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Author Topic: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build  (Read 563 times)

Offline 60Buick

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J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« on: August 04, 2018, 12:21:14 AM »
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.

Offline 60Buick

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2018, 01:17:00 AM »
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.

Offline DamienG

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2018, 01:41:48 PM »
An interesting build I look forward to following your build. :clap :clap :beer :beer

Offline Hankwilliams

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2018, 11:00:01 PM »
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

Offline Hankwilliams

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2018, 11:10:14 PM »
Here the 1 : 30 scaled Engel kit of "chaperon.

Offline 60Buick

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2018, 02:15:37 AM »
Thank you for the replies. Yes some pictures of your Chaperon would be interesting to see if you ever get the chance. The shallow hull definitely makes this a challenging build. Even more difficult than making it work will be getting her to ride correctly in the water without adding ballast in the nose. After every step I place her in the water to see where I'm at. 70% of the weight needs to be in the boiler area and the paddlewheel is not even on her yet. I'm loving the challenge of the build. Boats are generally built heavy and still need ballast.  I am used to aircraft and build everything light. I have built micro aircraft that fly and they shouldn't. I learned from some failed aircraft that pigs dont fly, every gram counts. That's my attitude on this build.  Right now I'm at roughly 650 grams when this kit would be close to a 1000 if I was not putting it on a diet.

The Engel kit looks promising for sure. I  was considering it but my next will have to be a large side wheeler.

I did get the boiler deck stained, cleaned up the hole and painted the interior walls white. I will put a removable floor in the boiler deck with an interior. I finished up the rear walls and modified the hog gates to match the Kerr. I had to reverse the "v" which was done by relocating the feet to the top of the gate. Then I hung them upside-down. I had to move them forward as well.

My furnature came in. She will look better with an interior and lighting. I ordered my smoke generator from harbor models and a sound kit from Model Sounds. They make one for a steamboat.

Since I have not sealed the hull yet I wrapped her in foil and loaded her down to see how she sets in the water. The picture shows her at 2500 grams. The 500gram copper boiler is in there to. I like how she sits at 2100. That's my goal, 2500 will work and 3400 is putting the deck about even with the water. I'll be doing this at about every stage until completion.

Offline DamienG

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2018, 07:07:13 PM »
 :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap

Offline Hankwilliams

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2018, 11:46:59 PM »
Very promising built. I hope to post a picture of my "Chaperon" at the end of next week.

Thomas

Offline Hankwilliams

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2018, 05:24:49 AM »
Hi 60Buick

Some pictures of my "Choctaw" (Chaperon), also in 1 : 48 scale. I build it 1968, 15 years old. The model has had electric propulsion, belt driven from the motor to the paddlewheel. The height of hull was extendet by 10 mm for better performance on water. Later - 1998- I tried to make her steam driven like many of my newer models, but space and deplacement were too less. Since decades the boat is a static model in the house of my old mother.
As I write, the kit of your model is very close to the original. The width of hull will give a good nautic stability, if the superstructure will be make as light as possible.

Thomas

Offline 60Buick

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2018, 03:00:19 AM »
That's a beautiful model! Very well done Thomas! Thank you for sharing the pictures.


Here is an update on mine. I fiberglassed the hull using 1/2oz cloth and 30 minute epoxy. This was the first model I have fiberglassed. It was surprisingly easy. With the lack of hull access and shallow draft I felt it was necessary as a leak would doom this boat in short order. I painted  the hull flat black. I will add a mud line and some weathering at a later date. 

  I added the kitchen. I was unable to find pictures of a steam boat kitchen anywhere. Unfortunately I think such mundane details may be lost to time. I added the stove first because you can tell where it was in the Kerr by the stove pipe, the rest is a best guess from looking at kitchens from the 1800's. I didn't go nuts with detail since it is going to be hard to see.

I also added the main deck restroom. I used railroad cars as a reference because again there are no photos I could reference for a steam boat. However there are entire websites that are devoted to train toilets. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about 19th century hygiene. I still need to finish up the wall and a door.

