My Review and Build of Blue Ridge Model's 1/350 Scale,
USS Nautilus, SSN-571 Nuclear Attack Submarine

LAST UPDATE: August 6, 2012. Safety line threaded through stanchions, Decals, and complete. <-- Click there to go directly there

Introduction and what's in the box - July 16, 2012

This is a resin model of the first nuclear powered vessel in the world, the USS Nautilus, SSN-571, attack submarine. It is made by Blue Ridge Models, and sold at Free Time Hobby: Pacific Front Ship Model Store in Blue Ridge, Georgia and online. They sent the kit to me specifically for me to review and build it on my Jeff Head's 1/350 Scale Model Shop Site.

The building of the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear powered vessel for the US Navy, was authorized by the US Congress in the summer of 1951, and was specifically planned and managed by the famous, Admiral Hyman Rickover, who became known as the father of the US Nuclear Navy, and specifically as the father of nuclear submarining. He had a great passion and drive for nuclear powered vessels, and a brilliant design, tactical, and strategic mind. The keel was laid at General Dynamic's Electric Boat Division in Groton, CT in June of 1952. She was fitted with a Westinghouse 52W pressurized water reactor built specifically to US Navy design specifications, heavily influenced by Admiral Rickover. The lead engineer/designer was John Burnham and she was christened and launched in January 1954, and commissioned into the US Navy in September of 1954 under Commander Eugene Wilkinson, her first skipper, and the first commanding officer of a nuclear powered vessel in the world. She remained at dock for final outfitting and static tests, and then at 11 a.m. on January 17th, 1955 she put to sea for the first time and Commander Wilkinson signaled the historic message: "Underway on nuclear power."

The Nautilus revolutionized virtually all policies and procedures for submarine warfare. She could dive and stay under for longer than any other submarine...restricted only by the needs of her crew with respect to food and relief. She was faster than any other submarine of her day, and she required no fuel. On her maiden voyage she covered over 1,200 nautical milses in less than 90 hours, a feat never imagined by other submarine technology of that day. In August 1958 she became the first vessel in the world to reach the geographic North Pole. During this mission, in addition to reaching the North Pole, she sailed from the Barrow Sea Valley and ultimately surfaced northeast of Greenland, having traveled 1,590 nautical miles in 96 hours and becoming the first vessel to sail submerged completely around the North Pole. The operation was called Operation Sunshine. She and her crew received a Presidential Unit Citation for this accomplishement, the first Presidential Unit Citation ever awarded to a naval vessel in peace time to that date.

Nautilus served ably as a US Navy attack submarine undergoing regular overhauls and refueling of her nuclear rods every 4-6 years. Due to her early design, she was not nearly as quiet as other attack submarines that followed her (who learned from her experince and led to the much more quiet tear-drop hull designs, and later reactor damprning and hull coatings based on the knowledge gained by her operation). The noise, which is a significant vulnerability in udersea warfare, caused her to reduce speed significantly in any opeational capacity during the cold war.

Nautilus was ultimately decommissioned in November of 1980 after 26 years of service. She was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Secretary of the Interior on 20 May 1982. She was named as the official state vessel of Connecticut in 1983 and thereafter went through an extensive conversion at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, finally returning to Groton, Connecticut on 6 July 1985. On April 11, 1986, Nautilus was opened to the public as part of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, CT to serve as a museum of submarine history. She underwent a five-month preservation/refit in 2002, at the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics, at a cost of approximately $4.7 million and was moved to a berth near the Naval Submarine Base in New London, CT, where she resides to this day (summer 2012). She attracts close to, or over 250,000 visitors annually there.

Nautilus celebrated the 50th anniversary of her commissioning on 30 September 2004. The ceremony included a speech from then Vice Admiral Eugene Wilkinson, who served as her first Commanding Officer. At that time she was also named as an American Nuclear Society National Nuclear Landmark.

The Model:
The model comes in a white box with the Blue Ridge Model logo on it and a depiction of the USS Nautilus on the cover. The model is packed extremely well inside the box, with formed foam compartments for the hull, and each of the sprues...including the conning seperate compartments and within sealed plastic bags. So, in addition to the hull and conning tower, there are 2 sprues of resin parts. One containing the forward dive planes and the periscopes, sensors, and various masts (15 parts), and one containing the aft dive planes, the shaft skegs, prop hubs, and various deck fittings (10 parts). So, altogether there are 27 resin parts, which are all finely detailed and very well molded, in this kit. There is also a sprue of photo etch (PE) parts containing the three different propeller sets from various times during Nautilus's service, radar antennas, handrails, and deck stanchions for the safety lines while surfaced (a total of 67 parts). All in all, there are 104 parts for the kit.

