|DECALS:||Flag and name on printed paper|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The North River Steamboat or North River, colloquially known as the Clermont, is widely regarded as the world's first vessel to demonstrate the viability of using steam propulsion for commercial water transportation. Built in 1807, the North River Steamboat operated on the Hudson River – at that time often known as the North River – between New York City and Albany, New York. She was built by the wealthy investor and politician Robert Livingston and inventor and entrepreneur Robert Fulton (1765–1815).
Scheduled passenger service began on September 4, 1807. Steamboat left New York on Saturdays at 6:00 pm, and returned from Albany on Wednesdays at 8:00 am, taking about 36 hours for each journey. Stops were made at West Point, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Esopus, and Hudson; other stops were sometimes made, such as Red Hook and Catskill. In the company's publicity the ship was called North River Steamboat or just Steamboat (there being no other in operation at the time).
The steamer's original 1807 federal government enrollment (registration) was lost, but because the vessel was rebuilt during the winter of 1807-1808, she had to be enrolled again. The second document lists the owners as Livingston and Fulton, and the ship's name as North River Steamboat of Clermont.
The rebuilding of the ship was substantial: she was widened by six feet to increase navigation stability, and her simple stern tiller steering was moved forward and changed to a ship's wheel, steering ropes, and rudder system. A poop deck and other topside additions were made or rebuilt entirely. Her exposed mid-ships engine compartment had an overhead weather deck/roof added to increase the topside deck area. Anticipating future passenger requirements, her twin paddle wheels were enclosed above the waterline to quiet their loud splashing noise, reducing heavy river mist, while also preventing floating debris from being kicked up into the vessel's mid-hull area. Later, the ship's long name was shortened to North River.
The misnomer Clermont first appeared in Cadwallader D. Colden's biography of Fulton, published in 1817, two years after Fulton's death. Since Colden was a friend of both Fulton and Livingston, his book was considered an authoritative source, and his errors were perpetuated in later accounts up to the present day. The vessel is now nearly always referred to as Clermont, but no contemporary account called her by that name.
I dare say this is another oldie from the 1960s that the folks at Round 2 have brought back to life for those wanting something either unusual or nostalgic. The actual condition of the sprues is quite good as I'm sure this was not a major seller the other four or five times it was released over the decades. What has changed is that there is no motor, wiring or electrical connections included in this kit as there was in the original.
I'm not really sure how easily available the low torque motors of the day are to obtain in the 21st century, but it seems to me all one would really have to do is find one of a low enough speed, the right shaft size and the right general size to fit into the hull. Electrical connections can be made from any sheathed wire and some left-over bits of etched brass fret. A quick search on Google turned up a number of electric motors that were 1.5 volts and suitable for this kit, but none of them were of the design of those of the 60s. You'd have to use something like hot glue to mount it.
The hull, upper deck and paddlewheels are molded in brown with everything else in white plastic. Probably the most difficult part of actual construction is building the gear works to drive the paddle wheels. This requires the use of a heated screwdriver or other similar item to secure the various elbow joins. All of this along with the boiler piece will need to be finished prior to attaching the deck.
The deck will contain the railings along with the forward and aft deck house. There are also boat davits and the two masts to install. The boat has a tiller attached to the rudder that can be moved if one is careful attaching the stern piece. You also get a spool of black thread for rigging. As these sorts of things go, it doesn't look too complex and would be a good first time project. A flag for atop the foremast and the main mast are included. These are paper and will need to be cut out. The it also includes clear windows for the cabins and a half dozen period figures to occupy the main deck.
Instructions are quite clear and legible with generic color information provided.
This kit was won in an auction held by the local club a few days ago. It was the only kit on which I bid as it seems no one else wanted it so I got it on the cheap. Assuming I actually build it, it will make for a very nice conversation piece and thanks to its rather large size (about 18 inches) doesn't have much in the way of fiddly bits among the 186 pieces.
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