More Delays

Just when things seemed to have reached the utter bottom, and ships and kits had started moving a little less jerkily out to the mail station, I had a soft fall in my garden late one afternoon. I got dizzy, stooped over a bit to recover, and went slowly down, wondering why the garden wall was taking such pinwheels. I’d been having some mild episodes of “positional vertigo” but this time I went down a little bit too twisted up on the path to get back up.
I ended up in the hospital where I promptly fell over a wheelchair and broke four ribs. I was freed a month when a panel of seven doctors, nurses and probably the janitor decided I had recovered (or my insurance had run out, P.S. Every writer who goes into a hospital thinks he has hot novel by the time he is out.)
To the four who had kits coming, I have apologized for the delay. Otherwise a few ships have not been introduced, the website has fallen further behind, and I am feeling better than I have in more than two years.
I’ve got the 223” side-wheeler train ferry up next. With only two two tracks, it can make a small dent in your car storage struggles or add an operating interest for 4 to 6 passenger cars. Then some new fishing boats, a small LNG tanker, a large bunker, and finally some destroyers and cruisers from WWII.
This weekend: fire up the 8000x resin printer and get 4 of the other 6 printers tuned and read to go for the side-wheeler, which is printed except for the center hull.

Delays due to Stroke

Folks, I had a minor stroke or transient ischemic attack on New Years’ Day. No apparent damage but eight days in the hospital and recovery from a carotid artery surgery have set me back. Your kits will be shipped as soon as I can get back to the workshop. I’ve been having monstrous troubles cutting a 780′ bulk carrier but have taken this hiatus to order new plastic, knives, and cutting strip, as well as swap the heads.

I’ve got one new ship to introduce–a 223′ sidewheeler from Port Charles around 1896. I need to get the 3D printers in top notch shape to print this.

Changes At NScale Ships

Due to health problems, I have to make some changes. Some of the bigger ships will not be available as kits after September 1, 2022. My digital cutters are simply wearing out and while I can use slightly miscut parts, I cannot send them out to customers. Some of the smaller ships will be discontinued when the stock of resin-casted hulls runs out. I’ve learned to my dismay that silicon molds do not age well.

On the brighter side 3D printing of much of the superstructure and most of the details means some ships will remain available. But 3D printing sometimes takes huge amounts of time–up to ten hours per house. While they operate unattended, they are still fussy machines.

Often with balky machines it takes as much time to put together a kit as it takes to build the model. I can fuss with miscut pieces; customers can not.

Over the next months, I’ll be revising this website to reflect the changes. I know I’m often behind with the website, especially on-site ordering. I have a bunch of new ships that I haven’t introduced yet. I’m recovering but it is slow.

Please contact me at if you would like to discuss the availability of any ship. You can also call me at 505-620-7803. I love to talk ships!

Peter Nolan

Tale of the Tape

Every ship modeler has secrets. This is mine while building up a styrene hull for a 500′ freighter. At least 125 pieces of tape, and counting! The top and bottom of the sides have to follow the curves of the deck (top) and bottoms (bottom). The curves are not the same and on this ship (the Beavercove) there was a knife bow and a rounded cruiser stern. It took a day to cut all the pieces, and today to put it together, with filler used to smooth out the compound curves and seams. This has open holds, although the construction visible in some means I’ll probably leave them closed. If I decide to open them, then I’ll hide the center braces by cutting them down and putting crates on top of the pile. After ten years I completely redrew the hull parts, and the fit was superb compared to earlier efforts. It takes a while to master  this 2D type of construction.

Hull of 499' Freighter under construction
Tape serves as clamps to hold the sides to the top and bottom.

My New Workshop

Due to Kay’s illness and passing, and then a move to a new residence, I’ve ignored this website and parts of the business for way too long. On September 9, 2019, my new workshop will officially open. It is a finished stall in a three-car garage, with the other two stalls and the entire upstairs available for bulky or messy work like shaping eight-foot N scale hulls or accommodating a paint booth and photo studio.

It represents the first true modeling and manufacturing facility since I left Ohio about four years ago. The workshop has been moved five times since, twice in a hurry, which has led to boxes upon boxes being scrambled each time. I had hoped to open it in February, but historic amounts of rain last winter delayed that earlier opening.

With a new partner in life, I hope to be introducing a comprehensive line of 3D-printed marine parts, along with my long-promised online ordering system. In the works are some projects that have been delayed the last three years. First will be WW II warships, notably Benson and Fletcher destroyers and Atlanta and Cleveland cruisers, followed by a Baltimore cruiser. I have built all of these for customers but now will be able to share them. I’ll also be filling some gaps in the commercial merchant fleet: more small pleasure boats and smaller freighters, tankers and barges.

My thanks to customers who have shown patience during the delays of the past few years.


