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 1:144 Scale Gato Class Submarine Diorama
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Author Topic Next Topic: O Scale Fishing Boat / Trawler (Round Stern)
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Mark B
Engine Wiper

Posted - 01/09/2021 :  12:19:49 PM  Show Profile  Visit Mark B's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I had an uncle who did testing of the submarines built in Manitowoc. He said the biggest drawback was leaks. In salt water tests if the ocean water is seeping in you can taste the salt, not so in fresh water.
My brother in law served on one of those types after Naval Academy time. I showed him your work. He said the lookouts often had to tie themselves to the railings to avoid being washed overboard. One extra large wave flooded through the air induction system, shorted out the batteries, and made a general mess of things. He said you've captured the mood exactly as he remembered it.

Country: USA | Posts: 275 Go to Top of Page

Bill Gill

Posted - 01/09/2021 :  12:54:05 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Bill, so you like my subject? Frank
It's sublime.

Country: USA | Posts: 3199 Go to Top of Page

Frank Palmer

Posted - 01/09/2021 :  1:47:59 PM  Show Profile  Visit Frank Palmer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Mike, it’s the British N-Scale I think.

Dave, I guess I backed into this one. It’s like watching a movie and then they flash on the screen, “3 months ago”.

Mark, they weren’t pleasure boats for sure. Thanks to you and your BIL for the comps.

Bill, you’re the best at pun-a-tion.


Edited by - Frank Palmer on 01/09/2021 1:48:26 PM

Country: USA | Posts: 6080 Go to Top of Page

Frank Palmer

Posted - 01/09/2021 :  2:02:17 PM  Show Profile  Visit Frank Palmer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
My education for the build started with watching hours of YouTube videos to get an idea how others are building ship & sea dioramas. There are almost as many methods as there are videos. Then it’s off to the web sites for WWII US Gato Class Submarines, that’s another learning experience.

The color scheme of the sub represents Measure 32/3SS-B, which was authorized in June 1944. Since the subs of that day were mostly surface ships that could submerge they needed surface camouflage too. With that scheme the horizontal surfaces were painted Gloss Black, yes Gloss Black and the vertical surfaces were painted Haze Gray.

The sub crews kept asking the Navy Department to lower the silhouette to avoid surface detection. Little by little they removed the shears, used for streamlining, to reduce its surface silhouette. By 1945 it was stripped bare, more important to less visible on the surface than sleek and streamlined underwater. Combat patrols were 90% surface operations; they lasted as long as you had food and torpedoes. I'll try to replicate the final 1944 Mod 4 on my build.

Gary Brinker had an interesting 10 episode series on YouTube about building the Trumpeter 144 scale model, the link is shown below:


NavSource Naval History, Photographic History of the U.S. Navy. This was the best source for info of them all. The subs are listed by number and name with photos on each one. The link is shown below:


U.S. Submarines 1941-1945, by Jim Christley, Osprey Publishing.

Using all the sites really helped me with the build.


First off the so-called Conning Tower was referred to in WWII Navel jargon as the “Fairwater”. News to me. The model came with a 1942-1943 version of the fairwater so it was necessary to cut it down and make modifications to match the 1944 version as advertised. The Conning Tower is actually a separate small cramped pressure vessel directly above the control room. It was accessed through a hatch connecting the two and then above through another hatch to the bridge.

The next two images are from U.S. Submarines 1941-1945, it shows the paint schemes and the “conning tower” modifications from pre-war to the end of WWII.

USS Gar’s periscope shear “I” beams and conning tower under-construction.

I’m not going to go into, “glue the 2 halves of the hull together with plastic cement” and all that obvious stuff. However, I did use the “never to be seen again” pressure hull. I thought it would be the backbone to the hull and offer loads of reinforcement.

I will tell you the kit left off a very important part. The deck attaches at the bow and the stern ONLY. That means the majority of the deck is free floating and unsupported. These subs had a space between the deck superstructure and the hull. This allowed water to drain and flood in sheet flow under the deck as well as through all those limber holes. Which by the end of the war there were so many limber holes cut in it resembled Swiss cheese.

