Ships can be like people, some are known by millions and some are known by few. Millions know of the battleship Bismarck , even though her operational life was the shortest of any battleship ever launched and yet few could name even one of the hundreds of minesweepers that served for years in the worldís navies in World War Two. To further confound matters most merchant ships are even less well known than warships. Sure, there are the glamorous passenger liners like the Cunard RMS Queen Mary, or in this particular case the White Star RMS Titanic, that are known by millions but what of the thousands of tramp steamers that have lugged around the worldís bulk cargo for more than a century.  Absolutely essential for the worldís commerce, the tramp steamer is the plodding day worker, unrecognized by the crowds, who applaud the appearance of a prima donna, such as the Titanic. What about these essential nautical Everymen? What about SS Californian?

Stanley Lord and Walter Lord were of very different generations and were completely unrelated, at least by blood. Yet both men were connected to one point in time, one singular event connected to one small spot on the ocean. That one point in time was the night of April 14-15, 1912 and the geographical point was a small patch of the North Atlantic just south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Four decades after the event Walter Lord wrote of the event with A Night to Remember but on that night in 1912 Stanley Lord was the captain of the SS Californian in that small patch of ocean. Just as the great passenger liners can be equated to movie stars, no liner has been the star of more movies than RMS Titanic. By now, with that date and that ship, you will easily know of the event, which of course was the foundering of the Titanic. But if Titanic was the leading lady of this tragedy, then Californian was a supporting actress. It may have been only a bit part but it was very memorable and for a few months in 1912 the name Californian became a household name before drifting back into obscurity. On that night in April Titanic was the beautiful doomed queen and Californian was the ugly wicked witch, second only to the iceberg.

The SS Californian was built in Dundee Scotland by the Caledon Shipbuilding and Engineering Company a decade before the giant Titanic was built by Harland and Wolff in Northern Ireland . They were so dissimilar in size and purpose that they would have never been linked together but for events surrounding the loss of the Titanic. Launched on November 26, 1901, the Californian completed trials on January 23, 1902 and started her maiden voyage across the Atlantic on January 31 from Dundee to New Orleans , Louisiana . The Californian displaced 6,223-tons and was 447-feet (136m) in length and 53-feet (16m) in width. Designed as a cargo/passenger ship, the primary purpose of the ship was to haul cargo but Californian also could accommodate 47 passengers for those travelers without the resources to pay for passage on one of the fast great liners. No one could accuse Californian of being fast, as her triple expansion reciprocating machinery was only sufficient to allow her to barely break 13-knots maximum speed. The ship was operated by Leyland Lines, which was owned by International Mercantile Marine Company. In another quirk of fate, International Mercantile Marine also happened to own the White Star Line for whom Titanic was built. For more than a decade Californian went about her duty as just another anonymous laborer, mainly hauling cotton from the United States to the hungry mills of Great Britain

Stanley Lord had become the captain or master of the Californian in 1911 and in April 1912 was guiding his ship on just another westward crossing of the Atlantic . It was 7:00 PM on Sunday April 14, 1912 when Cyril Evans, the only radio or wireless operator on Californian, sent out a message reporting three large icebergs. At that time their position was just fifteen miles north of the course that was being taken by Titanic, still far to the east of Californian. These icebergs were discounted by Captain Smith of Titanic it was thought that they could be seen far away and that Titanic could easily avoid them. Titanic had ignored her first warning from Californian. Three hours later Californian encountered a large ice field and at 10:21 PM Captain Lord wisely chose to come to a stop and sit out the night, rather than risk his ship. The Californian was not alone for long. At 11:00 PM the lights of another ship came up over the horizon from the east. Captain Lord, the first officer and a seaman all thought that the lights appeared to be from another tramp steamer, like Californian but the third officer thought that it appeared more like a passenger ship. Lord asked Evans which ships were in the area. Since each merchant ship always included her unique three letter designation in all radio transmissions, Evans replied Titanic because he had been listening to M.G.Y. radio signals to and from the chatty Titanic all night long. Lord said "That isn't the Titanic." None the less Lord ordered Evans to signal Titanic about the presence of the ice. Evans carried out the order.

