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Model Boats More Popular Than Ever
Model Annual 1956 Air Trails

September 1949 Air Trails
September 1949 Air Trails Cover - Airplanes and RocketsTable of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.


Model Boats More Popular Than Ever

How come this sudden popularity in model boating? It's been building up over the years, but new materials make big difference

Professionally made model of Coast Guard Cutter "Owasco" is a fine example of miniature boat builder's art. Many salaried model makers started out at home as amateur enthusiasts.

More ship models are being constructed and operated today than at any other time in the past and it is evident that interest in this hobby is rapidly increasing. These facts led us to become interested in knowing exactly what could have caused the sudden spurt upwards. Basing this analysis on our model boat experience of over twenty years, we found that the reasons for this popularity are quite understandable and very much within reason. It appears that the contributing factors are: 1) new materials and equipment; 2) increased radio control activity; 3) recognition of the fact that model boats are not "kids stuff"; 4) the amazing long life of model boats; 5) the extremely wide variety of construction techniques. Taken one by one these reasons are enough to convince any young man - to try boat models.

New engines, fittings and construction materials certainly playa major role in influencing increased model boat activity. O&R "Mariner," Atwood and Cameron water-cooled engines permit enclosed cabins and superstructures to cover internal combustion engines without a cooling problem. The engine exhaust is easily ducted to the atmosphere.

Before the advent of these powerplants internal combustion engines could not be operated in enclosed cabins without leaving all windows uncovered in order to insure proper cooling. The windows also had to be extra large to guarantee a good circulation of cool air through the cabin. These restrictions discouraged many potential model boat builders. This is no longer true.

The Allyn outboard engine has afforded the builder a powerplant that could not be more simple. Not only does this engine offer some realism for the outboard replica but it also facilitates installation by eliminating shafting, universal joint, shaft housing or stern tube, propeller and rudder. This is a real inducement to build model boats.

New steam engines introduced by Allyson and the many electric motors available such as Aristo, K&O and Pittman provide an unlimited selection of power for the enthusiast.

In view of the fact that boats were invented before airplanes, obviously, model boats preceded model airplanes. Although these had to float they did not require the lightness of aircraft; therefore relatively hard woods that were easily obtainable were used such as mahogany, pines and cypress. Despite the comparative workability of this material it discouraged many who were not too adept at building. When balsa wood made its appearance, primarily for model plane construction, a few boat builders recognized its advantages and used it for their projects. Others continued with the old materials and thereby maintained the barrier that discouraged the novice. During recent years some kit manufacturers and magazine contributors have encouraged the use of balsa for model boat construction with the result that many new enthusiasts were attracted.

In the "old days" woods were sealed with flat house paint or not filled-in at all! Consecutive applications of artist's oils were often used to color ship models. This took many days to complete. Now, quick-drying model wood grain sealers and colored airplane dope produce a fine, waterproof finish in a small fraction of the time and effort. This and other time-saving products have helped to make model boating popular.

Excellent feature about wall-built boat models is that properly cared for they can last a lifetime. Here (right) radio control has been added to 25-year-old steam-powered cabin cruiser.

Over 40" of marvelous detail by Bill Price. Original design features hand-made furnishings in each cabin. Power is Anderson Spitfire ignition with water-cooling jacket.

Almost 4' long, this big one (left) is by Roy Donovan. Planked with hard balsa, then fiberglassed. Shown in primer sanding stage. Water-jacketed O&R .60 ignition engine. Swivel chair.

Exact scale of 48 cu. in. racing hydroplane uses Space Bug: travels "at 30 mph." Hand-filled Hi Johnson prop. Built by "Hap" Ryan; fine finish, attention to details make it outstanding.

Although they have been in existence for some time today's cast-metal deck fittings seem to be more plentiful and better than ever, with much greater variety in size and type. These castings save much time and effort in duplicating bitts and chocks, life preservers, portholes, cleats, whistles, bells, life boats, davits, ladders, stanchions, anchors, chain of all sizes, and hawse pipe all of which enhance the appearance of scale ship models with a minimum effort on the part of the builder.

The examination-free Citizens Band for radio controlled models caused a sharp increase in radio control activity and interest. Many rank novice operators installed their sets in model planes as their initial radio venture. This was generally done with very little or no model plane experience. The first slip in controlling and down it comes! This is not meant to discourage the construction of model airplanes. We merely wish to point out that radio controlling model planes requires some previous knowledge of adjusting them whereas little is needed for model boats. It is obvious that when the beginner installs his radio in a model boat any mistakes he makes will not cause anything more serious than have his model run aground. Anyone can radio control model boats.

