iModeler

Elevate your modeling today.
Whatever scale modeling means for you,
iModeler brings all the pieces you need and people together
so you can easily share, show and learn.

USS Bowfin from Revell 1/180 USS Lionfish kit…

January 28, 2014 in Ships

The USS Bowfin, SS-287, was a Balao-class Fleet submarine. She was laid down at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine, on 23 July 1942, and launched on 7 December 1942. She had a distinguished career in the Pacific, based mainly out of Freemantle, Australia, sinking a good number of Japanese merchant ships. In the later part of her WW2 service, she was based mainly out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She is now the focal point of the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park at Pearl Harbor.

I have always been very interested in the US submarine fleet campaign in the Pacific in WW2, and the Gato and Balao class Fleet submarines that participated. These were beautifully designed boats that were well suited to the task, with their long range and potent weapons. This submarine force was undoubtedly one of the greatest factors contributing to the defeat of Japan.

The ubiquitous 1/180 Revell kit of the USS Lionfish probably seems an unlikely kit to choose nowadays, with the amazing Revell 1/72 kit available. But apart from the considerable difference in cost, I would have a hard time finding space enough to build the Revell 1/72, let alone a place to display or store it. I guess Trumpeter has released a kit or two in 1/144. These would maybe be a better choice in a smaller scale, but a little larger than the Lionfish, which would make adding details easier (and I guess there is probably a bunch of aftermarket stuff available for these 1/144 kits).

I built this model quite a few years ago (when my eyesight was better). I tried to do the best job I could on my own, without any aftermarket additions (I don’t think there were many at the time), just scratchbuilding. The deck of the Balao Class subs was not entirely wood slats, and I tried to “fill in the gaps” with Evergreen strips, and sand down to give the appearance of these areas. Boring out the limber holes the Portsmouth boats were associated with, was quite a project in itself. I did it on the patio in our back yard, to benefit from full sunlight. It took some very careful work with a Dremel, and totally occupied my attention! The conning tower/bridge structure, periscope shears and various radar fittings, etc. took a bit of scratch building as well.

A very interesting and helpful reference for this project was “The Floating Drydock’s Plan Book-Gato and Balao Class Submarines” by Thomas F. Walkowiak. This book is now out of print, but apparently available on CD from The Floating Drydock (www.floatingdrydock.com). I would recommend it to anyone interested in US Fleet submarines. I also used a couple of other books, the US Naval Institute book “The Fleet Submarine in the US Navy” by John Alden, and the Squadron book on US Fleet submarines. There are several other books, one by Leeward Publications on the USS Bowfin specifically. Anyway, there is a lot of reference available on US Fleet submarines in WW2.

For background info and “atmosphere” Theodore Roscoe’s bible by the US Naval Institute “US Submarine Operations in WW2” (commonly referred to as “Sub Ops”) and Clay Blair’s “Silent Victory” are excellent. And Forrest Sterling’s “Wake of the Wahoo”, and of course Dick O’Kane’s “Wahoo” and “Clear The Bridge” are classics that will get you in the mood!

6 additional images. Click to enlarge

People who liked this article:
Profile photo of Richard McstayRichard McstayProfile photo of Erich GoldbachErich GoldbachProfile photo of Maxim BylkinMaxim BylkinProfile photo of Jack MuganJack MuganProfile photo of Merrill AndersonMerrill AndersonGuest

21 responses to USS Bowfin from Revell 1/180 USS Lionfish kit…

  1. Your efforts paid off. This is a really good looking boat. Just enough weathering to give it character. Other than the boats name, did the nameplate come with the kit?

  2. Wow, super job! If you did’nt mention it I would have thought it was the big 1/72 Revell boat. Nice

  3. Nice work on that, Robert…..I like it.

  4. Bob,
    Excellent work. You did a magnificent job on this.
    You may already know this but the Bowfin has a bit of additional history that I just read of in a book entitled “Return to Freedom”, by Samuel Grashio/Bernard Norling. In 1943 then Captain Grashio and 9 other POW’s from the Bataan Death March and prisons in the Philippines escaped. The book tells of their struggles and eventual freedom. On it’s first patrol, Bowfin, evacuated Grashio from northern Mindanao to Freeantle, Australia to freedom.

  5. BRAVO…nice build Robert.

  6. Robert,
    Very much enjoyed your build. It’s got me motivated to finish my big 72nd Gato I started. Got a little bit burned out on her making the necessary modifications for the boat I’m building as well as trying to figure out how to paint her in her all black scheme (Measure 8?) without making her look all monotone. Definitely have some ideas just need to do it. Thanks for sharing your build!
    Mark

    • Mark, thanks for your comment. Just curious, what boat are you building?

