Friday, June 24

Construction Review: Zeppelin P Class Airship from Takom in 1/350th Scale

Paul Lee took on Takom's 1/350th scale Zeppelin P kits recently. The size and make up of the kit proved to be a real eye opener for him. Instead of an in-box review, he decided to make, paint & weather the kit for us. See what he found in his review...

Construction Review: Zeppelin P Class Airship
From Takom
Kit No. #6002
1/350th Scale
Type: Polystyrene, photo-etch and waterslide decals multimedia Kit
Length 466mm
Designed in co-operation with Snowman Model
Available from Hobbylink Japan at this link
In an age of surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery and radar, it’s hard to imagine how these lumbering giants could be considered a threat, and yet just over a hundred years ago, that’s exactly what these floating giants were. While their payload may be considered miniscule by today's standards, the idea that civilians living well behind the front lines could be endangered would definitely have caused terror amongst the once safe general populace.

 P-CLASS  Zeppelin (1915)
The second "mass-produced" class or Zeppelins was launched in 1915 and went on until 1917. 22 were built, and in addition 12 of the lengthened version, Q Class. Designed by Ludwig Dürr they were used both for reconnaissance and bombing. 

L 11 from another P class airship, 1915.
The P class was an enlarged version of the preceding M class, originally destined to the German Navy Ministry and derived from the LZ 26. First presented as a passenger airship for DELAG it was the very first Zeppelin with a duralumin framework and a strengthening keel inside the hull. Its volume increased from 25,000 m3 (880,000 cu ft) to 31,900 m3 (1,126,000 cu ft), and a fourth engine was needed to vanquish air resistance. That size allowed also a greater range and (bomb) load plus for the first time enclosed gondola for the crew, instead of open one, making the trip more comfortable. The P class in addition was more streamlined with only a 60 m (197 ft) section out of the total 163.5 m (536 5 in) that was cylindrical, and it was divided between sixteen 10 m (32 ft 9 in) bays for ballonets. The four 160 kW (210 hp) Maybach CX six-cylinder engines were succeeded later in production by four 180 kW (240 hp) Maybach HSLu engines. Intermediate frames were fitted between each wire-braced ring frame, reduce lateral loads, and the 17 girders, housing the 16 gasbags made from three layers of goldbeater's skin, backed by cotton, and latter plain rubberized cotton. Pressure relief valves were automated at the bottom of the gasbags, waste being simply diffused upwards between gasbags. Some of these also had manual backups. The covering was undoped to allow the hydrogen to escape.
The forward gondola was the bridge, and the crew accommodations was divided into two separate sections to avoid engine vibration and this small gap was faired over with fabric. The forward section was divided into three compartments, control area, radio compartment, and officer's rest room. On both sides of the latter, windows had a machine-gun port. The engine compartment at the rear section contained a single-engine mated to a propeller at the rear, with a reduction gear. The engine gondola carried three engines in line, with one driving the back gondola and the other a pair of propellers on each side, which could work in reverse for maneuvers. A machine-gun mounting was fitted on each side and there was another single machine at the stern, behind the rudders, in a small cockpit a bit like WW2 bombers tail gunner. Two or three machine guns were also mounted on top of the hull in a bathtub-like arrangement, reached by a ladder accessible from the forward gondola. Between the keel girders were suspended electrically released bomb from the control gondola. The crew comprised 19 airmen, one Executive Officer, a Commander, Navigator, "Sailmaker" (responsible for gasbags), a Chief Engineer, 2 altitude coxswains, 2 steering coxswains, and 8 lower-rank engineers).

LZ 38, the first P class to see service. Features include enclosed gondolas and the keel buried in the hull.
Dimensions: Length: 163.50 m (536 ft 5 in), Diameter: 18.69 m (61 ft 4 in), Volume: 32,920 m3 (1,162,400 cu ft)
Propulsion: 4 × Maybach 3M C-X 6-cylinder inline piston engine, 160 kW (210 hp) each
Performance: Max. speed: 92 km/h; 50 kn (57 mph), Cruise speed: 63 km/h; 34 kn (39 mph), Ceiling: 3,500 m (11,600 ft)
Armament: 7/8 water-cooled MG 08/air-cooled Parabellum MG 14, 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) bombs

The Kit: 
You can’t accuse Takom of following a formula when it comes to their kit releases, and this is another one that comes from way out of left field. I don’t think zeppelins were at the top of anyone’s wish list, but yet here we have one, and thinking that it wouldn’t be too complicated a build, so I thought that I would give it a go.
Don’t let the size of the box fool you as it is reasonably compact, but a diagram on the lid tells you that the completed model will be 466mm long! On opening the box, you will discover that the main body comes in front and rear halves so four pieces altogether. With nineteen ribs forming the frame, the seam at the top is easily dealt with being moulded along the top rib. The underside has the seam moulded along the concave surface, so it was a bit more work to get rid of, although there is an insert later that will hide the majority of the lower seam.
The rear halves follow the pattern of the forward halves, although there are the four main fins to attach. The vertical rudders are attached to each other via a shaft so they are posable/moveable if that is what you wish, although the horizontal ailerons are separately moulded so they have to be glued in place, since gravity won’t let you pose them in the raised position.
The seam that results from joining the front to the rear half proved to be a bit more problematic, mainly because the diameter of the front half was slightly bigger than the rear half and not really that noticeable. However, the surfaces between each rib is concave, so puttying and sanding that join is a little challenging.
Paint & decals
There are five marking options provided in the box although the use of decals on any of the options will be minimal. There is a good amount of variety in how the zeppelin skins are painted, although I was drawn by the story of LZ38, which was the first zeppelin to successfully bomb London after initially being forbidden to do so. For the colours, I used a variety of tan shades with buff for the front of the zeppelin. I dry brushed the raised lines to simulate the stretched fabric over the internal ribs.
After I was finished painting, I added the grand total of three decals to complete the main body. The forward gondola goes together easily and painted it in aluminium, but this is where the difficulty level of this kit really ramps up due to the photo-etch. Bear in mind that this is 1/350 scale so all the bracing and rigging can realistically only be done in PE since styrene would be over-scale, so no plastic alternatives are provided. There are two stubs on the roof of the forward gondola, which gives the forward gondola a fairly stable attachment point….
No such luck with the rear gondola though, which is attached using a series of PE struts. Which is a challenge to get the alignment right so that the gondola will sit on top of them at the right angle. Likewise, for the two structures off the sides which are purely PE although the fit is quite good, but just fiddly to attach as you would expect for PE that size.
There is a sort of observation deck on the top of the main body, where you attach three devices of sorts which I’m not sure of what they are. The final step is to attach the four thankfully plastic propellers, although it was still quite a delicate operation, trying not to knock any of the delicate PE off. There are two stands provided which will help display your model although they are short, and I think that something taller would help display this model a bit better. Or suspended from your ceiling!

The completed Zeppelin - massive!
This project turned out to be a lot more complicated than I initially thought, although not surprisingly, it was the PE which was the most difficult aspect of this kit. However, as I did mention earlier, this is 1/350 scale, so any of the bracing/rigging would have been drastically over-scale if it were provided in polystyrene. We often hear complaints about another Tiger, Mustang etc. being released, but Takom can definitely not be accused of this with the release of this zeppelin, although it is obviously more for experienced builders or those not averse to the use of PE.
Paul Lee

Thanks to Takom for sending this kit to build and review.