Blue Ridge has also included .020" brass pieces to be cut to length for the different masts and particularly for the two actuators extending the forward dive planes into their deployed position. They also include some very fine, clear line to be used for the safety lines when the vessel is surfaced which you thread through the eyelets on the PE stanchions.

If that were not enough, Blue Ridge has also provided a small CD to load on your computer which includes PDF files for the instructions, a file giving a detaied history of the Nautilus, renderings/drawings of the vessel, and a seperate folder with real-life pictures of the submarine (50 photos altogether). These photos provide a really nice reference for the builder of the model as they show various photos of her throughout her career and can help in determining which part of her career you want to depict with the model.

Blue Ridge has a detailed 7-page, color instruction manual that comes with the kit. It shows and explains every step of building the model, from pre-assembly and removal of the casting plug, through each step of assembly, to painting and completing the model. I like that these instructions have depictions showing all of the parts, indicating where they are located both on the sprues and on the model. In the instructions, and with the parts included, you have the option of which stage of Nautilus's career to depict with three different propeller types and a different coloring scheme. You have the option of showing the forward dive planes either deployed or folded up in the stowed position. You also have the option(s) of which of her many sensors and masts to deploy on the conning tower.

The Build - Glues, tools, removing the casting plug and initial assembly - July 17, 2012

I will be building the USS Nautilus in its final operational configuration as a US Navy attack submarine in the 1980 time frame, after all of the upgrades and shortly before de-commissioning. I will outfit her for surface running with the safety line up on the deck, personnel on the conning tower and the deck, and all masts and sensors deployed, along with the surface running handrails on the conning tower. I am also deploying the dive planes. The model will be built and painted to that configuration and those options.

I use ZAP CA glues for my resin models, both the fast setting version (when simple glueing is required with a good fit and enough structural support to not require as much strength, particulally for shearing (lateral forces) strength, and the slower setting (filling) version for when the fit is not as good and when more strength is needed. The slow setting is in the yellow bottle. I also have on hand some Quick-Cure two part epoxy (glue and hardener) from Hobby Town for times when even more filling and strength are required which the two solutions provide when mixed together...but which also require quite a bit longer to set.

In additrion to my plastic and PE sprue cutters (and I have different cutters for each, the PE cutter being sharper and stronger...and more expensive), I also use seveal knifes and saws for cutting away the casting plug (in this case the plug is pretty stout for the Nautilus hull so I used a very sharp Buck knife with a serated edge on one side...but I also have smaller knives and saws for more delicate parts, as well as my cutters). I use a full set of small files and then various grades of sand paper to get a good finish once the intial casting plug (or other rough) cuts are made.

So, first I used the Buck knife's serated blade to saw through and cut off the large three plug attachements along the hull, and a smaller, thin file to cut away the more delicate plug attachement back by the rudder.

I then used my small flat file to file down the rough cut area near the attachement to be as close to the hull contour as possible, and then used sand paper to get a good, smooth, contour fitting finish in those same areas.

Next, all the major pieces were assembled on the hull. This included the conning tower (which had a small seam in the fit, even after working with the square insert), the forward dive planes in their deployed position with the actuators (and I used small .025 sprue material for this...easier to work with and I can easily mold the cut ends to be flush with the hull and dive planes), the anchor, the streamlined and faired shaft skegs, and the aft dive planes.

My next steps will include painting the vessel in its final operational colors, which will be a flat black for the hull and Conning Tower, and using weathered black for the walking surfaces on the deck to depict the anti-skid surface where the crew walks. It will ultimately (as a later, final step) include the placement of the decals and pennant number on the conning tower and the forward hull. After the paint has dried I will place the most modern propellers and shaft hubs, painted accordingly, and then add the persicopes, masts and sensors, and finally the stanchions and line for the guard rail.

The Build - Overall painting and adding the props and prop cover cones. - July 18, 2012

I painted the overall hull of the Nautilus a flat black, using Model Master paint. This is the paint scheme she had for her operational duties during the Cold War up until 1980 when she was decommissioned.

Having masked off the deck where the crew can walk, once the flat black had dried, I used Floquil (which is a minature railrod line of paints) Weathered Black to paint the non-skid portion of the deck that I had masked off. I find this particular paint color to be excellent for non-skid surfaces on submarines (or other vessels) can also work well for window tint on model vessels where the windows are not provided and/or not cut out.

