Henderson Tower
11/13/2016
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Tom Henderson, owner of Sidetracks, and former Houston S Gaugers club member, donated to the Houston S Gaugers this kit by American Model Builders. It is kit #78, the "Interlocking Tower". The Houston S Gaugers have a set of modules that form a double-track wye. To formally protect those intersecting tracks, a tower with tower operators are necessary. This kit will do nicely. The laser-cut kit comes in a nice, small plastic bag.
Henderson Tower
External Reference:
This photo shows the parts that were found in the kit. The kit comes with a 6-page instruction sheet, which covers basic kit-construction advice, identification diagrams for the various parts, the construction instructions themselves, and a page with drawings showing each of the four sides. The kit parts consist of laser-cut basswood, laser-cut peel-n-stick sheets, laser-cut cardboard, laser-cut window "glass", and a white-metal smoke jack.
Henderson Tower
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I followed the instructions exactly as far as construction was concerned. So, we start off with gluing one long and one short wall together. I love these Rite-Way clamps for this purpose. The middle section of the walls are not held in place, so I used some metal weights to clamp that area.
Henderson Tower
Next up is the floor. I used white glue for wood-to-wood joints, sparingly applying it with a toothpick. Again, metal weights are used as temporary clamps while the glue sets.
Henderson Tower
Since the second floor of this building has such large windows, and since I would like to put some interior detailing into the building, I decided to stain the floor with Minwax "Dark Walnut" stain. I tried to avoid applying stain to the glue surfaces. Note that the photo shows the building upside-down; I also stained the invisible bottom of the floor, to prevent it from warping.
Henderson Tower
It was then just a matter of building the other half of the walls in a similar manner.
Henderson Tower
I could then join the two assemblies. The key here to make sure that all the joints are straight and perpendicular. I am using some small plastic clothespins as light-pressure clamps for the delicate window joints, and the Rite-Way clamps for the major joints. The metal weights were used to hold the building in such a position so that the yellow clothespins wouldn't rest on the workbench and thus put the wrong pressure on the joints.
Henderson Tower
And here is the basic box construction. As you can see, the floor is clearly visible with these large window openings.
Henderson Tower
If you have done any kind of woodworking before, or built any wooden kits, you'll know that over time joints can come loose. Since the interior of the lower floor isn't visible, I decided to cut some 1/8" square wooden strips to reinforce the interior corners of the building. Also note that I painted the interior walls. This is because the exterior will be painted, so painting both sides avoids warping.
Henderson Tower
The second floor's interior is visible, but I still wanted to do that interior-corner bracing. I used some small strip wood to attempt to accomplish the same job.
Henderson Tower
To protect the stained floor from paint, I covered it with some masking tape. I then painted the interior walls with Polly Scale "Depot Buff".
Henderson Tower
I debated on what to paint the exterior, but in the end I decided to paint it with the same Depot Buff.
Henderson Tower
The windows are all peel-n-stick, from the framing to the "glass". Before removing the window frames from the sprue, I spray-painted them with a rusty-red color. Each window frame consists of three parts. The larger part, shown at the bottom of the photo, goes on the outside of the window. The middle part is then attached to it from behind, and the upper part is attached to the bottom half of the middle part. It is confusing at first, but once you've done one, the others and the doors are easy to do.
Henderson Tower
The kit's instructions state to assemble the three window frame parts as one unit and then install that assembly onto to the building. My thinking was that the odds of getting that all perfectly straight were slim. So, my approach was to install each part separately to the building. The first one is the larger exterior part. I used a square to align the part such that it sat centered on the window opening. While holding the square in position, with my other hand I removed the paper backing of the peel-n-stick window frame part. This is a bit tricky, but with practice it is doable. Then using a pair of tweezers, I carefully positioned the part up against the square, while making sure it was centered across the opening. This is definitely the hardest step of doing the windows.
Henderson Tower
This is what it looks like from the interior of the building when the exterior part is installed. The adhesive of the part is now exposed and ready for the next part.
