03 December 2017

YT-1300 Freighter w/Cargo Carriage (scale model), Part 1

For a couple of decades, now, I'd been curious about two things concerning the Millennium Falcon: what it looked like as a brand new, unmodified ship...and how exactly did it work as a "freighter," anyway?

That other build takes care of my curiosity about the ship, this one takes care of my curiosity about the freighter question...

Hail, Bandai.

Bandai Star Wars kits are amazing. Their larger models are super detailed, but even these tiny kits (the Falcon here is about 1/350 scale) are superior to many previous and current Star Wars kits by MPC, AMT, or Revell.

Mini sprue tour.

Interestingly, this version of the Falcon is the one from Star Wars, having only three landing gear boxes (two more were added to the front for Empire), but the larger version I built as factory stock had five because it was the version from The Force Awakens. My only (very minor) complaint is that these smaller kits only have stickers instead of decals (the larger kits have both).

Size comparison.

The detail is so good on both versions that without my hand in the shots, it'd be hard, at a glance, to know they were vastly different sizes.


She's not usually seen directly from the side like this, but her profile is quite flat and speedy-looking from this angle.

On the larger model I'd come up with alternative details for the docking ports (the conical sections on either side of the ship), but here I just altered the existing details here a little bit (it was too tiny for me to scratch-build something and this project isn't about the details of the ship).

Top view.

That's right: top view; the cockpit hasn't been attached incorrectly (in fact, I had to cut away some parts to make it go like that).

Filling in bits.

I built this Falcon before tackling the 1/144 scale version to see what I needed to "undo" to "restore" it to its "factory specs." The abundance of quotations should indicate how much of these projects is pure conjecture (but based on extensive –however deliberately limited– research (once again, see this post for all that)).

Here, I've filled in the mandible maintenance wells and the two open access areas on the front fuselage with putty. Also, I've filed and sanded and scraped off much of the lovely detail Bandai included.

Port view.

Normally the top of the ship (I guess it's still the top when not hooked up to a carriage –and certainly when landed), this is now the port side. Note the mandible wells, back access areas, and that rough-cut hole left of the cockpit are all filled in. Also, I'm pretending that the sensor dish and the quad lasers are optional or aftermarket parts that don't come standard, so they're deliberately absent.

Done, but for the painting.

Cargo carriage layout.

The side and back sections are lying flat, but will be vertical in the final assembly.

Jeff Carlisle, an artist working on the Cross-Sections book for The Force Awakens drew a sketch of the Falcon pushing freight, but it wasn't included in the book. It's been much talked-about in the modelling community recently, what with all the amazing Millennium Falcon models currently being built (sincere thanks to Bandai) and that unnecessary Han Solo movie coming out next year which might just show such a thing.

I'm not saying he's wrong (hell, like I said, this could very well be the official arrangement that they'll establish in the upcoming Han Solo movie), but I think having "as long a train as you want" would look weird at some point (the quantity shown in that sketch would be my maximum cargo) and, more importantly, I think the "pusher" should be close to the front to be prepared for, and aware of, "the road ahead" as much as possible. Sure, you can put all kinds of sensor equipment on the front of the train, but let's put the ship up front the way we have locomotives and semi trucks up front and the train cars and trailers trailing behind.

Also, like I said in this post, I'll be using as little reference as possible from anything Star Wars-related that came out after 1983 (when Return of the Jedi was released and the three Lando Calrissian books were published), pretending as though I'm a kid in the mid-to-late 1980s building this (and the factory stock Falcon) based on that very limited information...and with my current modelling skills (such as they are).

I should note that the main structures of the carriage are parts from my two Bandai A-Wing Fighter kits. They were supposed to be Death Star gun towers, but I've beaten those swords into ploughshares, so to speak.

That's my old MPC A-Wing I built in 1993 at the top of the photo below:

Kitbashing the carriage.

So, maybe there would be a cargo configuration where much of the cargo is ahead of the freighter (as Carlisle proposed), and another where there's a very long train behind the ship, but I wanted a compact, self-contained structure, much the way a semi truck and trailer arrangement doesn't go beyond two trailers at a time.

I'm not pretending to lay down the law, here, and say that this is the definitive way the Falcon hauled freight; there's room in the Star Wars fiction for all kinds of different cargo hauling configurations concerning the YT-1300 light freighter. This one's mine.

The side and back pieces act as sort of "protection" for the cargo (yes, there's nothing protecting the top and bottom, just play along) while maintaining structural integrity. Plus, I imagine these units also have whatever powered systems are required to keep the various freight cool or hot or alive or in stasis or whatever (that's why I added tons of greeblies instead of just leaving them bare walls).

These outer structures will be joined by rods and cargo will be attached to those. We'll see what else is needed (structurally, aesthetically) as I put it together, but I have a rough idea.

Mandible coupling.

In my set-up, the freighter pulls in behind the coupling, then the ship's mandibles close around it while two arms from the structure close around the mandibles, making a secure lock. Then the ship pushes the carriage head and the cargo trails behind.

