Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Produce shipping boxes, Part 5

In previous posts in this series, I have shown some of the prototype produce labels I modified for the packing houses that are on my layout. Many packing houses shipped multiple brands, sometimes to distinguish different quality levels of the same type of fruit or vegetable, sometimes to distinguish among different vegetables.The most recent post, Part 2 (you can see it at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2017/08/produce-shipping-boxes-part-2.html ), showed one of the problems in reducing prototype labels to HO scale size: that even a moderately busy design becomes a blur at so small a size as HO. In the present post I want to take this farther. The labels I show here were all chosen to be simple designs.
     One example is a fairly generic label, used for more than one product. The original, from a published source, looks like this:

The attribution is to a distributor, American Fruit Growers, but that can be erased and one of my packing houses substituted. This label also has the virtue that it doesn’t identify a specific fruit or vegetable, so could be used for any product one would choose. Here is the same label, modified for a layout packing house that ships vegetables, using the commonly seen light blue lettering:

When reduced to HO size, these labels look all right. I show below an image of a stack of these, and though this image is not actually HO scale, it conveys how the strong and simple image in this label translates into smaller sizes.

     Another example is a label for my lemon packing house, Coastal Citrus Association. Browsing through published examples, I chose a somewhat old-fashioned but distinctive one, with large lettering, shown below. It is for a packer in Carpinteria, a small town east of Santa Barbara along the Santa Barbara Channel coast.

My first challenge with this label was that it is for the second-level fruit quality in the Sunkist pantheon, called “California Red Ball.” The top-level quality, called “Sunkist,” would be more desirable. So I looked through the labels in my collection, and chose the one below, from which it would be easy to extract the “Sunkist” tissue-wrapped lemon emblem on the black background.

     Cutting and pasting the Sunkist emblem in place of the Red Ball on the Sea Breeze label, and beginning the process of using the former lettering of the Carpinteria label owner to be rearranged to form my own packing house name, it looked like the image below. I did have to cobble together a few letters, such as the “O,” to make this work, since that letter is not in the original label.

But it still says “Santa Barbara County,” correct for the Carpinteria house, but not correct for my layout, which is located at the southern edge of San Luis Obispo County (just across the Santa Maria River from Santa Barbara County). Though I could have simply erased that, I wanted instead to have my layout town name included. So again, I worked to rearrange the existing lettering to get my desired result:

     I have illustrated these changes just to show that they are not very hard to do, merely requiring patience and a little experience with Photoshop or a comparable application. (I suppose a certain degree of enthusiasm for typography is an asset, too — I confess to suffering from such an enthusiasm.) All these labels will soon be attached to HO-scale shipping boxes, and can populate the loading docks of my packing houses! I’m looking forward to that.
Tony Thompson


  1. These are quite impressive. I really like what you're doing with them. Was the "CA" abbreviation for California in use in 1953? I thought "CA" came in with ZIP codes in 1963. I would have guessed that "Cal." or "Calif." was the default abbreviation.

  2. Awfully small! To fully engender a wee bit more enthusiasm for trying to make labels like these, I for one would appreciate looking at an actual label in HO scale affixed to one of your shipping boxes. How 'bout it?

    George Corral

  3. Richard, you are right that "official" abbreviations in all caps were introduced with Zip codes. But for California, I have seen many examples of the abbreviation being Ca, along with Cal, and remember, billing typewriters could only do capital letters. Most states had two or three letter abbreviations in those days. A number of my waybills use abbreviations like TEX or IND, but ones like MO and KY were common even then.
    Tony Thompson

  4. George, I will show an HO box (close up) in my next installment, where I show the 3D printed boxes.
    Tony Thompson