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Steel Navy/Rhino Models
Dave Runkle, proprietor
7317 Walnut Road
Fair Oaks, CA 95628   USA
Phone: 916-863-6026
HMS Dreadnought Price: $215

HMS DREADNOUGHT was a revolutionary design, but not for the reasons most people assume. Her all big gun main armament was evolutionary, not revolutionary. Prior to Dreadnought, battleship secondary guns had been increasing in size with each new design. This made it very difficult to distinguish the splash of a big gun shell from that of  secondary armament, a crucial factor in an era of visual range-finding. Adding impetus to the all big gun trend was the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War. Effective firing started far in excess of what was then thought to be effective battle range. And the effects of a single 12" shell hit were observed to be far more devastating than numerous secondary caliber strikes. These developments focused attention on the importance of big gun armament. The Royal Navy was not the first navy to gain authorization of an all big gun battleship. The 1905-1906 Jane’s Fighting Ships states in the Progress of Construction section, "To the United States belongs the credit of being the first nation to sanction that battleship with a uniform armament of big guns which ever since Colonel Cuniberti’s article on ‘The Ideal Battleship,’ in the 1903 ‘Fighting Ships’ has hovered on the horizon of the building programmes of most naval powers." The trend to the all big gun battleship was already present and its appearance inevitable.

Vital Statistics

HMS Dreadnought
Laid Down: 2 Oct 05  Launched: 10 Feb 06  Commissioned: 1 Sept 06
527'  Beam: 82'  Draft: 26'
Displacement: 18,110 tons standard, 21,845 tons full load
Propulsion: 4 Parsons geared steam turbines, 22,500 shp (24,700 shp on trials)
Maximum Speed: 21.4 knots (22.4 knots trials)
Armament: Ten 12"/45 cal (5x2), twenty-seven 12 pdr guns (27x1)
Torpedoes: Five 18" submerged tubes

Endurance: 6,920 nm @ 10 knots, 4,910 nm @ 18.4 knots
Complement: 695 - 773 officers and men

The real impact of HMS Dreadnought was her propulsion system. Until Dreadnought, major warships of all nations used the triple expansion reciprocating steam engine. It had a limited top end so that the maximum speed for a battleship was around 18 knots. At this speed the huge rods and pistons of the engine caused tremendous vibration throughout the ship. The vibration greatly interfered with accurate spotting from the optical rangefinders then in use. Additionally reciprocating machinery broke down with increased frequency when run near its limits. A high-speed run of any duration was likely to result in the ship sitting in harbor for days or making repairs to damaged parts.

The Royal Navy, in an inspired leap of faith, adopted the Parsons turbine for Dreadnought, used only in small ships prior to this time. The turbine was an overwhelming success. Its advantages over reciprocating machinery were enormous. The top speed at 21 knots was at least three knots higher than that of previous first class battleships, maintenance time was greatly reduced, and the lack of the vibration allowed for accurate rangefinding at much greater ranges.

Dreadnought burst on the world stage, seemingly out of nowhere. She was laid down on October 2, 1905, launched February 10, 1906 and commissioned September 1, 1906. Eleven months from her keel laying to commissioning, a record never since broken by any other big ship. The speed of construction was a deliberate attempt by the Royal Navy to demonstrate its construction and design capabilities to would-be naval powers. The building materials were pre-stocked at the building site, multiple work-shifts labored around the clock, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, the legendary Jacky Fisher, saw to it that nothing interfered with Dreadnought’s construction.

Dreadnought was the naval marvel of the age but her time on center stage was short. In a decade she was obsolescent. She never had the opportunity to fire her guns at German battleships as she missed the Battle of Jutland. Her high point came on March 18, 1915 when she rammed and sank U-29, commanded by Otto Weddigen, who had previously sunk the British cruisers, Aboukir, Cressy, Hogue and Hawke. In 1920 she was sold for breaking-up.


