Niagara Class Reconstruction

Two starships of the Niagara class were shown or mentioned altogether, the USS Princeton NCC-59804 and the USS Wellington NCC-33821 (registry visible in TNG: "The Measure of a Man"). The Princeton appeared as a heavily damaged ship in the BoBW graveyard scene. It is the vertical ship seen on the right edge when the Enterprise-D is just entering the debris field. For a long time this ship has been commonly identified as the Excelsior study model II. The saucer seemed to be of the correct shape, however, many details just didn't match. Mark disproved this theory. The ship in question is the Niagara.

The Wolf 359 Research Project was initiated and is maintained by Mark Delgado, Balapoel, Bernd Schneider, Chris Spinnler, Timo Saloniemi, Masaki Taniko, The Red Admiral and Nick Angeloni.



If one looks closely at the rear end of the saucer in the screen cap with the Enterprise, there is an oddity. Unlike it is the case on the Excelsior study model II, the saucer top piece is not extended to the very rear end. There is definitely something additional, half-circular above the saucer and behind the top piece. Following the outlines one can recognize a nacelle of the same type as on the Galaxy, the round forward end being the characteristic Bussard collector. The left nacelle should be of the same type; it seems to have lost its collector.

In the scene just before the Enterprise passes the vertical ship, probably the very same ship appears on the viewscreen. Here it is horizontal, which could be explained in that the ship could be spinning or the Enterprise has changed its orientation. Only a small portion of the saucer is visible, but the battle damage left of the bridge seems to be the same. Most obviously the nacelles are the same; the left one has lost its Bussard collector, while the other one is fairly intact. So far the ship on the viewscreen has been occasionally identified as the (Nebula-class!) Melbourne, since it would perfectly match the dialogue "The Tolstoy...the Kyushu...the Melbourne." However, while it can't be definitely disproved that it is not a Nebula-class ship on this particular screen capture (after all the additional nacelle could have been torn off and could be floating), it is almost surely the vertical ship in the following scene and therefore not a Nebula class.

Two of Greg Jein's models for BoBW, both built mostly from scratch, were shown on an exhibition in Japan in 1991. The guidebook of the exhibition showed Jein holding one of them, the Niagara-class USS Princeton NCC-59804 (image). The Star Trek Fact Files and the Star Trek Encyclopedia II (individual entry) incorrectly list the registry number NCC-58904. Lately, more pictures are available from the additional footage of the TNG season 3 DVD, and this ultimately confirms that the ship is using an Ambassador-like engineering hull (image).

The vessel as seen on the photos essentially matches the depiction of the Princeton in the Star Trek Fact Files, with two nacelles above and one underneath the engineering hull (image). Still, many details like the saucer superstructure are quite different. It is possible that the Fact Files artist was lazy; he took a Freedom-type saucer and distorted it a bit, along with a secondary hull reminiscent of the Ambassador class of which there was probably no model kit (no AMT model anyway, it was released as late as 1998) as a basis for a kitbash. I was able to create a schematic (image) whose proportions match those of the photo much better and make the ship more pleasant looking anyway. Kris Olinger additionally decreased the nacelle size relative to the secondary hull, which may be taken from the Ambassador model. It is good to know that Jein didn't build quite a butt-ugly ship as the Fact Files suggest. Masaki modified the nacelle struts which, according to the new visual evidence from the TNG DVD, really look like depicted in the Fact Files. Summarizing, we must admit that the depiction was not as bad as we thought (and hoped), but only the details were inaccurate.

The most important finding, however, is that structure of the model perfectly corresponds with the above screenshots of the vertical ship. The ultimate proof is Mark's comparison between the screen cap and the 2D reconstruction of Jein's model (see above). Even the damage patterns (see images below) are all identical, so that it's 100% safe to say we have identified the ship in BoBW as the Princeton.

The fact that there seems to be a central nacelle in the screen caps where there is none on the photo has to be explained in that the nacelle pylons have been accidentally or intentionally bent this way. Given the identical damage patterns on the Bussard collector (whose "lens glass" is missing) and the nacelle rear end, there is no doubt that the alleged central nacelle is actually the right nacelle.

This gives us the following nacelle arrangements (from dorsal view):

Screen cap from BoBW Port nacelle (roughly aligned) Starboard nacelle (moved to the middle) Nothing
Photo of the studio model Port nacelle (oblique) Nothing Starboard nacelle (where it should be on the intact ship)

It is also possible that the ship in the screen cap is seen from an odd angle, and the actually slightly elliptical saucer is tilted in a way that it appears to be round. In this case the starboard nacelle might appear just above the ship's centerline.

Masaki has analyzed the structure and size of the USS Princeton studio model (still with the larger nacelles), as seen on the photo with Greg Jein. It appears that the saucer, which doesn't have any familiar details, is a custom-made part. The nacelles seem to come from a Galaxy 2-foot studio model, while the nacelle pylons are probably custom-made parts. The Ambassador-class (Enterprise-C) studio model already existed at the time BoBW was being shot. Jein may have kept the molds to make another cast of the secondary hull.

A newer rendition of the Niagara (image) is based on the assumption that the secondary hull from the Ambassador class is in scale with the Galaxy nacelles (image), as it doesn't appear as if two models of different scales were taken. The assumption of correctly scaled components increases the secondary hull compared to the nacelles. If the nacelles are the same as those of the Galaxy class, this would give us a length of 565m for the ship.

Masaki recently analyzed the available photos of the Niagara miniature. He found some details, especially of the saucer surface (image) which are missing in the Fact Files top view. The analysis (image) of the newer image from the DVD, on the other hand, also confirms that the nacelle pylons actually have the strange "kink" like in the Fact Files.



We have been able to identify for sure the "vertical ship" in "Best of Both Worlds" as the Niagara-class USS Princeton NCC-59804. The ship was built by Greg Jein, using parts of a Galaxy studio model and several parts built from scratch. The ship possesses heavy battle damage, which is also expressed in the fact that the nacelle orientation on the photo is different than on the screen cap.



Thanks to Pedro, Kris Olinger and Alexander for image material, to Robert Minnes for a useful hint and to many other individuals who helped us find the truth.


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