Each year I have a budget for Enfilade. It is protected, cherished and almost worshipfully invested in the convention each year. There is money for registration. I share my hotel expenses with Doug Hamm. There are meals, each one profoundly enjoyed with my friends. The past couple of years I’ve gone with David Sullivan to Rainy Day Records and spent a few bucks in downtown Olympia. I share the wealth with vendors and in the B and B. The next Enfilade is one of those almost spiritual experiences I look forward to the minute Enfilade ends each year.
So no Enfilade for 2020. It’s not an occasion to pass unobserved. So I did the only thing I could. I spent the money. I combined my Enfilade budget with some extra cash and made a really big order to 1 /1250ships.com.
Before I go any further I wanna say a couple of things. First, yes I know these ships are expensive. I hope I clarified my reason for investing in expensive ships a couple posts ago. A) I don’t have to paint them or try to create and glue on fiddly bits, thereby allowing me to give time to the rest of my unpainted mountain of lead. B) I have a nostalgic attraction to these ships. In my world, nostalgia trumps everything. it’s why I have a huge record collection, it’s why I still love the Seattle Pilots, it’s why I’m stuck reimagining the Seattle of my youth.
Secondly, yes there are more space-friendly scales to do this. !/1250 scale stretches the limits of the tabletop. However, because I’m really interested in that cruiser and gunboats collection of ships, the ranges aren’t so long. The period means a really fast ship is about 23 knots. Torpedoes really aren’t very effective beyond 400 yards. Few optical range finders exist and those aren’t very good.
Well, enough of that. I’ve really tried to acquire ships I can use for possible scenarios between the U.S. and other countries. One scenarios guide I’ve found really useful is Monroe’s Legacy from the Admiralty Trilogy guys. It has a bunch of real and hypothetical scenarios, some of them really interesting. So I’ve focused most of my acquisitions on American ships 1884-1905 or so. I’ve also picked up some German ships for a Caribbean crisis, conflict over Samoa, and a potential seizure of Manila. One of the early scenarios in Monroe is a an American attack on the Chilean navy after American sailors were killed in Valparaiso during the civil war in 1891-2. So my purchases are pretty focused in their extravagance. I’ve also purchased lots of used miniatures which can lower the price by as much as 50%.
Well, after all that explanation, my order from 1/1250ships.com arrived today. If you have even the most remote interest, they give very good service. Chris Daley is very responsive to my ridiculous questions and is very knowledgeable of the manufacturers and the state of the market. Dependent on imports, things are a little wild right now.
On to the ships
One of the Monroe’s Legacy scenarios calls for the Almirante Cochrane (1875.) It’s really an ironclad central battery frigate with obsolete guns, iron armor and should be in the scrapyard by 1891, when the scenario takes place. The Hai miniature is quite nice, if small for the cost. Nothing fancy schmancy about this guy.
The protected cruiser Esmeralda (1883) also features in the Chilean scenario. Much more modern than Cochrane. It was one of the Elswick cruisers, built for the foreign market by the British shipyard. This model is by HL miniatures. It is incredibly nice. Again not very large. A second Esmeralda entered Chilean service in 1896. HL also makes that ship. It is lovely and long, but the mini crosses the sixty dollar no-go line for me, so I’ll probably just let it go.
The scenario also calls for a pair of Chilean torpedo boats. Not surprisingly nobody makes Chilean torpedo boats. I bought a pair of used Hai Swedish torpedo boats from the 1880’s. Shhh, don’t tell. They cost six bucks each. They’re kinda small.
For the scenario, I really need at least one of the light cruisers then in Chilean service-either Presidente Pinto or Presidente Errazruiz. Again, not surprisingly the 2,000 ton French built craft aren’t made by anyone, probably in any scale. I may take my chance with one of the Hai French avisos. That would be the end of the Chileans.
I have a vision for my German collection. Despite the fact that almost every manufacturer is in Germany or Austria, none make the early German protected cruisers and scout cruisers (avisos) from the late 1880’s to put them on an even par of cruiser development with the early American ships. Too bad. But my plan is to mostly acquire pre 1904 armored cruisers and light cruisers.
Prinz Heinrich (1902) is the first German armored cruiser of the 20th century. Just under 9,000 tons with two 9.4 inch guns. A little underarmed but representative of its time. I picked up a used Navis miniature for half price.
Prinz Adalbert (1903) by Navis was slightly larger, with more main guns, if a bit smaller at 8.2 inches. Probably the latest class of armored cruisers I will go, maybe Roon, we’ll see. Another used bargain.
This is a Bremen class light cruiser. Completed in 1904, it is the latest of the light cruisers I’ll buy. I’m more interested in the Hela and Gazelle’s but this is a used model and the price was right. This is also a Navis miniature.
Hey, I admit it, I’m a homer, and I love ships of the American navy. Most of the early American ships aren’t in large classes so I’m interested in picking up as many as possible. Focused mainly on cruisers and the Hai gunboat models.
This is the USS Boston (1884) by HL miniatures. It’s really a lovely miniature. The Boston was one of the first ships in the steel navy and was everywhere. It was with Dewey at Manila Bay. It was in Tangier harbor demanding Perdicaras Alive or Raisuli dead in 1904. It served as a training ship for the Oregon Naval militia 1911-16. For the Great War it was converted to a freighter in Seattle shipyards. It finished its career as the Despatch, a radio school during WWII. The Boston’s eight inch guns can be seen in Hamlin Park in Shoreline, not far from where I grew up.
The Charleston (1888) was the fourth U.S. protected cruiser. The Hai model is larger than my other Hai miniatures. Charleston was about 3,700 tons and is bigger than Atlanta and Boston. This ships is especially significant because it was built on the west coast, a huge deal before the Panama Canal. She became flagship of the Pacific Squadron and single-handedly capture Guam in 1898. There is a story here, but I don’t have time to share it. Unfortunately Charleston was wrecked on a reef near Camiguin Island in the Philippines in 1899.
The New York was the first true American armored cruiser (ACR-2) 1893. The USS Maine was actually ACR-1, but was completed after New York, and then there’s that explosion in Havana harbor problem. With six eight inch guns and 19 knots it was a worthy representative of its class and time. New York was the flagship of William Sampson’s Santiago blockading fleet, but missed most of the battle as Sampson left prior to the Cuban breakout to meet with General Rufus Shafter. It returned for the closing moments of the action. This is a very fine used miniature by Saratoga Shipyards.
Jane’s Fighting Ships describes the Tacoma as slow and having practically no fighting value. Tacoma was one of six ships of the Denver class, completed in 1904. These were known as “peace cruisers,” really just over-sized gunboats intended to bring “gunboat diplomacy” wherever the US needed to extend its power. This is a Navis miniature, and though it is called Denver class in the catalogue I’ll happily name it for my adopted home town.
The Wheeling is one of Hai’s extensive range of American gunboats. Wheeling is one of the smaller ones at just under a thousand tons. Another one of those west coast builds, Wheeling had a sister Marietta, that accompanied Boston and Brooklyn to Tangier harbor in 1904.
Yeah, I don’t see another big haul like this happening again, but I was delighted to unpack all of it and add it to my collection.