1886 was a year of utmost importance to the US Navy. During the year a pamphlet was published by LT. Jaques of the USN in which he summed up the state of the navy. "But as at present circumstanced, it is of small moment to the United States whether the modern gun or modern armour is superior. We have neither the one nor the other – no gun mounted that can pierce an enemy’s armor – no armour on a completed vessel, or on a fort that can resist an enemy’s guns." On March 10, 1886 a Bill was presented in the House of Representatives that amounted to the birth of the new steel navy. When it passed the Senate it provided funds for the construction of five new warships, two seagoing armored vessels, one swift cruiser, one 1st Class Torpedo Boat and one Dynamite Gun Cruiser. The largest item in this new budget was for the two seagoing armored vessels, which became the USS Maine and USS Texas. The second greatest expenditure was not for anything new but "For compilation of 4 Double Turreted Monitors – Puritan, Amphitrite, Monadoch, and Terror." (The Naval Annual 1886)
The Secretary for the Navy in his report to the President on December 1, 1888, said of these four monitors, "In the table the double-turreted monitors will not be ships of a high class. Their completion was recommended by the Department solely as a choice of evils, the question which was presented being, whether several million dollars which had spent upon them should be thrown away, or the balance necessary to complete them be appropriated." (The Naval Annual 1888-9, at page 680) The next year a new monitor made its appearance in the naval proposals. This one was to be of new construction and initially was to mount one 16-inch gun, one 12-inch gun and one 15-inch pneumatic gun in the bow. This proposal became the USS Monterey. Some in Great Britain advocated that the Royal Navy follow suit and build monitors. The American writers are unshaken advocates of the Monitor. They think that the Monitor, in its simplicity of construction and the small mark offered to the enemy, combines elements of fighting efficiency in a degree not found in later and much larger vessels. The Monitor was found absolutely effective in the work it was designed to do. It combined the maximum of offense with the minimum of vulnerability. Monitors should be added to the British fleet for harboar, coast and Channel defence." (The Naval Annual 1890, page 207)
Because the intended armament would have been too heavy for the design, the armament was changed to two 12-inch guns in the forward turret and two 10-inch guns in the rear turret. Unlike the earlier five monitors (Puritan and the four Amphitrite Class), which had antiquated machinery and iron hulls, the Monterey had triple expansion engines and a steel hull. Although the first five had been building for almost twenty years, the Monterey was completed ahead of all of them, except for Miantonomoh. Originally the turrets were to be of a conical Eads type (see profile from The Naval Annual 1892), that design was shelved in favor of cylindrical turrets. When ordered and built, the Monterey was considered a significant warship and investment for the USN. In the report of the Secretary of the Navy of December 3, 1891, the total estimated cost for the 4,048 ton Monterey was $2,596,086.78, which was only slightly less than Texas ($3,002,692.29) or Maine ($3,549,041.75) and more expensive than any cruiser, except for New York ($4,038,408.07), Cruiser No 12 (Columbia)($3,,149,214.86) and Cruiser No 13 (Minneapolis)($3,104,355.80)(The Naval Annual 1892, pages 494-95).
The Monterey also had a feature that would allow her to intake water to reduce her freeboard from the normal four feet to one foot in order to reduce the target and make her battle ready. The West Coast built and based Monterey was dispatched to the Philippines to bolster Commodore Dewey’s force. After taking months to complete the voyage, in which she was towed half the time due to her limited endurance, Monterey arrived on August 4, 1898. At that time Dewey felt that he had the firepower to deal with the remaining Spanish forts. (The US Monitors, Part Two, Warship Volume VII, page 137) This voyage and arrival was the pinnacle of the career of Monterey. Thereafter, she was reassigned to Pearl Harbor and lingered around until February 1922, when she was sold. It is ironic that this vessel, born of concepts employed in the American Civil War, would survive long enough to see the birth a new type of vessel that would predominate naval conflict in World War Two to the present day, the aircraft carrier. (References: American Steel Navy by John Alden; The US Monitors, Warship Volume VII in two parts by Francis Allen; The Naval Annual, various editions)
The deck is loaded with detail from the numerous small circular plates that shielded glass ports incorporated in an effort to alleviate the darkness that was characteristic of the interior of the hulls of the monitor designs to the unique anchor chain fittings at the bow. This hull has individuality and character in abundance. The hull had a small resin pour runner attached to the keel, which was easily removed with a dremel. Cleanup was extremely minor, amounting to sanding the bottom to smooth the area of the runner attachment. Other than some pinhole voids along the bottom of the hull, the only other defects to the hull were some dimples in the tops of a few fittings. The superstructure (01 level) is cast integral to the hull and has machinery, QF gun deck plates and davit support pillars cast as part of the detail. Positions for the QF guns on the deck are predrilled. However, there was a small error in that department. The Monterey had six 6-pdr guns on the superstructure level. ISW provides all six guns but base plates and positioning holes are only provided for four positions, the two at the aft end and two at the forward end of the superstructure. The middle positions were not indicated on the hull or in the instructions. It is a simple correction to drill positioning holes for the two middle guns between the davits on each side with a pin vice. The circular grates on the deck are convex on the model but photos show that they were flat with the deck. I did not sand these down but you may wish to if the raised detail bothers you. There was no breakage to any of the hull. ISW seems to have reached a new level of casting, first with the USS Brookyln (click for review) and now with the Monterey.
