The earliest waterline models in constant scale date back almost to the turn of the century. Fred T. Jane created and marketed a fleet of small waterline ships for use in his war game which he created and sold commercially beginning around 1904. These models were smaller than 1:1200 and were very crude by today’s standards, but did attempt to represent actual ships of various navies of the time, thus setting a standard for uniform scale waterline models.
During World War I, several companies made wood identification models for use in training naval observers, the most famous of thse being the British model making firm of Bassett-Lowke. Bassett-Lowke continued to make wood models until the 1950's. The company’s mainstay were large models for specific shipping lines and ship builders, but the company also continued making 1:1200 waterline models for sale to the general public, and during World War II again made wood ID models for the Admiralty. An excellent source of information about these models is BASSETT-LOWKE WATERLINE SHIP MODELS by Derek Head, New Cavendish Books Ltd., 1996
In the late 1920's Wiking of Germany began producing metal ship models in 1:1250 scale. 1250 was used because of metrics. Wiking quickly became the leader in the field producing models of many contemporary warships and merchant ships. World War II eventually put the company out of business, though it did go through a revival in the 1950's. An excellent source of information about these models is WIKING MODELLE, by Peter Schonfeldt, Koehlers Verslagesellschaft mbH, Hamburg, Germany, 1998
The situation in Germany in the 1930's caused some of the model makers at Wiking to emigrate. One went to Britain where he used his skill to start TreForest Moulding, known as TreMo. Others may have gone to the United States. Around 1940 several were in business there. In 1941 Bessarabis, whose owner is believed to have come from Romania produced models of U.S. ships, including some rather rare auxiliary ships such as MEDUSA, NITRO and CANOPUS for the U.S. military. But when they failed to meet the U.S. Navy’s contractual requirements, the
contract was pulled. In the meantime, two brothers, Joseph and Abraham had started Comet Metal Products. The brothers gained a Navy contract to produce ID models when the U.S. U.S. entered the war. This began a 20 year career of producing ship models in 1:1200 scale. Comet also used the name Authenticast Ltd. on its boxes and catalogs. The line included all the major navies of the world. During the war Comet copied many models by Wiking and Tre-Mo, although the military rejected these for identification training. Another model company, South Salem also produced identification models, although now where near as many as Comet did. South Salem is notable for having produced a substantial line of Japanese merchant ships for Navy and Air Corps training purposes. After South Salem went out of business, Comet issued some of these models under generic names such as "Large transport" etc. however, Comet never did not reproduce any of the warships from South Salem, many of which, such as AGANO, TERUTSUKI, MIKURA, NEVADA (1943) and PENNSYLVANIA (1943) were quite unique.
Also during World War II, another company, H.A. Framburg of Chicago, Ill., obtained a government contract to produce ID models. Framburg was a producer of decorative lamps and light fixtures. But when the war came, the copper, brass and other metals used to make these products became strategic materials and unavailable except for war material. Like so many other companies, Framburg had to adapt to the situation. So Framburg sought and obtained a government contract to make recognition models of U.S., British and French ships. 64 different ships were produced starting in 1943 and reflected the situation at the time. Ships were represented in 1943 rig, especially the few different French ships. While the detail on these models was far from the crisp, clean work we see in today’s models, nevertheless, Framburgs remain some of the most anatomically accurate models ever made.
After the war, Framburg reverted to production of lamps, but Comet continued to produce ship models, tanks, planes, and model railroad parts. Comet also produced post war ID models of some Soviet and U.S. ships. But in the 1950's the U.S. government gave up models as a means of recognition training, and Comet concentrated on the hobby market. In 1962, the last of the Slonim brothers died, and that brought Comet to an end.
Several collectors managed to buy the moulds and began producing under the name Superior. The models were marketed by one of them under the Alnavco label. At first the group sought to improve the line, producing a number of new models, and trimming the line to the better models. Superior also cast off a number of Comets in favor of copying the better Framburg models. But in late 60's Superior came under the control of one person, whose focus became the war game industry, whose primary needs are cheap sturdy models. The line shrank, and quality suffered. When the owner of Superior decided to retire, he sold the moulds to Alnavco, which hopes to refocus the line on more collector quality models.
