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Trumpeter 1/200 scale "Bismarck"

Kit:03702 // Scale:1/200 // Price:$399.99
Trumpeter, from Squadron Products, 877-414-0434
Wedding-cake build of the superstructure
Paint impeded by mold-release agent; rail placement instructions lacked follow-through; undefined options; poor turret design with 10 degrees maximum elevation of main gun
Injection-molded, 2,028 parts (328 photoetched metal), decals

The biggest battleship Germany ever built, Bismarck struck fear into the Allied powers of World War II even before it sailed for the Atlantic’s shipping lanes. Ironically, outdated British Swordfish torpedo bombers spelled the beginning of the end for the pride of the Kriegsmarine — but the debate of whether the Bismarck was ultimately sunk or scuttled continues to this day.

Trumpeter’s model is as much an enigma as the ship itself. This hybrid of high technology and 1960s box-scale kits induces a craving for aftermarket add-ons that would take it to the high quality the subject deserves. What’s in the massive 52" x 17" x 5" box creates an impressive model — and it could be much more.

Parts are nicely packed, with protection for the hull and deck, and a series of lettered boxes along with a decal sheet, paint guide, and a 48-page instruction booklet. The decals provide various flags and crosses for the deck and aircraft.

The paint guide provides one option: Bismarck in its Baltic colors prior to its breakout attempt. There are plenty of references available if you want to do a variation.

Box A contains 12 gray plastic sprues, most of them wrapped separately to protect the more-delicate parts. Molding detail is good and clean with little flash. Wood and steel textures are nicely captured; the lockers have hinges and handles. There are some visible ejection marks, but nothing terrible. The aircraft hangars have enough detail inside to leave them open. Finally, at the bottom of the box is a nameplate that simply says Bismarck, oddly offset to the right (possibly to allow a coat of arms to be added, though none is included).

Box B contains plastic propellers and four clear sprues holding parts for the searchlights; several pieces of superstructure; four gun-turret tops; and 12 sheets of photoetched brass, four of which provide 245" of railing. The 328 photoetched-metal parts include various ladders, walkways, crane parts, secondary armament, cover plates for the aircraft catapult, and depth-charge racks. 

Box C’s eight sprues hold the secondary armament, with plastic barrels and no blast bags. Four of Box D’s six sprues are for the aircraft; their detail is superb, with panel lines and photoetched-metal cockpits.

Box E is a stand-alone kit of a 15" turret and four levels below deck to a magazine. You get a sheet of photoetched metal for the model, two turned-metal barrels, a clear sprue of the base and turret top, and two sprues of gray plastic parts to build the interior and barbette, along with a 4-page set of instructions. Paint instructions are not included.

Two plastic envelopes with 100mm and 600mm lengths of chain are provided for the anchors. 

Box F has four sprues for the main guns; the solid plastic barrels have open muzzles. Large superstructure
parts are also found in this box. 

The hull is a two-piece affair plus propeller shafts and rudders. In my kit, parts D16 and D20 were badly warped and filler was required at the bow. 

The main deck is a single part with a heavy filler tree in the open center where the superstructure is mounted. Do not remove this tree, as it lends support and prevents flexing as weight builds up on each end. The deck’s planking looks good and needs no cleanup.

I started this construction in February 2013 and immediately found the plastic would not accept paint or primer. Strange swirls on the main deck and hull were especially noticeable. Numerous cleanings and mineral-spirit scrubbings ensued until May, when I found Vallejo’s new acrylic-polyurethane surface primer worked. Long-term performance is unknown.

Due to the paint difficulties, I skipped forward in the instructions to build subassemblies and make up time. 

Steps 1, 2, and 3 handle the hull and internal bracing. Note: Test-fit the deck before gluing in the bracing; mine required sanding.

Steps 4-7 are straightforward for small vents, capstans, training guns and depth charge racks; steps 8-16 deal with the main deck level. I worked with the deck unattached to the hull. The inner sprue tree was useful for maneuvering the 49"-long deck without flexing it. Steps 17-23 assemble more minor features.

In Step 17, the notch in Part R8, the base for the 37mm twin gun, was too narrow and required special sanding to fit. In Step 19, searchlights have a D-shaped base mount on Part L40 which is not visible on the instructions. I realized this on Step 40, and it required a fair amount of work to correct. The curve of the D should be forward for correct mounting.

Step 24 indicates undefined options for the end of each catapult rail. If you wish to have an Arado on the cat, you need to keep the hatches open and V-stands mounted.

Steps 25-34 have you build the forward superstructure. Take care with the maneuvering bridge in Step 26 — it is fragile. In Step 31, placement of the photoetched-metal catwalks is vague. Check carefully before mounting. Set Step 35 aside until Step 55 to avoid damaging the delicate assembly until it’s ready to be installed. In steps 36-40, the funnel, you’ll find photoetched-metal parts B17, B15, and B6 especially fragile.

Steps 45-53 create the aft superstructure, aircraft hangar, and main mast. Step 52 has vague placements of the aft angle crosstree, as if one is looking at it from above. I determined placement of the ladder mount in Step 53 through research.

Steps 54-56 place the main structures on the deck, while steps 57-63 create the secondary armament, cranes, and main armament. Step 57 requires careful opening of the 105mm gun turret tops to allow freedom of motion for the barrels and their photoetched-metal gears. Step 59 requires just six photoetched-metal D1-D2-D3 combinations, rather than the eight indicated. Caution: Place the hook and gear assembly onto Part K29 before adding the side cables. Step 64 places all the armaments and cranes of the upper superstructure. In Step 65, I assembled the Arado floatplane with no trouble.

Trumpeter’s Bismarck is complex, super-sized, and difficult — but not impossible. It appears nearly correct for scale, just a bit narrow in the beam. Modelers may argue about certain features, such as the stern being a bit too sharp, but overall it’s fine.

However, the main-turret base mount is a step back to the 1960s, allowing just 10 degrees of elevation. The lack of a rigging diagram and railing placement is puzzling. You’ll have to find sharp reference photos. I had just 33⁄4" left of the kit’s 245" of photoetched-metal railing, so be conservative. The flags provided are oversize and would measure 12' x 18' at full size; they can only be mounted on the aft flagstaff.

I used stretched sprue for the rigging. It is not complete, per drawings online, but is indicative of the ship. Right now it lacks antenna spacers, but I plan to add them.

I spent 431 hours working on the Bismarck, but at least 50 were spent resolving the initial mold-release/paint problem. Intermediate modelers may have some trouble with the build, but there is nothing too complicated as long as you’re patient and have some experience mounting fragile photoetched metal. In spite of the difficulties, you will find this kit is a special experience and a fine model — all 491⁄2" of it.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the October 2013 FineScale Modeler.


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