S.S. GREAT BRITAIN

By Ron Pinner

This 1:48 scale working model of SS Great Britain was scratch built by Ron Pinner and shown at a London Model Engineer Exhibition. Construction is plank on frame and the model is fitted with radio control for the rudder, electric motor and sails.

SS Great Britain designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, for the Great Western Steamship Company's transatlantic service between Bristol and New York. She was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

The ship is 322 ft (98 m) in length and displaces 3,400 tons. She was powered by two direct-acting inclined two cylinder engines, with twin high pressure and twin low pressure cylinders.

Earlier ships had been built of iron or equipped with a screw propeller, but Great Britain was the first to combine the two in a large ocean-going ship. She was also provided with secondary masts for sail power. Four decks provided accommodation for a crew of 120, and 360 passengers who were provided with cabins, dining and promenade saloons.

When launched in 1843, Great Britain was by far the largest vessel afloat. However, following her a build which took six years at high cost, the owners were forced out of business in 1846, after having spent all their remaining funds re-floating the ship after she ran aground. In 1852 she was sold for salvage and repaired. Great Britain later carried thousands of immigrants to Australia from 1852 until being converted to all-sail in 1881. Three years later, she was retired to the Falkland Islands, where she was used as a warehouse, quarantine ship and coal hulk until she was scuttled in 1937.

In 1970, Sir Jack Hayward, paid for the Great Britain to be raised and repaired enough to be towed back to the United Kingdom, and returned to the Bristol dry dock where she had been built 127 years earlier. Now restored she is listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, and is a visitor attraction and museum ship in Bristol Harbour.

For conservation, keeping the air as dry as possible means that corrosion can be prevented. The ship’s bespoke dehumidification machine sucks in air and dries it by forcing it through a water- absorbent chemical powder. It then blows dehumidified air onto the ship’s hull. Ducts below the glass waterline plate collect the blown air and recycle it.  

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