Modelling the Union-Castle Line (1)

The Union-Castle Line had some beautiful ships, but for some reason or other they never received the attention of plastic model manufacturers like Airfix or Revell. If you wanted UC you built  from scratch. I did try scratch building many years ago, and while it is possible, without the plans you are going to be sucking on air. Sadly, Triang never dabbled in them either, but as my Minic Ship collection grew so I became more aware that there were some very nice 1/1250 ships out there if you were willing to fork out large amounts of money, and there were UC ships among them!.  

Unfortunately during the course of adding to my collection this page has fallen out of synch so I am now hopefully going to set the record straight (or straighter).

Page 2 may be found here

Capetown and Dunnottar Castles.  

Ebay has taught me a lot, and  I found a supplier for resin cast vessels who was offering a number of Union-Castle vessels, including some of the cargo ships. For the record it is Convoy Models, and I recommend them for not only UC but other resin cast models from the Len Jordan and Hein Muck range

My first acquisition was the Capetown Castle and Dunnottar Castle.

Capetown Castle

Capetown Castle

Dunnottar Castle

The biggest question of course is: “what colour is the hull?”

The hull colour has been described as many things and it is really a difficult subject because the colour is not available off the shelf. The closest (in my opinion) that there is Humbrol 42 (Violet Matt). On my original Union-Castle webpage I used to use  A77B96 and that came from a Union-Castle document that I scanned and matched using the colour dropper. I have also heard the colour described as “Mountbatten Pink”.  I have stuck with this colour for all of my UC ships because I can get it off the shelf. Mixing paint can be difficult, especially when you need to touch up.  I am also hearing that “Gentle Lavender” or “Lavender Grey” from Dulux is also very close, so am enclosing an image of them too. I am really tempted to get some and try it and see what happens.   

Humbrol 42 Violet Matt


Web colours A77B96


Dulux “Gentle lavender”


Dulux  Lavender Grey


The Capetown Castle model is not a very good likeness to the real vessel, but it is close enough. She was not a difficult ship to paint but I did make a mistake with the deck colours and subsequently ruined the model. But it was an interesting experience painting her, especially given my tendency to not see too well. 

John Bowen’s book, ‘More Miniature Merchant Ships’: has the following colour scheme for the Capetown Castle:  

“Union-Castle lavender grey to the level of the top of the bulwark to the opening in the ship’s side forward in way of the Upper (C) Deck, white above, with narrow teak colour dividing line between; red below waterline (the nearest shade to this hull colour being obtained by mixing 10 parts Humbrol No 147 Light Grey, 1 part Humbrol No 174 Signal Red, and 2 parts Humbrol No 104 Blue).

Superstructure: white, inside bulwarks white. Masts, derrick posts, derricks: as built, masts were reddish-brown, derrick posts and derricks white. After the war the masts were changed to white. Ventilators: white, inside cowls red. Lifeboats, davits: white, boat covers light grey. Windlass, winches: mid-grey. Bollards, fairleads: black. Hatches: grey. Funnel: vermilion (orange red), black top, Decks: wood planked, bare steel decks mid-grey.”

The first mistake I made was using too dark a brown for the decks, and that would come back to haunt me in the future.

Capetown Castle

Capetown Castle

I used to work on both ships over the weekends, and soon had them shipshape although I was not happy with the decks. The colour on the tin was a light brown but this was way too dark. I would have to rethink the deck colour. The masts were pins and the derricks were bristles from my carpet brush. They worked well and I was happy to find a ready source of derrick material. Now if only I could find out where my brush went to. 

Dunnottar Castle

I have since disposed of both of these models as I have metal versions of them both. 

Update 11/10/2016

This month I acquired a 1/1250 scale of Victoria.  Built as Dunnottar Castle was one of the older ships still afloat and spent most of her life as a cruise ship. She was built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast, and launched on 25 January 1936. She was primarily used on the London (Tilbury) – round Africa service until the outbreak of WW2, when she was converted to an armed merchant cruiser, and later to a troop transport. In 1949 she resumed her London – round Africa service. In 1958 she was sold to Incres SS Co, who renamed her Victoria and substantially rebuilt her in Rotterdam. She entered service in 1960 on New York-West Indies cruises. In 1964 she changed hands once again, this time to Victoria SS Co, a subsidiary of Swedish company Clipper A/B, she retained her name, and Incres Line as agents. Chandris Cruises bought her in 1964, and she resumed sailings as The Victoria in June of 1976. She cruised in Europe and the Caribbean until 1993, when she was sold to Louis Cruise Lines and renamed Princessa Victoria for use on cruises from Cyprus. In 2002 it was reported that she was to be taken up for service as a hotel ship in London. This sadly never came to pass and the Princessa was laid up and in 2004 sold for scrap. She arrived at the breakers at Alang on 25 May 2004.



