Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Modeling highway trucks, Part 8

The topic of this series of posts was chosen in part to emphasize my belief that anything a modeler can do, that emphasizes regional and local identity, is a big plus in the realism of a layout. We are sometimes urged to show evidence of national brands (for example, Shell Oil or Coca-Cola), and these brands are recognizable and thus helpful, but I think regional brands are better still. To see previous posts in the series, I would recommend using “modeling highway trucks” as a search term in the search box at right.
     A couple of my earlier posts were about longer semi-trailers, especially the very nice ones once made by Ulrich in all metal. As one example, the previous post, Part 7, was about these trailers (you can read that post at the following link: ). But smaller trailers were also very prevalent in the 1950s, which I model, so this post is about them.
     Athearn for  many years made a 24-foot semi-trailer (these are still readily available via eBay and other on-line sellers), marred mostly by having dual axles at the rear, hardly needed on a small trailer. But in fact it is the work literally of seconds to use a razor saw to remove the forward axle in the dual-axle bogie, converting the trailer to something far more realistic (I first described this point on one of the earlier posts about highway truck modeling, which is here: ).
     I recently picked up a few more of the old Athearn 24-footers for conversion. Shown below is one of the original Athearn paint schemes, for International Forwarding, at left, and at right is a trailer that has had the lettering stripped, repainted with Tamiya “Gloss Aluminum”(TS-17), and lettered with an appropriate truck graphic from Graphics on Demand (see their web site at: ).
     The other trailer, at right, has not yet had its forward axle removed. I decided to letter that trailer for a very modern owner, Great Northern Brewing in Whitefish, Montana, which I only chose because I’ve visited there. But it’s out of era for my 1953 layout.

     Below are two more trailers re-lettered. I should mention again that the Graphics on Demand product is nicely printed on clear vinyl, and is a peel-and-stick sheet. With a coat of flat finish, it is all but undetectable on a model.  Here the companies are So-Cal Freight Lines and Coast Truck Lines. Awhile back, I did another trailer in the Coast lettering, but it was on the right side of a trailer, while this is a left side, giving me directional flexibility when showing this company on the layout.

     These are both regional companies. By the way, Southern California Freight Lines (its full name) has a long history, dating back  before 1950, but like many small companies from decades ago, it is hard to find much history on-line about most regional truckers. I recommend making the effort, but you may not find much in many cases.
      My final pair of trailer schemes also includes a left side of a scheme earlier done on a right side, for West Coast Fast Freight, and an elegant scheme for a company not done before, California Lines.

     All of these trailers are already in service on the layout, substituted for existing trailers to provide variety, which was the original purpose. I continue to seek out additional propsects for these kinds of trailer lettering, to extend further the variety I already have.
Tony Thompson


  1. A way to find local trucking companies might be to search in old City Directories or phone books of the area. Check for the classified section. I just checked the 1961 Fairfield, Calif directory on and found a Davidson Trucking Co, who also had a half page ad in the front of the book. Then checking with historical society for some info about the company. They may have photos.

  2. Thank you, Lisa, phone directories are an excellent source. What I have been doing is mostly in the other direction, starting with a possible lettering graphic for a specific truck company and trying to find out if it was in business in my era, and if so, where. When directories contain ads, they could of course be a SOURCE of graphics to be made into decals.
    Tony Thompson