Profile, Plan & Quarter Views
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At this time the duty wireless operator on Titanic was Jack Phillips and he was in the midst of copying numerous messages coming for passengers from the Cape Race, Newfoundland wireless station, another 800-mile to the west. Phillips was harried with the volume, since Titanic had just reached the position to pick up the station. A flood of messages were pouring into Titanic and Phillips was recording them as fast as possible. Wireless technology was still rudimentary and the strength of a signal received was based upon the power of the transmitting station and the distance from the station. Phillips was in the midst of receiving another of the Cape Race passenger messages when suddenly an extraordinarily strong signal drowned out the Cape Race message. It of course was Evans signaling Titanic about the ice field. Because the ships were so close, the signal from Californian was far louder than anything that could be received from Cape Race . Instead of listening to Californianís warning, Phillips immediately replied to Evans, ďShut up, Shut up, Iím working Cape Race ." Rebuffed by Titanic, Evans complied. Evans listened until 11:30 PM but he had been on duty since 7:00 AM and after sixteen hours of listening to radio signals, he was worn out and decided to turn in. At 11:40 PM Titanic hit the iceberg and at 12:15 AM Titanic sent out her first distress message. It was too late. History is often shaped by one seemingly inconsequential action, or by a few inches or by a matter of minutes. History mostly likely would have been far different if Phillips hadnít blown off Evans warning and certainly would have been different if Evans had stayed on duty for another 45 minutes.

Hull Details
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At the same time that Evans was shutting down his set, up on the bridge of Californian Lord ordered the 3rd officer to use the signal lamp to signal the ship on the horizon, which now appeared to be stopped about five miles from Californian. No response was received. At midnight Captain Lord retired and after midnight the Californianís 2nd officer tried his hand at the signal lamp but still there was no response. At 12:45 AM the 2nd officer started seeing flashes of light in the sky, which seemed to come from the direction of the other ship. He observed a total of five such flashes. Word was sent to Captain Lord, who was awoken from his sleep to receive them and in the subsequent inquiry there was a divergence as to the content of that message. By 2:00 AM was no longer seen by the bridge personnel on Californian and a seaman was sent to Captain Lord with the message that not only was the other steamer no longer seen but also that there had been a total of eight white rockets. For the next hour and a half, things were quiet aboard Californian. Then around 3:30 AM the watch started seeing another series of rockets from the south. By this time Titanic had already sunk but it was also at this time that SS Carpathia started launching rockets. Carpathia had heard Titanicís distress signal and had immediately responded by racing to the scene at a speed three knots above her maximum designed speed. However, Carpathia was much further to the south of Titanic than Californian and started launching rockets around 3:30 AM to let the Titanic know of Carpathiaís location.

At 4:30 AM Lord woke up and ordered Californian on the move again. By this time the ship that had been firing this second batch of rockets had already disappeared to the north. At 5:30 AM Lord got Evans up to get on the wireless and inquire about the rockets. It was at this time that the first word was received about the wreck of the Titanic. Lord estimated that Californian was about twenty miles away of the last reported position of Titanic and immediately ordered his ship to turn north to rescue survivors. Californian reached the Carpathia around 8:30 AM just as Carpathia had taken in the last life boat of survivors. Californian took over rescue duties as Carpathia set course for New York but there were no more survivors for Californian to rescue and she found only floating wreckage and empty life boats. Californian arrived at Boston on April 18 and the very next day the US Senate started an inquiry into the loss of the Titanic. Lord, Evans and one seaman from Californian testified but no testimony was taken from the watch on duty at midnight. On May 2 the British Board of Trade started their own inquiry and far more members of the crew of the Californian testified. Also, survivors from Titanic testified including an officer who had reported seeing a ship about five miles south from Titanic after she had struck the iceberg. Just as Californian had used a signal lamp to attempt to communicate with an unknown ship without response, so too had Titanic used a signal lamp to communicate to an unknown ship without response. The ship seemed so close to Titanic that Captain Smith ordered the first life boats launched from Titanicís port side to row to the mystery ship. The boats tried and although the shipís lights remained to be seen the boats seemed to get no nearer. Shortly thereafter this mystery ship headed away from the stricken liner and disappeared. In a vain attempt to clear Californian of negligence, it was pointed out that there were many other ships in the area and that it could have been one of those ships that Californian saw to the north and Titanic saw to the south.

Hull Details
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Both the American and British inquiries reached the same verdict, that Californian and Titanic were in sight of each other and that Captain Lord was negligent in not going to assist Titanic. The British report also threw in for good measure that if Californian had responded as she should have, most if not all of the passengers and crew of Titanic could have been saved.

