CJB Boatyard

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Sutcliffe Boats

Clockwork Battleships - 1928 to 1939

After extolling the virtues of 'hot air' boats for several years, Sutcliffe decided to adopt clockwork motors in 1928. Despite the fact that there was 'nothing to get out of order' and there was 'no possibility of explosion' (!), the hot air boats were woefully slow and by modern standards, and fairly dangerous. It would be easy to get a nasty burn from the hot superstructure, and in any case the heat from the burner caused inevitable damage to the lovely paintwork.


Initially, two sizes of German mechanisms were adopted, however these were replaced by ones of Sutcliffe's own design when a faulty batch was received by the factory.


Both the 12" and 16" Battleships received the new motive power; at first glance the boats appear to be the same but the installation of a clockwork motor required quite a few changes.




Fig. 4.1 - 16" Clockwork Battleship - circa 1928 (not in CJB Collection)

Fig 4.1 shows an early 12" clockwork battleship from around 1928. The obvious change is that the boat now has a propeller which exists the hull exactly where the rudder was positioned on the earlier model. The stern tube and prop shaft are designed with small brass bushes which both reduce friction and prevents ingress of water into the hull; the whole design was well engineered and of very high quality. A new rudder was required which is now attached to a brass wire (2mm or 5/64") which attaches to the stern and keel of the hull, forming a useful 'cage' around the prop. The rudder no longer has a tiller for adjustment; it is just a tight fit on the wire frame.


The deck no longer has vents for the hot exhuast gasses to escape and now has two small brass screws securing the superstructure as this no longer needs to be removable. Also, a 'V' shaped pressing has appeared on the foredeck, no doubt to deflect the waves and wash generated by the significant increase in speed!


The model also lost its pennants and rigging for 1928; it no longer has a rear eye, just retaining the front eye for tethering or towing. Consequently it no longer has an eye at the top of the mast. Finally, the model has now lost its 'foot' which was previously soldered to the keel ; the new design of rudder would neccessitate a very large foot whihc would have been far less subtle. The new boats were initially produced in a shade of blue/grey below the waterline, but most boats are light grey above the waterline and black below.


Note that the model still has no name; it was not until about 1930-32 did the boats start getting names.


Fig. 4.2 - 16" Clockwork Battleship 'Valiant' - circa 1930-32  (not in CJB Collection)

Fig. 4.2 shows a 16" Battleship circa 1930/32, and it has finally got the name of 'Valiant'.   This example has is in the more common black/grey scheme and now comes in a simpler one piece box. The mast has now lost its crows nest; presumably this was considered a little old fashoned by the early 30's, or parhaps sutcliffe were just simplifying the production process? (Note: the mast may not be original)


It can just be seen that this boat has the oval 'Sutcliffe' Pressing on the foredeck.  This changes on later boats to simply 'Made in England).


Fig. 4.3 - 16" clockwork Battleships - 1928 to 1978

Some of the variations of the design are show in Fig. 4.3.  The boat on the far left is one of the earliest versions, like the one in Fig 4.1. It has the oval 'Sutcliffe' logo embossed into the foredeck. The second boat from the left is also an early version but the embossed logo is slightly less 'crisp'; a sign that it is a later boat that was produced when the tool had been worn over time. The next boat along is from later in the 30's, and now no longer has the oval logo, just 'Made in England' and a transfer on the stern. The final example is from 1978/80 when Sutcliffe re-produced the model, albeit with quite a few changes so that there would never be any confusion. Having said that, this much more common boat is often passed off as being from the 60's, 50's and even 30's (!) despite lots of obvious differences. It can be seen that the foredeck is completely different in detail from the earlier boats.


Fig. 4.4.  Left: late 30's 12" clockwork Battleship with Sutcliffe motor. Right: 1928/29 12" battleship with German motor.

Clockwork Nelson coming soon!