Signs of the Times
Help Establish Project's Era

Nothing determines the era of a scale model structure quite as well as exterior signs which themselves point to particular time periods. Coupled with a good job of weathering and your signs will speak volumes.

All it takes is a sign advertising Black Label Beer or Public Telephone 5¢ to immediately signify age to the structure it adorns.

Women offer another viewpoint: the exterior appearance of a woman in a photo helps you easily determine what decade was being depicted—“She comes to breakfast in a suit, the skirt of which-rather tight at the ankles-hangs just six inches from the ground. She has read in Vogue the alarming news that skirts may become even shorter, and that "not since the days of the Bourbons has the woman of fashion been visible so far above the ankle"; but six inches is still the orthodox clearance. She wears low shoes now, for spring has come; but all last winter she protected her ankles either with spats or with high laced "walking-boots," or with high patent-leather shoes with contrasting buckskin tops. Her stockings are black (or tan, perhaps, if she wears tan shoes); the idea of flesh-colored stockings would appall her.

Getting Personal

When you start looking for the same thing in signs that don’t necessarily include a woman look for period clues like this railroad advertising copy:

1930s-- Exciting new way to see the northwest. Vista-Domes have just been added to the faster North Coast Limited.
1940s--Seaboard still leads the way…First to Florida with 3 fast, daily diesel-electric trains. The only streamlined, stainless-steel coach service and only diesel electric Pullman service to central and both coasts of Florida.
1950s--Like a smooth, cool breeze…that’s one way of describing travel on Union Pacific’s daily Streamliners Daily to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland Denver from Chicago and St. Louis.
1960s -- Here’s One of Rock Island’s New Streamliners, the CHOCTAW ROCKET built by Pullman Standard. An ultra-modern train offering complete travel service. The most encouraging fact in the progress toward making streamlining everywhere available has been reaffirmed.
1970s-- If you’re going to Florida on vacation, why work to get there and back. Instead of driving all the way to Florida, who not eliminate all that hassle? Take The auto train, the official family railroad of Walt Disney World.

If you’ve spent as much time in the writing game as I have, you will notice there are time-appropriate changes in the written words used in these signs. Sometimes you don’t even need a picture.

Scale modelers get into model railroading for a variety of reasons, but designing and building scale business signs, billboards and even traffic signs was probably not considered very important in the scale of things.

But you’ll be surprised at what a good variety of signs can teach visitors about your layout.

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