Large Scale Central

Haluku'ilio Water Tower -- Another Triple O Rehab Project

I am finally returning to my Triple O - 2023 Plans & Objectives. The boys’ interest in rocketry deserved support, but the downside is I have to share the lanai with them for building and storage space! We’ve negotiated a “peace,” and no one may start a new project until the current one is in the paint shop. This has resulted in a more linear approach to my railroading endeavors (I would be lying, however, if I said I wasn’t enjoying building and flying rockets, myself!). That being said, the water tower is off the railroad and in project box.

Here’s the background. My father-in-law, who is a handyman and, in my opinion, and undeclared folk artist, created most the Triple O’s buildings in the 2015/2016 time frame. His water tower originally stood on spindly legs that Mr. Otto, our late cattle dog, decided were prime chew toys. I cut a block of foam, clad it in craftsticks, called it a “pump house,” mounted the tank on top, and called it “good.” I think that project may have been among the first things I posted on LSC after I stumbled on this site to see if this was a place that tolerated beginners and open to 1:24-ish PLAYMOBIL Scale representations of a railroad. Years later, here we are, with LSC our railroading “home” and this little tower in sad shape.

Below, please find said tower as it stood last week:

The tower and cladding have held up pretty well, though the bands are all loose. Most of the craftsticks are warped, and some are peeling away, as my 1:24 gang shows below:

To boot, whatever I had been using to keep the tower level-ish is long gone.

Inspection complete, the crew took the whole assembly to the lanai, where it now sits awaiting rebuilding.

The tower will have to rest atop its pump house in its new incarnation, as, if anything, Pearl and Opal are crazier than Mr. Otto. Opal will gladly step on anything between her and the guppy pond! This also dictates that this building must be transportable, so that we can bring it in at the end of the day. Construction wise, I want to see if I can make the new pumphouse almost completely out of foam. The plan is to make it a timber framed, stone structure, exactly like nothing that ever existed on these islands. I know I can make convincing stone; I am curious if I can scribe foam to make convincing timbers. The tank is getting a new top, as I don’t like it, but I will preserve as much of its original character to honor the original creator. I think that stuff that passes from others’ hands and imaginations to take up residence on the Triple O should bear their thumbrints, even as the years take their toll and necessary changes occur.

OK. It’s on the board. Now I have to do this!

Have a great week!


Nice water tower. smile:

Thanks, Eric! It has served us well, and it deserves the coming refit!

Between Oldest Daughter’s ‘flu, a family beach excursion, Kid-zilla’s soccer game, his submarine transport project, my scuba diving, boys’ day at the rocket shoot, etc., etc. this project went to the backburner. Nonetheless, the 1:24 gang and I had a chance to strip away material from the core…

…revealing how little actual wear the foam core actually suffered. I have found these rebuild projects are useful studies in material wear, so I have included those photos below:

I plan to reuse the core for the rebuild. Likewise, the HardieBacker base remains in solid shape, so it will again serve to anchor this water tower. Even the cladding, craftsticks of some sort, held up reasonably well.

I put these aside for the future, as their thin, weather worn look almost cries out for recycling! The Triple O wastes nothing!

Afterwards, the lads and I pulled the aluminum off the top of the water tower, revealing my father-in-law’s original roof frame.

Part of my wants to simply reroof it with something that looks a bit less like a flattened beer can. I am not sure how I would get panels to lie flat on the supports, though. For this reason as well as aesthetics, though, ost of me wants to cut all this off and make this a flat roof.

Lastly, I test fit this core with its proposed new siding, more foam, in its final location.

Trains will fit. Or we will move the tower. It’ all good.

Updates as progress merits!



I did some puttering this weekend. It turns out, we are finally running out of pink foam board! With the 2024 Mik just over three months away, I had to get permission from the 1:1 crew to use the remaining chunks on this project.

The 1:1 crew naturally disperese, but the 1:24 gang and I laid everything out…

…and had a good “think.” We had the rectangular bits shown, a bag of large irregular bits, and a bag of little irregular bits. I the end, we set aside the remainder of the former for the new walls and roof and used odds and ends for the latter two categories to level the new roofline. I glued the new roof and shims into place then put it back on the shelf for the glue to dry. I’ll get the walls on this week, then I’ll get to the heart of the project, namely to see if I can make pink foam look like multiple construction materials.