I followed Gary Brinker’s advice here and installed longitudinal bracing on top of the hull to maintain equal distance between the hull and the deck. Otherwise it would sag. Very poor engineering by Trumpeter and this was their second version of this model. The first was a 1941 Gato version.

I’ll start my model making modifications to the Fairwater as Gary suggested. After the platting for the periscope shears was cut down it exposed the 3 “U” shaped beams giving them a skeletal appearance. This was referred to as the “Covered Wagon” look. With the streamline sheathing removed forward and aft of the bridge it allowed for additional gun positions. They installed single or double mount 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns or 40 mm single-mount Bofors cannons. Depending on the extent of the modifications they were made either during routine maintenance or periodic overhauls. Curiously the longer aft deck was known as the “Cigarette Deck” for obvious reasons.

I decided to not use the flimsy plastic handrail stanchions and make mine from .020” brass wire. I traced the deck onto my soldering board, drilled holes for the stanchions and soldered the railings on using 1/8” wood for a spacer. In 144 scale an 1/8” = 18”.

I drilled holes into the lower portion of the fairwater and inserted 5/32” tubing. This will represent the water proof ammunition ready lockers. Hatches were added to the ends of the tubes. Early on they had to pass all the ammunition up through the deck hatches to the gun positions. Later they made the ready lockers so the ammo was there if needed in a hurry.

I also made antenna standoffs from .020” wire. Those are the 3-legged things just below the top of the bridge.

The open passage way allowed water to drain and flood from the fairwater.

Another item the model omitted was the open companion way on the forward deck. I couldn’t find any information what this was used for but it was in every picture of subs I saw. I located the scribed lines representing the location of the companion way and cut a hole in the deck. Making a ladder at this scale was ridiculous so I made a set of steps from .040” styrene.


Country: USA | Posts: 6080 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 01/09/2021 :  3:01:38 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
After reading the beginning of this one, I knew that posting a picture of a completed project just wasn't your M.O. This, is a 'Frank' build!
Interesting and cool!


Take the red pill

Country: USA | Posts: 6028 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 01/09/2021 :  3:18:04 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by BurleyJim

After reading the beginning of this one, I knew that posting a picture of a completed project just wasn't your M.O. This, is a 'Frank' build!
Interesting and cool!



What Jim said! BZ!!!

You might find "Thunder Below," by RADM Eugene B. Fluckey, for whom the main building at the Navy's sub school in CT is named, to be interesting reading. USS Barb was a Gato boat that under Fluckey's command, was highly successful in the Pacific toward the end of World War II. Interesting read....

in Michigan

Country: USA | Posts: 7457 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 01/09/2021 :  3:31:11 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Yes Frank is back to giving us all a history lesson!


"And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." A. Lincoln

Country: USA | Posts: 13047 Go to Top of Page

Carl B

Premium Member

Posted - 01/09/2021 :  4:55:30 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have just been schooled on 1944 submarines.

Country: USA | Posts: 4077 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 01/09/2021 :  7:21:50 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by TRAINS1941

Yes Frank is back to giving us all a history lesson!

Jerry, I would call it substantial history lesson.
Frank, excellent work on soldering those railings together.

Greg Shinnie

Country: Canada | Posts: 8932 Go to Top of Page

robert goslin

Premium Member

Posted - 01/09/2021 :  9:55:14 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Great start Frank.
I believe true British N scale is 1/148. But 1/144 is the common one used, as it's half OO gauge at 1/72. Which is also sometimes 1/76.
All this scale stuff is very confusing.

Great history lesson so far. I like the research side of it as much as the model build.
And I know you are a stickler for detail, so well worth the extra effort.
Nice work on the brass railings.

So many different methods for doing oceans.
This guy did an excellent U boat diorama.

Regards Rob

My current build.

Edited by - robert goslin on 01/09/2021 10:11:10 PM

Country: Australia | Posts: 2649 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 01/10/2021 :  10:10:27 AM  Show Profile  Send Guff an AOL message  Reply with Quote
Very interesting history along with a great start!