After World War II, the hobby languished in Germany and Britain. Wiking, and Tre-Mo were put out of business by the war, and Germans in the late 1940's and early '50's were focused on survival and rebuilding of their country. Ship models were unattainable luxuries. But the revival of the German economy in the 1950's allowed the rebith of the hobby market, and Wiking resumed production, reproducing some of its pre-war models, as well as new ones in both plastic and metal. In the late 1950's a new company, Hansa, commenced production of a line of models, in 1:1250 scale. In Britain about the same time, Triang, a producer of toys and model trains produced a line of metal ships, which in the case of their warships, were more notable for their toy like quality than anything else, but because of their wide distribution and availability, gave many a young collector their first introduction to the hobby.
The real renaissance in the hobby, however, occurred in the mid to late 1960's with the inauguration of production by companies like Mercator, Trident, Delphin, Star, Hai, and in particular Navis/Neptun, which became, and remains, the largest producer of high quality 1:1250 scale models, and which set a standard by which all other models tend to be judged.
In the 1980's and into the present the hobby has continued to expand, with still more producers such as Rhenania, Albatros, CM, Argos, and others proliferating. Today, the hobby is bigger than ever before, with models of thousands of different ships available. Germany remains the center of 1:1250 ship model production and collecting. Some models are produced in Britain, Japan, France and the U.S., but these are lines are small in comparison to German production.
More different ship models have been produced in these two scales than in any other scale, possibly more than in all other scales combined.
Until the 1960's models were made in metal moulds which used a centrifugal casting process. This is a fairly typical way to cast metal parts. The metal or hard rubber mould fits together top and bottom like two plates. Inside the shapes of the parts are carved out. Molten lead or alloy is poured into the mould, the mould is spun and the liquid metal fills the voids. When the metal hardens the two plates are separated and the parts can be taken out. The parts are usually attached to sprues or small metal sticks which are the result of the channels which must be carved out to allow the metal to flow into the spaces in the mould. When you see a model that is built from various parts, and has a thin centerline line from stem to stern, you are probably looking at a model cast in that fashion. Delphin, Hansa and Star models were cast that way, as were Comet and Framburgs.
In the 1960's companies like Neptun/Navis began making their models in single castings using thin latex rubber moulds. Today the technique is almost universal, and accounts for the exceptional quality of detail, which could never be achieved by the use of centrifugal casting.
Lead was commonly used in the past, but as it is now recognized as a toxic substance, it is not legal to use in the U.S. and is used in only limited quantities in Europe. A mixture of various alloys including tin are used today, and are actually preferable to lead, since the softer alloys make it easier to cast the more complex models that are typical of the hobby today.
There are a relatively few companies that produce these models. The majority are in Europe, and most of those in Germany. Some of the manufacturers, like Neptun/Navis, and Hansa are quite large, have their own small factories and their models are in fairly constant production. There are, however, many small makers who work out of little home workshops, and produce limited numbers of models.
Some of the various producers of 1:1200 and 1:1250 models are:
Neptun/Navis - Neptun is by far the largest producer and sets the standard by which all models in the scale tend to be judged. All models are of a uniform, high quality. The line is devoted to warships of the major navies of WW II, and is expanding into the post-war era. The Navis line is devoted to warships of WW I. Older Navis models generally lack the level of detail of Neptun models, but the line is gradually being upgraded to Neptun quality. In addition, the company has renewed it’s new old line of Copy models and has produced copies of Von Stauffenberg models. So far, these include about six ships from the Russian Navy from the turn of the century. (Click on thumbnail image to view full size photo)
Albatros: A major producer of liners and merchant ships, Albatros also produces some handsome modern warships, and a few armed merchant cruisers, hospital ships and other converted merchant ships.
Trident Alpha: Now out of production, Trident Alpha produced a large number of post-WW II warships, including a number of U.S. Navy super carriers. Many are available second-hand. Quality may vary among models.