For the record, this foam:

  • Protected a buddy’s electric, multi-manual organ from England to Hawaii (I took the foam off his hands in exchange for helping to unpack and recrate it for onward travel to a new house).
  • Formed the core of three Mik projects (Mama’s Baker No Ka Oi; a lighthouse; a coaling tower).
  • Formed the core of our sugar mill.
  • Served as the base material for two school projects (A grain elevator, which I am hoping a certain daughter will eventually finish for placement on the railroad; a miniature Grand Canyon).
  • Disappeared into numerous ephemeral projects.

Not bad for a trunkfull of “junk.”

Have a great week!


IMO the pink foam from (back in the day) is one of the best structure building materials to work with if your into longevity.

The there is the other end of the spectrum however that was a bridge probably never crossed by Mary Jo and Ted.

Just saying

Quick Update:

I had a chance to convert scrap bits into wall bits today.

Not much progress, but I have learned to let the glue dry thoroughly when working with foam!

It has become Triple O practice to cover the lowest inch of every building with concrete patch to seal it from water and bugs. That will go over this stuff. The real “wall,” which I hope to carve to look like stone and timbers, will go on top of this.

Less dull updates may follow in the coming week.

  • Eric

As part of the reopening of the lanai yesterday, I dragged this project off the shelf.

I cut up the remaining sides, then mounted them with TiteBond III and toothpicks.

My original plan was to miter the corners, but for reasons that fail me now, I evaluated this as “too hard” and merely trimmed the sides to fit. After that, I sat the tank on top for a sense of perspective.

That is a solid core for whatever comes next…but first the MIK! The original plan was to see how well I could transform this to look like multiple materials, specifically a wooden framed stone structure. Stone, we can do. Wood…never tried…Alternatively, I could get lazy, countersink some door and window frames and “stucco” it with concrete patch like we did for our little house last year ( Rehabilitating a HardieBacker Home). I might begin with the first plan and use the second as the fallback.

The tank, too, will need some touch-up, especially banding and a roof. We deadlocked last year on whether to rehabilitate Grandpa’s peaked rook or cut it flat. We’ll see…after the MIK!


1 Like

Who is drinking the Folgers coffee?

Work swill…cheap and comes in large quantities. On that shelf, each serves as a “project bucket” and contains some rocket / plane / train / PLAYMOBIL / etc. thing moving from pieces to piece!


So your, you’re, you are stealing the work stash of Folgers for the containers then?

Makes sense to me!

My coworkers think I am doing them a favor!

Between thefts of sub-par coffee, I have been busy blowing off this project. I used Thanskgiving, Christmas, the Mik, a rocket, etc. as excuses to not take this on. I had a hard time visualizing the final project, to be honest, and I have spent a couple hours trying to figure out:

a.) what i want the end product to look like, and
b.) how to fill in the seams of my core.

Finally, last week, after having another “think session,” it dawned on me to see if I could find a water tank propped on a stone pumphouse. Other than a model of one, the answer was no. That being said, it seems water tanks came in all shapes and sizes and materials, so I figured I’d proceed. The model in question had the tank sitting on multiple timbers laid across the roof. I had many botched timbers from a lost battle with Saber Saw years back that clearly had no better use. I also had a SAFEWAY card and some tape to simulate a door. Minus the tape roll, it’ll look a bit like this:

Using wood violates one of the goals, which was to see how far I could go with just foam. I’ll give ground on that goal to make some progress.

The seams are going to be trickier.

The plan is to carve away and simply ignor them. After it is all done, I will back fill them with…something. If that fails, I will jam scraps of foam into those seams and brush and sand until they more or less disappear into the core. If that fails, I cover the lot in concrete patch and present unto the world its first stucco pumphouse with railroad water tower adornment.

I am still ideating on the tower’s rook. I am leaning towards cutting off the peak. Enough of the core tower will remain to honor the original builder, in my opinion.

Have a Great Week!



I got home a little early, so the 1:24 crew and I did some experimenting. On the picture below, you can see how we tried to figure out how to address those gaps.

