedo attacks on the enemy's fleet. It goes without saying that they were completely unprotected. In fact they proved to be very vulnerable when doing daylight attacks on a well organized fleet and they suffered the unspeakable during the Santiago Battle. Spain was superior on this category of ship (7 to none). I have chosen the Spanish Furor, flagship of Captain Villaamil at the Santiago Battle.
· Coastal torpedo boats were at that time a feared and largely untried weapon. In service they proved fragile, little seaworthy and not so fast as expected. The American ones were used more as small patrol gunboats and dispatch vessels than in their intended role. The Spanish ones were unable to cross the Atlantic and were kept to protect the domestic coast against an American attack that never came. Spain was superior to the US on this irrelevant category of ship (8 to 5). I have chosen the Spanish Orion.
· High seas torpedo boats were a much hoped for improvement over the coastal type, although in service they proved to be no better. Three out of the four Spanish ships of the type unsuccessfully attempted the transatlantic voyage and spent the war in the Canarian Islands. The far superior eight American high seas torpedo boats were much more active as small patrol gunboats and dispatch vessels, and one was even engaged in a naval action among coastal forces at Cárdenas harbor. I have chosen the USS TB-6 Porter.
· Spar torpedo boats. In 1898 the spar torpedo was a relic of the past. It enjoyed a lot of success during the American Civil War. It was quickly superseded by the locomotive torpedo, although the French still used them against the Chinese Navy in 1884. In 1898 Spain still possessed one spar torpedo boat, Cástor, attached to the local defenses of Port Mahón.
· Converted civilian ships were widely used by both parties. Although generally unfit for a fight against regular warships, they could be useful for patrolling, commerce raiding or blockading duties. The largest ones were of about the size of a cruiser and were referred to as auxiliary cruisers. The US enjoyed a clear superiority over Spain in auxiliary cruisers (11 to 3) and also when it comes to the conversion of lesser ships, like private owned yachts. I have chosen the USS Gloucester, (1/130 scale, motorized model) participant at the Santiago Battle and formerly Morgan's yacht Corsair II.
· First class gunboats were at that time more prominent than nowadays. They were used for many roles when a larger warship was not available: scouting, blockading, commerce raiding, dispatch, shore bombardment, support of land forces, harbor assault, defense against torpedo boats, coast guard, and even as a part of the line of the battle in an emergency. Sizes varied from around 300 tons to nearly 2000; in fact, the division between the type and the small cruiser was unclear. The US was clearly superior to Spain in this category of ship. I have chosen the USS Wilmington, participant in the Cardenas battle.
· Second class gunboats were at that time more prominent than nowadays. They were used for many roles when a larger warship was not available: blockading, dispatch, shore bombardment, support of land forces, harbor assault, defense against torpedo boats, and coast guard. Sizes varied from around 100 tons to around 300; Spain was superior in this class of ship, as the US tended to favor larger gunboats. I have chosen the Spanish Contramaestre, one of the last survivors of a batch of wooden gunboats which Spain bought from the United States in the late 1860s.
· Gun launches. The small third class gunboats were also called gun launches in the Spanish Navy. Their minimal size made them useful for inshore and even river operations, like transporting small army parties, and preventing disembarkment of weapons for the Cuban up risers. I have chosen the Spanish Alerta, at a displacement of only 43 tons. She participated in several actions against the Cuban insurgents prior to 1898, and was present during the American attempt to enter the harbor of Cárdenas.
· River Craft. In spite of the few navigable rivers in Spain, that country did possess a small brown-water navy, though an outdated one. The most important vessel was the small monitor Puigcerdà.