I went to the Modeling The Federation section & was amazed to find an area on the New Orleans-class frigates. “Oh my god!!” thought I. “Someone else has tried to build this, too!” I looked at the pictures & noticed the inaccuracies that the builder/author pointed out, & so I made a decision.
The USS Gaia (NCC-70922), a New Orleans-class ship was built for a friend of mine on AOL as a gift (It’s our sim ship & she’s the captain). It was built using the recent ST Encyclopedia as a guide, with both the dorsal & ventral oblique views given in it.
- 2 original 1/2500 AMT/Ertl 3-piece Enterprise kits
- 1 1/1400 AMT/Ertl Galaxy
- 0.25 mm sheet styrene
- 2 mm sheet styrene
- 0.67 mm sheet styrene
The saucer section was fairly straightforward. I used the saucer unit from one of the 1/2500 kits. The interconnecting dorsal neck was cut out from the ventral half at a point where the curve was still relatively flattened out (It’s easier to keep the cut in a triangular shape for later on). The captain’s yacht area on the ventral saucer was sanded down until somewhat flush & then lightly puttied in & resanded when dry.
The dorsal half of the saucer required a little more work. The existing 1/2500 main shuttlebay door & main bridge were too small for the intended 1/1400 scale, & so they were both carefully score-outlined with a knife & removed. The main shuttlebay door from the 1/1400 Galaxy kit was then cut to size & placed within the shuttlebay opening. Two small layered pieces of 0.67 mm styrene were needed to fill in a small floor gap at the bottom of the door.
The main bridge module from the 1/1400 Galaxy required removal of the lower wall that keeps it in its proper spot on the intended kit. This wall brought the bridge up way too high & rather than cut a hole in the hull, it was easier to carefully remove it, first using scissors to cut away the majority & then a knife for the residual areas. The bottom of the module was then sanded to remove any unwanted elevation. The bridge was then affixed so that the forward edge of it formed a slightly raised curve that was still rather flush with the leading edge of the Deck 2 riser.
A small amount of double-layered 0.67 mm plate was then applied & mildly contoured to the inside of the ventral saucer so as to aid any possible puttying that may need to occur in that region. Also, the sensor strips at the circumferential edges of the dorsal were painted a flat sky blue at this point.
This posed a bit of a challenge & also a bit of a problem. The dorsal is created using the lower section of the 1/1400 Galaxy neck, but it needed to be cut so that it would be flush with the saucer. The 2nd Edition Star Trek Encyclopedia showed that the forward photorp tube-located at the base of the neck’s leading edge-was directly where the captain’s yacht had been sanded down. A careful examination of that same picture showed that there was a total of 4 decks with windows on that sauce, which meant that my neck needed to be 5 decks tall, the 5th deck being that of the outer edge of the saucer. Knowing that the main impulse deck on the rear piece of the dorsal was intended to be 2 decks tall, I counted out 3 decks above that & marked it off.
Using Scotch tape to the hold the neck pieces together, I drew a sweeping curve on the right-hand neck part, placing its highest point at the 5 deck mark I had made before & ending it directly above the photorp tube. I cut that piece & then used it as a template for the left-hand piece, then taped the 3 together with masking tape.
I had deliberately added some leeway to the curve so that I could decipher the exact fit of the saucer (which had been taped together for fitting as well) into the neck.. This is where I had been glad I had added the interior plating to the ventral saucer. I ended up only needing to make some minor cutting along the curve to round it correctly, as the top edge sat right on the plate. I then sanded each piece down along the cutlines & glued them together. At this point, I was able to glue the saucer section together as well.
The original plan for the secondary hull had me using the 1/1400 Galaxy one, but test-fittings had shown a problem in that it was too wide. In the 2nd Edition Star Trek Encyclopedia, there’s a shot of USS Kyushu-an oblique dorsal view looking aft-that clearly shows just how far back the hull was to extend. The 1/1400 hull filled that nicely, but there was another oblique shot-this time from the underside-that showed that it was going to be MUCH too wide. Similarly, the 1/2500 secondary hull was the right width, but not long enough. Clearly, more work was called for.
Cursing the Universe once more, the hull sat about for many days while I worked on my Paladin-class project. While fiddling with the configuration of the secondary hull of the Paladin design, I struck upon the idea of using two 1/2500 hulls that had been appropriately cut & placed in line. Rummaging through the spares box, I was able to find a complete section & set upon making the markings for cutting.
This was not a seamless job, as there was no way to get the length I needed with the available flush areas. So, as all good workers do, I compromised. A generally flush cut & curve was made, using the now-completed neck as a guide for the length of the hull. The ventral & edge seams were easily puttied into place, but the dorsal seams left a slight problem: The curvature of the hull varies greatly from the bow to the stern, & so when I combined them, I ended up with a large bulge in the middle of the hull & a flat area underneath it. Thinking quickly, I was able to use the leftover flat tail parts from the forward half of the now-combined hull to help smooth over the flow. Not a PERFECT flush fit, but well enough that it solved the problem at hand. The navigational deflector piece was affixed in place once the hull sections had fully cured & the secondary hull was assembled.