Along the left, I soaked foam bits in TiteBond III, jammed them into the crevice, then, after the glue was dry(ish), hit it with the foam engraver. While I was waiting for it to dry, I looked at the foam bits, then thought back to our bakery ( Mik 2020 – Mama’s No Ka Oi Bakery) and our lighthouse ( 2021 Mik Challenge – Hale Ipukukui o Haluku’ilio), where we cut foam into individual stones. The guy in the hardhat did the same here to fill in a gouge in the wall. Finally, the foreman and Bach Mann tried scribing “stones” directly into the wall over the gap with the intention of filling these with putty later.

Of all these, I like the look of the separate “stones” the best. If this were a flat, I would go with it, but I don’t think I could bend one of these “stones” around a corner. I think I will go with the first method, plugging seams with foam scraps and carving later, as I have a feeling it will be easier to touch up any faults with dabs of glue or putty than to try and press putty into existing seams. It should also be less vulnerable to cracking going this route.

It took me months to ideate to this point, but at last there is a way forward. Sometimes, you just have to stop thinking and start doing.



I finished plugging seams with foam scraps last night then discussed the roof issue with Youngest Daughter (Y.D.). Y.D. was not convinced we should abandon the peaked roof, but she agreed Grandpa’s idea of smashing a tin can to fit was not going to fly this time. We drew out our scrap metal “gemuckabucket” (family word for coffee tin full of crafting / modeling scraps) and weighed two ideas.

First, there was the thought of making new panels, then cutting an banging them to shape:

The two downsides would be the need to make more panels and the need to make a way to have it all come together a the peak.

We rummaged about a bit more, and we found smaller scraps we could layer around the tower:

This would prove easier to pound / bend / cut to shape, and would probably be accomplished with scraps on hand, but it would be decidedly non-uniform, appearing as though the roof was deliberately built by the 1:24 denizens with scraps on hand. I am OK with that, but that “cheap” roof would be on a water tank built on a decidedly robust pump house!

I’ll get to carving the stones later this weekend. Right now, I am experimenting with the appearance of foam sprayed with clear flat paint. Normally, we texture foam wit a wire brush, but I am curious to see if this chemical texturing might help “melt” the seams together a bit and possibly speed the process.

Oh, and we have to make a door. And perhaps a window. And I am still hemming and hawing on how to roof this thing.

Have a Great Weekend!


1 Like


Kid-zilla and I rigged the railroad with his PLAYMOBIL today, and, after a pleasant morning and afternoon helping to direct his 1:24 firstresponders to points of crises, his buddy showed up so I could return to this project, which, while decidedly less fun, is in dire need of completion.

I got out my own 1:24 crew, and we set to work on a door. I had some basswood lying about from…a MIK? A rocket? Who cares! We cut it to shape using a hotel key as our guide, as these make good sized doors in 1:24-ish PLAYMOBIL scale. I wanted to try to scribe the wood in a poory copy of a techniqe @Matt_Hutson has used with brilliant results, and the 1:24 lads and I discovered you really need a straight craftstick to pull this off.


After flipping over the basswood and actually measuring and marking where the lines should be, we had much better results.

I framed this with some precut poplar left over from…something…and then stared at the pumphouse a bit to ponder “window.” Pondering led me to conclude it would be nice if the pumphouse was also the springhouse for travelers, crewmen, paniolo, etc., so why bother with a window that would let in the tropical heat!

Having wished away that detail, we grabbed a wire brush texture the foam, remove right angles, and blend in the seams.

The picture below shows two things:

  1. The plug-with-scraps-and-brush-vigorously method pretty well hides seams.

  2. The same result could have been achieved with far less mess by misting with rattle can clear flat as the 1:24 gang shows with the bit of scrap they are holding. That, however, would have cost me paint, which seems disappear rapidly round these parts.

I then sifted through my “gemuckabuckets” of annealed scraps of beverage can for suitable chunks for the roof, which will remain peaked (I couldn’t find enough photos of flat roofs to justify going againts Y.D.'s preferences). There were enough scraps from our sugar mill ( M&K Sugar Mill) to probably make this work. Now to figure out how to attach the metal to the wood?

