Aristocraft has finally released their signal/switch tower, and it really is a beautiful model. It only comes built-up, which means that you have to contend with a huge box due to the shipping material that they pack it in. We have finally been given an American tower similar to the ones found all over the country, that once controlled traffic on our nation's railroads. Unfortunately these towers are being abandoned and torn down due to computerization, but some have survived at major yards and interlockings. I believe that this particular model is based on a prototype on the Pennsylvania Railroad, as I have seen photos and the resemblance is definitely there.
I picked mine up at the GATS in Orlando, and after reading many articles on the internet, have started to "bash" my model into something that looks more prototypical. Aristo placed this tower on the base that they used for their church, so it has a very large footprint. In fact, there is too much area (base) around the tower to be prototypical. The steps come straight out from the side, which I have yet to see in any pictures that I have reviewed. I cut these steps off from the tower, and then cut off some of the base to minimize the footprint. The base can be cut with an electric saber saw and a plastic curtting blade. The rough edge was sanded with a palm sander, and styrene was cemented over the edge to cover the opening. The whole base was given a wash of light gray to simulate weathered wood, and then highlighted with tan, black, and white to get the proper effect.
I added a Grant Line window to the front base of the tower, since all my pictures showed this feature. The stairs were then glued to the side of the tower going down to the rear. I fabricated the needed railings and filler panels for the stair top platform from styrene. The tool box was relocated next to the tower under the stairs, and I built a new platform in front of the tower to "hoop-up" train orders.
Since I decided to leave the tower it's original color, I touched up the areas that needed it. The new window, the platforms and the stairs were repainted with Floquil Roof Brown. I painted the foundation with Floquil concrete, along with the pad out back that holds the 55 gallon fuel drums, and the pad outside the lower door. A color change would require some extensive masking, but it would be something that could be accomplished with a little patience.
I found some corrugated plastic in my junk box along with braces, so I built awnings over the lower side door and the upper door leading to the stairs. These were painted light gray, and streaked lightly with rust. All windows got shades made from manila folder material.
The chimney was given a rub with a white wash to bring out the mortar lines. The top was air brushed with Floquil Grimy Black to simulate soot. The stove pipe was capped with a top found in my parts box. The entire roof was painted with Floquil Lark Dark Gray, and then lightly streaked to simulate weathering. I have not yet put a name on the tower, but it will be fastened to the front when the time comes.
The tower is lighted with a bulb in the base and one in the upper tower itself. I wish I could get inside the base, as the light shines through the foam and plastic veneer wall. I an going to try and add a shield behind the bottom bulb to eliminate this if I can.
The tower is now ready for the railroad. By the way, since it is lighted, an interior might be called for. I have seen the interlock machines in these towers, and it is possible to scratch build a simulated one and add some operators to complete the scene.
Aristo has more of these buildings in their plans, and it will be fun to see what they come up with. This one looks real nice, and will give your railroad a real American looking tower for your right-of way. (We have suffered with European prototypes for so long.) Retail price is $150, but you can mail order one for a lot less including shipping.
These modifications and changes were made with the help of Bob Whipple