Henderson Tower
The middle part is then attached to the back of the exterior part from the inside. This guarantees that it fits in the window opening and that is sits square to the exterior part. After removing its paper backing, you can then apply the third part to the bottom half of the window. Note that this photo is taken with the window upside-down (i.e. the photo was taken from the top of the building looking down). Remove the paper backing from the third part as well, because the window "glass" is next.
Henderson Tower
I decided to leave the paper backing on the window "glass" in place. The plus side of this approach is that the clear plastic is protected from scratches and fingerprints. The downside is that it is a bit of a challenge to remove afterwards.
Henderson Tower
The paper backing on this glass is hard to remove. The way I did it was to use a knife to get the corner started, and then use a pair of tweezers to carefully remove it. It tears, so you have to do it a few times. Not difficult; just tedious.
Henderson Tower
All of the upper floor's glass has been installed.
Henderson Tower
Before working on the exterior trim pieces, I taped a sheet of sandpaper to the glass plate that I use as my work surface, and I then sanded the top and bottom of the structure such that any unevennesses were removed.
Henderson Tower
Using the glass plate, I was able to apply the peel-n-stick bottom trim pieces. I found the bottom trim pieces not long enough to cover the entire lengths of the structure's walls. I will hide that with some scenery later on. The one by the lower door is particular important as the door's trim piece will need to fit into it later on.
Henderson Tower
The exterior trim pieces were a bit of a challenge to install correctly, because they need to be straight, of course. Pay attention to the instructions to know which one "overlaps" the other.
Henderson Tower
The horizontal, second-floor strips are next. These are easy to do.
Henderson Tower
Next up are the two doors. I did the doors the same way I did the windows. First I lined up the exterior door frame on the lower door.
Henderson Tower
This is what it looks like from the inside.
Henderson Tower
The two parts of the door are applied one at a time to the inside of the door frame of the walls. That lines them up perfectly with the exterior door frame.
Henderson Tower
The frame of the second floor door has be positioned such that it clears the second floor landing. I temporarily placed that part in its slot in the wall (no glue), and positioned the door frame accordingly, as shown in the photo. One thing to note here, which caused me some extra work later, is that the landing actually consists of two pieces, which I had not realized at the time I was doing this step, so my door frame wound up sitting a bit too low.
Henderson Tower
Then the door's remaining pieces and glass were attached.
Henderson Tower
The roof substructure is easy to build. In the photo I put some metal weights on the parts while the white glue is drying. This also made sure the whole assembly didn't warp due to the wet glue.
Henderson Tower
I then had to do some very minor filing to get the part to fit inside the building. Because of that filing, I marked where the second floor door is on the roof part. That way it is always inserted in the same orientation.
Henderson Tower
Because of the large windows, I had already decided that I want to detail the interior. To emphasize that so that members of the audience can see that detail at train shows, I decided to install LED lighting. Here's a photo of the LEDs hooked up to some power source. You can see the light in the second floor, despite the room lighting.
Henderson Tower
The way I did it was to use a small strip of three LEDs. These are a section of a larger 16-foot LED strip that I still had left over. These have built in resistors, so all you have to do is hook up a 9- to 12-volt power supply. I painted the ceiling white. I later painted the upper part of the roof structure as well (the hidden area), because I could tell the wood started warp a bit with just the one layer of paint.
Henderson Tower
Here's a view looking up into the second floor with the lights on. From a normal viewing angle you can't see the LED lights directly, though.
Henderson Tower
With the electrical wiring done, I could then get back to finishing the roof structure. Again, white glue was used.
Henderson Tower
I then applied some masking tape to act as clamps on these odd angles.
Henderson Tower
The last two roof pieces were attached in a similar manner.
Henderson Tower
To complete the roof construction, peel-n-stick cardboard (simulated tarpaper) strips are applied. The key here is to center the first two pieces on the roof, because their ends will overlap the other sides.
Henderson Tower
After applying the other pieces, the overlaps are pressed down. I found the back of my fingernail to be a handy tool for that, avoiding a sharp edge from damaging the paper.