Finally, I added the most modern set of prop blades available to match the 1980 condition of the boat, and the tiny conical prop covers. (These are extremely small and require a steady hand and patience to get attached properly, particularly without excess glue). I then let them dry and while they were drying I decided to revisit the actuators on the forward dive planes. My plastic pieces that I had scratch built did not turn out as wll as I liked, so I went back and cut the .20 brass rod provided with the model to about a quarter inch, perhaps 3/16" and replaced the small plastic pieces with these. Again, very tiny parts requiring patience and a steady hand to get positioned properly. Once that was done, I then placed the now dry props on the vessel and then went back and painted the actuators.

Looking good.

With this much done, I have completed the major structural portion of the boat, which was my goal before I take vacation starting tomorrow for several days. I wanted to have this much done and posted on the net so Blue Ridge Model customers can see how nicely the model is coming together.

When I return, I will work on the sail and adding the periscopes, masts and sensors there.

The Build - Conning tower/Sail and sensors/periscopes. - July 26, 2012

I returned from a family reunion on my wife's side in Leesburg, VA. Of note, while there we took a day and drove down past Richmond to the coase to visit Naval Station Norfolk and NEwpoert News Shipbuilding. Visit the link for many high res pictures of the US NAvy surface combatants that were docked there as well as high res pictures of the progress of the USS Gerald Ford, CVN-78, under construction at Huntington/Ingalls Shipeyard in Newport News.

But, now I am back and got right to working on the Nautilus and its conning tower/sail and the many sensors, antennae and persicopes located on the USS Nautilus, SSN-571. These are very small molded resin parts and have to be handled delicately. I painted them first, the various grey colors for the bodies of the sensors and periscopes and then the darker gray camo colors. I then painted the actual sensors on top appropriately, using the PE Radar that came with the kit for the AN/BS-4 Radar. From back to front on the submarine the various sensors, periscopes and equipment include, the Snorkel, UHF IFF antenna, ESM omin-directional antenna, the two whip antenna mounts (side by side on the boat), AN/BPS-4 Radar, ESM DF Sensor, the SS-2B sensor, the two Periscopes (lined up in sequence, and the VLF receiver.

Then it was time to begin glueing them on. First, I clipped them off of the sprue and then used a small, flat file to delicately make a flat surface on the botton that is a little gritty to provide a good surface for adherance. Then, I have found that mixing about 1 part plastic glue with 1 part CA glue (fast drying type) will give your glue a little morse consistancy. I usually place a drop of one on my build mat and then place a drop of the CA glue on top of it and mix it with one of my fine pointed metal tools (I have a set of several spikes, hooks, angled points, and others). Then, I can use one of the angled point tools to place a small drop where needed, use the same tool to place a small amount on the part itself, and then use either my fingers, or tweezers to set the part for a few seconds. The plastic glue part allows it to be a little more gooey and allows the part to stand alone quicker, and then it dries to a hard set.

Here's how that worked out:

As the parts are glued on and set, you find yourself going back and tocuhing up the paint job while you can get at it. Any excess glue will either give a more glossy finish to the black (or other color) or will cause the color on one point to run and smear a bit onto the other surface, even when you are applying such small amounts. Invariably, the parts move a bit as you set them and any movement with thise glue will cause a smear or blend of painted surfaces. Trying to glue all these small parts in without painting could work, but I find it harder to paint all the detail on the small parts after the facr, particularly when they are so close together, than to touch up the mating surfaces as you go along. different model makers will do it different ways.

Anyhow, once all of the sensors and periscopes were on, here is how the model is looking (less the whip antennas which I will place on last.

Next I have the choice of either placing the stanchions around the deck in their proper locations and once they are good and dry, threading some small nylon thread (to act as cable) through there to show the safety railing/cabling for when the vessel is surfaced, or using some of the fine single rail railing I have from US NAvy PE kits to show the same thing. I will look at photos through the modern time period and see if the Nautilus maintained a safety chain, or line through stanchions, or added a rail of some sort and then do it the way the vessel operated in its last years of active duty service..

Finally, I will add the decals and build a stand for the model and she will be done. Hoping still to complete her by August 1st.

