Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tank car placards — more on modeling

I posted awhile back a brief summary of prototype tank car placards, emphasizing my modeling period (1953), and followed that up with a description of how I thought the placards could be applied in model form (here is a link: .) I will refer to this post below as the “modeling post.” But I have had a couple of private queries as to exactly how I implemented the use of placards, so I thought I should expand upon that topic.
     First, if you are going to put placards on your model tank cars, you need the placards themselves. I simply took the prototype placards shown in my original post (see: – this post is referred to below as the “prototype post”) and reduced them to HO scale at high resolution, then placed them in a page layout application for printing. I use Adobe InDesign, but many comparable applications could be used as well. As I stated in my model placard post, the image of each desired placard in the prototype post was reduced to 0.125 actual inches on a side (that is, the prototype 10.75 inches divided by 87), and with a resolution of 1400 dpi, and printed on a laser printer in an arrangement like this (click to enlarge if you wish):

There are of course multiple copies of each placard type. The lines separating them are really for alignment only, and cutting out placards would be done so as to cut within the lines. Included here are “compressed gas” placards, one of which was used on my helium car model, shown in a previous post at: .
     In addition, as shown in the prototype post, there were some placards with red lettering for categories of danger. I made up some images of those placards, laid them out the same way, and had them printed on glossy paper at my local copy shop on their high-resolution color printer. I chose to make up “dangerous” and “inflammable” placards, which looked like this in my printout:

     Cutting these out could be done on a paper cutter if you have a good one, but can also be done by hand with a sharp pair of shears (these are Henckels).

     I then glued some of these onto my model tank cars. As I said in the model post, I have a “single-sided” layout without reversing loops, so cars always display the same side toward the layout front. Viewing the other side of the car requires physically rotating the car 180 degrees on the track. Thus I can put a load placard on one side of a model tank car, and an empty placard on the other, and rely on physical reversal when the car’s load situation is reversed.
     In the model post, I showed a Union Oil Company tank car, with its Walthers factory-installed “dangerous” placard. On the opposite side of the car from that placard is now an “empty” placard, as shown being applied here on top of the Walthers placard.

     Making and applying these placards is a simple process and in my opinion, dresses up a tank car and gives it a prototypical operation pattern.
Tony Thompson


  1. Tony,
    Great summary, would these placards be the same as used in 1937? What is the year these particular versions of the placards introduced.

  2. The ones I use were all adopted in the 1930s, as I observed in my "prototype post" on this subject (as I called it above). You can use all of them.
    Tony Thompson