Academy 1/400 RMS Titanic Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|Styrene, Wood, Photo-Etch
|Best kit of the Titanic in any scale
The Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic was one of three Olympic-class ocean liners built by Harland and Wolf shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. All three examples were built for the White Star Line as the new workhorses to move passengers to destinations around the world. The Olympic was lead ship in class and was the only of the three to reach its retirement. As many books and movies have documented, Titanic was lost on its maiden voyage in 1912, striking an iceberg while enroute to New York. Nearly 1,200 people died in the icy waters of the North Atlantic when Titanic sunk due to the lack of lifeboats to accommodate the number of passengers embarked on that journey. Olympic was refit with additional hull plating and a full compliment of lifeboats in 1913 based on the tragic lessons learned from the loss of Titanic. Britannic was lost in 1916 after hitting a mine laid by U-79 during World War I. By this time, Britannic had been converted to a hospital ship and was sunk off the coast of Greece.
I remember when this kit was first released several years ago, it was accompanied by a 1/700 scale example that we reviewed here. I've not had the opportunity to see this 1/400 scale release until now and this kit would have really been impressive when it was first released. With this special 100th anniversary edition, the kit is now quite spectacular as you will see. Let's take a look:
This kit is molded in colored styrene, four trees molded in tan, five trees molded in white, one tree molded in orange, four trees molded in black, one tree molded in clear, and one tree gold plated. In addition, there are two sheets of thin dye-cut wood deck laminate, one large fret of gray plated photo-etch, and one fret of uncoated photo-etch. A supply of rigging thread and anchor chain is also included.
The hull is one-piece and designed to accept internal ribs/spacers to keep the hull from flexing and breaking the deck loose after assembly. A display stand is included upon which the hull can be permanently mounted if the builder so chooses. I would recommend some lead ballast under the display stand for better balance.
The instructions were written for the stock kit and provide really nice steps for threading the rigging during assembly. The down side is that the special edition instructions for the wood decking and photo-etched parts are on separate sheets which means you'll have to carefully study each of the three instruction sets to know when to lay down the wood decking, replace the styrene parts with the photo-etched equivalents, and when you'll need to paint while protecting the work already accomplished. Is this going to be difficult? Not for an experienced modeler, but with the complexity of this beauty, you'll want to plan each step carefully.
One of the interesting features of this kit is the various deck plates. They have the silhouettes of the exterior cabin walls, superstructure, etc., and a floor plan of what was located in each area inside. This interesting tour will be hidden after assembly, but it will give the builder a nice perspective of the ship's layout.
The wooden deck laminate is quite nicely done with the cuts already completed. There is a layer of a thin clear plastic on the underside of the deck for reinforcement. The surface of the deck is definitely wood and before you install the decking, I'd recommend the following steps I used in another recent wood deck project:
- Lay the decking on a smooth flat surface (like glass)
- Carefully sand the deck with a very fine grit sandpaper taking care to sand with the grain of the deck. This will smooth out some of the texture that wouldn't be there in 1/400 scale
- Apply one or two coats of clear satin polyurethane to seal the wood from spills/stains. If you want a darker deck, you can replace the clear polyurethane for a stain of your choice, then apply the polyurethane over the final color
- Carefully sand the deck again with a very fine grit sandpaper
- Carefully fit the deck sections to the corresponding plastic deck areas, remove any plastic obstacles as needed
- Carefully cyano the deck sections into place
Each instruction step has painting recommendations in the black triangles for each part. Note that they don't have you painting the white parts white and the black parts black, etc., so if you want to paint the entire model as you go along, you'll have to compensate for those instruction assumptions.
The basic kit has numerous holes in certain deck areas and on the four stacks to support the rigging. You can use a pin vise or carefully use a needle to push the holes from the plastic deck through the wood deck laminate. Ditto on the fore and aft masts.
Take a look at all of that photo-etched detailing. The two frets provide replacement ladders and funnel caps for the four stacks; replacement railing, external ladders between decks, skylight frames, crane booms, and even deck chairs.
Decals are provided for hull markings, ship name, and the requisite in-port and at sea flags.
In addition to the kit, a ten-page booklet is included which provides some history on the ship as well as four pages of color photos showing how to build this special edition kit (though their example doesn't include rigging). A small puzzle of the box cover art is also included in this release.
This is a very nice looking kit even without the special additions that are included in this release. With the wood and photo-etched parts that are here, this kit is easily the best Titanic kit on the market in any scale as everything you'll need (and then some) are in this box. With an MSRP of under $200 USD, this kit is also a good value as another recent ship release (from Hasegawa) has the kit, wooden deck and two photo-etched detail sets available separately and to get all four together will cost nearly $300 USD for a smaller merchant ship subject.
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!