The Build - Safety/Life Line Stanchions on Deck. - July 31, 2012

With the body/structure of the submarine pretty much complete, it was time to turn to the detrail work of the stanchions for the safety line/railing on the submarine. The PE sprue which comes with the kit has these stanchions provided. They are very minute. I painted them in neutral gray. After painting them on the PE sprue, I then used one of my small circular/pointed files to drill fill small holes for them on the forward portion of the submarine. I then utilized my mixture of CA glue for resin models mixed with some plastic cement and then placed tiny drops of this glue in each hole. Afterwards I added the first five stanchions. My small tweezers worked, but proved really too large. After the first five were placed, ensuring that the holes on top of the stanchions were oriented normal to the axis of the sub. I then drilled the rest of the holes for the remaining stanchions.

Once this was completed, I came back the next day and placed the remainder of the stanchions, after first buying a pair of micro-tweezers at Hobby Town with a 45 degree angle to them. This worked very well and allowed me to place all of the stanchions without difficulty into their holes. Once they were placed, it was time to let them dry solidluy (overnight) and then come back and paint around them in either flat black, or weathered black, depending on their location on the hull, or on the non-slip surface of the deck. HAving done that, the submarine, as shown, is looking very good. Another day of drying and we will thread the nylon "safety line" through the holes, tighten them up, and then add the decals. Once that is complete it will be a simple matter of devising an appropriate display stand (Hint to Blue Ridge: A stand for the finished model would be a nice addition to the kit), and the model will be complete.

I hope to have all of this complete now by August 3rd.

The Build - Safety line threaded through stanchions, Decals, and complete. - August 6, 2012

Ok, threading the line through those stanchions was quite the task. 1st I started with the very thin nylon line provided with the model, but it was so delicate that it was very, very difficult to get it to actually stay firm enough to get it to go through the holes. After 5 or 6 (and over an hours work for those) I determined that the line was just too thin and very difficult to even see once it was threaded. So, I changed horses and went to a very fine black thread that is designed not to fray and is more stiff. This went better...but then as you go, you find which stanchions have a really good bond on the glue and which do not. You replace, or re-glue those that do not. The whole porcess took longer than anticpated, and my wife Gail (good Girl that) even helped a lot doing many of the stanchion threadings while I was at work, and it ended up quite nicely.

I then applied the decals, using a gloss coat over the paint job where the decals were going, then applying the decals, and then I also used some Model Master decal set because the decals were tending to dry and not adhere very well on the painted surface. The decal set did the trick. Then it was a coat of dull coat over that and the vessel turned out very nicely.

I will end up scratch building a nice stand. No stand came with the model and this might be a note and suggestion to Blue Ridge Models to provide a stand for their model. I will use some decent wood, prehaps 3" long by 1 1/2 " wide, and then perhaps 3/4" tall, to which I will afix two hull forming holders with a rod in the middle of each that I will fit into a drilled hole in the bottom of the sub. For now though, you can see the finished product here, hand held until that stand is complete. Once it is, I will just edit this entry and attach pictures of the vessel with its stand.

Thank you Blue Ridge Models, for the opportunity to build and show off your 1/350 Scale model of the USS Nautilus Attack Submarine, SSN-571, the world's first nuclear powered vessel. It's a great kit and was a lot of fun to build. I hope a lot of other folks find interest in it.

SCHEDULE for Future Activities as of January 4, 2012

  1. By Jan 15, 2012: Complete the USS Lassen, DDG-82.
  2. By Feb 15, 2013: Complete PLAN Xuzhao (FFG-53) and Huangshan(FFG-570).
  3. By Mar 15, 2013: Complete Cyber Hobby's USS Independence, LCS-2
  4. By May 01, 2013: Complete entire PLAN Carrier Group.
  5. By Jun 15, 2013: Complete Entire US Carrier Group (Just the CSG).
  6. By Jul 01, 2013: Start the UK Carrier Group Centered on Airfix's HMS Illustrious.
  7. By Aug 15, 2013: Start the JMSDF Carrier Group Centered on Fujimi's JMSDF Hyuga.
  8. By Oct 01, 2013: Start the French Carrier group centered on Heller's Charles de Gaulle.
  9. By Nov 15, 2013, Start the US ARG centered on the USS Iwo Jima and USS Sommerset.
The completion of the PLAN Carrier group, centered on the already completed Trumpeter's 1/350 scale PLA Navy's Aircraft Carrier CV-16, Liaoning, (in addition ot the other escorts already completed) will incluide Mini Hobby's's PLAN Guangzhou, DDG-168; the PLAN Ningbo, DDG-139; and the PLAN ChangZhang5, SSN-405 by Hobby Boss. If a 1/350 scale model of the PLAN Type 071 LPD, Yuzhao Class, is added, I will add one of those, propbably LPD-999, Jinggangshan.

