by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
backgroundThe Saro Cloud was a British passenger amphibian flying boat designed and built by Saunders-Roe as the A.19 and later produced as the A.29 for the Royal Air Force for pilot and navigator training.
Following on from the success of the A.17 Cutty Sark the company designed an enlarged version designated the A.19 Cloud. It had room for a crew of two and eight passengers and like the Cutty Sark was a twin-engined monoplane flying boat with two engines strut-mounted above the wing. The design allowed for flexibility in engine fits and a four aircraft were sold to private operators with different engines fitted.
First flown in 1930 the prototype was fitted with two 300 hp (224kW) Wright J-6 radial engines. The Air Ministry ordered a prototype and 16 production aircraft for the Royal Air Force as pilot and navigator trainers. There was room for a crew of two and the former luxury cabin was replaced with chart tables for training six navigators at a time.
The fifth aircraft built was powered by two Armstrong Siddeley Serval III and registered G-ACGO. First flown in 1933 it went on a sales tour of Europe and was sold to the Czechoslovak State Airline as OK-BAK and re-engined with Walter Pollux radials. The fuselage is preserved at the Kbely Aircraft Museum, Prague.
the kitThe Sara Cloud holds a special attraction for me as I worked to get money to go to college in the very factory where had been constructed some 50 years earlier. Valom's 1:72 kit is probably their most ambitious yet in this scale, and is available in both military and civil versions.
The kit arrives in a solid and attractive top-opening box, with the main sprues and accessories bagged separately. The kit comprises:
132 x grey styrene parts
8 x clear styrene parts
13 x grey resin parts
46 x etched brass parts plus a printed film for the instruments
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The first thing that strikes you is the rather unusual breakdown of parts, because the fuselage sides are cast in resin, while the top sections and the rest of the airframe is plastic. I think this must be on account of the shape of the hull and the extensive "stringers" running along the outside, which would be very hard to mould in styrene due to the complex contours involved. The casting is good, although I noticed a couple of blemishes, but they shouldn't be hard to clean up. The styrene parts have a bit of flash here and there, but the surface finish is generally very nice, with neat engraved panel lines and some applique detail on the wings, and a nice subtle fabric effect on the tail. There don't seem to be any sink marks on the review kit but, as you might expect with a kit produced with limited run technology, you need to watch out for ejector pin marks (one nasty one is inexplicably on the rudder).
Test fitI'll start with the easy bit... the wings. The full-span top and bottom halves fit together beautifully, with a sharp trailing edge and all the panel lines matching up precisely.
The fuselage is altogether trickier, as the resin halves tend to flex and the material itself is very slippery and seems quite determined not to let sticky tape adhere to it! I felt rather like I needed an extra pair of hands, but with the interior bulkheads temporarily in place, the styrene roof sections look like they should fit OK. There are no locating pins however, so I think modellers experienced with short run kits will want to add some tabs to help everything line up and reinforce the joints. The entire tail is separate from the fuselage, which will make alignment a bit trickier than it might otherwise have been
A few detailsAn immediate advantage of casting the fuselage in resin is that there is extensive structural inside each half. Into this fits quite a busy styrene interior. The cabin floor is made up of three sections - cockpit, passenger cabin, and an aft compartment that's complete with a lavatory. The windows are nice and clear, so this should all be visible on the completed model.
The instrument console looks a little heavy, but in fact the instructions show it used simply as a mount for a pair of very nice etched brass panels with films for the instruments. The pilot and co-pilot's seats are each made up of three parts, onto which fit etched seatbelts, trim wheels and levers, while each of the seven passenger seats is also a three-part affair (they aren't provided with seatbelts). The etched belts are perhaps a bit overscale, but are very nicely detailed - if I decide not to use them for the cloud, they'll certainly warrant a place in the spares box as a generic set for a larger scale model.
The kit offers a choice of resin engines, with either Armstrong Siddley Serval or Walter Pollux radials. These are beautifully cast and detailed, with equally nice resin cowls for the Czech version. The props are styrene and will benefit from thinning down a bit and generally refining, but should look fine - especially the Czech machine which has an extra twist with 4-bladed propellers made up of two individual twin-blade props. Each nacelle is mounted on a framework of struts, again the Czech version being the more complex in also carrying a pair of vanes, or winglets, under the engines.
The floats are split into top and bottom sections with a little cat's cradle of struts, and as with the nacelles it will be wise to double-check the sit is absolutely square before cementing anything. (Lance Krieg's "Modelling Master Class" in the latest issue of Windsock International offers excellent advice on precisely these types of assemblies.)
The method of constructing the wheels is very unusual and rather innovative. A pair of styrene tyres are provided, into which fit resin hubs for the inner surfaces. For the exterior Valom supply etched spokes, along with a little resin press to "dish" them. Very nifty! The locations for the folding gear legs aren't marked on the fuselage and the parts shown in the instructions don't seem to match the way they're actually moulded, but I think everything should make sense using the holes marked on the wings as reference points.
InstructionsApart from the last point about the undercarriage, the instructions look pretty clear. They are nicely printed as 6-page A-5 pamphlet, with full colour painting instructions. The assembly diagrams are a little basic, but do their job well enough, and are backed up by some neatly drawn "info views", and colour are keyed to most details. A paint chart provides Humbrol, Agama, ModelMaster, Gunze Sanyo model paint matches, as well as F.S. equivalents, so you should have no trouble finding suitable paints wherever you're based.
Decals are provided for a pair of aircraft - well, the same airframe, re-engined and re-registered in a new guise:
1. G-ACGO - the Westland demonstration aircraft with A.S. Cerval engines.
2. OK-BAK - the same machine in Czech service with Walter Pollux engines.
The decals look excellent quality - thin and glossy with crystal-clear carrier film. Two sheets are provided - one for the registration codes etc. printed in black, with a small supplementary sheet providing the Czech national markings.
ConclusionValom's Saro Cloud looks a neat little kit, but I'd have to caution that it doesn't look suitable for inexperienced modellers - largely on account of the unusual breakdown of the fuselage and the mix of materials used. So, possibly quite a challenging build, but I think it should be a very satisfying one in skilled hands - and the end result will be a very attractive and quite unusual subject that is bound to attract plenty of attention in any display.
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