Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Model tank car placards — a refinement

Awhile back, I posted some descriptions of the prototype and model use of placards on tank cars, for my era (1953). Here are links to them: Prototype— http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/03/tank-car-placards-prototype.html ; Model— http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/03/tank-car-placards-modeling.html . Subsequently, I described my model placards, at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/12/tank-car-placards-more-on-modeling.html .
     But there is one nagging problem with my model placards. The prototype placard is placed in a holder. Until about 1933, placard boards on tank cars were simply wood squares, mounted “on point” in a diamond configuration, and placards were tacked to them. But about that year, metal placard holders came into use and were soon a de-facto standard. The placard is slipped inside them and is held in place by crossbars. They are in use today, on railcars and (in a similar form) also on highway trucks. Here is what they look like:

This image is taken from a website of a seller of these parts; it’s at: http://www.labelmaster.com/resources/catalogpdfs/G12%20pdfs/Placards%20&%20Placarding%20Systems/G12%20p89.pdf . The product is called the “Rail Slidemaster,” is 12.5 x 14 inches in size, and only costs $15, if you’d like to own one.
     My post about prototype placards, cited at the top of the present post, included a picture of a workman inserting a placard into one of these holders.
     There are lots of in-service photos around, which show these holders clearly. Here is just one example, a detail of a 1971 Frank Szachacz photo. The placard is an “empty” placard, with the right half of the placard all black (for more about that, see my post on prototype placards, cited above).

The message here is that the holder is pretty visible, not just the placard itself. That in turn means that simply applying a decal or printed placard onto a model placard board isn’t correct; the crossbars of the placard holder ought to be visible “in front” of the placard, with the placard “inside” the holder.
     So I think I will try representing this situation by modifying my model placards. Since my placards are just HO-scale images of real placards, printed out on a high-resolution printer, I can modify those HO images by superimposing an image of the placard holder on the placard image. I will report on that in a future post.
     Another way to attack this problem would be to make decals of the holder, with the black placard holder on clear decal film. Then you could place that decal over an existing image of a decal or printed-out placard. I will suggest this to some of the decal makers out there. Of course, an even better arrangement would be if decals of placards included the holder bars across the image. Then only a single decal would have to be applied to a model placard board.
     This is only a refinement, to be sure, in the overall placement of placard boards on model tank cars. But it does add that little additional bit of accuracy and realism to your models.
Tony Thompson


  1. Tony--I made placard boards for an HO Imperial Oil (Esso Canada) tank car by making a backing of .002" or so thick shim brass that were attached to the running boards of the car per prototype photos and plans.. The car was painted Tamiya German Grey, along with four etched placard board frames (Detail Associates?) . Microscale "DANGEROUS" placard decals were applied to the boards, and then the pre-painted etched placard frames were applied over the placard decal using Kristal Kleer.

    The only quibble with this method rhat I can think of is the thickness of the placard frames. The real frames are about 3/32' thick over the placard, as opposed to the scale 3/4" with the commercial product. Which your choice of decal "frame" may address.

    Steve Lucas.

  2. Thanks, Steve. I don't know whether Detail Associates makes this holder, but Plano does (or did) offer one. I tried the Plano part awhile back, and found it rather fiddly to work with, but it does give the right look (though, as you say, too thick). I believe the decal frame, either as a one-piece, frame-plus-holder decal, or a separate frame-on-clear, would look better and be easier to apply.
    Tony Thompson

  3. Tony,

    The 3D look of this placard holder could perhaps be replicated by Archer Dry Transfers. They could conceivably make the frame with their process and include a clear interior so the actual placard detail would show through.

    Ed Robinson