Henderson Tower
The other layers don't have an overlap to them, because there will be separate pieces applied later. It is important to pay attention to where the smoke jack's hole is.
Henderson Tower
A special piece is applied over the smoke jack hole, and then the next layer overlaps that one.
Henderson Tower
All of the layers have been applied now.
Henderson Tower
The corner pieces are applied next. The first one I folded along the fold line, but I found out that it is easier to just apply it flat, and then fold it across the roof once it is in place. It is easier and more accurate. Again, use the back of your fingernail to really rub the parts in place.
Henderson Tower
When they were done, I used a small pair of scissors to trim them to length.
Henderson Tower
The final piece sits on top.
Henderson Tower
I wanted a weathered, tarpaper roof. I used several artist paints to get the general weathered-black color. When it was dry, I used the dry-brushing technique to highlight some weathering streaks on the roof.
Henderson Tower
We are getting near the end of the project. Gluing the second floor landing was relatively easy to do, but it did require a bit of fitting. The part has to fit in between the door and horizontal trim. I am using the plastic clamps to lightly hold the landing surface to the brackets. I installed the brackets to the structure first.
Henderson Tower
The two brackets for the staircase were next.
Henderson Tower
There are three parts to the staircase structure. The one with the demarkation lines needs to be on the outside/front of the staircase assembly.
Henderson Tower
There are a few treads that have indentions on both sides. These are peel-n-stick, and those need to be installed first. I decided not to paint or stain these treads. However, I did cover them with a coating of clear lacquer while they were still in their sprue, to keep them from being damaged over time. In the photos they appear white, but they are still the stock basswood color of the kit parts.
Henderson Tower
It was then just a matter of applying the remaining single-indentation treads in the remaining slots. I pushed them all up against the building wall, but I am not sure that was the right thing to do. The handrails that were installed later were slightly bowed in. It isn't really noticeable unless you know what to look for.
Henderson Tower
The handrails of the landing were actually surprisingly difficult to install, because you have several glue joints that need to be made, but there are no mechanical connections until the glue grabs.
Henderson Tower
The two staircase handrails go on pretty easily. And this completes the basic construction.
Henderson Tower
For the Houston S Gaugers layout, I decided to continue this project by building a basic diorama. The structure sits on the joint of three modules, and so the gaps between those modules is easily visible, so I am hoping that the diorama hides some of that. The diorama base also allows me to deal with the electrical connections. The wye modules have some electronics under them, which requires a connection to 110-volt power of the show's facilities. So, with that in mind I decided not to use batteries, but rather a 9-volt wall-wart power supply for the LEDs. Since the power supply wires will be fed through a hole drilled into the modules, the wiring needs to be removed when the layout is taken down, so I decided to attach a barrier strip for the wiring. I used five-minute epoxy to glue the barrier strip to the plexiglass, but found out the hard way that the perfectly smooth plexiglass doesn't attach to any glue; the barrier strip popped right off after the glue dried. I roughed up the surface and then re-glued it with superglue, and that worked perfectly.
Henderson Tower
To complete a basic scene on the diorama (one day before packing for the show), I painted the plexiglass top surface, applied glue and fine ballast to represent the parking lot's gravel (back of the building), applied some green ground foam at the front side of the building (the mainline track side), and paint and decorate the two rows of hedges. The hedges was a new idea (for me). I found some rough scrubbing pads at Home Depot. When I cut the two strips off and covered them with hairspray and some fine Woodland Scenics green foam, they look remarkably like well-maintained hedges. I then glued them to the plexiglass base with some white glue. I glued to some pieces of plastic to the plexiglass to denote where the structure should sit, but the structure is not glued to the diorama. That way I can attach and detach the wires for the interior lighting.

The project is not yet finished. I want to detail the interior of the second floor, and I want to apply some weathering powders to the building as well as the parking lot. I also need to find or build a box for the diorama, so that it will survive the many moves during train shows.
Henderson Tower