David Guffey

Country: USA | Posts: 2037 Go to Top of Page

Bill Gill

Posted - 01/10/2021 :  10:30:08 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
lots of neat research info and very nice railing, Frank.

Edited by - Bill Gill on 01/10/2021 10:30:58 AM

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Frank Palmer

Posted - 01/10/2021 :  10:35:29 AM  Show Profile  Visit Frank Palmer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Jim, it was a get your attention opening. I wasn’t sure I could pull this one off so I did the build before I started the thread. I didn’t want to sink before I learned to swim.

Pete, you probably know the Barb is the only submarine credited with “sinking” a train. Fluckey was one crazy Captain.

Now now Jerry no talking in front.

Carl, when I go into a project I dive right in.

Thanks Greg, I really like working with brass. It doesn’t break so easy.

Rob, I looked at his videos many times. He’s the one I used the most for water construction.

Dave, thanks it should get better after the boring history lesson.


Edited by - Frank Palmer on 01/10/2021 10:35:49 AM

Country: USA | Posts: 6080 Go to Top of Page

Frank Palmer

Posted - 01/11/2021 :  10:17:03 AM  Show Profile  Visit Frank Palmer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Modifications are underway. I left the periscopes of so I didn’t accidently break them off.

My usual weathering is underway. I’m trying to depict an example of a submarine that went to war with little time for looking pretty, rotate the crew, take on supplies, rearm and get back into action.

The deck stanchions were also made from .020” brass wire. My first attempt at stringing the “cable” on them was to use E-Z Line. That was a bear because even though I was using a pick to apply the CA it would sometimes blob. Or the E-Z Line would only attach by a thread or two.

I restrung the stanchions with wire. I removed a length of insulation from 24 gauge braded electrical wire. The remaining strands were .005”. I sanded them and applied flux to the stanchions. Believe it or not using my fine tip 12V soldering iron with just a touch I could attach the wire in an instant and move on to the next one. So much easier than working with E-Z Line, CA glue and accelerator, and no fuzz.

The “T” shaped object ahead of the deck gun is a Model “JP” sonar antenna, again not included in the kit. Mine is made from brass rod and a brass bar.

I applied Windsor Newton oil paint dots of white, black and burnt sienna. Then I brushed downward with a brush dampened with mineral spirits to make the streaks. White for salt, black for exhaust and burnt sienna for rust. I don’t make streaks below the water line because a boat in the water will not have vertical streaks below the water. Streaks are created by something being washed down with gravity and drying out leaving the streak behind. Maybe horizontal lines like algae or surface crud would show up but not vertical.

The major portion of the decks were planked with teak and painted gloss black. I painted the teak portion a medium brown and faded the black around them. I was trying to represent the black paint being worn off.

With the sub finished or as far as I’m going with the details it’s on to the base.

I’m running my sub with the bow planes down to give it a more dramatic look. During rough seas some captains would do this to help stabilize it while running. Other captains ran with the bow planes down in case of an emergency dive, one less thing they had to do. Seconds count in an emergency. The crew trained to get to periscope depth in about 35 seconds during a Crash Dive. And that’s not an easy thing to do with a boat that’s 311’ long. A Type 7C U-Boat was only 220’ long.

The 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns furnished with the kit were pretty uninteresting so I ordered replacements from ShapeWays. The 4”/50 cal. deck gun is from White Ensign. Something I learned while doing this is what the 4”/50 cal. means. The bore of the barrel is 4” and 50 caliber refers to the length of the barrel.
Therefore 4” times 50 equals 200” or 16.6’.


Edited by - Frank Palmer on 01/11/2021 10:24:35 AM

Country: USA | Posts: 6080 Go to Top of Page

Tyson Rayles

Premium Member

Posted - 01/11/2021 :  2:51:04 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Awesome weathering (as usual) !!!!

Country: USA | Posts: 13393 Go to Top of Page
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