In keeping with the monitor concept the designers kept the superstructure to a minimum. The ISW kit has four major resin pieces for the superstructure. The bridge platform, pilothouse, aft searchlight platform and slab sided funnel. The pilothouse and funnel are stand out pieces. The pilothouse has nicely inset windows and panels and the funnel has a delicate steam pipe and the funnel bands that add greatly to the model. The platforms are a trifle thick, so if you wish, a gentle sanding of the bottom of the platforms will reduce this thickness. The only true defect was one void on the front edge of the pilothouse deck, which was filled with gel superglue and sanded. The two turrets of two different sizes round out the complement of major parts. Obviously, the larger of the two is for the twelve-inch guns of the forward position and the smaller for the aft ten-inch turret. The guns for the turrets are also of two sizes and the banding of the barrels seems a fraction over-scale. The turrets can use a light sanding on the bottom and sides.
A number of smaller parts round out the kit. Six-pdrs, boat racks, davits, search lights, mast, main top, fighting top, anchors, boat boom, propellers, and prop support struts comprise the smaller parts. Davits come in resin and photo-etch and I used the photo-etch davits in my build. Sometimes propellers on ISW kits will have voids in the blades but they were perfect in the Monterey kit. The only defects were voids in some of the searchlight pieces. The anchors do not come with stocks. The stocks ran at right angles to the anchor. The upper stock was strait but the lower one was J shaped at the end. The length of the lower stock was such that it would drag in the water when the ship was under way. Both upper and lower stocks had balls at the end. Plastic rod was used for the stocks. The J bend of the lower stocks and the stock ends were shaped by blowing out the flame of a match and touching the rod with the still hot match head. I didn’t get the right spherical shape at the end of the stocks. On second thought, I should have added a small drop of white glue to get the spherical shape.
The kit goes together very smoothly and extremely quickly, due to the limited number of parts. No problems were experienced at any point during the assembly. The modeler will spend more time attaching the photo-etch and painting the model than in assembling the resin parts. Because of the ease of assembly, the ISW Monterey is suitable as a selection for the "first time" kit for a modeler who has not built a multimedia, resin and brass kit before. I found that it was faster and easier to assemble the Monterey, than any of their WWII destroyer kits. The only other parts to be added by the modeler were the two propeller shafts from plastic rod and the fore & aft jacks from sprue.
For photo-etch attachment, certain pieces and steps are not shown. Although the instructions show placement of inclined ladders running from the superstructure deck to the bridge wings, they fail to show placement of inclined ladders running up to the aft searchlight platform. The placement of all inclined ladders on the superstructure is simple. Just install the platform railings first. The platform railings are clearly designated by letter, matching the lettered piece on the fret to specific location on the platforms. Once the railings are in place the inclined ladder positions are obvious, due to the break in the railings at their locations. The main deck railings come in four pieces. The instructions do not differentiate as to their placement. However, they are not interchangeable. Two of the brass railing pieces have ends that drop to half-height. These runs should be used at the bow. The half-height areas of railings were on either side of the anchor fittings and machinery. The brass railing was very easy to attach to the curvature of the hull and no cutting is necessary.
The photo-etch comes with four cross brace support, two with a single panel and two with a double panel. The instructions do not show where they are positioned. The single panel supports are located as slanting supports from the superstructure sides to the outward ends of the bridge platform. The double panel cross braces were provided as spares. These came in handy because photographs of the Monterey showed a unique support structure for the anchors. In a stowed position each anchor had a cross brace support underneath the anchor and attached to the hull. In form they resembled a sideways Roman X. To duplicate this fitting, all that was necessary was to cut panels from the extra spares and attach it between anchor and hull.