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The M/V Puyallup: A model of perfection

Edmonds-Woodway junior creates 6-foot replica of Edmonds-Kingston boat


Last updated 5/30/2020 at 10:17am

Elliot Porter

Elliot Porter's large-scale model of the Puyallup ferry, a regular on the Edmonds-Kingston route.

Editor's note: If you're obsessed with ferries, you could do worse than living in Edmonds, a ferry town with daily trips to the Kitsap Peninsula. So Elliot Porter, 17, is in the right place. The Edmonds-Woodway High School junior is a lifelong resident of Edmonds.

Porter is a hobbyist who recently completed a model of the M/V Puyallup, a Washington State Ferries regular on the Edmonds-Kingston run. Not an ordinary model, mind you. This one is 6 feet long. Here, he explains how it came about and shares insider tips on how he created his boat.

Recently, I built a model of the M/V Puyallup. I've always had a fascination with the local Washington State Ferries, and have taken many opportunities to get to know the ferries and how they work.

Mostly, I'm an enthusiast, taking round trips on ferries and filming/photographing my adventures. Many videos would later be uploaded to my YouTube channel, "Elliot Legos, Ferries, And MO!" after I got home from a day out in the water.

Things changed for me when, in early December 2017, I decided to take my love of ferries a step further by building a model of a ferry. I had taken inspiration by another fellow YouTuber, David Conlin, who also builds ferry models as a hobby. I took up on his craft, and added my own twists to it by always striving to improve.

The ferry I chose to build was the M/V Elwha, a Super Class ferry that as of this writing is no longer in the system due to an unceremonious retirement. I built it for a friend of mine, who also shares an interest with ferries, and who said his favorite ferry was the Elwha.

This first model was completed on New Year's Day 2018, and in hindsight was rougher and less precise than initially intended. I decided to try and better myself by building another ferry one year after the Elwha, this time with the newer M/V Samish, an Olympic class ferry.

This one was far more realistic in terms of overall proportion, but still lacked some detail.

I knew I wanted to build another model and continue the line of ferry models I've started. When I brought my model of the Elwha to the Ballard Locks back in July when the real Elwha made its way through, The Seattle Times interviewed me.

I mentioned that I would end up building another model later in the winter, that being the M/V Puyallup, a Jumbo Mark II Class ferry. Not only is it a resident of the Edmonds to Kingston route, but also it happens to be one of the three biggest boats in the entire WSF fleet.

I accepted my own challenge – to build a model of the biggest ferry in the system and include as much detail as possible, going many steps further than my first two models could have.

Work started on the M/V Puyallup model in late December 2019, shortly after Christmas. Building a ferry model, much like the actual boat, is no easy feat, and is a process involving much math. Before I thrust my hobby knife into a single sheet of Dollar Tree foam board, I first needed to map out what the boat was going to look like.

I used ratios to get the exact proportional length and width of the hull, as well as actual-size reference imaging on my computer I could use to accurately scale and size up parts. This included photos of my own, to even Google Maps imaging of the overall deck plan.

I gathered more materials, including green duct tape, clear tape, hot glue sticks, and even floral ribbon that would be used for the deck railing. Finally, I could cut out the parts to be glued.

I used a hobby knife, an X-Acto knife, to cut out all of the foam board bits. I also used three types of rulers: one, a metal two-foot ruler with cork backing for bigger pieces; two, a translucent plastic ruler for smaller details; and three, an angle protractor for smaller details that needed square corners.

I used a pencil to outline parts that needed to be cut out, including more than 500 windows for the car and passenger decks. Finally, plenty of toothpicks were needed for deck railing poles, as well as poles inside the passenger deck.

I decided to go all-out on detail, and this included realistic floor tile on the inside of the passenger decks, and which were done using manila folder.

I finally finished the model on April 7.

All in all, my model of the gigantic M/V Puyallup measures 6 feet in length and 13.5 inches in width. After harboring it at my house (pun VERY much intended), I will likely either donate or sell it to Washington State Ferries' Edmonds terminal, or perhaps to the Puyallup itself as an art installation.

While this was a very fun project and took a lot of heart and soul, I doubt I will build anything of this grandeur in size and effort in the future. However, I do plan on continuing to build these models.

In fact, my next ferry to build will be the M/V Kittitas, an Issaquah-130 Class ferry. While it used to serve Mukilteo for many years, her new home is at Vashon Island. This new model will not have nearly the amount of detail found on the Puyallup model, but will retain some things, like windows and deck railing.

The Kittitas model will also be smaller and able to float on water, so it will require a larger hull, contrary to the waterline hulls all of my other ferry models have been so far. However, this is a different story, for now.

Postcript: "Wow, we are all so impressed," said WSF spokesman Ian Sterling when shown a picture of Porter's ferry. "Once the this current crisis is over, we'd love to offer him a behind-the-scenes tour of the full-size Puyallup. We'll share this story our social channels, for sure."


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