Without question, Anatomy of the Ship: The Battleship Dreadnought by John Roberts is the best reference on this historic ship. It is 256 pages packed with photos andBackerDNBuildup23.jpg (11637 bytes) detailed plans on every part of the ship. I used it as my instruction guide in building this outstanding model. I have all destroyer size or larger titles in the AOTS series, and in my opinion, the Dreadnought and IJN Fuso volumes are the best. Unfortunately, Dreadnought has long been out of print. I was able to acquire my copy from Aardvark Books (e-mail last January but I have seen it listed at since then (as of July 18, 2000, two copies were available through abe; search keyword-dreadnought). I strongly recommend acquiring a copy of this superlative reference. White Ensign Models has announced that it will be republished this year in the UK and that they will stock it. Contact them regarding availability.

Fortunately, there are two other references readily available. WEM carries two sheets of profiles and plans on Dreadnought by Sambrook. These are more than adequate in helping construct this model and they are reasonably priced. The Russian Morskaya Kollekshia series has a title on Dreadnought, # 6/1996, by S.E. Vinogradov. This title is still listed as being available from International Books in the UK (e-mail The title is 32 pages plus color front and back covers. It has numerous plans and detail drawings Dreadnought that appear identical to the same drawings and plans in AOTS: Dreadnought. The text is in Russian. If you can’t find or don’t wish to purchase a copy of AOTS:Dreadnought, this Russian title will be of great help, even though it contains only a fraction of the plans in Mr. Roberts’ wonderful work.

Lastly Warship in Profile #1: Dreadnought by John Wingate. The title is a 25-page history of Dreadnought with numerous photographs but no detailed plans. However it does have a two-page color plan and profile of Dreadnought. This plan is of much less detail than the three references listed previously. It was published in 1970 and may be even harder to find than the AOTS book.

The Model
BackerDNBuildup03.jpg (4445 bytes)Steel Navy’s Dreadnought is a rare kit. It's still available, so its rarity is not in the acquisition, but rather from the delight in building it. When you first see the parts, you are immediately impressed with the model’s high quality, but you don’t truly appreciate its quality and fidelity until you start constructions. I purchased my Dreadnought in June 1999 and at the time I didn’t think my modeling skills were sufficient to do it justice. I immediately acquired the Sambrook plans from WEM. I already had the Morskaya Kollekshia and Warship in Profile titles, but I still wanted to wait until I had the best reference available, the Anatomy of the Ship: Dreadnought. As mentioned above, the Sambrook plans or the MK title are more than sufficient to help build the model so you don’t need the AOTS title. Two of the first things I attached to the hull were the two midship coaling winches. Looking at the AOTS drawing of these winches, I noticed that the parts to the model conformed exactly to the drawings in the book. I experienced this throughout the build of this model. The parts almost invariably were identical in shape and scale to Mr. Roberts’ detailed drawings. Another aspect I noticed when I first started construction was a much greater number of portholes on the port aft superstructure (under the aft funnel) then on the starboard side. I thought there must be some mistake until I looked at the exploded diagram in the Roberts’ book. The port side superstructure of Dreadnought had a number of small officer’s cabins, each with a porthole. The superstructure port and starboard side porthole arrangement were not mirror images. The number and positioning of the portholes was exactly in accordance to the AOTS: Dreadnought. This is the rarity of the kit, the exacting fidelity to the original. It only dawns upon you as you build it.

Steve Backer's HMS Dreadnought
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Imperfections and Omissions
No kit is perfect and the Steel Navy Dreadnought in no exception. As far as fidelity to the original, it very difficult to find any problems. However, I would argue that the two aft coaling winches have the wrong profile. Steel Navy gives you six winches of two different designs, one design for the two midship winches and another for the two forward and two aft winches. It seemed to me that the AOTS: Dreadnought showed the design of the aft winches to be similar to those used amidships rather than those used forward. The solution is to get another couple of amidships coaling winches to use for the aft positions.

I thought the PE crew platforms for the 12-lb QF ("quick-firing") guns mounted on the turret crowns to be a trifle wide. The platforms sit flush with the crown of the turret and have short supports that attach to the upper sides of the turret. When you fit the fret to sit flush with the turret crown, the outside edge overhangs the turret side. I cut a thin strip of the brass from the long side of each platform to allow the piece to sit flush and for the supports to connect with the top edge of each turret. Instead of doing this you could attach the supports to the turret edge first and let the platform have a slight overlap of the turret crown.

Lastly I thought the QF guns could have used a bit more detailing. The modeler has to descend to arguing minutiae in order to find fault with the this model’s fidelity to the original.