Trident: Also out of production, this was a large line of models covering ships from as early as the 1890's to the present. Quality may vary widely. The moulds have been purchased by Hai, who may produce some of the models in this line
CM - A line primarily of liners and merchant ships with an occasional warship. Quality may vary, but the most recent liners are highly prized. (www.cm-minaturen.de)
Hai: An extensive line of warships spanning the period from about 1880 to the present. Quality varies considerably from model to model.
Argonaut: No longer in production. Primarily WW II warships. The line includes a large number of British ships, and smaller numbers of U.S., French, and Italian ones. Also almost the entire Dutch and Spanish navies are represented, as well as Turkey, Portugal, Finland, Norway, and South and Central American and other world navies. Models were produced in limited numbers and once out of production were sometimes hard to get. Some models were periodically re-released. Quality is uniform, but not up to that of Neptun. Destroyers and small warships are especially good.
Mercator: One of the oldest companies in continuous production, Mercator temporarily ceased production several years ago when ownership changed. Primarily a producer of liners and merchant ships, Mercator also produced a few warships and is famous for it’s line of Russian Russo-Japanese warships. Most ships in the line are no longer available except second-hand, and Skytrex, the present owner of the Mercator line, seems to have limited production to a few large liners.
Risawolewska: Burkhard Schutt produces a line of beautifully detailed vessels, mostly ferries and merchant ships of the countries that border the Baltic Sea
Skytrex: Skytrex which now owns Mercator has discontinued most of that line, but is producing a few Mercator liners. It also produces an extensive line of harbor parts and a line of 1:1200 kits of ships from ancient times to the mid 19th Century. Skytrex has reissued some of its Triton line of modern U.S. and British ship kits, which have been out of production for several years now. http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/skytrexltd/merc.htm
Stauffenburg Modelle: These beautifully painted and detailed models were made in limited numbers by the late Graf Von Stauffenberg, and are hard to get. Navis/Neptun produces some for commercial sales under the Copy label.
Superior: Distributed by Alnavco of Belle Haven VA., this is one of the few U.S. producers of waterline models. The line is primarily warships of WW II. Unlike all the continental European makers, Superiors are 1:1200 scale (as are models made in England). Superior has a long history dating back to 1962 when it began production after purchasing the old Comet/Authenticast line. Superior models are of uniform quality, but that does not place them in the same league as the European made models. The line is a direct descendent of the WW II identification models made for the Navy and as such are based on moulds designed in the 1940's. Despite attempts to upgrade them they simply cannot compare in detail or accuracy of scale with their more modern European equivalents and are not popular with collectors of European models. Cheaply priced, and very hardy, they are favored by war gamers.
Len Jordan: Unique among producers, Len Jordan makes unfinished 1:1200 models in resin and metal. Few others work in resin, and hardly any sell models unfinished. The models come cast in one piece, lacking masts, and unpainted. Masts are not included and must be made by the purchaser. Jordan specializes in British merchant ships and liners, but does produce a few U.S. vessels, including the Liberty (click here for a review of the Len Jordan Liberty ship) and Victory ship, T-2 tanker, and C-3 cargo ship. At least two other modelers in England sell Jordan models in completed form.
Konishi: The only maker of 1:1250 waterline models in Japan, the bulk of this line is comprised of WW II Japanese warships. The company also produces some merchant ships, liners, modern Japanese warships, and some non-Japanese ships. Unique in having brass parts fitted to hard metal hulls, these models lack the fine detail found in the best European models, but are still very desirable models.
Hansa: One of the oldest lines of German made models no longer in production. Hansa produced an extensive line of 20th century warships and merchant ships. Purchased by Conrad in the 1990's, the company has been around since the late 1950's, long enough to have produced three different versions of the CGN Long Beach over the years. Hansa models are not considered comparable in quality to Neptun, but they have produced some desirable models which have not been made by anyone else.
Rhenania: A small line of Neptun quality models, producing a variety of eclectic warships and merchant ships. Production is limited and unlike the bigger manufacturer’s when a run of castings is done, the model is discontinued.
Delphin: One of the important producers of ships back in the 1960's and 1970's, Delphin has long been out of production. Hansa purchased some of their moulds and re-released a few of their better models. Delphin primarily produced warships from WW II and the post war era, producing a total of over 160 different ships.
