Railroad Kits and Acessories

Review by Dr. John Hullman

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Reproduced with permission

Product Review as published in "Model Railroad News"
By Dr. John Hullman----------March 2001

Creations’ Fire
Lookout Tower

The newest release from Yesteryear Creations is an etched brass N scale Fire Lookout Tower. Fire lookouts have been around in one form or another for more than 100 years. After the US Forest service was founded in 1905, it built live in lookouts in several styles to watch for and report fires.

The model’s cab (Lookoutese for the hut on top) is similar to the hip roof L-4 type that was furnished by the Alladin Company as a full size wooden kit between 1929 and 1954. The cab may be built on the ground or placed on a wood or steel tower of sufficient height to provide a round-about view. Interior furnishings typically include a bed, table and chairs, and cabinets, all below window level, around the central round map table with rotating sight.

The model kit consists of a single sheet of beautifully etched brass parts for the tower, cab and furnishings, as well as a strip of clear Evergreen sheet styrene for glazing, and a single double sided sheet of instructions. These are shrink wrapped together with a stiffening sheet of cardboard that has a color picture of the finished tower. The kit builds into a tower 4" high, with a footprint of only 1-7/16" square, or 55’ x 18’ x 18’ in N scale. The live in cab is 12’ x 12’, midway in size between the prototype L-4 at 14’ x 14’, and the L-5 at 10 x 10’.

Several years ago my wife and I visited a fire tower nearby in Southern Oregon,

where we spent an interesting hour talking with the lookout. I decided to revisit the tower to look it over prior to constructing the kit. Although it is currently not in use, it is kept in good repair and I copied its color scheme and shake roof on my model. These towers, while similar to one another, differ in construction materials and also in height. The tower I visited is made of wood and has only one flight of stairs. With planning and care, one or more flights could be eliminated from the model tower to reduce the height if desired.

The instructions are excellent and illustrated with color photographs. Closely following them will produce a great model. After careful consideration, I did do some things a little differently First, I cleaned the parts with paint thinner (outdoors), watching not to bend the delicate unattached ends of some pieces. I then completed assembly of the tower and staircases up to the cab floor and railings. I left the handles on the 4th floor landing (part #15), attached. Take note that the recommended CA adhesive sticks better to unpainted parts.

While I usually use acrylic paints for models, experience has shown that solvent based paint adheres better to metal. I mixed thinned Floquil Pullman green and CN gray to match the exterior color of the local tower. I airbrushed several thin coats on the tower, holding it by the retained handles, and rotating it while spraying. I then sprayed the exterior of the walls (part #7), the same color. Because of the extreme toxicity of this paint, if you don’t have a properly vented spray booth (I don’t), you must do this outdoors to avoid future health problems.

After painting, I placed these parts on top of a toaster oven, turned on low, to bake on the paint. I then mixed up a light seafoam green and painted the interior of the walls and roof (part #4). The furniture is Floquil light green, and the roof trim and lightning rod primer brown. Once painted, these parts were also baked. The rest of the details, including the Prieser figure, were done with a small brush and a fine black marking pen.

After attaching the glazing with white glue, then folding and installing the walls, I used stained stripwood to make an interior floor. The mattress and pillow are Evergreen styrene, laminated, filed to shape, with a military green blanket painted on. Before folding the roof, which is the only part folded away from the half etched fold lines, I shingled the roof with prestained, self-adhesive shingles from a previous project. I used new single edged razor blades to trim the shingle strips to the etch lines as I went.

The finished model has a very fine lacy appearance, while being sturdier than it looks. The stairways and gratings for the walkway and landings are particularly well done. The engineering of the kit is superb. The assembly and fit of all parts is spot on, with locating lugs and holes where needed, handles on the platforms, and a jig to keep the tower square. Also appreciated are the extra staircase and furniture, which will definitely find a place on my layout.

The lookout tower makes a fine foreground model on a mountaintop in N scale. Additional details to be added to make an authentic scene would include: four concrete pads for the tower, an outhouse, small storage buildings, propane tanks, communication antennas, a sign with the name of the tower and its elevation, and an unimproved road for access. For the modern era, a solar array and battery box would also be appropriate. The tower will work perfectly in the background to create forced perspective in HO and larger scales as well.

This kit is great for the many of us with logging or mountainous areas on our layouts. It is fun to assemble and reasonably priced. If your local hobby shop does not carry it, it may be obtained directly from Yesteryear Creations for the list price plus $3.00 shipping and handling.

P.O. Box 2504, Florence, Oregon, 97439
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(c) Copyright 1999    Stephanie and Lee Oman     All rights reserved