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