The armored cruiser PITTSBURGH was one of a class of six ships built for the U.S. Navy shortly after the turn of the 20th century. Originally named after states, the ships were renamed after cities in those states, and the state names were assigned to battleships between 1912 and 1920. These ships displaced over 13,000 tons and mounted four 8 inch guns and fourteen 6 inch guns.
Like all armored cruisers, these ships were rendered obsolete by the time of World War I, and after the war most of these ships were of little real military value. Many were disposed of at the end of the war, but in every major navy, some armored cruisers continued to soldier on, because most navies, except perhaps for the British, had built few new cruisers during the war. But even the British continued to use some of these ships in the 1920's because their need for an adequate number of cruisers was not met by the light cruisers they then had in service.
Although no longer of use for fleet work, armored cruisers were useful for subsidiary roles, such as depot ships, flotilla leaders, administrative flagships, and for showing the flag. One of the places where these ships found a role was in the Far East, especially China. In China, the primary role of these ships was to show the flag and promote the commercial interests of their home countries. During the 1920's, and until they were replaced by more modern ships, which were built mainly starting in the late 1920's, the British, French, Italians, Japanese, and Americans all stationed armored cruisers there, usually as flagships,
Although these ships were obsolete, they were not especially old. Their appearances were maintained well in Chinese waters, as appearances were important to the Chinese. For example, the more funnels a ship had, the more powerful the Chinese considered it to be. The armored cruisers, having anywhere from three to as many as six funnels, were well suited to this station.
The PITTSBURGH served from late 1926 in Chinese waters, leaving there in 1931, to be disposed of soon after. The model shown here was modified from the Navis N332a PUEBLO, which is shown here in it’s original form. PITTSBURGH had her fore funnel removed in the mid 1920's, the only one of the class to be so modified. As the reader can see from the photos, aside from removal of the fore funnel, a number of modifications had to be made to the bridge area, and an additional platform added to the mainmast. Gun directors were placed on the bridge and just abaft the mainmast. The model had two tall ventilators on either side of the fore funnel. These were also removed, and one single one placed just aft of the bridge area, which was characteristic of both this ship and a sistership, COLORADO. An additional round cap was added to the fore topmast.
To add some interest to the model, I decided to put awnings aboard. In Chinese waters, these were frequently in use, particularly since the ship spent a fair amount of time visiting one port or another. The stanchions used to hold the awnings are larger than on the real ship, but this was done purposely to hold the awnings better. Because of her role as a flagship, her paintwork and decks would have been maintained in excellent condition, so I did not weather the model at all.
This was a relatively simple conversion to do, and one that novice could handle. Good photos of this ship can be found at The Naval Historical Center web site.