I wanted the freighter to connect to something secure-looking so I found some appropriately beefy parts from a gundam kit I bought for donor parts. Even though much of the tech in Star Wars is strange and fantastical, I still didn't want something flimsy for/at this critical juncture.


I had lots of fun with the time-honoured tradition of kitbashing tiny model parts onto larger structures to give them that extra touch of needed detail and verisimilitude. This stuff looks complicated and its all carefully arranged in such a way as to look like it does something, so I call it a modelling success.

Port side view.

I found some tiny round bits to fill in as much of the mandible maintenance wells as possible without just filling them with putty (like I did their underside counterparts). I used the kit's stickers for the cockpit and what are now "observation windows" (rather than gun ports), but used black panel line wash for the six exhaust vents in the rear. I cut some styrene to fill the back two maintenance areas to look like they're removable panels (I did the same on my 1/144 version).


Like my larger version, I chose not to use the grills over the engines, but I did include the thruster nozzles and used black panel line wash over them to bring out their details.

Still palm-sized.

I used insignia white from a rattle can for my body colour.

This is how the freighter flies.

Back in Part 1 of my factory stock Millennium Falcon build, I quoted several ILM staffers saying that George Lucas initially wanted the cockpit to rotate 90 degrees after take-off so that the ship would fly vertically, "like a sunfish," but that didn't work out and we got a horizontal Falcon (which looks better on a wide movie screen). However, I'm going back to the sunfish concept and, while the pilot can choose to fly the ship in any orientation, it must be vertical to hook up to this particular cargo carriage design.

Like so.

My early sketches had this whole arrangement rotated 90 degrees so the Falcon was "normal" (horizontal) and the carriage was vertical (the important thing, in either case, was the cockpit had to be able to see around the structure).


I wouldn't think the main structures of the carriage contain crew members, but maybe a freighter crew member or two (or a carriage specialist) could make their way over to the Carriage Head to monitor systems or whatever during the trip. 

If there was Star Wars TV show, there would definitely be an episode where something goes wrong on a long haul and there'd be folks squeezing into the tubes joining the carriage sections, trying to fix the situation by the last act.

Engine wake?

I suppose the powerful engines of these freighters leave a heck of a wake, so the cargo immediately behind the ship has to be protected, somehow. I actually struggled with this a lot and originally had the cargo only to the left and right of the ship, leaving the space behind the ship completely clear.

But then I came up with the four-sided carriage structure and decided not to worry about real-world physics and just go with the kitbashing flow. In the photo above (captioned "Kitbashing the carriage") you can see a leftover part of the tow truck from my Fencing Truck build. That part is the sling that holds the front end of a vehicle during the tow. My rationale for this project is that it'll go directly behind the ship and...do something to mitigate the potentially damaging rear thrust.

Look, the Star Wars universe has anti-gravity and artificial gravity, lightspeed and hyperspace, lasers and lightsabers, so I'm just going to carry on and not worry about how it works and just make it look like it works.

First chipping.

I sprayed some hairspray over the black primer and when it was dry for a while, I airbrushed a coat of Bone grey over that (all airbrushed paints I use are acrylic). I gave that a chance to dry, then used a small paint brush to apply water all over the painted areas. Once I felt it had soaked through enough, I started attacking the paint with an old, stiff-bristled brush, poking here, scrubbing there, until I got the desired effect above.

I could have just left it like this and applied some stripes and decals or whatever, but I wanted this thing to look OLD –especially in contrast to the brand new freighter– but still sturdy.

Second coat.

My Red Leather was a little thick (the mixing ball was moving around, but not doing much mixing in the little bottle, even after vigourous shaking), so this coat went on a little thinner than I'd planned, but it looks pretty good-and-aged, anyway.

Sand crawler?

I'm including close-ups of parts of the carriage flanks because I really like how they turned out at this stage. The panel lines of the model and the chipping underneath that reddish-brown top coat make these parts look like the Jawas' sand crawler.

Third coat.

I sprayed the red layer with some hairspray and then applied a coat of Real IDF Sand Grey. And then went crazy with the chipping, revealing several layers of paint (and, unfortunately, right down to the plastic, in a few areas).

Carriage Head.

I decided to name the "four walls" of the carriage with simple, yet realistic (that is, likely, in-universe) terms. I don't want to go overboard creating a whole backstory to this thing, like what culture built it, how old it is, detailed technical specs, etc. (that's fun to do, but for this project, I just want to build a "cargo thing").

I'd masked off the very front middle part, so there's no red on that, and the way it reveals the lighter beige before revealing the black is very nice.

Carriage Tail.

The outsides of the flanks will remain largely as they are, with maybe some markings painted and then chipped away, but the head and tail need lots of detail painting on all those greeblies...but I'll keep it pretty simple with some greys, a bit of black, maybe some subtle metallics...

Port Flank.

I might just dry brush some of the details on those black midsections and paint the angled fins some bright colour (then chip away at it).

Starboard Flank.

I've given all four parts a gloss coat to protect the paint and ease with decals and whatever else I'll be adding. Once the outsides are done, I'll have to deal with the heavily-greeblied inside parts...and attach everything...and build cargo...and attach the ship...

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