There were two significant omissions on the Steel Navy HMS Dreadnought. The kit includes neither anti-torpedo net shelving nor an anti-torpedo net material. You’ll have to scratch build it. I found that Evergreen plastic strips .011 x .043 to be perfect for the shelving. The width was an exact match. All you need do is shape the ends of the shelves where they tapered into the hull (fore and aft) and where they abutted the armor plating for the amidships 12""turrets. The shelves did not run across this plating. The net was also easily scratch built. I used the thinnest metal rod that I had, cut to the length of the shelf, and a 2" wide strip of mesh fabric cut to the length of the rod. Using liberal amounts of white glue, I wrapped the mesh around the rod. I finally had to use spot applications of super glue to have a tight fit of the more reluctant portions of the mesh. It’s messy but simple. I also added anchor chain. I used 27 links per inch chain, which can be purchased from Modelexpo at, in one or ten foot lengths.

The resin casting is not without imperfections. The hull bottom had a number of pinhole voids. Also the turrets had some pinholes on the side and rear. There are also a few pinhole voids in the coaling booms and tripod legs. There were no voids of any significant size and they were all easily covered with putty and sanded smooth. All of this is exceedingly minor when balanced with the outstanding quality of this kit.

Resin Casting
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DreadnoughtHullsmall.jpg (8619 bytes)With the exception of the pinhole voids, the resin casting is beautifully done. The parts are crisp and beautifully detailed, especially the five 12" gun turrets. A comparison of the hull with the Roberts’ reference again shows how faithful this kit is to the prototype. The special doors, hatches, skylights, gratings, and coalscuttles all matched the reference in location and design. All gun barrels are in resin and they were uniformly straight. The two steam launches are fine models in themselves with PE rudders and propellers. When I originally purchased this kit in June 1999, I asked Dave Runkle, the owner of Steel Navy, how many had been sold. Mine was the eighth produced. At that time the booms for the torpedo net had to be cut from brass rod provided in the kit. Since then Dave has constantly improved the kit, adding new features and options. One option is the inclusion of resin net booms that are very well done, showing the detail where it attaches to the hull and the net. You have the option of using the resin booms or brass rod for the booms with brass eyebolts on the PE for attaching the boom to the hull. I find it very rare that a manufacturer will continue to perfect a kit after its release. Clearly Dave wants the provide the modeler with the best kit he can produce, and this dedication shows everywhere in this model.

Hull Casting
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Photo-Etched Brass
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DreadnoughtPE01.jpg (84203 bytes)One large PE sheet is included in the kit. Extra PE parts are included so you don’t have to worry about ruining a part. All of the brass is finely done and easy attaches to the model. The only tricky part was in the attachment of the upper bridge (navigation and compass platforms). This part of the superstructure rested on a girder support structure, which is part of the PE in the kit. I had to slightly adjust the length of the PE part to get a good fit. The dedication to detail found in the resin is also found in the PE. When I removed the PE compass-deck railing from the fret, I noticed that it had odd J-shaped bars extending above the railing. Checking the Roberts’ book, I found that these were awning stanchions. What other kit in any medium in any scale, gives you awning stanchions on the ships railing? None that I know! The PE gives you about twice as much railing as you need to finish the model and an abundance of inclined ladders (stairs) of various lengths. Funnel gratings are included for not only the top but also the funnel interior. You also have the option of using either a brass starfish or resin version, but decide before mounting the foretop and maintop on their respective masts.

Instructions are a weak point in this kit. When I purchased the kit, was no parts list was included. It now is. I did not get a new copy of the instructions. Since Steel Navy has upgraded the parts the instructions may have been upgraded as well. I don’t know. (Editor’s note: they have not been upgraded). The sparse instructions did not hinder my build since I used AOTS: Dreadnought as my guide. The Sambrook Plans or the MK title would work just as well. I would not feel comfortable using only the Steel Navy instructions to build this kit. The instructions were OK for placement of most parts but I was uneasy about the location of a few of them. However, I may be excessively cautious. Most resin modelers would probably agree that WEM has the best kit instructions available. Even so, when I built the WEM Warspite, I used the Anatomy of the Ship: Warspite and the Profile Morskie:Warspite in addition to the WEM instructions.

