Friday, November 26, 2010

A Sign

Just a quick post to show that momentum hasn't gone completely from the Carlaw project. Lately, I've been working on one of the signs on the front of the Carlaw Brothers Stone Yard polishing shop. Working with my prototype photo, I matched the sizing and spacing of the original sign, but the lettering style is markedly different. The original had a distinct 1930s art deco feel.
I used a freeware program, Inkscape (, to render my sign. I credit the railroad-line forums ( for introducing the program to me - specifically the Chuck Diljak thread about it found here: . I also used Inkscape to help spruce up the blog's header illustration.

For the sign I fiddled with different font types and color squares. Since my reference picture is in black and white, I'm just going with whatever color looks good to me. On the left is my color test picture I used to determine how things look when the file is printed out. You can also see where I was testing an art deco style font. Eventually, when I'm happy with everything, the finished sign will be printed on decal paper.

The original sign was painted on the building at ground level. It was about fifteen feet wide and six feet tall. The two windows on the front wall of the shop were a full eight feet above the street level, so this sign easily fit below them.

I've also been working on scratch-building those big doors on the back wall. I'll have more on them soon.


  1. Looks nice, and looks appropriate for the era - glad you're making progress! BTW, got a picture of the original sign for comparison?

    Now that it's become easy to make signs on the computer, I really think someone needs to write a quick primer on graphic design across the ages for model railroaders. What were the typical typefaces for the 1950's / 1930's / 1910's? How would signs have been laid out? What would advertisements, or roadside signs have looked like? What paint colors were common for sign painters? Lettering in white, or in colors?

    There was an article about a San Jose sign painter still working after fifty years; if I was better, I'd look him up and chat.

    When I was doing my 1930's drive-in, I searched around a bunch for the right typeface. I ended up using a stock Art Deco typeface on the Mac (Jazz, I think). Helvetica always seems too modern for me, so I tend to fall back on SP's Egyptian font (available from Ben Coifman of, a frumpy and old-fashioned sans serif font that seems appropriate to my period.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Robert.

    I agree, appropriate sign guidelines is fertile ground for a clinic, article or more.

    I do have an image of the original sign, but alas, I feel I can't post it as it is from the Center for Sacramento History's archive collection and I don't have rights to distribute it.

  3. It is nice when the prototype sign is large, makes it easier for operators/visitors to ID the building on the layout. I also like the operational possibilities that Carlaw offers...gondolas, maybe a flat car? Something other boxcars is nice....

  4. Thanks Jeff - I agree. Yeah, I was thinking gons and flats with granite loads.

  5. These are all fantastic! Using the decal paper was a pretty clever idea! Anyone who uses the jars and lanterns will just have to be careful to not get them too wet for too long, so as not to make the adhesive of the decal paper fail and the decoration come off.