Reina Del Mar and Llandaff Castle

The next two ships I bought were the Reina Del Mar (under UC ownership) and the Llandaff Castle. The latter may also double as the Llandovery Castle, but I decided to go with Llandaff instead. These models were from the same supplier, but the Reina Model was outstanding. 

Llandaf Castle and Reina Del Mar before painting

The one irritation with the Reina was the lack of roof for the cinema but I managed to fabricate that using spare plastic I had left over from my container ship experiment. Unfortunately there is no model shop where I live and the local art supplier has a limited stock of paint, and I agonised over those tinlets for ages, hoping to find a suitable deck colour before settling on Humbrol Matt 121 (Pale Stone). I was surprised with the results and decided to overpaint the decks of the other two ships. That was not successful. 

Reina Del Mar

Reina Del Mar

Llandaff Castle

Llandaff Castle

At the time of writing the basics of both ships have been painted and I need to touch up the mistakes and fill in some of the spots I missed as well as paint the cargo gear. However, just before I reached this point I was able to pick up a Pretoria Castle off ebay and when she arrived I got quite a surprise because her hull is the same colour as mine as are her decks!

Pretoria Castle

The model was released by Albatros and she is 1/1250 scale.

Pretoria Castle

Pretoria Castle

By now my fleet of Union-Castle ships had grown. and as I got more confident my painting skills  improved slightly. I also invested in “Trimline” which is great for lines on funnels, waterlines, straight lines, in fact anywhere a line is needed 

My next addition was:

Athlone Castle

She too is a resin cast and a better detailed model than the Capetown Castle is. Unfortunately she does have a mistake in her superstructure that could be corrected by somebody more skilled than me

Hull, superstructure and decks partly painted.


Basic painting is completed and most masts are fitted although no booms are in place yet. I also used the opportunity to touch up some areas on the other fleet members. 

Booms fitted. I was amazed at how many had to be fitted to the Athlone which does give an indication of how much cargo space these vessels really had. I have to sort out the sheer line on the Athlone though as it is wobbly and paint the booms and touch up more areas that I may have missed. The ships are more or less complete though. 

Durban Castle

Pendennis Castle

I looked round at other commercially made Union-Castle vessels that were available as I really wanted a Pendennis (IMHO the most beautiful of them all). Unfortunately they do not come cheap but I finally got one from L Wiedling in Germany

She is made by CM and is  1/125 scale and she is a beauty, just like the real thing. There appears to be two versions of the ship though, one with painted decks and one with white decks. I have the latter.  Her hull colour is also lighter than the colour I am using for my hulls. 

Pendennis Castle

When I eventually finished the Athlone and Durban Castles I had (counts on fingers…) 8 UC ships in total.  And here they are.

(L-r) Capetown, Athlone, Pendennis, Edinburgh, Reina Del Mar, Durban, Dunnottar and Llandaff Castles.

The available affordable UC models had more or less dried up by now, although some were available from Convoy Models in military garb so I decided to get at least one for the collection, and I chose Stirling Castle. The model was outstanding, and it is hard to believe how much detail is on her. She is easier to paint because you only really need 2 colours: grey and black.

Here is my Stirling Castle and her sister Athlone Castle together. Stirling is in front. (image from 10/2017)

Union-Castle also had a large fleet of cargo ships, many of which served in the two world wars. I decided that I needed at least one representative of that fleet and I chose one of  “fruit ships” namely MV Rochester Castle,  Built in  1937, she took part in Operation Pedestal during WW2, and was broken up in 1970. There were 4 sisters in this class: Rochester Castle, Roxburgh Castle, Richmond Castle and Rowallan Castle. I think Convoy has them in military garb too. 

Bucket list? Naturally I have a bucket list, but the ships in that bucket are pricey and possibly out of my league although by 2012 I had managed to source most of my bucket list ships. They can be viewed on “page 2”.

Page 2 may be found here

DRW ©  2016-2022. Created 23/06/2016. Excerpt from John Bowen’s Book is courtesy of Glynn Price.  Page rearranged 04/04/2018, page changed 07/10/2021

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