1/72 Canadair North Star, 426 Sqn. (RCAF)
Model by Scott Hemsley - Diorama by Carl Mills
Note: click on any of the images to open a full-size view.
Some time ago, I was asked by Carl Mills to build a North Star to be featured on a diorama as part of a Korean War display that was to be installed at the RCAF Memorial Museum at CFB Trenton. Since I was contemplating on eventually building one for my own collection, I agreed.
Once I located photos of the chosen aircraft, Carl and I contacted Bill Burns of CanMilAir decals, who in turn produced a custom sheet for the aircraft. Figure 1 shows the proposed layout Bill emailed, filled with my notes, sitting on top of the Warpaint 1/72 drawings for a C-54.
A quick note about the Warpaint drawings. The publication ``The Canadair North Star'' by Larry Millberry was an indispensable reference during this project and as such, soon revealed that the drawings are a tad oversize. The notes in Figure 2 show the correct 1/72 dimensions according to data contained in Larry’s book.
Some research points:
Rather than convert the Heller DC-6B to a North Star, I hunted around and obtained the Rareplanes C-54 VacForm kit. I chose this route for a number of reasons.
In essence, the DC-6 is a stretched DC-4 ... in all respects. Like when you stretch sprue, the diameter is reduced. Comparing the DC-6 kit to North Star photos, it was evident this was the case with the two airframes. Also the roots of the stabilizers on the DC-4/C-54/North Star are much more pronounced than the DC-6.
A query to the online forum on the ‘Aircraft Resource Centre’ about the DC-4 wing vs the DC-6 wing brought me a response from a gentleman that was a ground handler during the 50’s and 60’s, along with an emailed copy of the data sheet they were given detailing dimensions, turning radius, etc. of all the Douglas aircraft from the DC-3 to the DC-8. That revealed the DC-4 shared the same wing as the DC-6, with the exception that the DC-4 wing had rounded wing tips. The Heller wing, when scaled, is right on the nose when compared to this data sheet.
One sore spot of the build was the Merlin engines. The most available Merlin’s were the Merlin 86’s from Paragon Conversions. Since these were intended for a Lancaster VI, even these would need some work. Test fitting these to the Heller wing shows the firewall diameter was very different. In fact, the diameter of the resin engines only equalled the locating lip for the Heller cowlings. Even the Rareplanes ‘Merlin’ engines agreed with the Paragon offerings.
After further research, I found that the DC-4 had much smaller radial engines than the DC-6 and comparing photos of the two did show the North Star did appear to have smaller nacelles. I therefore, concluded that although the wings may have been shared, the DC-4 did have smaller nacelles. Out with the sanding sticks when I actually reach that part of the build!
To solve the engine problem, I asked one of the more talented scratch-builder’s in the club, Dave Askett, if he could cast me some solid resin engines, based on the vacform engines in the Rareplanes kit. Figures 3 and 4 show the masters Dave came up with after he `enhanced’ the vacform parts. The exhausts in the photos are the AeroClub white metal 6-stack fishtail exhausts sold for the Griffon Spitfire. I used the spinners and `needle-nose’ propellers from the Airfix Lancaster.
One consolation was, all North Stars featured the more robust DC-6 landing gear, so I could just use the Heller kit supplied gear. The C-54 main landing gear was rather different.
First thing I did was to scribe a few of the major fuselage panels before removing all the raised panel/rivet detail from the Rareplanes fuselage. The reason for this was to bring the appearance of the fuselage to that on the Heller wing.
Even when starting out with a C-54 fuselage, modifications had to be made! Notes on Figures 5 and 6 detail these. Since the Heller wing is full-span, I had to modify the Rareplanes fuselage to accept this and in doing so corrected an eyesore. To begin with, the Rareplanes wings are way undersized in terms of span and if made up and installed as per kit, the thickness at the wing roots would have to resemble Hurricane wings to match up to the kit’s wing root fairing.
Figure 6 also shows the location of additional `bulkheads’ to strengthen the fuselage as well as the location of lots of nose weight. Since Carl wanted to depict an aircraft in the process of loading cargo, I had to open the cargo doors and box in a portion of the fuselage to accept figures and ‘cargo’.
With the deeper fuselage, the nose wheel well sides molded to the bottom of the Heller cockpit floor had to be deepened to fit the Rareplanes fuselage. This meant you lost the locating holes of the Heller kit, but with the slightly narrower well of the Rareplanes kit, it was a comfortable ‘tight-fit’ for the Heller nose gear. It was a simple matter of positioning the gear according to photos, in relation to points like the nose gear doors, side cockpit windows and other fixed points on the forward fuselage.
As a word of warning, the Heller nose gear is prone to breaking because of its fine molding, so take care when it’s installed.
Figure 7 shows the combining of the stabilizers from both the Heller DC-6B and the Rareplanes kits. The Heller parts were reduced in span and reshaped as per references.
The wings posed a minor problem. The worse thing that I found was the amount of work required to shape all that Milliput I used!
Figure 8 illustrates how I solved one part of the problem - the wing roots. In order to strengthen the wing roots of the Rareplanes vacform, a piece of sheet styrene was glued to the side of the fuselage with the ‘top’ of the styrene being level with the remaining kit wing root. The resulting gap was filled with Milliput and the open ‘top’ closed by another piece of styrene. Figures 9, 10 and 11 show the problem areas to good advantage. Figure 12 shows the styrene `shims’ that must be added to the leading and trailing edge of the central portion of the wing to position it properly on the Rareplanes fuselage. Figure 13 shows the modifications to the underside of the wing.
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When the wings were glued to the fuselage, Milliput was used to build up the new wingroots. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a camera during the actual construction of the North Star, but the photo of the completed model shows the resulting wing root.
The scoop on the upper fuselage, above the forward-most window, was cut from the `nose’ of a 1/72 F-104 tip tank halve and thinned out a bit at the opening.
For the most part, the paints used were Model Master acrylics. For some reason, I have a hard time masking acrylics in terms of bleeding through the tape, be it masking tape or Tamyia tape – even if I use a clear to seal the edges. Therefore, I hand brushed them, taking full advantage of the way acrylics evens out, with no brush strokes while allowing detail to show through.
The negative aspect of acrylics is their coverage. For the red ID panels, it took three coats of Insignia White, followed by another three coats of Guard’s Red. The white fuselage top is three or four coats of Insignia White. How I would’ve love to had some Floquil Reefer White!
The natural metal portions are for the most part, sprayed Floquil Bright Silver with the trailing edge of the wing picked out in Model Master acrylic Silver. The flying surfaces are a mix of Acrylic Aluminium and Light grey. I purposely didn’t use metalizers or similar in an effort to simulate the dulled finish of repeated trans-Pacific flights. The de-icing boots are Interior Black as opposed to a straight flat black, to approximate the rubber de-icing boots. The exhausts and the ‘screens’ of the Merlin intakes are Polly S Oxide Aluminum (Gunmetal).
The exhaust stains are a dry-brushed combination of greys and browns, with black tempra paint powder. Photos of Korean airlift aircraft in Larry Millberry’s book show the stains were very uneven in intensity or `colour’ even from one engine to the other, on the same aircraft.
My thanks to Larry Millberry of CANAV Books for publishing ``The Canadair North Star,'' Bill Burns of CanMilAir decals for the excellent custom decal sheet and to Dave Askett, for without his `scratchbuilding' skills and resin Merlins, this project would have been much harder.