Radio control participants seem to fall into two specific categories. The first comprises the radio fan whose primary interest is in developing the controlling device and who regards the model plane, car or boat as merely a vehicle to carry the equipment and obey by performing precisely every command of the radio equipment. The second group is made up of individuals who are interested in the model construction. They build the model for the enjoyment of it and utilize the radio merely to enhance the performance of their handiwork. The former group are apt to use multi-channel and more complex equipment while the latter classification tends to install the simplest radio set into the model in order to devote more time to the model and less time to the radio.

Mathews Cruiser  with radio control is owned by Al Woods. Solid hardwoods used throughout. Built, operated in San Francisco many years, now in L.A. Home-built 4-cycle ignition engine.

The radio fan of "group one," therefore, wants to be able to operate as many items on his vehicle as possible. Where will he find more items to operate than on a model Destroyer, Landing Craft, or Cruiser, etc.? Rotating gun turrets, movable ramps, weighing anchors and even firing torpedoes can be accomplished; not to mention steering and engine control. Numerous radio control fans have turned to boats for these reasons.

It has been said that model boats are for children. Toy boats of the five and ten cent store variety, yes, but not model boats that require effort to construct and intelligence to operate. The average age of the model boat enthusiast certainly puts him above the kindergarten class. This fact is gradually being recognized and many who were formerly "ashamed" to be associated with this "immature" activity now are thoroughly absorbed in this enjoyable pastime.

Model boats never seem to die. We do not necessarily refer to the super-fast racing craft which, because of their action packed existence, cannot withstand for long the continuous abuse they are subjected to. But the average steam, electric or internal combustion engine powered craft will last for at least a score of years and more if properly maintained. We know of many models that are over twenty years old.

Three-masted schooner sailing across the boat pond is vision of grace that few other models can equal. These craft are not overly difficult to make, you just need lots of patience.

British Wavemaster kit job (foreqround) built by A. Chivorian, and his Chris-Craft cruiser (center). Latter has complete bridge right down to fire extinguishers, compass and controls.

Two by Les Garey, Left, R/C with under-water exhaust on re-worked Allyn; balsa planked, then mahogany veneer covered. Hydroplane is exact scale model; McCoy .09; mahogany and plastic.

As a matter of fact we have recently installed a radio controlling mechanism in a steam powered boat that is over twenty-five years old and it looks and runs like new! This is a tremendous incentive for meticulous model builders to build their models carefully and add all of the painstaking detail they desire without having to worry about their handiwork being dashed to pieces. This type of modeler has looked towards scale boat modeling as an outlet for his talents.

Model boats can be carved very simply from wood blocks, made from layers of 1/2 to 1 inch planks of wood cut to the shape of the various decks and cemented together, covered with sheet balsa or hardwood veneer over framing, or planking over framing. Some hulls can even be made with sheet sides mounted on a heavy plank bottom. This variety of techniques requires varied ability to construct models thereby inviting both the veteran model airplane or car builder, and the novice who has never attempted a model project before to try their hand at boats. Both beginner and expert will be able to build and operate a boat model to suit their individual talents, taste and pocketbook. The editors of "Young Men" magazine report astonishing response to the model boat building and operating articles they have been running for more than a year. When last June the cover illustration showed a model fishing boat of the moss bunker fleet inquiries were received from all over the world concerning availability of working drawings. As a result Frank Lashek and Cal Smith, both noted modelers, were commissioned to turn out a replica. This has been scheduled for the February and March 1956 issues of "Young Men" magazine. A good example of model boat interest! -W. A. Musciano

Big payoff comes in the performance of your craft. When you see a miniature submarine preparing to dive beneath the surface, it's pretty hard not to get excited over water models.

Larqe-size working scale model of deep-water luxury yacht of Swedish heritage was constructed by Lowell Lamb for Milton Soboroff. Electric motor powered, craft is remotely controlled by radio.

"Capri" by Gene Norman shows off super-structure detail. Design of hull is by Al Wood. Powered with an electric motor working off wet-cell batteries, model is radio controlled.

Although the origin of boat is in doubt. it was rescued from disuse by Frank Kolar and refinished with 25 coats, each hand-rubbed. A New England fishing schooner, rudder is R/C'ed.

A pair of aces by Al Wood. In front is a Revenue Cutter; at rear is a Diesel Cruiser. Both scale, both powered by electric motors, both radio control. Al builds for picture studios.

Deck hand swabbing down the Chris-Craft Catalina pays little attention to radio controlled aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Condor. Transmitter and antenna are objects on deck of carrier.




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