American Greyhounds: The Armed Merchant Cruisers

Yale (left) and St. Louis (right) alongside Oregon-class battleships just to give a size comparison

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Doesn’t this guy have something else to write about?” Well, like many of you I’m stuck at home with not much better to do than watch the impeachment doin’s, hear the State Farm commercial with Smokey Robinson’s “Cruising” in the background, and let my dogs out in the backyard. Sorry, you’re stuck with weird Spanish American War ships.

As America sank into war in the spring of 1898, there was real fear the navy simply didn’t have enough ships to take an offensive war to Spanish possessions in the Philippines and the Caribbean AND defend the critical east coast ports from Boston to Miami. They turned to private shippers and shipowners to press additional vessels into service. From private yachts to trans-Atlantic liners, all kinds of ships donned navy gray and joined the U.S. Navy.

The St. Louis by War Times Journal is a bit bigger and beefier than the Yale. The model probably has a few too many guns (it only had four 5-inch guns)

That includes four trans-Atlantic passenger steamers that were leased to the Navy for a fee. These were the SS Saint. Louis, SS Saint Paul, The City of Paris, and City of New York. All four of these ships were quite large, measuring 550-600ft. St. Louis and St. Paul were about 15,000 tons and the two City ships were bigger still. By comparison, the Oregon class battleships were 350 ft. long and just over 10,000 tons. All that armor and big guns. They were all pretty fast at around 20 knots, and with a sprinkling of medium and light guns, posed a danger to lightly-armed or unarmed Spanish merchant vessels.

War Times Journal Yale showing off its recently added mizzen-mast.
Yale was launched as City of New York. Once held the speed record for trans-Atlantic crossings. Yale may have appeared in these colors when it crept into San Juan harbor in May 1898

The two City class ships were re-named Yale and Harvard respectively. Both took part, separately in actions in San Juan harbor, and neither particularly distinguished themselves. Yale was the first American ships to arrive off Santiago harbor after Cervera’s cruisers ducked inside and kept an eye on things until Sampson’s blockading force arrived. Harvard spent the war mostly serving auxiliary duties, transporting troops and supplies to the American headquarters at Guantanamo, Cuba.

Saint Louis and Saint Paul became St. Louis and St. Paul. St. Louis was best known for tearing up trans-Atlantic cables off Santiago and Cienfuegos, isolating these strongholds from Europe. The big ship went on to hold many of the survivors of Cervera’s squadron after the Battle of Santiago Bay. St. Paul fought at the second naval battle of San Juan. It engaged the wretched Velasco-class cruiser Isabel II and the destroyer Terror, doing significant damage to the latter and driving both ships back into port.

When I saw that War Times Journal had St. Louis and Yale I was intrigued. But they were part of their printed plastic range and at over 40 bucks a whack pretty expensive. But, sucker that I am, I bit on the St. Louis. After I ordered I received an e-mail from Jim at WTJ letting me know they were able to print the ships on DLP that would save me money and he’d credit me back. Like 50%. I was all in. I added Yale to a subsequent order, and now have Harvard coming.

Both models are really big, just short of six inches long. Nicely detailed with holes for masts. I painted them in Vallejo Light Grey with a little dry brush of Vallejo Sky Grey. I painted the greenhouses that each seemed to affect in Vallejo Ivory, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they painted those grey too. Apparently Yale didn’t get a gray paint job and used its Inman Line markings to sneak into San Juan harbor past the shore batteries. That’s an option. Like I said, I have another Yale coming, so something to think about.

I went with pretty simple masts. No fighting tops. Both ships are made with the mast holes pre-made. I stubbornly believed that Yale had only two masts despite the three holes, so moments ago, after another look at photos, found myself making and painting a third. Doh!!


I set some goals for the year. It’s never too early to check in

Planes 6/150 I haven’t done much since wrapping up the two engine fighters and reconnaissance planes. I have a nine Tojo fighters waiting for paint. I’ll try to get these done before the end of the month

Ships. 11/50 You can see where my time has gone this month. I have three American protected cruisers on hand with some more ships on the way, but I really don’t have that many more left to focus on.

28mm figures 0/400 Well that’s kind of sad. I have a dozen Woodland Indians about half done. I need to get more done. Would like to be at 24 by the end of the month.

Not a lot so far, but things are coming along.

2 comments on “American Greyhounds: The Armed Merchant Cruisers

  1. Doug says:

    Impressive looking ships – especially in that scale

  2. Pete S/ SP says:

    Lovely work.



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