Midway Marauder progress: clear parts and cockpit

The Marauder interior is coming along slowly – but first I had some work to do on the transparencies. Otherwise, installing the clear parts in the fuselage might have meant damaging the detail.

The Monogram kit has the radioman’s window correct, but the navigator’s window is too small and rectangular. I opened it up and squared it off using small files. Then, I added the glass in the radioman-navigator’s compartment, and the two windows in the lower waist, with chunks of clear plastic cut from a CD case. These were filed to shape, CA-glued in place and sanded back. The scribing was restored, some polishing was added, and they were done.

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I’ll do some final polishing just before painting. The trick is to make them a little larger than you need, then mask them so the rougher part of the joint is obscured.

There’s one more set of transparencies I’m worried about – the tail gunner’s compartment. The kit has the right tail gun arrangement for the B-26B-5, but in the earlier models the tail was an almost entirely glassed-off stinger. I will admit that I’m cheating here: I’ll borrow a tail position from the Valom kit and combine it with the Monogram parts to get what I want. I’m just not up to carving a new tail position master and smash-forming a copy. Of course, this then leads to the question, “why didn’t you just start with the Valom kit?”

This early tail gun position had a single .30 in a ball mount about half-way down the stinger. The problem with this was that the gunner couldn’t depress the gun to fire at targets below him – hence, the modified tail gun arrangements in later B-26s. I have a strategy for the guns on this model I want to try out – especially for the nose and tail guns. I plan to install the body of the guns inside the transparencies before adding them to the model. The barrels will be removed and set aside until everything’s mostly finished and then slipped through the transparencies to mate with the bodies of the guns. The objective is to avoid the “porcupine effect” – a model with a host of projections that are just begging to be broken off through the final assembly stages.

The Strategic Aircraft Conversions cockpit floor and forward bulkhead have been CA-glued into the nose, even before painting. I think this will make it easier to add details without breaking them off in the process of fitting the flight deck. I’m toying with adding some detail to the radioman-navigator’s compartment; it will at least get a rear bulkhead and a desk for the radioman. As it stands, the forward part of the plane has been detailed with styrene strip formers, which was a fairly easy task.

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I was thinking about wheels – should I swap some resin ones for the snap-tite kit wheels? No – as it turns out, even the wheels changed on the B-26, and the Monogram kit has the correct ones for an early B-26. Bill Koster was one of the big wheels at Monogram at about this time frame; I look forward to asking him if he had a hand in this remarkably accurate model, because the level of accuracy is almost shocking for a snap-together model of the 1970s!

Next up: more interior and propellers…

 

69 years ago: Stewart, Mann score for the 362nd FG

On March 17, weather prevented any operations by the 362nd Fighter Group until after 1300, but the group sent six missions aloft in the limited hours it had to fly. Flying at 3500 feet in heavy cloud conditions near Bad Kreuznach, the 378th ran into 12 Bf 109s coming head-on. Six of the fighters veered to the right, and Lt. Walter C. Stewart turned his flight into them only to see them disappear into the clouds. “I then saw three in echelon streak across the sky from 12 o’clock to about 4 o’clock,” reported Stewart. “I broke sharply to the right and up, placing myself on their tails as they sought to gain the cloud protection. I let go a three-second burst at the middle aircraft at about 350 yards range. The empennage shattered and the pilot bailed out.” To prove his victory, Stewart filmed the pilot as he floated by in his parachute. Once the Bf 109s were chased off, the 378th went to work on road traffic; four trucks, a half-track and a trailer were strafed and destroyed. During the second mission, Capt. Joe Hunter’s eight planes strafed and destroyed 11 trucks, eight half-tracks and 15 horse-drawn vehicles near Birkenfeld. The 378th’s third mission to the Mainz area took out 18 trucks, a motorcycle, a van and a steamroller, in addition to 10 horses.

Later, the 377th ran into six Fw 190D-9s and Chuck Mann destroyed one, although he was wounded in the ankle during the fight by a piece of flak. The toll taken on ground targets was impressive: 116 trucks, 19 horse-drawn vehicles, and two tanks destroyed by the 377th’s rockets.

 

B-26 progress: power plants and access doors

The B-26 project – converting the Monogram Snap-Tite B-26B-5-MA into a B-26-1-MA – continues. Rather than launching headlong into the interior, I did some work on the engines. First, I hogged out the kit cowlings and removed the engines molded into them, using a motor tool and a cutting burr. This actually worked pretty well!  Now, I needed some Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines in 1:72 scale. Luckily, Quickboost made a set intended for the Airfix kit, with the cylinder banks and crankcase molded as one piece and separate magnetos, distributor covers and return pumps.

