In my last few posts, I've mentioned in passing that I'm working on terrain for a colonial African settlement, with a trader's or missionary's house, some huts (yet to be bought/made) and a river (also yet to be built). This will be used for Pulp games and for the Congo rules.
One of the items which is quite important to this setting, at least in my vision, is some river traffic. I've got some small dugout canoes waiting to be painted, but I also have a steam launch that can be used to take goods and/or passengers up the river. I just completed the model this morning, so now is a good time to describe it!
The Steam Launch
Firstly, this model is a laser-cut MDF kit from Sarissa Precision, costing the grand amount of £10 at the time of writing.
The hull went together very easily - it has a stepped appearance which gives the impression of a clinker-built boat (look it up if you need to know what this means). If you wanted a smooth hull instead then I imagine it would be straightforward enough to apply a combination of filler and sanding to achieve this. I was happy enough with the basic effect.
The boiler and condenser were made up from a large number of not-quite-identical MDF disks stacked on top of each other, with a guiding rod down the centre. They were all numbered, so the job is simple - though a little care is needed to ensure that they go on in the right order (and the correct way up!). I found it useful to smooth over the edges of the stack of glued disks with filler so as to remove all the join lines.
Laser-cut MDF works very well for large, flat surfaces. However, it's not so good for thin items such as poles, masts or gun barrels; in my experience such long items tend to be rather fragile. Consequently, I replaced the MDF mast with a simple length of bamboo skewer, carefully selecting the straightest piece I could find.
Similarly, I cut a length of drinking straw to use as the boat's funnel. This fitted over the spigot that the manufacturer had provided at the top of the boiler. [I built this model a long time ago and cannot remember if Sarissa Precision provided MDF parts for a funnel. I think they must have done so, but either way, I did my own thing here.]
Finally, I constructed the awning slightly differently from the kit, partly through concern about the possible fragility of the corner posts and partly because I wanted easier access to the deck during gaming.
I replaced the corner posts with lengths of bamboo skewer, one at a time. As I did so, I drilled a hole down the centre of each skewer and glued in a cut-down nail. This was not for added strength, but rather because I wanted the flat, iron heads to be on top of the posts so that they could act as landing pads for magnets.
When I finished each replacement post, I cut the corresponding MDF support post from the awning and replaced it with a small, rare earth disk magnet (4mm x 1mm, if I remember correctly?). Once all four supports had been treated in this way, I was left with a canopy that holds in place well - the magnets are quite strong - but which can be popped off easily when greater access is needed.
The rest was just painting: the hull is white with a red waterline, the decks are a reddish brown and the machinery is a black/grey. Add on some weathering, some mast stays and a coil of rope on the foredeck and we're done!
The Sarrissa Precision Steam Launch is a straightforward kit which provides a very versatile model of a fairly unusual subject. It's obviously inspired by (but not identical to) The African Queen - the story of which was set in the early days of World War One.
I'm not convinced by the use of MDF for all the components, though obviously it makes the kit simpler for the manufacturer. As I mentioned before, MDF is especially fragile and/or unrealistic for long, thin, round parts. Fortunately, the mast, funnel and canopy supports can be replaced easily and cheaply by an experienced model maker.
Overall: a very welcome addition to my Pulp and Colonial games, after a few modifications have been made to improve robustness.