San Francisco with its rich maritime history has a lot to offer to a ship lover, but it also provides a rich and soulful inspiration to a miniature enthusiast. The Hyde Street Historic Waterfront is a treasure trove of ships and boats – both real and miniature. The real ships are not necessarily the ‘stuff of legends,’ they haven’t made historic voyages from Europe to the New World or made significant contribution to any historic wars, but their true romanticism lies in the heart of the common man and their everyday life. Thus they are woven much tighter and closer to the city’s history, culture and emotion than legendary brigs or frigates. These vessels brought logs from various places in the Pacific Coastline to San Francisco, ferried cars and people from all around the Bay Area to the heart of the city, pushed railroad car floats and barges and did many other odd jobs throughout the first half of the 20th century that added to the prosperity of the city – slowly, but steadily.
There are many miniature models in the Maritime Museum Welcome Center at the corner of Hyde St and Jefferson St. crossing and bang opposite the Hyde St. Pier entrance. The model collection includes the ‘Ships of the Park’ display of models of all the real ships that the park owns. These are particularly interesting since you can just walk down the pier and validate the real thing in no time! The steam ferry boat Eureka, berthed at the Hyde St. Pier also houses a lot of miniatures. Talking about all of them would take a lot of space, so we will target some key attractions and little stories behind them.
Models of Maritime Museum Welcome Center
7 models of the ships that the park owns greet a visitor the moment they step into the welcome center: Logging Schooner C.A. Thayer, Square Rigged Ship Balclutha, Steam Schooner Wapama, Steam Ferry Eureka, Scow Schhoner Alma, Paddle Tug Eppleton Hall and Steam Tug Hercules.
Once you move along the magnificent models of the ships that the park owns, be ready for your jaw to drop when you reach the model of the clipper ship Sovereign of the Sea. A true piece of art, this 1/8th inch scale model shows every minute details of a fully rigged ship – the smallest of smallest details meticulously crafted.
Deviating on the other side, right beside the entrance you find magnificent 3/16 scale model of another clipper ship, Champion of the Sea. Fantastic as you can expect at that scale, the model is over 5 ft in length and as tall. Another great attraction right opposite that model is a fantastic comparison of San Carlos, a 70 ft vessel that was the first European Ship to enter San Francisco in 1775, and 1200 ft long Chevron South America, built in 1976 for San Francisco based Chevron Oil. at 1:400 scale, the details on both models are ecstatic – the little San Carlos is just about 3 inches long but the starting from sail geometry to rigging, everything was perfect and to the scale in that model despite it’s diminutive size – this exhibit had won my heart straight away.
Once you navigate through the other displays of the museum, you continue to encounter beautiful scale models of various kinds from various era. One notable mention is a 3D wall hanging of a fully rigged ship – not a classic ship in a bottle, but a beautiful 3D framed art. Throughout the walk, the museum also provides valuable information about the history of San Francisco – the Native Americans, logging, the great fill, the gold rush era developments… and all the while you learn how ships and maritime technology contributed to the city’s and country’s development.
Exiting the welcome center and walking down the Hyde Street pier, you actually get to see some of the real ships moored to the pier – the model of which gave a fantastic introduction back in the museum. Eureka, the railroad car ferry turned car ferry turned a floating museum, hosts variety of scale models, some of which talks about how to built wooden ship models. Two notable mention is the operating rigging model of another of the park’s pride Alma, and an interactive and operating display of the Walking Beam Engine that moved this huge vessel. Below is a video about that magnificent miniature:
The number of photos I have taken are too large to host in a blog, so what you see in the above gallery is just a preview. If you are interested to see more photos, including the real life ships of those models, check out the flickr album below.