The top parts were sanded to
Now, when you look at pictures of the New Orleans-class vessels, you’ll notice that there are 3 odd block-like assemblies on the hull, 2 flanking the main shuttlebay & the aft section of the Deck 2 riser, & one on the very ventral surface of the secondary hull. I have ZERO idea what they are, & I’m considered a Trek expert. I’ve heard various theories ranging from phaser cannons to fighter bays to secondary warp nacelles, but regardless of their actual function, they needed to be created.
I decided to attack the 2 on the dorsal saucer first, as I had the best pictures of them. I’d seen drawings that suggested that they extended past the saucer as slender, flat blocks, attached only at the forward edge, but basic physics told me that wasn’t real smart. A REALLY acute look at the available pictures showed that there was, indeed, a lower segment that attached to the hull.
I had no idea as to how to tackle them, until the day I was at the hobby shop & saw a length of hollow box-shaped styrene that had been intended for usage in railroad model construction. I knew this is what I needed. I bought a length of it (it only came in 30 cm lengths) & brought it home. I figured out that the farthest aft edge needed to be directly above the point where the main impulse deck attaches to the back of the neck.. I also cut a smaller section that would be the lower support, making these…THINGS…a double-layer affair.a certain angle, & the right angles of the top edges were rounded off. Small pieces of 0.67 mm sheet were cut & placed in the hollow areas to block them off. The lower section needed to have a section cut so as to conform to the hull curve. An extra test piece was cut off the original length & was slowly heated & then flattened against the hull repeatedly until the curve was determined. This was then used as a template & marked onto the lower support blocks. The aft end of the lower section was blocked off using small pieces of 0.25 mm sheet & the edges were sanded appropriately. They were then each taped together for a test fit & once alignment had been ascertained, they were glued together. Once fully cured, they were each then affixed to the hull in the proper places flanking the shuttlebay.
The lower block was a little odder. It was obviously about half the height of the dorsal blocks, & it seemed to curve into the aft hull, right before the aft hull undercut began. After measuring the length of the block (just aft of the ventral phaser strip to the end point mentioned above), it was then cut in half about a third of the way, & then began to gentle curve upward until the end. The piece was tested for fit & curve, & then covered with a long single strip of 0.25 mm sheet. At this point, it was then affixed to the secondary hull.
Major Assembly & Warp Pylons
Now I had 3 major sub-assemblies: the saucer, the neck, & the secondary hull. The next step was to cut the warp pylons, but before that could be done, I needed to combine the assemblies into 1 hull for accurate measurement. This was relatively easy.
The neck was glued together with the secondary hull first. I made sure to align the photorp tube so that it formed a nice continuous angle with the leading edge of the hull. Once the glue had fully cured, I taped the saucer into position to check fit & also to measure for the warp pylon placement. I noticed that they were to affix at the joint at the base of the neck, where it was mated to the lower hull. After examining the photos of the class again for pylon shape, I draw up a quick template on paper, cut out 2 (by folding the paper in half), & cut the pylons out of 2 mm sheet styrene by taping the templates on. After sanding the edges smooth, the pylons were test-fit against the intended juncture & the forward edge point was marked off. Putty was then applied on both sides from that point forward to the leading edge of the neck. Once the putty had dried & been sanded, the saucer was untaped & glued to its spot on the upper neck. That seam was lightly puttied as well.
It was now time to establish the height of the nacelles. It seemed from the photos that they were at the same level as the lower half of the blocks on the saucer. A few measurements were made, another template drawn out & cut. The vertical pylons were cut from 2 mm sheet, attached to the outboard edges of the horizontal pylons, & the edges at the joint rounded off.
Phasers, Lifeboats, & Nacelles
It was now time for the fun part. 2 extra phaser strips were cut from 0.67 mm sheet, their edges rounded off, & attached to the outer warp pylons at the corners. Lifeboat hatches needed to be added as well. After counting the number of hatches shown in the photos in the Encyclopedia, measurements were taken off of the lifeboats molded into the 1/1400 Galaxy hull & transferred onto 0.25 sheet styrene to create a total of 104 hatches-44 dorsal , 60 ventral, & all on the saucer. There are no hatches on the secondary hull at all. Using the photos as aids, the hatches were affixed into the proper positions. I also decided to invert the nacelles & sand down the molded-in pylon junctures into dorsal nacelle phaser strips, a practice I had done many times before.
Painting, Inking, & Final Assembly
This was one of the few times I’ve painted a hull AFTER assembling most of it. It was easier that way. The ship was done in a Flanker Pale Blue basecoat & Light Ghost Grey two-tone, with the nacelles & pylons done separately. After all the painting had been completed, I inked on the windows using the photos again for placement. Once the ink dried, I affixed the pylons using Zap & the nacelles were attached the same way. I added the transporter emitter decals & a few others, then inked on the name & hull number. Simple, easy, effective.
Chris St. John