Captain Lord wanted to appeal the findings but he had no standing because there had been no formal punishment. He had kept his Masterís license and although Leyland Lines quickly told Lord that his services were no longer needed, Lord soon became a captain with another British steamship company, the Lawther Latta line. Lord served as a captain throughout World War One and into the 1920s. When Walter Lordís book was published, it carried the results of the 1912 inquiries and again Captain Lord requested the case be reopened, maintaining that it was not the Titanic seen from Californian. Stanley Lord died in 1962, still painted as a captain who had slept peacefully as Titanic foundered within eyesight. This remained the unquestioned verdict of history until 1985. In that year Dr. Robert Ballard discovered the wreck of Titanic. Using the wreckís position on the seabed and accounting for current strength, mass and shape of Titanic on her three mile trip to the bottom, the surface point of Titanicís sinking could be calculated to a very close degree. It was discovered that the actual point of the sinking of Titanic was much further to the north of the Californian than the location recorded by Titanic. In 1992 the Secretary of State for Transport ordered the British Marine Accident Investigation Branch to reopen the inquiry on the wreck of Titanic, in the light of the new evidence. The conclusion of this new inquiry was that Titanic and Californian were too far apart to be seen one to the other and it had to be an unknown ship sighted by Californian and Titanic. However, it was also concluded that the Californian had indeed seen the emergency rockets fired from Titanic.

Smaller Resin Parts
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If neither ship could see the other, then who was the mystery ship? After all Californian had been motionless for over an hour before the mystery ship had disappeared from view of the survivors of Titanic. It never will be known but in1962 the chief officer of the Norwegian sailing barque Samson made a sworn statement that the Samson crew had sighted the rockets from Titanic but since the Samson had been engaged in some illegal sealing, the Samson made off from the site, fearing that the rockets were designed to have the Samson stop to be boarded and inspected. Another possible candidate is the American fishing schooner Dorothy Baird but the answer remains that the identity of the mystery ship will never be known. Everybody knows of the fate of RMS Titanic but what of the fate of SS Californian? With World War One the British government took ownership of Californian. On November 9, 1915 Californian was 65-miles south of Cape Matapan when she torpedoed by a U-Boat with the loss of only one life.

Smaller Resin Parts
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The Loose Cannon SS Californian
It comes as no surprise, if there is an odd ball, unusual and exotic resin kit produced, it most likely comes from Loose Cannon Models who specialize in the off the beaten path, squirrelly subjects. In this drama did Loose Cannon model the doomed and glamorous queen, Titanic? Did they model the heroic Carpathia? No, the choice was the traditional slothful villain, the Californian. In profile the Califorian is typical of the turn of the century cargo steamer with a straight stem, dramatically undercut stern, slab sided, single stack and four masts. There are four masts as they served as bases for the cargo booms in an era before cargo derricks. Loose Cannon provides a good, clean hull casting. Very light sanding of the waterline will remove the final few burs remaining along the waterline from the casting process. There were no voids, breakage or defects in the casting but the were some minor pits on the hull and one small area of resin over-pour on the forward cargo area. As mentioned the hull sides are completely slab sided from the bow until you get to the stern. The stern is very strongly undercut. Designed for cargo, there are no long rows of portholes on the hull. The 01 level of the superstructure is flush with the hull sides and this is the lowest level with portholes, as any of the passengers would be accommodated in the amidships superstructure. The only other hull side features are single small hull anchor hawse fittings on each side of the upper cutwater. A turn of the century cargo ship design didnít waste much money in providing solid bulkhead to protect the crew from being washed overboard. Why spend extra money for a solid bulkhead, when standard railing would do? As it is the Californian hull casting
only has a solid bulkhead at the very tip of the bow.

Deck detail is far more plentiful. The bow cargo deck has four cargo loading coamings, of course on centerline. The coamings are rather high when compared to cargo designs forty years later. A nicely done anchor chain winch is right behind the cutwater and there is a small deckhouse or equipment locker integral with the deck breakwater. The breakwater is a little on the thick side, as is the forecastle solid bulkhead but not to any extent that I would feel inclined to take corrective action. The small area of resin over-pour was just aft of the cargo coaming behind the breakwater. The two anchor deck hawse could have been a little better delineated but after paining black they will contrast nicely against the wooden deck. The Californian does have wooden plank decking with fittings painted black for a stark contrast. Deck planking is well done but there is no butt-end detail. There are three centerline deck cargo coamings on both fore and aft cargo decks. One both the fore and aft cargo decks there is a panel of steel decking that runs across the width of the ship at the middle coaming that should be painted black, as opposed to the entirely wooden deck paint scheme in the instructions. The quarterdeck  also has another large deckhouse at the very stern. The aft cargo deck also has four deck access coamings. Locator holes are provided to guide attachment of various separate resin fittings. Small fittings such as open chocks and bollards are provided as separate pieces. The center superstructure as well as the aft deck house has access door detail.

