Building Italeri's 155mm M1 Howitzer
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Building the Carriage Assembly

The carriage also offers numerous areas for improvement. Since I did not need to have the gun swivel, I was able to glue the cradle and trails in place. This made the other detailing a bit easier since I didn't have any rascally moving parts.

  1. While part 24 is bogus and only used to keep the gun elevation in place when playing with the model, I glued it in anyway to allow me to adjust the elevation for the purpose of the diorama, at which time I did glue the gun in the trunnion (or cradle, as it's called in the directions).

  2. Parts 33 and 34 are what I refer to in Item 6 on the howitzer construction page, where the equilibrator attaches to the trunnion. I cut off the pivot rods from these pieces and fashioned bits of Plastruct to match the shape of the plates that were present. The equilibrator end would be sandwiched between these two plates during the final step of assembly.

  3. Because it is an obvious detail when looking at the front of the gun, I added a homemade elevating pinion to connect with the kit's elevating arc between the trunnion arms; other bits were added for housings that encased the elevating worm and elevating worm wheel.

  4. The traverse gearbox and shaft (part 31) needs to be mounted higher. A junction was made for the traversing handwheel.

  5. Likewise the work is necessary on the elevating handwheel shaft, which passes through the trunnion to the elevating worm on the other side. The shaft needs to for the elevating handwheel extends past the farthest edge of the trunnion. The kit's handwheel is much smaller than the real thing. I was leery of trying to scratchbuild one myself, but I managed to successfully accomplish it the first time out.

  6. The telescope is extremely simplified. I basically deconstructed the kit's parts and rebuilt them with added bits of brass and plastic.

  7. The shields need to be thinned and reshaped. I used them as patterns for new shields on thinner plastic card. I then recut them to approximate the correct shapes. The shield on the gunner's side does fold down, and is often seen folded while in use, so I constructed mine that way. The shield on the other side is one piece, not two as the kit portrays. On the outside of this shield are stowed two rods used as ratchet handles for the firing jack when emplacing the gun. Contrary to the kit, there is only one storage box, located on the gunner's side for the gun sight. I used a little brass box found in the model railroad section. Rivets were added where necessary. The connecting points of the braces (parts 46) were thinned and modified, and connected farther up the trunnion than directed by the kit's instructions (the empty receiving points in the trunnion were patched with plastic card). Missing triangular shield braces were made from plastic card and detailed with rivets.

  8. I carved off all detail on the sides and tops of the trails and patched the holes. New stowage clips and holders for the handspikes, ammo tray, jack float, rammer and aiming posts were made from plastic and brass (it pays to hang on to any leftover photo etch parts from your tanks!). Kurt thoughtfully provided measurements of the placement of these items in his photos. These items were welded onto the trails and I tried to indicate that with beads of thick superglue. Grab handles were added to the outsides of the trails, as were brackets to hold the spades in place while the howitzer is traveled. A trail lock assembly was also scratchbuilt.

  9. The kit errs in having brake fluid cylinders molded onto both the trails and the interior face of the carriage. I ground off both the incorrect cylinders on the carriage and the ones on the trails, and correctly placed new ones (again brass pieces from the railroad department) on the trails. I ran new conduit for the brake lines along the inside faces of the trails. When the air brake lines were disconnected from the towing vehicle, they were locked into dummy couplings on the outer sides of the trails.

  10. The ends of the trails need considerable attention. Rather than being a solid hump over the top end, there are actually two protrusions on either edge, with a channel running between them. I was able to replicate this by drilling a hole through the center of the hump, from one side to the other. I then filed down the center, which gave me the end pieces and the channel produced by the drill. The tow ring is secured to the left trail (as looking at the back of the gun). I cemented the spades in place and added lifting handles.

  11. The plates (parts 50) to hold the trails to the carriage differ from those in the museum photos, but I was not inclined to change them. I glued the trails in place to the carriage, and then capped off the plates with some brass coverings from the railroad department.

  12. Air brake levers came from the Eduard 105 howitzer photo etch. The brake diaphragms are more bits from the railroad department. The latch plate and slack adjuster were handmade.

  13. The firing jack was used to raise the carriage so the wheels were off the ground and the gun's recoil didn't send the piece rolling backwards. The kit's jack, again modified so it can be played with, is the M1A2 postwar version. The tech manual and Mike Powell's photos gave me enough info to scratchbuild the correct jack and a new traveling lock. A canvas cover secured to the top of the jack to keep it clean was made of tissue soaked in glue and secured with wire. Another cover for the bottom of the jack was also scratchbuilt and chained to the traveling lock. The kit's float that the jack sat on was given a couple wire handles. Various pins and chains were added where appropriate (chains were added after the kit was primed to reduce help maintain the detail). The jack's ratchet handles were stowed on the gun's front shield.

  14. The most commonly seen wheels during the war were the diamond pattern and the zigzag pattern treads. I first smoothed the road-contact surfaces of the tires with an X-Acto knife and sandpaper. I tried carving the diamonds with a Dremel but wasn't able to get the angles without cutting into the grooved pattern around the edge of the tire, which I wanted to preserve. I then attempted to replicate the zigzag pattern around the circumference of the tire as a straight line (the zigzag itself being impossible to reproduce), again using an X-Acto. But again the results were unsatisfactory.

    Several modelers on Track-Link suggested using the rubber tires from Tamiya's Dragon Wagon, which can be purchased separately. These tires, while still not the correct pattern, are at least World War II vintage, and the size is right on. One could argue that they would be adequate replacements on the front line if the right tires were not at the supply depot.

    Using these tires necessitated sanding down the Italeri wheel (#54) between 1/8 and 3/16 inches. I test fitted the tires onto the wheels several times, including the wheel rims (#57) on the back sides, to make sure I didn't snd off too much. When the tires were snug and no gaps present, I glued the rims to the wheels, and the tires slipped over nicely. I spray painted the wheel assembly before affixing the tires with some white glue.

As you can see from my photos there are enough doodads added to make handling the carriage an exercise in extreme caution.

Background on the 155mm Howitzer
Overview of the Model and References
Building the Howitzer Assembly
Building the Carriage Assembly
Painting and Accessories
Pictures from the Technical Manual
155mm Ammunition
Pictures of Museum 155mm Howitzer
Diorama: "Mail Call for the Sons of Thor"


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2007 Timothy S. Streeter