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Cochrane man building scaled down Canadian naval ships

It's impossible to fit a full-sized ship into the Naval Museum of Alberta even though its curator would like one because it just wouldn't fit. But then there's the logistics of trying to get it to land locked Calgary, another insurmountable task. So the museum has turned to model builder Miles Chester instead.

Chester builds smaller, exact replicas of the ships in his Cochrane basement. His latest project is an offshore patrol ship for the Canadian Arctic called the Harry DeWolf.

"(The Navy) want to patrol the Northwest Passage in all weather in all seasons," said Chester. "They want to be able to have a presence for Canada and to prevent any other country from deciding that it's their territory, not ours."

The model's hull is made of cedar and everything above it is sheet plastic that Chester cuts to size. He's lucky to have some blueprints to work off of for this project but Chester typically uses photos to make models of ships that are long forgotten.

"Visuals, pictures, drawings and if I do anything that's historic, it's just pictures, because even a set of drawings didn't exist back then," he said. "You're doing a lot of math off of a picture to scale it and then you're getting input from old veterans to make sure that you're on the right track."

Chester is building the icebreaker on commission for the Naval Museum of Alberta. He started the 1/72nd scale model in October 2021 and said it will be complete in the summer of 2023 because there is a lot of work still to do to finish the ship.

"Down to the superstructures and the radar systems and the defense systems and the guns, I mean she has she has .50 caliber guns I have to build yet," he said. "The amount of detail that will be necessary to complete this model is immense and it'll take easily another year to finish it."


It's that attention to detail that impresses Brad Froggatt who is the curator of the Naval Museum. Froggatt said there are five naval museums in Canada and Calgary's has the most comprehensive and largest collection of weapons systems stored indoors. He said the museum is fortunate to benefit from Chester's talents.

"The reason we use models is so people can get an idea of the history and the development and the type of ships that were used," he said. "And by seeing it, unfortunately, we can't touch it, I would love if people could touch these things because it gives you a deeper appreciation of them, it gives you a sense of how people served and what they served on and what jobs they did during the wars or in peacetime."

Froggatt said not only does Chester create new models but he also is able to retrofit or update older models. Soon he'll start a renovation of sorts on the museum's Huron model built about four decades ago from a radio controlled model.

"So what we're going to do is take that basic model and we're going to have him retrofit it to a specific point in time," said Froggatt. "In this case is going to be put back to the time when they carried Standard Missiles because we'll use the Huron and its role as a missile carrier to augment our Standard Missile exhibit which is in the gallery."

Chester learns a lot in his research of a ship that he's working on and has become an historian. He likes to share that knowledge with others.

"After I started investigating some of these older ships and finding out the history, I need to be able to tell other people about it, so it's become important to me now."

Follow Chester's progress on his scale model builds here: Top Stories

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