Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Types for Lettering on Structures and Other Layout Signage

One of the things I am always on the lookout for is interesting types (“fonts”) that I can use to create specialized lettering. I have been particularly attuned lately as I have become more focused on structures. “Simple” sans serif types of the 1930s and 1940s have a more stylized look than the basic computer "fonts" of today. When I see a model structure that is to represent a period (e.g. late 1940s) structure, yet uses Arial or Helvetica for the sign that has the name of the business, it doesn’t look correct to my eye; it has a simple, anachronistic quality that screams, “I’m a model!”

The photo above of Utah Ice & Storage Co., May 9, 1928, by Harry Shipler/Shipler Commercial Photographers, is from the Utah State History project hosted by the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library. While the PFE R-30-2 (at right) and R-30-13 reefers are interesting, my attention was also drawn to the lettering on the building at right in the image (for a better view, click on the image and note the red rectangle around the lettering.) I replicated the characters by tracing using a tight crop of the image, as shown below (the 'J' is a composite of the 'I' and 'S' while the 'O' is derived from the 'C'.) I plan to use the characters to letter a structure of an ice plant on my proto-lanced layout of Jefferson (based on Medford,) Oregon.

The two photos below (March, 1957, Chula Vista, Calif., Col. Chet McCoid photos, Bob's Photo,) illustrate another example of an interesting type that can be used for structure lettering. I initially purchased the photos for the subjects, a PFE R-30-9, above, and R-40-4, below, but stumbled upon the sign in the background. I found the style of the lettering compelling and I have need for a feed mill/ag supplier in Jefferson. So, after cropping, I pulled the images into Illustrator and created the "Willis-Burr Co." as seen below. I will finish the lettering for the details (Fertilizer, etc.) at a later time, but what's here illustrates my point.

The options for lettering are limitless and I have several others to be generated. Note that there are many font purveyors with period types available for download that can be used for these purposes. I tend to favor fee-based fonts over free downloads as I don't trust freeware to not have other malicious software embedded into it (my own cautious nature.)

Speaking of decals, I have two new sets for freight cars. They are D215 for the Virginian's 1916-built single sheathed box cars and D216 for the Minneapolis & St. Louis's ARA-design single sheathed cars built in 1930. Both have "cuts" in the lettering to accommodate surface details as on the prototype.

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