I scatch built all the rods for the paddle wheel from brass. Unfortunately nothing in the kit is designed to operate. I used some brass tubing with a nylon insert for the cylinders and a brass tube for the connecting rod. That keeps everything in line. I found a gearbox that is light weight, cheap, slow moving and has torque. Then I tied it into the cylinders. From the side you can see the rod and cylinder moving in the slow long stroke typical of a Sternwheeler. It's almost hypnotic.

I also started installing the sound system. I hollowed out the hull to lower the cg and to act as a speaker box to give the sound some depth. The sound system I ordered has mutiple steam engine sounds, paddle wheel backwash, a bell and 3 chime whistles. I didn't add any piano music or things like that and went for a more historical approach.

After all this the boat is just over 1000 grams and tail heavy. I want to keep her under 2100.
 
« Last Edit: August 22, 2018, 01:57:28 PM by 60Buick »

Offline Hankwilliams

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2018, 06:57:46 AM »
Really excellent built! A deplacement of ca. 2ooo g would be best for a nice performance on water. Unfortunalely I didn`t find any picture of my Choctaw on water 50 years ago.

Thomas

Offline 60Buick

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2018, 02:08:30 AM »
I did make some headway on the boiler deck interior. I removed the floor from the boiler deck and decided it was to heavy to reuse. I cut out the skylight ceiling as it should be. I used the steamboat cyclopedeum and the door openings as a guide on the interior layout. The main cabin area is as wide as the skylight and the state rooms are tiny. I added bathrooms, a womens area, cabins and a small room with an ice box and storage for stuff to feed guest. The whole structure was built from balsa and it is removable. Not all balsa is created equal so I bought the lightest pieces from a few stores. While that might seem extreme, the result is the whole interior with paint and furnature added -2 grams to the boat. The boat is actually lighter than if I had left it empty. It will get a little heavier, I ran out of chairs, my potbelly stoves have not arrived and I need to make the bunks. So far I am under budget on weight which is a very good thing.

Offline 60Buick

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2018, 02:32:54 AM »
I opened up the floor on the main deck and sunk the smoke unit and one of the batteries in the hull. The sound unit and receiver will be inside of the boiler and everything will be as low as possible and hidden.

My boat had a birthday of sorts. She floats on her own. The hull is sound and I have no leaks. She is very tail heavy so I added weight in the areas that I think will get heavier as the boat construction continues. With an additional 922 grams she sits level and only submerges half her hull. I couldn't resist putting a little power to the wheel and it pushed water efficiently. I was surprised it works so well, why did we switch to screws?

I have been on the hunt for people as well. I'm sure many of you know 19th century people are a rarity. I have been buying 28mm wild west game pieces which fit the bill perfectly. There is a good bit of support in that area. The ones pictured are from Bluemoon manufacturering and they are called tomestone civilians. I need to paint them of course but I love painting figures.

Then I had a wonderful stroke of luck. My wife's not been on board with the riverboat build. Her complaint with this project was we didn't have room for it.  I beg to differ but it would be clutter if I put it where I wanted to. A local antique store was going out of business and was selling everything including the fixtures. I bought this massive lighted display case for a $100.00. I think I have room for several more paddleboats now and I won't hear a peep. The Dumas Mt Washington is next on my list.

Offline derekwarner_decoy

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2018, 08:08:14 AM »
Great progress  :hammer....that display case for $100 US was a bargain  :gift ........ Derek
Derek Warner

Honorary Secretary [Retired]
Illawarra Live Steamers Co-op
Australia
www.ils.org.au

Offline kiwimodeller

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Re: J.C. Kerr (Chaperon) build
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2018, 12:02:16 PM »
Hi 60Buick, Great build and very helpful photos for those of us planning to do a paddler. Can you please give some more information about the gearbox - what reduction ratio is it, who makes it and where did you get it from? Thanks very much, Ian.
"Every time I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel it turns out to be some bastard with a train trying to run me down!"

 

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