Degen: Also known as Hein Mueck, this company produced an extensive line of liners and merchant ships in resin. All models came complete and painted. Quality, though uniform, is considered below that of most other European producers. After Ralf Degan’s death some of the moulds were sold to the British model maker Wirral, and have been reworked.
Star: Long out of production, Star was one of the main producers in the 1960's and 1970's, producing over 170 warships including quite a few American Civil War ships.. One of the few to produce kits, most Star models are by today’s standards mediocre in quality. A few unusual models in the line, are still sought after.
TreMo: TreForest Moulding was started in Britain in the 1930's and put out of business when the war began and the owner was interned as an enemy alien! Crude by today’s standards, during the 1930's they were one of the mainstays of the business along with Wiking. Although claiming to produce ships of several major navies, most of their production was of British ships. Check the ads in Jane’s Fighting Ships of the 1930's, and you’ll find theirs with photos of some of their models. Because their production was more limited than that of Wiking, their models are much more scarce.
Triang: Among the more toy-like of 1:1200 models, this company began production in Britain in 1958 and continued for about 10 years. Later, models were issued under the Hornby label. The warships produced were all British from the 50's and 60's and very simple. Early Triang warships were painted a bright blue color. Later models were a more conservative grey however. About two dozen liners and merchant ships were produced and an extensive series of harbor parts. The liners and merchant ships were also mostly British, and generally were better castings than the warship models. Cheap and popular back in the early 60's, Triangs were largely discarded by collectors as the better German made models came into large scale production. But in recent years Triangs have become nostalgic collectibles, as men who grew up with them as boys, now remember them with fondness. In recent years, an English collector Charles Shave, revived the line and added many new models including modern Royal and U.S. Navy ships.
Wiking: Clearly the first in the lineage of 1250 scale European cast metal models, Wiking dates back to the late 1920's. Producing a line of European and American contemporary warships, Wikings were used by the German military for ID purposes during WW II. Some Wikings were copied by Comet. The war put the company out of business, but it was revived in the late 1940's and during the 1950's it produced a number of new models, some in metal, some in metal and plastic such as the CVA Forrestal, CA Boston, and the Soviet CL Sverdlov. Some of the older models were also re-released in metal and some done entirely in plastic. Production finally ceased forever in the 1970's, due to competition from the newer higher quality models then coming into production. Pre-war Wikings in good condition have brought high prices in recent years as they have become collectable "antiques." These models clearly lack the detail of the more modern models, but they can be attractive and interesting.
Noordzee: A line of Neptun quality models, consisting almost exclusively of Dutch liners and merchant ships with a few warships. Production was limited and ceased with the death of it’s producer, Robert DeVlam. Since the moulds were destroyed, the models have become highly prized and sell second-hand at very high prices.
Carat: Super-detailed models of liners and merchant ships, which are rigged and have railings and other minute details. Priced accordingly.
Wirral: Les Hodder takes unfinished Len Jordan models and turns out beautifully finished products. All are merchant ships and liners, primarily British.
Yorck: An eclectic collection of ships, mainly secondary and auxiliary warships of the 20th century and the largest proportion, German. Yorck models are out of production and can only be obtained second-hand.
Aquarius: A line of mainly sailing ship models, beautifully done but now out of production due to the death of its producer Andreas Prinz. Many are hard to obtain, long since out of production.
HF: Helge Fischer produces a small line of ships, mainly submarines, gunboats, and patrol craft. All models are Neptun quality.
H&B: Jurgen Streich produces a small line of about 30 ships, nearly all Japanese, and mostly warships. None of those are major warships, but instead are submarines, gunboats, sub chasers and auxiliary warships. Most models out of production; all highly detailed, including his classic submarine I-8 with a tiny GLEN seaplane aboard.
Argos - Joerg Uter produces a line of well detailed models. The line includes mostly modern U.S. and Russian warships, including ARLEIGH BURKE class and several AEGIS cruisers. In addition there is a small range of little ships from various countries from the 19th and 20th centuries. (Argos USS Long Beach shown)
Quadrant: Alain Picouet of Nice France produced a small line of hand-painted limited edition models, including most of the SURCOUF Class escorteurs, the CHARLES DE GAULLE, U.S. CVA FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT circa 1957 and the U.S. CVA SHANGRI-LA, as well as many post-war submarines. These fine models are beautifully done. Now out of production, they often command high prices on the second hand market.