The completion of the US Carrier Strike group, centered on the completed Tamyia's 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-65, (in addition ot the other escorts already completed) will include Trumpeter's USS Bunker Hill, CG-52 and USS Freedom, LCS-1 and Hobby Boss's USS Texas, SSN-775. (All of which I already own). When a 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-80 (or any Gerald R. Ford Class) comes out from Trumpeter, Airfix, Tamiya, Dragon, or whomever else, I will add it to this group along with another AEGIS Cruiser. Whatever Ford Class coms out, I will build her as the USS Enterprise, CVN-80.

The UK Group will indlude the Airfix 1/350 scale HMS Illustrious (which I already own), two Airfix 1/350 scale Daring Class DDGs (which I own and should arrive in January 2013), two Trumpeter 1/350 scale Type 23 HMS Duke class Frigates (which I already own), and the Hobby Boss 1/350 scale HMS Astute SSN and Airfix 1/350 scale HMS Tragalgar SSN, both of which which I already own. One day, when a 1/350 scale HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier and a 1/350 HMS Ocean LPD come out, I will add both to this group.

The French CSG will be centered on Heller's 1/400 scale Charles De Gualle (which I already own). I have purchased 1/400 scale Heller French De Grasse, D612 DDG, which is an ASW DDG, the French Duquesne, D603 DDG which is an anti-air multi-purpose DDG, and the French Aconit F713 FFG and Gueprattet F714 FFGs, both of which are Lafayette class frigates. These five vessels will round out my French CSG. As soon as a French Robin class nuclear sub, like the French Perale S606 SSN comes out, I will add that to the group. Also as soon as the Forbin D620, Horizon class anti-air DDG is available, I will purchase it and add it to the group as well.

The Japanese JMSDF group will be centered on Fujimi's very finely detailed, 1/350 scale Hyuga, DDH-181, which I own. It will be escorted by Trumpeter's 1/350 scale DDG-177, Atago, an AEGIS class DDG (which I have purchased), Trumpeters's 1/350 scale DDG-114 Susunami (A Tachanami Class DDG which I own), and by the 1/350 scale SS-503 Hakuryu (which I own), one of Japans new, very modern and capable AIP Diesel Electric submarines. As soo as a DDG-115 Akizuki in 1/350 scale becomes available, I will add it to this group.

The completion of the US ARG will include Tamiya's 1/350 scale, USS Iowa, BB-62 (which I have already completed), Trumpeter's 1/350 scale USS Iwo Jima LHD-7, Gallery's 1/350 scale USS Sommerset, LPD-25, and Trumpeter's 1/350 scale USS The Sullivans DDG-68,

Then, finally it will be a complete Russian CSG (centered on Trumpeter's Kuznetsov which is available but I have not purchased yet) the Russian Slava Class cruiser, Varyag by Trumperter (which I own), two Trumpeter 1/350 scale Udalaoy DDGs (which I own), Hobby Boss's Akula II class SSN (which I own), and the Russian Alfa Class SSN, which I have already completed.

Recently I purchased Heller's 1/400 scale Foch, the Clemceau Class carrier that was sold to the Brazilians in 2000 and in 2002 was refitted and bacame the Brazilian CV, Sao Paulo, using steam catapaults. I will build the model as the Sao Paulo and thus start a Brazilian group, though the Type 22 DDGs and the FFGs the Brazilians use are not available at present.

Then, again, once the models are available, I'd like to build an Italian Group centered on the Cavour and their Horizon DDGs, a Spanish Group centered on the Juan Carlos and their F-100 AEGIS FFGs, and ultimatly an Australian Group centered on the new Canberra Class LPD and the Hobart class AEGIS DDGs. If they ever build the models, an Indian group centered on either the Vikramaditya or their new ADS Carrier the Vikrant and their Kolkata class DDGs and Shivlak class FFGs would also be nice.

You can see all of these actual carriers, read their histories and specifictions at my site:


...and most of their surface escorts at:


Dragon's Fury

Dragon's Fury - World War Against America and the West
: Following great success in the War on Terror, politicians and analysts alike thought that future global conflict was impossible...but they were wrong. Journey into a possible future where Islamic terrorists sharpen their horrific skills & ally with Red China. In such a future, can the U.S. & western civilization survive?
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: How rural western farmers and their supporters stood up to entrenched environmentalism, activist judges, and agencies of the Federal gGovernment in southwestern Oregon...and prevailed.


Copyright © 2012 by Jeff Head, All Rights Reserved