Of course, that wasn’t enough for me – I also enlarged the openings in the Eduard photoetched ignition harness intended for the Hasegawa kit’s engines, using the exact same cutting burr in the motor tool. To my surprise, this actually worked. The ignition wires were painted with a mix of tan and flesh, and then they were bent and glued into place. An central harness was made from thin solder and it slipped around the crankcase to hide the chewed-up center hub of the photoetched harness.

Next came the push rod tubes – all 18 of them. I made them from black stretched sprue, to avoid having to paint them. If you have an SR-71 kit in your stash, you have a lifetime supply of black sprue. These were carefully put in place with tweezers, scenic glue and patience.

Next came the return pump and distributor covers, and the crankcase was painted aircraft gray. After a wash, I added the magneto, painted it black, and dry-brushed it.

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And just like that, the engines were done!

I’m using the Scale Aircraft Conversions landing gear set – it conveniently supplies a cockpit floor/nose gear bay in metal, so I won’t have to raid a Hasegawa kit. The Eduard set gives you a nice photoetched access door for the floor, so I drilled out the door in the SAC metal floor using that motor tool and a router bit, followed up by careful filing with a tiny metal file to square off the opening. The idea is to depict the access door open in the floor with the boarding ladder deployed through the nose gear bay.  (Maybe I’ll open the hatches on top of the canopy – if you’ve ever been inside an aircraft in the summer sun, you know that getting some breeze inside the aircraft on a June morning on Midway doesn’t seem like an outlandish idea.)

B-26 cockpit floor

Next up: stringers, formers and other interior details…

Back after too long…

Sorry for the hiatus – a combination of events kept me away from the blog and I greatly apologize, although some of the reasons are very good. First up was the fact that my trusty Mac decided to not be so trusty, blowing its logic board. What that says about the way I use the Mac, I do not know, but suffice it to say it turned a $2000 computer into a large, inaccessible thumb drive. Luckily, I backed it up regularly, so not much was lost, ultimately.

That was August. Then, on September 3, my daughter Amelia was born. Needless to say, that certainly cut into my time as well! Here she is in her airplane jammies (which sadly, she has outgrown, and which, even more sadly, don’t come in daddy sizes).

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I also started a new job in October with Relayware. So I’ve been busy.

However, not so busy that I couldn’t do some scale modeling. I’ve finished two models since Amelia touched down; both have been documented in articles that will appear in the IPMS/USA Journal at some point, so I won’t belabor their creation stories with you.

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First finished was this 1:72 F9C-2 Sparrowhawk. This came from a rather ghastly Pegasus kit, with much of it scratch-built (landing gear, skyhook, cockpit, etc.). The model is rigged with acupuncture needles – cut them to length and they stay in place with just a hint of scenic glue. It was finished on Dec. 1, in time for the contest in Sacramento. It took a second there, behind Marty Sanford’s exquisite Gloster Gladiator; Marty and I swapped spots at the Petaluma show last month, showing that it’s all subjective and that you shouldn’t take winning or losing in model contests all that seriously.

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DSC_0193Next came this P-51D in 1:72. It’s from the Tamiya kit, with an Aires interior and wheels and the Obscureco wing with dropped flaps. If it looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it before – it was the plane on the cover of my Tuskegee Airmen book, as flown by Roscoe Brown when he shot down Franz Kulp flying an Me 262.

The figure is a combination of a CMK body and a head from Prieser.

And what am I working on now, you ask? A bunch of stuff, but occupying my mind the most is this B-26. A sane person would do a B-26B/C or B-26G using the exquisite Hasegawa 1:72 kits. Instead, I’m doing the B-26 (no suffix) flown by James Muri on June 4, 1942 in the attack on the Japanese carrier Akagi at Midway. The base kit is the accurate but extremely rudimentary Monogram Snap-Tite kit. I’ll be adding an interior, new engines and a scratch-built tail gun position, with aftermarket stuff from Scale Aircraft Conversions, Lone Start Models, Eduard and Quickboost – and whoever I can steal a torpedo from. I was considering pillaging one of my Hasegawa B-26s for parts, but it looks like I won’t have to.

The nice part about a Snap-Tite kit is that you can kid yourself that you’re farther along than you actually are:

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Look at that! The airframe’s all together! (There’s nothing inside, but I do know the various bits fit, which is nice to know.)

So expect more stuff about the 362nd FG, the 4th FG, the 357th FG, the 332nd FG and all the other ridiculous stuff I’m researching, building or writing about. Thanks for putting up with my absence – I’ll try not to be away so long again!