Merchant brigantine Leon. The model in a scale of 1:96 shown here stands as a particularly fine example of Harold Underhill’s modelling technique on deck 3 of the museum, which is dedicated to the history of shipbuilding.
The Norwegian merchant brigantine „Leon“ was built in 1880 in the city of Larvik, with Porsgrund as her home port. Her main area of operation was the trade of goods between the British Isles and Norway. At some point during her career, the ship was re-rigged as a schooner. The „Leon“ was a typical merchant sailing vessel from the North Sea and Baltic region of the second half of the 19th century.
As with many innovations, it took a long time for the construction of ships made of metal and the use of steam engines to propel them to become widespread. Purely wooden sailing ships were still to be found in merchant navies well into the 20th century. There were two main reasons for this: firstly, the often conservative and traditional attitude of ship owners and builders, who distrusted the „iron coffins“, as steamships were derisively called by some in the mid-19th century. On the other hand, wooden ships were simply cheaper to build and maintain.
The „Leon“ carried freight until 1915. Her end after 35 years of service had nothing to do with the efficiency of steamships; nor with the First World War raging at the time. On 30 October, while sailing from Granton to Porsgrund fully loaded with coal, the „Leon“ suffered a leak. The crew was subsequently unable to bring the damage under control and eventually had to abandon the ship before it sank.
The popularity of this model ship can be attributed to Harold Underhill’s 1960 work „Plank-on Frame Models“. In the two-volume book, Underhill uses the „Leon“ as an example of how to build a wooden scale model using almost the same techniques as with the original ship.
The model in a scale of 1:96 shown here stands as a particularly fine example of Harold Underhill’s modelling technique on deck 3 of the museum, which is dedicated to the history of shipbuilding.