If you look closely at the man in the pancake make-up, the black tie, tuxedo and top hat, you may think that it is Joel Gray getting ready for Cabaret. However, you would be wrong as it is none other than White Ensign Models’ own "Mad Pete". If you listen closely, you will hear him whistling show tunes. So what is Mein Herr Hall whistling and why? Well Pete’s leit motif seems to be Tomorrow Belongs To Me as he bends over his latest creation of brass photo-etch, a two fret set for the Trumpeter USS North Carolina in 1:350 scale. As Pete transitions from I Feel Pretty into a full-throated version of Money, Money, it is easy to see why he is in such a buoyant mood.
The USS North Carolina BB-55 was nicknamed the Show Boat and Trumpeter has now produced a very fine kit of her. However, is your North Carolina ready to head out to the South Pacific for the big show? As with every plastic kit the devil is in the detail, as plastic can never hope to provide the intricate detail of brass when it comes to many items. If you plan to build the kit right from the box without the detail of photo-etch Ya Got Trouble, right here in River City. You need brass photo-etch detail to add to the kit. When it comes to designing a brass photo-etch fret for a warship model, Mad Pete is clearly a Matchmaker. There are and will be many photo-etch sets from which to chose. If I Were A Rich Man I might take one of each but most modelers will choose just one. In making that decision there are a number of factors that come into play. Some prefer to save money and receive the basics on a photo-etch set. At the other end of the spectrum are those that want everything, including the kitchen sink, and are willing to expend a little more to get the most comprehensive set of brass possible for their model. Any photo-etch fret or set from White Ensign Models designed for a particular kit fits into the later category. WEM #3585 is such a set and comes with two frets of beautifully relief-etched brass.
With WEM #3585 fret A is for the heavy duty structural items. These items run the gamut of major pieces of equipment, to hull and superstructure detail of every type. One of My Favorite Things is relief-etched photo-etch and the parts for the 1:350 scale North Carolina are loaded down with it. We’ll start out with the heavy-duty items. The two catapults on the North Carolina are completely replaced with extraordinarily fine brass parts that almost rise to the level of art. As usual, WEM uses two textures of brass to emphasize the relief with the raised portion receiving the standard high shine treatment and the lower relief area done in a subtler burnished finish. Granted once the catapults are assembled and painted the differences between the two types of finish will be lost but WEM really knows how to present their photo-etch to maximize its natural aesthetic beauty. In assembling each catapult, you’ll first start with the largest piece, which comprises the bottom and two sides of the catapult. The sides simply fold upward 90 degrees to form the bulk of the catapult. The sides are heavily relief-etched with very distinctive wheels and gear prominently portrayed. After examining photos of the catapults, you may wish to add cut plastic rod or other geometrical shapes to the interior of each catapult to provide a completely three-dimensional appearance. A separate open diamond-grid top plate provides a very nice contrast to the lattice side construction. Then you add a number of access walkways/catwalks to the sides of the catapult to provide even more relief. Each of these catwalks already has the safety rail/chain attached, which is simply bent to the correct angle. Each catapult is topped off by an aircraft cradle for the kit supplied Kingfisher. Of course WEM also throws in the propellers and support struts to super-detail those same Kingfishers. I specified all of the detail of the WEM catapult parts only to emphasize the tremendous difference in appearance that the Trumpeter North Carolina will have with the addition of these parts. Look at the comparison photographs. When it comes to the catapults, you can use the solid plastic catapults provided in the kit, which display a minimal level of detail, or use the multi-part WEM catapult assemblies, which display an extraordinary level of detail. Why would you want to use the kit supplied part?
The same statement applies to almost every part supplied on these frets. A goodly number of them are for direct replacement of the solid plastic parts in the kit and invariably the appearance of your North Carolina will be substantially improved through use of the White Ensign Models part. The three cranes are other examples of parts in which relief-etched brass is immeasurably superior to the solid plastic parts that come with the kit. The aircraft crane at the stern is the largest and is designed by WEM to simplify assembly. The large crane arm is designed to be folded together to provide all of the exterior surfaces of this impressive lattice structure. This piece is then fitted into the multi-piece cradle. There is no doubt that simply slapping the solid plastic aircraft crane down at the stern is easier than folding the WEM brass crane together but the additional time and care in assembly of the WEM part is more than compensated by the incredible leap in detail. The WEM aircraft crane is topped off by various pulleys and rigging parts. Although smaller the boat cranes provided by WEM are also immeasurably superior in appearance than the solid plastic versions found in the kit. As I have said many times, there is no way that any injected plastic part can match the fidelity of detail of photo-etch when it comes to any lattice work part. As with the aircraft crane, the two WEM boat cranes consist primarily of one part that folds together to provide the entire arm, garnished with many additional brass detail in the form of pulleys and rigging.
Both stacks on the North Carolina have horseshoe access platforms. Mad Pete has whipped up some marvelous parts for these platforms. Each has a delicate open grid treadway with a delicate safety rail frame. These positions are further emphasized by the whip antennae that appear on small platforms jutting from this assembly. The masts of your battleship will also be improved tremendously by the use of the parts supplied in WEM PE3585. Trumpeter supplies a solid, overly thick plastic part for the foremast top platform. In real life that solid part would be of the thickness of armor plate, rather than the open grid platform that it really was. With the WEM parts, you can chuck armor plate platforms, and use open grid parts. There is simply no comparison, it is all contrast. Other platforms found on Fret A are the main mast top platform, main mast lower stays and outriggers, main mast lower platform, bridge front light platform, flag deck platform extensions, CXAM-1 platform and a host of early and late yardarm rigging.