The last step before returning to the Triple O to help deal with a chemical spill and a trestle fire was to sand off some old glue globs from the tank’s roof frame.

Progress, slow, but progress.



I puttered on this between Easter-related activities today. Pictures are locked on my phone, but, in short, I actually used a saw (SHOCK! For newcomers, wood defies me as a workable medium) today to shape those timbers. Then I went back to my happy place with foam tools and sandpaper to lower the roof a bit. That way, I can cut “notches” in the wall that will hold the beams that will hold the tank. I also did some thought experiments with the concept of “roof” and decided it would be pretty stupid to go through the trouble of making a stone pumphouse / springhouse in part to keep water cool only to cover the thing with black tar paper. Bring on the craft sticks!

All of the above will make more sense when I get my pictures off my phone…

I will also admit I am dawdling on this project, going no further than imagination and picture searches can take me for any given step. I think it was @Rooster who warned me when I first joined LSC that freelancing can actually be harder than working from a prototype. Trying to make a credible structure that preserves as much of my father-in-law’s intent with no clear example of what the end product should look like has been much more difficult than I imagined, even with my effort to keep this project simple in terms of materials and techniques.



My phone decided to synch with the internet, so I can get some pictures up.

Sunday I had the notion to test my skills with Mini Table Saw

…a gift of a few years back that fear of blades, wood, and humiliation led me avoid. I had just enough time before Easter Dinner (goose with Persian-inspired dry rub; seared shizo (spellng?) peppers and asparagus; and smashed potatoes with goose gravy) and sacrificial timbers from an earlier battle with Sabre Saw (currently lurking in “his” lair awaiting my next foray into woodworking) to see if I could salvage these pieces. A little patience, a little luck, and a quick reminder to open my beverage AFTER using the saw, and I think those strips came out pretty good.

The roof itself I slowly cut and sanded down about 14"-1/2". Then I placed some cratsticks to test the look:

That’ll do, but I need to get some silicon to seal up the edges first. I will probably stick some bits of 1/4"x1/4" poplar sticks come out of the sides to look like ceiling beams set into the wall. Once that is done, I set the door in place and then I can start carving the “stones” into the walls. That gives me another couple weekends to mull over what to do with the water tank roof, the last major “thought” obstacle.

Updates as progress merits!




This was the third micro-project I tried to tackle this weekend, beginning with, “How do I attach crimped beverage cans to the wooden roof frame?” I tried 3M adhesive spray, but, as the photos show, while it bonded aluminum to wood, it was less successful bonding aluminum to aluminum.

So much for that. I think I am going to have to tap holes and then tap in my HO scale rail setting nails to hold all this in place. That won’t be tedious at all! :frowning_face: Luckily, some other project or errand or hobby called so I was able to set it aside until today.

Today, I opted for actual progress. Kid-zilla was LEGO-ing…

…so it fell to the 1:24 gang and I to ideate a way forward. We began by cutting down some scrap stripwood.

After measuring along the top just below the roof line, we bored holes into the foam and glued the wood bits into the holes.

The result could, in my mind, credibly look like roofbeams coming through the future stonework.

We next prepared to cut the wall where the heavier timbers that will hold the water tank will fit, but mark, measure, and test as we could, nothing seemed to line up. That’s when the 1:24 foreman had the notion that the base of the tower was not square, so we checked.

Nope. Not square. I realized the only way to make this work will be to mount the tank to the timbers, tapping holes and carefully inserting nails or screws. With no desire to even try that at the end of a busy weekend, I opted to let the crew go…

…crack a beverage, and just run trains.

if it was my problem, i would do two things.
first make corrugated sheets that are longer, but not so wide. (with inclined sides?)
second use a tacker to fix them to the roofbeams.

Korm, a belated “Thank you!” for that suggestion. It didn’t feel like annealing aluminum cans over the weekend; it was too beautiful to be inside!

In the meantime, I have decided to mount the tank to the support beams by drilling a single pin, aligning everything else and fixing those three points with TiteBond III. The pipe from the pumphouse can then serve as the other fixed point, and I can leave the tank as a removable item. Next week…