Cruise ships are repainted many times during their lives, and sometimes this is more than a fresh coat of the same paint. New ownership will usually require an entirely new livery, and of course a changed colour scheme can breathe new life into a jaded liner. Modelmakers will sometimes follow suit, updating the colours on their models to keep them up to date – but they will also sometimes change the colour schemes for other reasons. Wiking were no exception in this, and we can see how they rang the changes by taking as an example their model of a relatively humble yet long-lived ship, that began life as the SS Sierra Salvada.
The Sierra Salvada
In the early twentieth century, there were large population movements across the Atlantic, and shipping companies competed to capture the trade. North German Lloyd (NDL) was one such, and in the years before the Great War commissioned the ‘Sierra’ class of four ships to service their routes to South America.
Compared to the great liners that came to dominate the North Atlantic routes, the Sierra class were modest ships, roughly 140 metres long, with a crew of 160 and capable of cruising at 13 knots. Nevertheless, the ships could accommodate 190 passengers in cabins, and the large number of 1,200 in steerage class. They were built with a single funnel.
The final ship of the class was the Sierra Salvada, which was launched just before the Great War put an abrupt end to its career when it was interned. In 1922 the ship capsized in Hamburg, but was raised and rebuilt with two funnels, and all-cabin accommodation for 284 passengers. In this guise, she was purchased in 1927 by the Hamburg America line for pleasure cruises, refurbished and renamed the Oceana.
The Oceana spent the pre-war years cruising in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and Norway. From 1934, with the Nazis in power, she was used for cruises operated by the Nazi Party (see below) and in 1938 transported German personnel back from the Spanish Civil War. During the war, she was used as a depot ship. Having survived, she ended her career in Russian service, being laid up in 1958.
The Wiking Oceana Model
Wiking H111 Oceana
Year first produced:1935
L113xW14xH24, Metal 81g, Scale 1:1250, Features: 0
Our model is one of the early productions of Wiking, produced sometime between 1935 and 1937. As usual, it is a single-piece casting, with inserted wire masts. As can be seen here, and in most of the other models illustrated in this story, the masts have a tendency over the years to become bent. This can cause the paint to flake off, and once bent they are difficult to fully straighten.
The paint scheme represents the ship in Hamburg Amerika cruising colours, and is typical of the models created by Wiking at this time (see here for another example) – glossy, detailed and hand-painted. The hull and superstructure are white, over which the deck has been painted brown. At the waterline of the bow, a red band shows. The funnels are mustard yellow, topped with bands of red, white and black. The masts are also yellow (there is some paint loss on my model), while details such as the ships boats and hatch covers are picked out in grey and red. On the side of the hull, and around the rear superstructure, details of portholes and covered walkways have been picked out in black, while the name of the ship has been painted on each side of the bow.
Underneath the model, the following marks can be found:
“D.R.G.M.”, “WIKING-MODELL”, “OCEANA” and “2,50”.
The latter refers to the price of the model at this time, 2 Reichsmarks and 50 pfennig.
Wiking kept the Oceana model available throughout the two decades that spanned their pre- and post-war production periods, from the mid 1930s to the mid 1950s. During this time, the casting remained unaltered, but it was released in a variety of colour schemes. What were they, and what prompted them?
Of course, since the early colour scheme is both complex and hand-painted, there may be a variety of unintended minor variations – but let’s stick to the intentional changes. Of these, there are several that I haven’t been able to secure a copy of – some are rare, as we are talking about toys produced a long time ago – but there are enough examples to illustrate the story.
We have already seen how the model initially reflected the then-current Hamburg America cruise ship.
Kraft durch Freude
An unusual early variant of the model represented the Oceana in the later 1930s, when it was taken into the ownership of the German Labour Front, an organisation set up by the Nazis to replace the labour unions that had existed previously. To encourage the support and loyalty of the working classes, a programme of subsidised holidays and leisure activities was set up, termed “Kraft durch Freude” (Strength Through Joy), abbreviated as KdF. Cruises formed a major part of the programme, hence the acquisition of the Oceana.
The ships used for this purpose were repainted buff overall, and carried on their funnels a red circular KdF logo, which had at its centre a black swastika.
The model is correctly buff overall, with grey, brown and black detailing. Compared to the Hamburg America model, the ship’s name and the open decks along the sides have been applied as decals, rather than hand-painted. The model has some paint loss, and unfortunately the KdF logos on the funnels have flaked off (or been rubbed off by a previous owner?). However, enough remains on one side of the rear funnel to confirm that the KdF logo was present, probably as a decal.
Nowadays the KdF seems a rather sinister organisation, but at the time it was enormously popular because it gave working people access to holidays that they could never have normally afforded. A model in the KdF livery would, therefore, have been a potentially attractive souvenir to tens of thousands of people.
