It is a bit difficult to categorize the Kronprinzessin Cecilie based upon the accepted methods of classification for ship models today. She is at once both commercially produced and scratch built; therefore she can be said to reside in a category all her own.
The model is constructed largely of tin - cut, shaped and soldered entirely by hand. Her hull was stamped out in six sections and welded together. Components such as cowl ventilators are diecast. Smaller, more detailed components (binnacles, telegraphs, bells, etc.) are lathe-turned brass.
Nearly all bolts and screws used to secure the model’s fittings and to attach the superstructure to the hull are cleverly concealed. Upon examination of the finished model only six small screw heads are visible.
Fleischmann’s experienced designers obviously worked in concert with the model’s decorators to ensure that her elaborate paint scheme could be applied without great difficulty. This meant that components had to be configured to allow the enamellers access to all surfaces – some prior to and some after assembly. Though the use of lithography had begun to take hold, manufacturers such as Fleischmann and Märklin clung to the proven methods and employed highly skilled enamellers and decorators.
The model is not without its mysteries, and many questions may forever remain unanswered. Minor variations between the existing models may be attributed to the fact that they are handmade, but others are puzzling.
In 1918, at the end of WWI, the Norddeutscher Lloyd found themselves with a much-reduced fleet...and no four-funneled liners. The Kronprinzessin Cecilie, commandeered by the United States 1n 1917, had become the troop transport USSMount Vernon. However, the Lloyd were permitted to keep one ship then under construction: the 750' twin-funneled SS Columbus of 1924. Almost certainly an attempt was made to alter the model's profile to resemble that vessel. Changes included removing two of the model's funnels, reducing the number of masts from three to two, and replacing and rearranging a number of skylights on her boat deck.
The pride with which Fleischmann’s tin smiths crafted the model became apparent once the paint had been removed. In fact, it became a simple matter to determine which components had been added to the model due to the inferior methods of construction. Each new discovery, however, simply led to more questions.
What became of the model’s boats and davits? SS Columbus carried even more boats than did the Cecilie, however only a single example out of the original thirty-seven davits remained with the model. This was an explainable stroke of luck perhaps due to the fact that she had an uneven number (the odd davit served as an anchor crane). Quite likely the davits were removed in pairs and it is possible that somewhere, perhaps displayed in a maritime museum, a model will someday be discovered to be carrying the Cecilie’s missing boats and davits.
Of particular interest: this model is the only known example decorated entirely with stamped brass portholes and windows. All other models found to date feature drilled portholes and interior lighting. Was this model the prototype?
The Mariners’ Museum model and the example at the Allen County Museum can be said to be physically unaltered; however the changes made to this model and to the example in Bremerhaven are drastically different. Why? Were European-based models sent back to Fleischmann for refitting, while parts only were delivered to the U.S.? The SS Columbus-style mast fittings found with this model were obviously professionally made. Why put such effort into small details that would go largely unnoticed while major alterations were executed in somewhat shoddy fashion?
These are but a few of the questions that future discoveries might answer. Like the vessel herself, Fleischmann’s Kronprinzessin Cecilie has many stories to tell!