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J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build

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Hello. I thought I would introduce my self with my current project. I bought the Model Shipways chaperon kit. This is my first paddle boat. I have wanted to build one for years. I look forward to comments, criticism, compliments and most importantly help.

The first step with any project is research. I didn't know anything about these boats other than what Hollywood portrays them as, floating casinos, belching black smoke with a full complement of gunslingers and prostitutes. The Internet is not much help on any subject that doesn't revolve around pop culture or narcissism, so money changed hands and books arrived at my door.  Many were written when my grandfather was still in diapers and everyone knew at least 1 civil war veteran.

   The first suprize to me was that thousands of these boats were built. They were not a special rare thing like today. It was no more special than a semi truck is today. Also many had very short lives. These boats were very well taken care of and we're a thing of pride. It was snags, running a ground, fires, boiler explosions and the civil war that killed many steamboats. I was also suprized that most were not pleasure cruises. They were hauling freight and people and had more in common with trains than with casino's. A book written in the early 20th century reshaped how I think about the boats. His thought process on paper is something that a modern writer could never portray. Today we get in a hurry and focus on the destination. We arrive in an hour by car. When the first book I read was written a car was for the rich, it was slow, unreliable and very uncomfortable. The car was not even considered. The train was slightly faster than the boat. Both were the same price but you would have to board several trains and people still had a distrust of the railroads. The boat took 10 hours to do what we do today in 1 and that could be more going upstream or hitting bad weather. But you boarded the boat and that was it. You were fed good food and got to watch the world go by, relax and socialize with other people. (I think that's what people used to do before smartphones) Interesting stuff to me.

After some reading I figured out the era I wanted to portray the boat in. The mid 1880's, a time when the steamboat was losing to the railroads but they were still common. The wild west was in full swing, the horse was the most common form of travel and answering the question who you fought for (North or South) could be the difference between a hot meal or a scattergun in your face. That means I'm not building the Chaperon I'm building the J.C. Kerr.

 The Chaperon was built in 1884 as the J.C. Kerr. She was built in Ohio and as such had a shallower draft than many southern boats. She only drew 4 feet of water when loaded to the gaurds. In 1904 she was rebuilt and renamed the Chaperon. She was operated from Bowling Green to Mammoth Cave. She was sold in 1917 to a captain in Mississippi who renamed her the Choctaw. She burned to the water line in 1922 on the Tallahatchie river.

On to the build!

I come from a model aircraft background so to me the kit is excellent. Everything fits very well and is well thoughtout. The plans are good as well. I laid out the keel on my wifes granite counter and let it dry.  I then added all the ribs to complete the skeleton. This is where I break from the pack and do things backwards. The kit would then have you plank the hull.  This boat is thin, long and easy to warp.  Instead glue the 4 piece main deck together and let it dry. Do this first before you attach it to the hull. Very important! After it was attached to the skeleton it was rock solid. It was then time for the first weigh in. 489 grams on a shallow draft that's kind of heavy. The one thing that gives this boat identity as an Ohio River boat is the shallow draft.  So I will not be adding material to the bottom of the hull to make her more boyant. That's cheating. A strict diet is the order of the day so I took to removing the rib centers with my Dremel and added some foam as a just incase water was to come in. I got her down to 375 grams. The planking is pretty straightforward. I still am not sure how I am going to waterproof the bottom yet as I want to retain the look of the individual planks. I stained the deck with some GW brand washes. I know a lot of people paint the decks but honestly I don't know if it was done.  I can find pictures showing the decks on steamboats both ways. Since this was used as a freighter most of the time I figure they would not have spent the money on paint.

The J.C. Kerr has some differences from the Chaperon. In fact the J.C. Kerr has changed quite a bit over its 20 years in service and the few photos that exists of the boat are not dated. That rules out building an exact replica from a specific year but based on the pictures I can make an educated guess as to in what order some of the changes occured. So I can back date the kit so its reasonably correct but it's not exact. I had to modify the rear walls and hand paint the lettering. The kit is excellent in that it etched the name Chaperon into the wood to make it easy to paint. Just fill in the lines. Unfortunately that doesn't help me at all.  I had to reverse the pieces and scribe the planking details in them to hide the etching. I eyeballed the lettering and painted it by hand. Of course colors are always a guess. I used an 1880's boxcar color for the red oxide color.

To power the craft I have a few options. Steam obviously would be an attractive option.  I built a twin boiler that is similar in dimensions to scale for the boat. It is basically 2 locomotive style boilers that have common water and steamchest. It makes steam but is 500 grams empty and not the most efficient. That weight does not include the many valves, fittings, pressure gauge, pump, burners and heavy steam motors. I think to make it work I would have to really scimp on details. I am going with electric power. I will build a light weight scale boiler to hide a smoke unit and battery. The copper one will get used for something else.

I have assymbled the 4 piece boiler deck and let it dry then glued it on the boat. I then cut out the floor.  There will be a removable floor for the boiler deck so I can access the main decks engine room and boiler area. I hope to have a scale interior on that floor.  It depends on the weight as it goes together.  I did order a ton of 1/48 scale victorian furnature to pull that off. A stroke of luck is 1/48 is a popular dollhouse scale and the ladies that build those like the victorian era. If it gives my boats state rooms some life that is a win for me. I guess a steam boat is little more than a floating dollhouse if you break it down.

One challenge I wold like to incorporate into the build is the cylinders that attach to the paddelwheel. They are very visable in this boat.  I would like them to move with the paddlewheel.  I do have an idea as to how to do this.

More to come.

An interesting build I look forward to following your build. :clap :clap :beer :beer

Hi, 60 Buick

I have built the "Chaperon" after plan as a 15 year old boy in 1968, scale like your model in 1 : 48. The plan in later times was sold by John Fryant. The draught was extended by 10 mm, propulsion was electric. More than 30 years later I also tried to make the meanwhile restored and improved boat steam driven. But space and deplacement were too less. Now the boat is a static model in the house of my mother - unfortunately I can`t make photos yet, because it`s more than 400 km away. I will make it up for later, if you are interested.
The kit of your awesome and very nice built was constructed after the John Fryant plan, it must be very near to the original boat. Weak points were only the front side of the pilot house and the red painted cabin doors. The Engel factory in Germany produces a "Chaperon" kit in bigger scale - I think 1 : 24 - which is suitable also for steam propulsion. The pictures are promising.

Regards Thomas

Here the 1 : 30 scaled Engel kit of "chaperon.


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