Photo-Etched Fret
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Smaller Resin Parts
The Loose Cannon Californian is not a complex model. In common with cargo ships of the era there is a rather minimalist superstructure. There are only two separate levels of superstructure to be added amidship and one deck above the aft deckhouse. These three decks are provided on a resin sheet. The 02 level of the center superstructure has a large, nicely detailed skylight and a smaller skylight at the 03 level aft of the funnel location.  There are two smaller skylights on the bridge and two equipment lockers on the aft deck. Both the additional decks on the center superstructure have solid bulkheads and as with the bow bulkhead and breakwater, these bulkheads are on the thick side. This resin sheet also has nine very detailed steam winches for cargo lifting and the separate twin bollard fittings. A larger resin casting sheet actually has eleven resin runners to which the additional fittings are attached. Most of these are J-ventilator cowlings in various sizes. These cowlings have somewhat oversize pivot ring details, as each cowling could be turned to face the wind to provide maximum ventilation.

Other resin fittings on this sheet are boat davits and anchors. A resin frame provides the four masts. Loose Cannon casts the resin masts around a centerline brass rod. This is typical of Loose Cannon and is a very nice feature as it gives great rigidity to the mast, prevents resin warp, as well as preventing them from breaking. However, it is with the masts that the modeler will probably encounter the hardest part of the assembly. There are resin cylinders at the top and bottom of each mast that have to be removed. The most efficient way would be with a Dremel but if you donít have this essential modeling tool, it will take time to remove these cylinders through cutting with a hobby knife. This frame also has some light flash, so the masts will definitely needed to be cleaned up. The shipís boats, which are rather basic, are provided on two additional resin runners. The stack is cast separately and has fore and aft steam pipes but the funnel opening is on the shallow side.

Box Art & Instructions
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Brass Parts
Loose Cannon provides a full photo-etched brass fret as well as a separate brass rod for cargo booms. You may wish to substitute plastic rods as they are easier to cut and taper. Almost all of the brass parts on the fret are comprised of railing and rigging. One nice thing about the fret is the amount of cargo handling rig provided by Loose Cannon.  With four masts and the associated cargo booms on each mast, there is a goodly amount of boom rigging. It is nice to know that you donít have to cut rigging for the booms. The cargo rig consists of double cable and pulleys, which would be a tall order if scratch built. Each of the four masts are strengthened with three guy wires on each side of the mast. Again, there is no reason to stretch sprue to provide suitably thin cable as Loose Cannon provides these parts on the fret. Fourteen deck cradle rests for boom storage are included. Another nice inclusion are numerous deck coal scuttles. Coal fired ships featured numerous metal deck scuttles into which coal was poured to reach the coal bunkers. Youíll have to remove burs when you cut the scuttles from the runner but a greater problem is their placement. The instructions donít appear to show the scuttles placement location. I am assuming these are coal scuttles because these parts arenít reflected anywhere in the instructions. Other fittings are: life buoys; anchor chain; open chocks; boat davit rigging; inclined ladders; bridge wind screens; stern flag and staff; and three crewmen. Many runs of three bar railing with bottom scupper are provided. Many of these are custom tailored to precisely fit their intended locations but the main deck and most 01 level railing is cut from the long runners of railing provided. The brass is not relief-etched but is comprehensive in coverage. Brass parts are numbered on the fret to assist in attaching at the proper locations.

Loose Cannon instructions for SS Californian consists of three pages printed on one side and two pages printed front and back. Page one provides general instructions and a short history of the steamer with specifications. Page two is a nice full color profile and plan for painting Californian. Loose Cannon provides the correct White Ensign Models Colourcoats numbers. The ship sported a traditional black, white and buff scheme but departed from the ordinary in one significant aspect. Steam ship lines sported their own company colors on the funnels of their ships. Cunard used red and black and White Star used yellow and black. Both colors were common but black, dark blue or green funnels were not uncommon. Leyland Lines decided to steam to the beat of a different drummer, as the company funnel color was pink. No, not the bright pink of Cary Grantís submarine in Operation Pettycoat but a more subdued pink, which could be called cream with a pinkish tint. Loose Cannon provides the color match by recommending WEM ACRN 16 or Humbrol 61 Flesh. Page three provides three different plans showing attachment points for deck fittings, as well as a small photo of the brass fret. Page four provides the resin part laydown drawings. Page five is designated step 1 and includes the bulk of resin and brass parts attachments. Page six, labeled Step 2, concentrates on masts, booms and associated fittings. Page seven, labeled Step 3, finalizes the mast assembly and attachments, plus a few other parts like the life buoys and stern flag.

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Donít be a Stanley Lord, asleep at the switch when destiny comes-a-calling. When you see those white distress rockets, thanks to Loose Cannonís 1:700 scale SS Californian, you can steam your pink funneled pride to save Leonardo DiCaprio and more importantly rescue lovely Kate Winslet from the icy fingers of the North Atlantic .