Sunday, February 28, 2016

Town signs on the layout fascia

I mentioned town signs, awhile back, in a more general post about fascia signage (it’s at this link: ). But I only showed a single example there of a town sign. In the present post, I thought I would expand on this topic a little.
     Town signs really can help a visitor to a layout, and especially an operator who isn’t very familiar with the layout. A good sign doesn’t just tell you what town you’re looking at, but also indicates which way is local east and west, and perhaps what the adjoining towns are, or even the next major city in each direction. Provided that a faraway town really is a major one — I’m reminded of a time I was starting up a freeway on-ramp with an out-of-state visitor, and he noticed the two on-ramps were designated Fresno in one direction, and Bakersfield in the other. “Which one is which direction?” he wondered, though of course most Californians would know. And of course the (much smaller) sign giving the route number will say something like “99 NORTH” which is a double-check on direction.
     Anyway, I want my town signs to be as clear as possible, even for people who have no particular knowledge of the area I model, south of San Luis Obispo on SP’s Coast Line. Accordingly, I chose a design emphasizing directions. I showed my first sign, the one for Shumala, in the post which has the link at the top of this post, but for completeness, it’s shown again below. As is the case throughout the layout, the fascia is tempered Masonite in natural color, though given a shellac finish.

     To see the various towns I model, located on a map of the branch, you may visit an earlier post in which I commented on the locale chosen for the layout (at: ).
     The major switching location on the layout, lying out in the middle of the branch, is Ballard. Probably any operator would know which direction is back to Shumala, unless he or she had started work in Ballard — as in fact crews do in some operating schemes. Then this sign can help. Here the bottom of the sign is flush with the bottom of the fascia.

     Finally, the end of the branch at Santa Rosalia might seem to need no sign, but I thought I should include one, for consistency and also to reinforce what the operator already knows. The sign is actually taller than the fascia, thus extends beneath it. But the sign size and proportions match the other signs, which was my goal.

     A short comment about directions. You may note that east is to the left at Shumala, but to the right at the other towns. Though it sounds contradictory, it’s actually correct. On the Southern Pacific, “westward” was defined as “toward San Francisco,” regardless of geographic direction of a particular segment of track. So leaving the end of the branch, heading toward the main line, brings a train closer to San Francisco regardless of the local geography.
     I might also mention format and typeface on these signs. I wanted them to be consistent in format and appearance, and you can see that I did accomplish that. The typeface is one I used a lot a few years ago, a digital rendering of what originally was a wood typeface, called “Hamilton,” and still one I find has an appealing period look.
     These signs have worked well, including for one operator I remember from the Midwest, who really had no idea where any California towns were, beyond Los Angeles land San Francisco. If your layout doesn’t have fascia signs like this, you might want to consider making a few and trying them out.
Tony Thompson

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