Deep C: A small line of resin ships, mostly British coasters, tugs and merchant ships.
Fleetline: A line of British made kit-models, now out of production. Quality similar to Star and Delphin.
Ostrowski: A line of Polish made models, all merchant ships, mostly post World War II era.
Sextant: This line of models dates back to the 1970's. Production numbered over 200 different models, nearly all modern merchant ships. Most now out of production.
Aegir: A small line of good quality inter-war merchant ships. Nearly all models are of British vessels.
Langton: Produces a very extensive line of 1:1200 kits of ancient and 18th and 19th Century sailing warships, as well as a wide array of buildings, and harbor parts. Also produces a large number of American Civil War vessels.
BM: Now out of production. Karl Binkowski produced a small line of mostly 19th C. German warships, although he has done some 20th C. vessels. These models are beautifully detailed, usually with sails, and finely painted.
RG: Now out of production. Dr. Rainier Grouls produced a variety of different ships, from small odd warships to large liners and merchant ships. Quality is uniformly excellent.
Welfia: Winfried Bormann produces a line of mainly small, unusual and rare vessels converted to German warships; also coastal forts, and other odds and ends. Quality of the ship models is excellent, but production is very limited and the models are not readily available through dealers.
H.P. Weiss: These models are made out of paper in incredible detail. Definitely collectors items, they carry prices to match.
Classic Ship Collection: High quality collectors models, mainly of large, famous liners. Most of these models are sold full-hull mounted on wood stands and in display cases, but some can be obtained in waterline. Sold exclusively over the Internet at www.classic-ship.de
Saratoga Model Shipyard: A small but growing line of models by Paul Jacobs. Most of the models released so far have been of small French naval vessels and tugs, and U.S. Navy auxiliaries of the inter-war era.
**This site is still in progress. Additional listings will be added periodically**
A Brief History of the ‘Guide to Waterline Model ships’
The first issue of the guide was compiled in 1990 and was based on a series of eight articles published in Marine Modelling magazine during 1989. In producing a booklet it was possible to include much additional detail and to provide listings for certain manufacturers whose ranges were out of production and whose models would therefore not be listed in dealers’ catalogues. Issue 1 then contained listings for Eagle*, Ensign, Hornby Minic/Rovex*, Airfix*, Casadio*, Triang*, Delphin, Hansa, Star and Wiking. Issue 2 (which appeared in 1996) repeated those asterisked and added full lists for Len Jordan Models, Pedestal, Fleetline and Nelson. With UK collectors in mind, all British models produced by a further eighteen manufacturers were listed in tables.
Issue 3 appeared in 1999, followed five years later by Issue 4 which was available on CD only but added a digital photo library. Issue 5 in 2008/09 heralded the pdf download version with many new images. With all issues most entries are reviewed and of course new manufacturers added.
Courtesy of Marine Modelling International (www.traplet.com, then 'Online shop', then 'Marine Modelling', then 'Books') Issue 6 (2010) is the first for many years to find its way into print. With new models constantly appearing (and going out of production) it can only be a snapshot at the time of writing so please refer to the monthly MMI-Waterlines column for all the latest news and that extra level of detail re ships and models. Issue 6 was last amended in January 2010.
Production of models varies from company to company. While some companies are in regular and continuing production, others produce limited numbers of a particular model before ceasing production of the model, sometimes forever. Smaller manufacturers may produce less than 100 examples of a particular ship before ceasing production of it. In addition, some of the larger producers, such as Albatros produce limited runs of a particular model, perhaps 400 in number before ceasing production. Once production of a model is ended, it may be reissued in the future if demand becomes substantial. If not, however, the likelihood is that the model will increase in value over time as demand for it grows, although an inferior model which has been superseded by a better product from another company, may never gain value.