Preparing to Move Again

I will be shutting down most production activities for the first weeks of January to prepare for a move across town. Since I lost my beloved Kay in October, I no longer need this large and elegant house. I will be moving to a smaller house that happens to have 960 sq. ft barn that will be perfect for my workshop, with a 300 sq. ft. loft perfect for my trains and the layout that has followed me from Albuquerque to Oxford Ohio to Decatur. My appreciation to my customers who graciously experienced delivery delays during these difficult times! –Peter Nolan

How to Make Completed Models Unique

All of my models are custom built in my workshop. Most details were mastered, molded and cast here, but are now quickly being replaced by 3D printed models, with far superior precision and freedom to model the empty spaces. And less cost in the long run, as the 3D printer builds the assemblies rather than I painstaking gluing small 2D parts together.

I never like to build two models of the same ship the identical way, with the same colors and details. I like to vary the rigs and details from ship to ship, as they vary in real life, even on consecutive models from the same production line. I do this so that everyone gets a ship that is at least a little different from others. The variations keep the ships fresh. There is always equivalent detail compared to the published model and usually more.

The same goes for paint schemes and names. You can change names and colors if you’d like to–I usually encourage it, in fact. Like details, colors, names and home ports add variety. Below is an example of four of my fishing vessels with varying details and color schemes from the first versions.


Of course there are times when absolute fidelity to history is of utmost importance. A model of the Indianapolis heavy cruiser on her final mission must be faithful to every detail—no freelancing allowed here. Warships are usually very well documented. While they were updated regularly, it is usually but not always possible to find photos of every important update. Some US Navy and Coast Guard ships served for 60+ years, so there are always variations to model.

A good example is the 215’ Reliance USCG cutters, which started life without stacks for more helicopter landing area. The horizontal exhaust was difficult to maintain and robbed interior space, so the USCG modified the ships in the mid 1980s for vertical stacks.

On the civilian side, the Port Welcome of Baltimore Harbor is the Port Welcome with subtle changes in details over the years—unless you want to put it in Boston Harbor and call her something else. Still, if you are modeling an era when the Port Welcome had Navy-stye davits instead of the later quadrants or scrapped the lifeboats for the canister-style life rafts, these changes are easily made, usually without charge.

Peter Nolan

3D Printing Added for Greater Detail, Less Cost

N Scale Ships took the plunge, bought a small 3D printer and learned how to use 3D design tools. After just a few weeks many small parts and assemblies have been designed and produced. I had an advantage because many assemblies were already drawn in 2D and could be imported and adapted readily. Already done are anchors, cranes, passenger benches, masts with platforms and support structures, large and small davit mechanisms and platforms, hatches, running lights, windlasses, trawler net reels, storage lockers and many other topside and deck details like inspection covers and vents. Prices will be reduced as I revise the website (long overdue) and add online ordering.

As some have learned, I lost my beloved Kay in October 2018. Her illness required a substantial part of my time for the past two years. I can now pay more attention to this site and its products. While I doubt I will ever offer even smaller boats entirely 3D printed, the next step beyond details and assemblies is the cabin structures of some of the smaller ships where I can begin to add details like conduits, junction boxes, log desks and other details that were previously and painstakingly applied by hand. Attaching 0.5 mm squares for junction boxes, even with surgically sharp tweezers, is a challenge.

I will also be moving again, to a smaller house with a much bigger workshop. As always product suggestions are welcomed, if not always implemented.

I also changed my tag line to “Any Ship in N or Z or Thereabouts” to reflect to reflect the reality that I could not maintain an adequate supply of larger scale parts.

Good times and smooth sailing ahead!

Peter Nolan


Largest N Scale Ship Ever Built

I’m just finishing up a museum model of a Ti-class ultra-large crude carrier, currently the largest ships in the world at 441,585 deadweight tons and displacing 509,484 long tons at full load. This is the Ti Oceania. It is painted completely in flat white, as the ships colors, markings and activities will be projected onto it by 3D projectors.

In real life, it is 380 m long or 1246.75 feet, with a beam of 68 m or 223 feet and a draught of 80 feet. The model is 2.375 m long or 7 feet 9 inches, and 0.425 m wide or nearly 17 inches. The hull is MDF, medium density fiberboard, so the model weighs over 100 pounds.



Many of the details were drawn in 2D for photo-etched brass, or modeled in 3D for 3D printing. Other details such as lifeboats were mastered, then molded in RTV silicon and cast in resin.


Some retired ultra large crude carriers were a bit larger, but I’ve never heard of them being modeled in N scale. As ULCCs are actually shrinking these days, this may be the largest N scale ship built for a long time.


New Bridge/Dock for ATSF Barges in N and Z

A new bridge/dock for the ATSF barges features a positionable bridge, a bridge lift mechanism, and correctly spaced channels for mounting rails. Builders can leave off the pieces that form the channels and use sectional track on the plain decks, although extensive trimming of ties will be necessary to match the prototype’s spacing, in which the center rails are closely adjacent to the rails for the outer tracks.5616NewDockPortFront

Here a barge painted for the Burlington railroad is at the dock. With careful trimming, a slight press-fit between the barge and the bridge can be achieved.


Here’s a slightly closer look at how the barge and dock, with rails installed, match.


The bridge/dock is 180 mm (7″) long; with the integral docking wings, it is 215 mm (8.5″) long.

The kit, without rails, is $69. A built-up without rails is $169. Installation of rails for both barge and dock is $125. Installation on the barge alone is $100. The rails on the dock can not be installed separately.