      I have the Floating Drydock book, “USN Camouflage of the WW2 Era” Vol. 1, which is a reprint of the actual USN document, with various updates. According to that, “Measure 9, Black System for Submarines” is I think the one you refer to.

      Wow, I admire you, a friend of mine was building I think a Balao class from the big Revell kit, and I saw it one day, and said to myself, “I don’t think I could handle that!” I’m glad my Bowfin got you thinking about your Gato, and I look forward to seeing it one of these days on iModeler!

      • Good Evening Robert,
        Yep…Measure 9 is correct, looked it up after I posted my comment. I’m building the USS Flier/SS-250 as she was lost in ’44. Pretty amazing story on how she was lost. For the few crew that survived (mainly the crew on the bridge when they hit a mine) thier story has similarities to Kennedy/ PT-109 crew. Have had to modify the bridge, lookout stands in the periscope shears, deck around the main gun fore and aft (in the few pictures I’ve found of her you can see where the moved the main gun from behind the conning tower to the fore deck). Also modified the back of the boat since she didn’t have the prop guards you see on some of the Gato’s. So yep, just got her back on the bench and started filling a few seems. When I get her done I’ll figure out how to post pics. Thanks again for the motivation to finish my tribute to the crew of the USS Flier.

  7. i built that kit years ago…and it is big…nice job of scratch building and nice job on the clunky railings etc…really looks great

  8. Nice clean build. Your paint application is just about perfect, and your detail is understated, most viewers would have the impression you put a lot of “after market” stuff on it rather than scratchbuild. A wonderful effort all around!

  9. Wow..! I am impressed with the work you did on the limber holes! I tried that with my Dremel on an earlier build of the same kit and messed it up really bad.Nice work on modifying the sail and redoing the railings around the gun mounts.The boat looks really nice! Great job indeed! The work is inspiring!

  10. Actually, the best fleet boat kit now is the Riich Models 1/200 Gato – 1942 and 1944 versions available. The 1/72 kit is actually not that good a kit (fit, etc.) not to mention where do you put a model that’s nearly five feet long?

    There’s no aftermarket available for the Trumpeter 1/144 kits other than white metal weapons and photoetch rails from White Ensign Models, and they are running out of stock.

    You Lionfish kit turned into a very nice model with the effort you put into it. I know just how difficult that was.

    • Tom, thanks for your positive comment. I totally agree about the size problem with the Revell 1/72, and I am never going there. I’m happy to know I may not want to worry about the Trumpeter kits, and I probably won’t think about the new Riich kits either, as they would be a bit smaller than the Lionfish. I have now also posted my earlier model of the USS Harder Gato Class sub, also from the Lionfish kit. And of course, I still have an unbuilt Lionfish in my closet!

  11. Robert, is this the second fleet submarine you built? i want to say you also build USS Harder. Perhaps i’m thinking of another modeler. Goes way back to the days before the later Revell, Trumpeter, or Rich Models Fleet submarines.

    -d-

    • David, thanks for jogging my memory. Yes, you are correct, I used the same Revell 1/180 Lionfish kit to build the USS Harder SS-257 Gato Class submarine. And you no doubt saw it on my website (www.bauschdesign.com), on the “Scale Models” page. This was some time before I built the Bowfin. I still have both of these models, and I have a few photos of the Harder, which maybe I should post as a “prequel” to the Bowfin. The Revell kit has a slight error in the way the propellor shafts enter the hull, and I didn’t correct this on the Harder, but did on the Bowfin. The Harder, being a Gato class, didn’t require as much modification on the bridge structure as the Bowfin, which being a Balao, was more cut down. Also Harder is an Electric Boat sub, and doesn’t have all the limber holes of the Portsmouth boats. I did quite a bit more weathering on the Harder. Anyway, thanks for your comment!

  12. Cool sub Robert, looks great!

  13. I had no idea that submarines could look this good. The only real ones I’ve seen are on the Navy scrapheap outside Portsmouth in the UK, and they don’t look as good as this one!

  14. how can i get plans for a submarine like U.S.S. Bowfin ?

    • Ray, here is a paragraph from my notes on the USS Bowfin model:
      – A very interesting and helpful reference for this project was “The Floating Drydock’s Plan Book-Gato and Balao Class Submarines” by Thomas F. Walkowiak. This book is now out of print, but apparently available on CD from The Floating Drydock (www.floatingdrydock.com). I would recommend it to anyone interested in US Fleet submarines. I also used a couple of other books, the US Naval Institute book “The Fleet Submarine in the US Navy” by John Alden, and the Squadron book on US Fleet submarines. There are several other books, one by Leeward Publications on the USS Bowfin specifically. Anyway, there is a lot of reference available on US Fleet submarines in WW2. –
      I hope this is of help.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.