Some models are "timeless" in the sense that they continue to be desirable regardless of age, availability, or quality. Others simply represent interesting ships. Some entire lines of models are collectable merely because of their age, rarity, or uniqueness. Examples of the latter are Bassett-Lowke, which seem to have regained recent interest, Wikings, especially pre-War, and Triangs, which though most were crude and toy-like by all standards, are never the less particularly collectable in England where today's generation of men grew up with them as boys in the 1960's. Other more recent lines such as Noordzee, Aquarius and Von Stauffenberg were produced in limited numbers are unobtainable except second-hand, usually at high prices.
Some classic models:
FORRESTAL CVA 59 by Wiking. This model produced in the late 1950's in plastic, and long out of production, is very collectable. It helps that no model of the ship has been available in 1250 scale until recently. The model was issued with planes, as well as decals for all of the four ships in the class.
MACOMA series by Noordzee. You can’t get these anymore, as Noordzee is out of production. But if you could, you’d have a unique series of three models representing the Dutch tanker at three stages of life: first as a civil tanker in the late 1930's, then as an armed tanker in war-time grey and lastly, as a merchant aircraft carrier (MAC ship) circa 1944. Beautifully executed and interesting.
CORMORAN and GEIER by Mercator. These two small 19th century German cruisers were outstanding models when first produced nearly 30 years ago. Painted in white and buff, with plastic sails they remain among the best Mercator produced. Long out of production they are beautiful replicas of two 19th century steam/sail warships.
RUSSIAN WARSHIPS by Mercator. In the 1960's and 1970's Mercator produced about a dozen Russian ships of the Russo-Japanese War. Long out of production, they remain highly collectable, and compliment the newer models now being produced by Navis and Copy.
The following is a list of a number of dealers where you can obtain these models. It is not exhaustive, and is not in any particular order of preference.
ALNAVCO carries the following lines:
Superior, Navis/Neptun, Mercator, Albatros and CM Miniatures 1:1200 and
Dr. Max Strasse 29
A very comprehensive catalog. Owner: Peter Wiedling. Accepts credit cards.
Comprehensive line of ships. Owner: Birgit Schwartz. Accepts credit cards.
Goethestr.78, 10623 Berlin
Owner Jens Gnewuch sells new and second hand models. Accepts credit cards
Scherbak produces modern cruise ship models in resin in 1250 and larger scales. Models are finely painted and finished. Also sells antique and other ship models.
MICHAEL REISS MINIATUREMODELLE
Michael Reiss primarily sells second hand models, but also produces a small line of 1250 ship models and parts, as well as an extensive line of painted airplanes. .
MORNING SUNSHINE MODELS
Owner Bill Werner stocks an extensive inventory of many 1200/1250 scale models.
WIRRAL MINIATURE SHIPS
Wirral Miniature Ships24 Broadland Road, Great Sutton,
Owner Les Hodder finishes Len Jordan models and sells them in completed form. Concentration on ships in non-wartime civil colors.
Large line of models and books. Owner: Uwe Muller.
North Trendeal, Ladock, Truro
Sells Langton Miniatures, a line of 1:1200 ships and harbor parts. Includes ancient, Napolenic and U.S. Civil War ships. All models come in kit form. Minimal assembly required. Accepts credit cards.
P.O. Box 18425
Mail order only Primarily copies of US naval identification models in metal; genuine US Navy identification models from WW2 era; new British and European models, some second-hand models; some l:l200 hand-made wooden models. Can take credit cards through Paypal. ________________________________________________________________
Grobe Bleichen 36, 20095
This shop carries an extensive selection of 1250 models, as well as books, and does mail-order
ESM SHIP MODELS
Lohndorf, D 96121,
Edmund Engert carries on the business that was formerly known as Preston Hobby Models. Accepts credit cards.
21, Southbourne Coast Road, Southbourne,
Selling second-hand 1:1250/1:1200 scaled models also some Maritime books. Able to offer a search for model service.
Dealer in 1/1200 and 1/1250 waterline ship models, new and second hand, merchant and warships. Can be contacted for lists by:
Email: email@example.com Telephone: UK. 023 92 352383
Owner Martin Brown sells new and second hand models via the internet.
**This site is still in progress. Additional listings will be added periodically**