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Parts List
Resin Parts
(First digit is part #)
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Super Detailing
BackerDNBuildup20.jpg (8277 bytes)An odd thing happened in building this kit. The Steel Navy Dreadnought is more detailed than most 1:350 models. I am usually quite happy to build the kit right from the box with few or no alterations or additional detailing. Because I had AOTS: Dreadnought, I felt compelled to add even more detail. Some of the details added were torpedo net shelves; torpedo net; net boom rigging; open deck hatches with bracing; small platforms with railing, bracing and stairs from the superstructure extending towards the amidships turrets (used to pass ammo to the QF crews on those turrets); main boat boom pulleys and tackle; engine telegraph platforms on the forward legs of the tripod with telegraphs, ladders and bracing; tripod bracing; tripod reinforcing band at the top of the tripod: funnel stays; jack staff and flag staff; opened and braced ventilator cowling; additional tackle, ladders and stays for the boats on the davits; bridge windows and searchlight lenses cut from a sheet of clear evergreen plastic; reels; and some other odds and ends. All of these items were scratch built from sprue, excess rein pieces or Evergreen plastic. I did use brass reels, life buoys and some deck hatches from Gold Medal Models frets and white ensign flag decal also from GMM. I used baker’s parchment to add canvas sides to the railing on the compass and navigation platforms. I never before have gone to such lengths to add detail to a model. Additionally, I chose to more completely rig this model than any other I have done before. The kit is beautiful built right from the box with no extra detail at all. It is only a question of where to stop. The excellence of this kit compelled me to try to push my personal envelope in model constructing.

The hardest part of the painting was the choice of color. Dreadnought was originally painted in a dark home fleet gray. Until Snyder and Short, "the paint guys", release a paint chip set on the era, the modeler must chose the color of a ship based upon educated guesswork and photographic interpretation, a risky game at best. I used Tamiya Dark Sea Gray XF54 for the upper hull and Polly Scale Lehigh Valley Cornell Red (414360) for the lower hull. I first masked the upper portion of the hull down to the top of the anticipated boot topping. I always use Tamiya masking tape. I have found that this is a superior product. I then sprayed the bottom hull with several coats of the red, of course allowing sufficient drying time between coats. I then masked the lower hull up to the bottom of the anticipated boot topping. Only the thin strip for the boot topping was left free of tape. After spraying the black boot topping, I masked that flush with the bottom edge of the upper hull masking tape. The upper hull masking tape was then removed. BackerDNBuildup12.jpg (29107 bytes)This is always my first step after I have cleaned, filled and sanded the hull. Actual construction of the kit begins at this point. This allows you to pick up the model from the bottom during construction. The masking tape protects the hull from glue, fingerprints, oils and whatnot. Only after all of the above waterline parts are in place do I spray the upper hull. I used gray shade artist pastels and some rust colored pastels to weather the hull and superstructure. The deck was brush painted in Model Shipways Marine Colors Japanese Deck Tan from Modelexpo. I believe that this is the best color available for wood decks. It goes on very well and drys completely flat with no discernable brush marks. The deck was weathered with earth tone artist pastels. Using these pastels allows you to give the deck a yellow, red, orange, brown or other tint and certainly adds interest visual interest. The rudders, shafts, shaft bracing and propellers are the last things to go on.

The Verdict
HMS Dreadnought was the first modern battleship. The Steel Navy model was the first 1:350 model of a World War One-era dreadnought battleship. Since the release of Dreadnought other companies have released ships of this period. Iron Shipwright has released their excellent SMS Seydlitz and hopefully will have HMS Invincible on the market before the end of summer. ICM has stirred up much enthusiasm with their twin releases of SMS Koenig and SMS Grosser Kurfurst. Clearly more models of these wonderful ships will be forthcoming; ships designed to fight other ships rather than just screen aircraft carriers from attacking aircraft. Even though the Steel Navy Dreadnought was the first model released, it still has to rank as the best kit of a World War One capital ship and one of the best kits from any era.

Contact Information
Steel Navy/Rhino Models
Dave Runkle, proprietor
7317 Walnut Road
Fair Oaks, CA 95628   USA
Phone: 916-863-6026
HMS Dreadnought Price: $215

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