USS North Carolina BB-55
by Robert Apfelzweig

1/350 USS North Carolina BB-55, 1945 (Trumpeter)

This kit sat in my closet for several years before I finally decided to tackle it, warts and all. Many other modelers have noted the deficiencies in Trumpeter's kit, from poor fits and inaccuracies to outright sloppy engineering of the parts. I was helped by Ron Smith's detailed list of everything that's wrong with the kit and its parts (, and most of the problems he listed I was able to fix, except for the excessive height of the second deck and the lack of sufficient height in the rear bridge. I chose to portray the North Carolina (which I was privileged to visit at its memorial site in Wilmington, NC in 1997) in Measure 22 camouflage as she would have appeared right after the end of World War II, at which time her wood decks would have been scraped bare but her 20 mm Oerlikon light AA armament was still intact. I also made use of Steve Wiper's Warship Pictorial No. 29, North Carolina Class Battleships. Lastly, the build was immensely improved by the use of Lionroar's extremely extensive Deluxe photoetch set for this kit. which includes brass gun barrels for the 16-in. and 5-in. batteries, brass propellers, and metal anchor chain (which I blackened with Super Blue Liquid Gun Blue.

Despite the many photoetch parts (including some that were not identified in the instructions), I had to scratch-build a number of minor details, such as adding circular tubs and their support struts on the bridge for additional 40mm gun directors, another such tub and director atop the rear 16-in. gun turret, the small platform on the rear bridge overlooking the rear 16-in. turret, and some details of the mainmast and the various small platforms on the bridge tower that support the radio antennae (which are merely stretched sprue -- gray on the bridge and black on the funnels). I've built about 2 dozen 1:350 scale models now and have accumulated a large number of spare parts (plastic and brass), and these came in handy on the Trumpeter North Carolina -- such as extra 40 mm gun directors and liferafts. The portholes beneath the forward Mark 12 fire director on the bridge required circular covers hanging beneath them, and these were conveniently taken from a Lionroar fret of scuttle covers for the Tamiya Mogami that I am slowly building now. I made larger and more realistic garbage chutes (the diagonal structures on each side of the upper hull opposite the rear 16-in. gun turret) from short segments of Evergreen 2.5 mm angle strips, and added the extra missing port gunsights on the 5-in./.38 cal. gun turrets from squared-off stretched sprue. I used tiny hatch covers from a Tom's Modelworks US Navy 1:350 hatch cover fret, which also provided some 3-dimensional buildup on a few of the kit's otherwise bland main deck hatches. In accordance with Wiper's detailed top view diagram of the North Carolina as she appeared in October 1945, I added flat brass plates for the anchor chain scuff plates and replaced the undersized anchor chain entries with larger scratch-built structures made from sprue. The twin rudders, as Ron Smith pointed out in his critique of this kit, had attachments pegs much too small and weak, so I cut them off and drilled into the rudders and inserted short segments of wider stretched sprue, and build up the area inside the hull at the fantail with extra scrap plastic to receive these wider pegs. The upper and lower hulls attached fairly well but I had to carefully apply quicksetting CA glue to one side, let it dry, then to the other side to maintain a good fit and avoid the tendency of the lower hull to fit too far inside the upper hull. I also extensively reinforced with segments of glued sprue the flimsy cross-braces Trumpeter provided on the upper hull. One common complaint among builders of this kit is the poor fit of the main deck segments to each other; I partly resolved this issue by using steel paper clamps (see illustrations) to align the deck segments, then glued Evergreen strips below the decks to reinforce them and did some discreet filling of the remaining gaps with putty. The results were not entirely satisfactory but better than would otherwise be the case. After airbrushing the decks with Tamiya Deck Tan, I added some additional color variation by lightly applying sharpened colored pencils in various browns and tans. The dark blue was Pollyscale Navy 5-N and the lighter gray was initially Pollyscale Haze Gray 5-L before I exhausted my supply, and then mixed various Tamiya grays and flat white with a touch of blue to approximate the same color. The lower hull was sprayed with a can of Testor's Flat Red.

One uncertainty I had with this kit was where to place the 8 twin Oerlikon mounts (Norman Friedman's book U.S. Battleships stated that, at this time, the North Carolina carried these, but didn't say where), so I decided these would most likely be located on and near the bridge. Lionroar's 20 mm gun mounts are rather too 2-dimensional for the gun barrels, but otherwise quite pleasing, and use tripod mounting bases. The shields for the 40-mm quad Bofors mounts I think, however, are too shallow, so that the twin gun pairs tend to sit atop them rather than fitting down into the slots provided. The separate left and right gunsights were too tiny and flimsy and I replaced them with Gold Medal Modelworks single piece spares. Lionroar's location for the forward brass ship's bell is also inaccurate based on their instructions; this was apparently placed at the end of a small platform at the front of the upper bridge tower. On the North Carolina today it is sitting atop a large cylindrical ventilator on the main deck just aft of the rear 16-in. gun turret.

One further note on the 16-in. brass gun barrels. Trumpeter's design calls for these (even if the plastic ones are being used) to fit rather clumsily into slots on the interior surface at the front of the turret roof. In this location, their movements are rather wobbly at best, even with the reinforcements I installed, and with brass barrels replacing the plastic ones it means that the guns, while they can be individually elevated within a somewhat narrow range of movement, are difficult to align exactly parallel to one another and perpendicular to the plane of the turret front.

Robert Apfelzweig