In listing these items some of those mentioned were replacement parts for kit supplied plastic parts but many were supplemental parts to depict equipment and fittings for which there is no part supplied with the kit. Although the value of this fret can rest alone on the replacement brass parts, that is only part of its worth as the bulk of the brass parts add layer after layer of additional detail to the North Carolina. Mad Pete really shows an eye for detail in the selection of the parts included in this set. For example WEM includes open grid hawse grates. These parts cover the openings where the anchor chain passes down through the deck to run outside to the anchors. Last year when I visited the USS Alabama I noticed these features on the original and took pictures of them and now here they are captured in brass in 1:350 scale. In this scale the Mk 51 light AA directors can appear featureless but WEM has taken care of that by providing eleven minutely detailed directors for your Mk 51. WEM provides a whole hardware store’s supply of sliding port hole covers for the bridge/superstructure portholes. The exterior bulkheads of your Trumpeter North Carolina can be liberally decorated with all sorts of additional fittings thanks to Mad Pete. Included in the extensive parts mix are 14 fire hoses, 18 life buoys, 20 steel gas bottles, and hose/cable reels, anemometers. For other standard fittings WEM provides anchor chain with separate anchor chain stops, inclined ladders, accommodation ladders, four long runs of vertical ladder, ten runs of safety netting and three long runs of turret crown had railing. When it comes to adding railing, this set covers all of the bases with twelve long runs of railing done in various styles. As an added bonus WEM provides over 80 ships doors in three relief-etched styles. These can be used to replace the rather plain doors found in the Trumpeter molding or to include doors that Trumpeter missed.
This fret is the smaller of the two and contains the bulk of the delicate electronic arrays. Most of these arrays will be used in portraying a 1944/1945 North Carolina as there is a full panoply of late war electronics. The late war parabolic SK-2 radar assembly is one of the more complex assemblies in this set. However, to get the concave appearance right it takes multiple parts. Fourteen brass parts go into this assembly but the difference in final appearance between the delicate brass assembly and solid plastic part provided in the kit is on the same level as the difference in delicacy between a spider web and an overly thick ceramic bowl. If you want a radar, go with the WEM assembly. If you want a cereal bowl, go with the kit supplied part. Another late war radar provided in this fret is the large rectangular SC-2. With individual dipoles this assembly is complex in its own right but as with the SK-2 the finished array will be spectacular. One obvious feature of the Trumpeter kit is that it is very flexible in fit. Although the kit is for the 1944 North Carolina, the fact that all splinter shields are separate from the deck, points to the strong probability that Trumpeter will release an early war version of this kit. Even if Trumpeter doesn't, this kit is especially well suited to be converted into earlier fits of North Carolina or Washington. WEM provides all four secondary director arrays with highly detailed Mk 4/12 fire control radars. The White Ensign Models photo-etched set is just as flexible in that it provides early war array that was removed by 1944. The prime example is the inclusion of the large CXAM radar that was just starting to be fitted to battleships in late 1941. Of course this large array was replaced by better radar as the war progressed. If you want to work up an early war fit for the North Carolina or Washington, WEM already provides the main radar on this fret. In keeping with that same theme of versatility is the decision by WEM to include the early war Mk 3 main gun director radar, mid war Mk 8 main gun director radar and late war Mk 13 main gun director radar. You have the parts to portray the battleship’s main gun radar from as commissioned in 1941 through the end of the war. If you choose to model the late war Mk 13, you will have to fashion the radar housing from plastic or resin rod but you can use the end caps provided on the fret by WEM to achieve the correct egg-shaped cross section. WEM also provides the smaller, simple array radars of the Mk 29 surface radar and SG radar.
In addition to all of these radars, this fret also includes other essential items of equipment. Largest of these are the two stack grates. However, about 50% of the fret is devoted to extensive provision of floater net baskets. WEM provides no less than 50 of these baskets, which lined the decks of the battleship. If your emphasis is on improving the level of detail of the light AA, Bofor and Oerlikon, you may wish to supplement this set with the appropriate WEM AA frets, as light AA detail is one area not covered in this set.
One thing for sure, when it comes to assembling the photo-etch parts you know that you’ll be covered. With White Ensign Models Tradition has compelled the inclusion of comprehensive instructions, so you know that You'll Never Walk Alone. For WEM PE3585 the instructions run seven pages in length and present the photo-etch assembly in the standard WEM format. Page 1 centers around a part listing. Each part found on both frets is described in text and assigned a number. This page also displays a profile of Fret B with each part numbered. Page 2 displays a profile of Fret A, again with each part numbered for reference to the list on page 1.
Page 3 starts the presentation of assembly modules. The modeler is free to pick and choose which modules to assemble. As an example if an early war version is being built the CXAM would probably be major radar fitted and there would be no need to assemble the late war SK-2. The five pages of assembly modules include modules on the SK-2 radar, SG & Mk 29 radars, SC-2 radar, CXAM-1 radar, Mk 4/12 Fire Control with Mk 22, Mk 3 radar, Mk 8 radar, Mk 13 radar, aircraft crane, boat cranes, TBS & Foremast Yardarm, Tower fittings, Funnel fittings, Main Mast (early), Main Mast SG, Main Mast (mid-war), Main Mast (late), Main Mast & Director bracing, Catapults, Bridge details, Mk 51 Detail, Cable reel, Accommodation ladders, Floater Net Baskets and Kingfisher Details. As always WEM presents each assembly module in clear, concise text as well as detailed drawings.
When you purchase any product from White Ensign Models, you are always assured of the finest in production standards and quality. That quality is evident on every part of both frets of WEM PE3585. The parts design, relief-etching and instructions are all as good as it gets.