The Niagara was built in Scotland, and launched in 1912. It was operated by the Union Steam Company of New Zealand and from 1931, by the Canadian-Australasian Line, carrying passengers across the Pacific between Australia and Canada. In shape, the two funnelled Niagara resembled the Oceana, but was a significantly larger ship at 160m in length.
In the late 1930s, Wiking released a model of the Niagara by the simple expedient of using the Oceana casting, but in a different paint scheme. As a result, the model is undersized. It should be 128 millimetres long, but is only 112, which is a disappointing discrepancy. And, somewhat ironically, the real Niagara was sunk in 1940 by a mine laid by the German raider Orion. The model was reputedly only available for export during 1938 and 1939 and, presumably, few were made. As a result, it is quite rare.
The model was painted white overall, with black hull (though my example seems to have taken on a slightly green colour), grey lifeboats and hatches, and red funnels with black tops. Unfortunately, on my example, a previous owner has painted the decks rather poorly with matt brown and sand paint which in my opinion does the model no favours! On the hull side, somewhat faded transfers have been used to depict the open decks and display the ships name.
So, here we have an example of how a single casting could receive a new colour scheme in order to appear like another vessel (also ironically, a tactic used by the German merchant raiders during the World Wars!). No doubt, the relatively non-descript appearance of the Oceana made this possible, and in fact the Oceana casting was also used to represent other liners including the French SS Colombie and Dutch SS Costa Rica.
During the Second World War, Wiking once again tried to reflect current events by releasing several of their liners with camouflage paint schemes. These seem to have been to a generic and probably imaginary scheme, rather than accurately portraying individual ship histories, so are to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Our model is painted in two shades of matt grey. A mid grey has been applied overall, and a darker shade applied on the sides, including the funnels, to break up the silhouette. The ships boats and hatches are picked out a different shade of darker grey, and a few details including the funnel tops picked out in black, or red. The ships lights are still depicted by blobs of red and green on the bridge wing, and the usual black transfers have been applied to the hull sides to simulate the open decks. No name is carried on the model (but underneath, the usual markings identify the Oceana).
After WW2, when Wiking was able to resume production, they continued to make the Oceana casting available. However, in common with many of their German passenger and merchant ship models, they rebranded it as a generic passenger ship of a certain tonnage, in this case of 8,000 gross registered tons (roughly correct for the Oceana). This avoided painful reference to many ships that had been sunk during the war, or had been associated with the Nazi regime.
The finish of the model is much simplified, reflecting the straightened economic circumstances of the time. The ship is white overall, with a black hull and funnels. The boats and hatch covers are picked out in black, brown and red. A single line of portholes has been added to the side of the model. The ship has masts but no derricks, and of course carries no name.
Underneath, the casting is completely devoid of marks. This indicates that the model was probably produced in 1948 or 1949, as models made during the 1950s carried the Wiking name and the nominal tonnage mentioned above. The colour scheme, however, remained substantially unchanged.
The Oceana was a long-lived model in the Wiking range, and was released in several updated liveries representing different periods of its history. It was also used as a casting to represent other, similar ships. The number of colour variants of the model is therefore large, certainly larger than can be illustrated by the selected examples in this story. This, of course, is both a minefield and a delight for the collector!
However, once again, I think we have seen that it is the early models produced in the 1930s that have the greatest charm, with their beautiful and detailed hand-painted finish.
Having already seen a good variety of paint schemes applied to the Oceana, bear with me for one final variant, because this one harbours a surprise.
The model is finished as a hospital ship, white overall with prominent red crosses on the funnels and hull. Now, Wiking did indeed produce a hospital version of the Oceana – but this isn’t it. There are some tell-tale signs that Wiking did not produce our model. For example, the portholes on this model are raised, and the masts have cross-trees, neither of which were features of Wiking models. Nevertheless, the basic form of the model is unmistakeably identical to the Wiking Oceana.
To unravel the mystery we have to look underneath the model. At first sight, there is a dearth of markings, which in itself would be unusual for a Wiking model. In fact, close inspection reveals a logo of a T and M intertwined, followed by the words “BRITISH MADE”.
These are the marks of a British firm, Treforest Mouldings, which produced a large catalogue of warships in the late 1930s. The firm was founded by a Mr Winkler, a Jewish emigree who had fled to Britain in the face of Nazi rule and reputedly a Wiking ex-employee. It looks like he may have taken with him masters made from Wiking moulds, presumably with the knowledge of that firm. I’d love to know more…
Turning away from our focus on the Oceana, Wiking created a good selection of other passenger ships, from ferries to some of the major liners. Examples of the latter include the H112 MV Wilhelm Gustloff, H413 RMS Queen Mary and H541 SS United States.