by Steve Sobieralski
1/200 USS Idaho BB-42 (Trumpeter\Conversion)
This is the USS Idaho as she appeared in about 1935. The model is 1/200 scale and was converted from the Trumpeter USS Arizona kit. Launched in 1917 and commissioned in 1919, the Idaho was a member of the New Mexico class, which was thefollow-on to the Pennsylvania class.It was originally intended for the NewMexicos to utilize the same hull as the Pennsylvanias,but the navy requested that the bow be modified to improve sea-keeping. The result was the “clipper bow” which would be a feature of this class as wellas the following “Big Five”. The bowimproved not only sea-keeping but gave the ships a distinctive and, in myopinion, much improved appearance. Otherimprovements incorporated into the NewMexicos included a new 14” 50 cal. main gun and a new three gun turretdesign with improved protection and which allowed the barrels to be individuallyelevated. Secondary armament was 12 5” 51cal. guns , moved up a level from the main deck to the upper deck with twoguns a further level higher at the fore end of the superstructure deck. Secondary gun positions were also provided in the hull atthe bow and stern, but by this time war experience has shown that these wereuseless in any kind of sea and they were plated over during construction. Speedwas maintained at the 21 knot standard, but the New Mexico became the prototypefor the turbine-electric drive that would be utilized in the Big Five, as wellas the Lexingtons, while Idaho and Mississipi were completed with conventional turbine drive. Inthe late 1920s the navy undertook a modernization program for its older battleships. The Oklahoma,Nevada, Pennsylvania and Arizonawere all upgraded with bulged hulls, additional deck armor, raised secondary batteries, increased AAarmament, and improved fire control, with each receiving three levelspotting tops similar to the Big Five, but on tripods rather than cage masts. For the NewMexicos, however, the navy decided on a different approach, installing monolithic towerbridge structures fore and aft with armored rotating gun directors for both themain and secondary batteries, a very similar arrangement to what the Britishhad used for Nelson and Rodney. A certain amount of height above the waterline for the directors wassacrificed, but this was considered acceptable. Another interesting deviationfrom normal practice was that the signal bridge was located on the aft superstructure, some distancefrom the navigating and flag bridges. Ibegan work on the model by addressing the Trumpeter Arizona hull. From B turretaft the hulls of the Arizona and Idaho were essentially identical, so allthe work was focused on the bow. I cutoff the upper part of the Arizona bowand added a plastic stem piece cut to the profile of the Idaho’s clipper bow. I nextadded a piece of sheet plastic cut to the profile of the Idaho’s foredeck. Inaddition to the bow shape, I also had to deal with moving the bow gun emplacements, whichwere much farther forward on Arizonathan they were on Idaho. From there it was a matter of filling andfairing until a satisfactory result was obtained. I’ve attached some photos ofthe build process, starting with the bow of my Arizonamodel for comparison. Oncethe hull modifications were complete and the deck was in place I started planking. All the wood decks were planked usingindividual 1/32”x1/32”x1” bass wood strips laid with the proper 4x offset. This may seem like an insane thing to do, and it does take some time but not as much as you might imagine. This is the fourth large scale ship model I have planked and I find the results to be well worth the effort. To me, nothing looks as much like a wood deck as actual wood does.
I also began working on the mostly scratchbuilt superstructure. I modified and pieced together the kit’s upperdeck superstructure bulkheads, the ones with the secondary gun positions, toIdaho’s configuration, and made a new superstructure deck. I was able to use thekit’s funnel by extending the height. Thefore and aft superstructures were built up using sheet plastic, which is apretty straight forward process. Again, Iwas able to “cut and paste” some of the kit bulkheads and used the kit's conning tower. Fortunately,I was able to use a lot of the kit’s smaller detail pieces, things likesecondary guns, 5” AA guns, machine guns, ship’s boats, bollards, fairleads,ventilators, ready ammo boxes, search lights, anchors, capstans, rudder,propellers, catapults, etc. were common to both the Arizona and Idaho and could be used directly, or slightly modified, from the kit. Idid “cheat” somewhat and purchased main battery turrets and guns from SteveLarsen at Model Monkey. These were 3Dprinted items of excellent quality and well worth the cost in terms of timesaved over scratch building my own. The Vought O2U spotter planes were alsosourced from a 3D print vendor.
All three New Mexicos were sent to the Atlantic in mid-1941, and were thus not present at Pearl Harbor for the Japanese attack, but were back on the west coast by the end of January 1942. Idaho served throughout the Pacific war, mostly in the shore bombardment role, and earned seven battle stars. She was decommissioned in July 1946 and sold for scrap in 1947.