Steamboat Natchez of 1869

Scratch-built model in 1:63 (3/16″ = 1 ‘) scale, originally intended to be RC controlled, but ended up a static display model.  The original steam boat was around 300 feet long and about 46 feet wide, so the model is quite large, about 58 inches long.

The finished model in its case:


The hull build went like this:


After the basic hull was planked, sealed, varnished, and painted, the deck beams were installed and the main deck planking laid down, leaving room to access the electric motors, gear box, and batteries for the planned RC control.


At this point, it was necessary to build the paddle wheels in order to fit them into the hull and construct the shafts and gearbox.  The steam engines are passively driven by the crankshafts of the paddle wheels, so all these things had to be done pretty much at the same time.

In addition, I build the eight boilers and modeled the fuel (wood) storage and other details of that deck.


For ease of construction and (I thought) better function as a powered model, I reduced the number of paddles on each wheel to 12.  Each wheel had three component parts (as above) and these were soldered onto a solid brass shaft.  The paddle boards were epoxied and wired to the spokes of the wheels.


The two engines were fabricated from brass and copper tubing with added detail of wood and metal for the valves.  The brass tubing representing the piston arm connected at the cross check with a connecting arm to the crank of each paddle wheel shaft.

In the middle, between the two wheels, is a gearbox with reduction gearing to use two separately controlled electric motors to drive each wheel independently.  When the wheels are turning, they each move the crosscheck head and piston rod.  All of this detail is almost completely obscured by superstructure in the finished model.

Here is an overall view of the hull with the gearbox installed and the paddle wheel houses in place.  In the background are the boilers and the wood supple and there are several small donkey steam engines for other purposes.  In this picture the engines are still unpainted and are laid in position on their supporting timbers.  The center portion of the deck forward of the engines lifts away for access to engines and battery compartments.

This later view shows the engines connected to the paddle wheel shaft crank and the base of the gearbox.

A view of the wood supply and the forward ends of the eight boilers.

Roughing in the steam lines and the auxiliary engines.

Then the barricade deck and the forward stairs and reception area were added forward and the superstructure around the paddle wheel houses.  The model is designed to be taken apart for access to the mechanical components, so this second (boiler) deck will be removable and will rest upon the structure seen here.

Adding the second deck.  Details such as the stanchions for stacking cotton and the fenders along the cabins structure have been added.

This picture shows the iron rods supporting the deck overhang along the sides and the timbers supporting the second deck.  The fencing along the barricade deck is to the left and the fencing along the boiler area on the right.

From this point on, it was a matter of adding additional decks and fancy work.  The model had extensive LED lighting of the interiors but these were disabled when it became a static model.


Above some in-progress shots of the latter stages of model construction.

Then I added lifeboats, some crew, cargo, and passengers:



A few more shots of the model in the case.