Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Pennsylvania Railroad 'Calendar' Lettering


Note that even though this car was reweighed last in January, 1951, it was repainted in 1954, but not reweighed at that time. Tom Martorano Collection

Beginning in 1954, the Pennsylvania Railroad updated their lettering styles for freight equipment. Gone was the simple serif ("Roman") style lettering with ball Keystone interlocking "PRR" emblem. The new lettering was bold by Pennsy standards, featuring large road name (for example, 13" for 40-foot house cars and 16" for 50-foot house cars) and included a larger, "shadow" Keystone emblem. 

Sept. 5, 1954, Shenandoah, Virginia, Bob's Photo

One interesting and short-lived quirk was the script or "Calendar" style of numbers. As someone who really sweats the details of lettering and appreciates the nuances and beauty in such things, I have always been quite taken with these numbers, even though they are sadly out of my modeling era. They were drawn in January, 1954, issued in April, 1954, and seemed to have been phased out within a couple months. While it is entirely my conjecture, I am guessing that it was quickly discovered that the portions of the lettering that extended above and below the lines were a headache to align, adding time and cost to the stenciling process.

Paul Dunn photo, R. J. Burg Collection

There were also two other nuances during the same few month period. The "inside" of the "P" was a more square shape at the right portion of the "bulge" in the "P." Also, the lower upward diagonal in the "N" extended to terminate aligned with the horizontal line of the serif at upper left of the "N." These two nuances were also changed when the Calendar numbers were eliminated circa June, 1954.

Sept. 18, 1955, Brooklyn, NY

On a smaller route, such a stenciling oddity might have gone relatively unnoticed by researchers. However, given that the Pennsy likely repainted more cars in a couple months than many roads might in a couple years, there exist numerous photos of the Calendar scheme. It's cool enough to this student of type and typography that I might just model a car for the display case that features this beautiful example of railroad type.

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