Steam Punk and the USS Galena

By Rob Morgan

The USS Galena gunboat design was not one of the great successes of the Federal Navy, I’ll admit. Attractive, of course, with the awesome tumble home and quite powerfully armed as, essentially, a broadside ironclad. Never destined to be a class or to seriously influence warship design, but aesthetically the bark-rigged warship looked good. That’s my starting point.

This is the 1/1200th metal model of the Galena. Purchased at a show a few years ago (I can’t recall if they were Navwar or Skytrex). Anyway, there were four and I bought the lot. One, of course, sails with my Federal fleets, and for some reason, I thought I’d paint the others green. I do things like that. Of course, my slight obsession with science fiction helps, and apart from the fact that superglued over the original funnel is a 10mm section of plastic biro refill, the models are totally unchanged. I’d planned to drill for a mast on the foredeck, and a shorter mast aft, but changed my mind, nor did I add ship’s boats.

Basic models. You can see what I did, sprayed them a ripe green colour all over (got that from Games Workshop, I think) and detailed with gloss black and matte brown, with silver touches. I did that one Winter’s evening, and never returned to them. Until of late, that is.

I had a visitor. who being a youngish enthusiast of the Steam Punk world, asked to see some of my SF models. These were among the ships I put out. I was told they were obviously Steam Punk warships, not a term I’m over-familiar with. We ended playing a game with them and a couple of other Ironclad oddities, using standard American Civil War one-page rules. Worked nicely, and later on I found myself thinking I could have added to the ships some small deck guns fore and aft, and masts, naturally, and maybe a spar torpedo over the bow.

Anyway, I had an e-mail, and another. Four in all, asking about my Steam Punk warships and how to make them! Well, I suppose that’s exactly what all of the Dystophian Wars range is, but the 1/1200ths are smaller, quicker and a lot cheaper! I looked up Steam Punk and apparently this is a sub-genre of science fiction that incorporates the technology and aesthetic features of 19th century steam-powered machinery.

When the Federal Navy’s designers planned USS Galena, that’s what they had in mind, a powerful and aesthetic craft. The tumble home and the slender lines give it away. In fact, aren’t a great deal of the Federal and Confederate fleets found in this category — sorry, sub-genre?

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