Fonts for railroad lettering


Thomas Baker
 

Back in the Fifties, the period I model, the railroads used a variety of fonts, depending upon someone's choice at a particular railroad.  Until recently I had relied on Jerry Glow's outstanding selection for my decal needs.  Now I see the necessity of accessing a source of fonts so that I can create my own artwork on the computer.  Jerry must have had such a lettering program available to him.  Does someone out there know of a lettering/writing program that displays fonts of various railroads?   I have created a limited amount of artwork from my writing program, but finding the variety to match the lettering of some railroads requires a specialized program.  Any recommendations?

 

Tom Baker


 

I use railfonts.com

Thanks!
Brian Ehni 
(Sent from my iPhone)

On Feb 18, 2015, at 10:21 AM, Thomas Baker bakert@... [STMFC] <STMFC@...> wrote:

 

Back in the Fifties, the period I model, the railroads used a variety of fonts, depending upon someone's choice at a particular railroad.  Until recently I had relied on Jerry Glow's outstanding selection for my decal needs.  Now I see the necessity of accessing a source of fonts so that I can create my own artwork on the computer.  Jerry must have had such a lettering program available to him.  Does someone out there know of a lettering/writing program that displays fonts of various railroads?   I have created a limited amount of artwork from my writing program, but finding the variety to match the lettering of some railroads requires a specialized program.  Any recommendations?

 

Tom Baker


Richard Townsend
 

The only one I know of is Railfonts: http://www.railfonts.com/
 
Richard Townsend
Lincoln City, Oregon
 
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Thomas Baker bakert@... [STMFC]
To: STMFC Sent: Wed, Feb 18, 2015 8:21 am
Subject: [STMFC] Fonts for railroad lettering

 
Back in the Fifties, the period I model, the railroads used a variety of fonts, depending upon someone's choice at a particular railroad.  Until recently I had relied on Jerry Glow's outstanding selection for my decal needs.  Now I see the necessity of accessing a source of fonts so that I can create my own artwork on the computer.  Jerry must have had such a lettering program available to him.  Does someone out there know of a lettering/writing program that displays fonts of various railroads?   I have created a limited amount of artwork from my writing program, but finding the variety to match the lettering of some railroads requires a specialized program.  Any recommendations?
 
Tom Baker


 

Tom – If Railfonts can’t supply what you want use the old fashioned way.  Scan a broadside into the computer, increase the contrast and size and print out individual letters.  Clean them up with White Out and ink and rescan.  Import them into a graphics program and set type.  - Al Westerfield
 

Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 10:21 AM
Subject: [STMFC] Fonts for railroad lettering
 
 

Back in the Fifties, the period I model, the railroads used a variety of fonts, depending upon someone's choice at a particular railroad.  Until recently I had relied on Jerry Glow's outstanding selection for my decal needs.  Now I see the necessity of accessing a source of fonts so that I can create my own artwork on the computer.  Jerry must have had such a lettering program available to him.  Does someone out there know of a lettering/writing program that displays fonts of various railroads?   I have created a limited amount of artwork from my writing program, but finding the variety to match the lettering of some railroads requires a specialized program.  Any recommendations?

 

Tom Baker


A&Y Dave in MD
 

I use CorelDraw 12 which I picked up for $50 or so. I scan a photo using their paint equivalent, adjust to get even with no distortion, then save image (raster format like JPG or PNG). Then I open draw app, import the image as non-editable background layer. Then I draw vector image of lettering. Vector image can be called with no pixelation and prints fine.  I did create a Southern Railway TrueType font by exporting each vector character separately after tracing a scanned lettering diagram. Hard to find all characters in one size though, and different sizes of same "font" may have significant differences I found. One size does not fit all, but it can be close enough for most.

Dave

Sent from Dave Bott' iPhone

On Feb 18, 2015, at 12:06 PM, 'Al and Patricia Westerfield' westerfieldalfred@... [STMFC] <STMFC@...> wrote:

 

Tom – If Railfonts can’t supply what you want use the old fashioned way.  Scan a broadside into the computer, increase the contrast and size and print out individual letters.  Clean them up with White Out and ink and rescan.  Import them into a graphics program and set type.  - Al Westerfield
 
Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 10:21 AM
Subject: [STMFC] Fonts for railroad lettering
 
 

Back in the Fifties, the period I model, the railroads used a variety of fonts, depending upon someone's choice at a particular railroad.  Until recently I had relied on Jerry Glow's outstanding selection for my decal needs.  Now I see the necessity of accessing a source of fonts so that I can create my own artwork on the computer.  Jerry must have had such a lettering program available to him.  Does someone out there know of a lettering/writing program that displays fonts of various railroads?   I have created a limited amount of artwork from my writing program, but finding the variety to match the lettering of some railroads requires a specialized program.  Any recommendations?

 

Tom Baker


Charlie Vlk
 

I often start with a similar font and break the words apart and then convert the individual letters to curves.   This gives you a start for torturing the letters to conform exactly with most of the straight and curved line segments and points already in place.

Charlie Vlk


Edward
 

One of the issues about accurately modeling railroad lettering is that for the most part, the styles used were designed in house by draftsmen in their
engineering departments - often quite a long time ago in the late 19th and early 20th century. 

Cataloged fonts as we know of them now were not commercially available then. Lettering and numerals used in manufacturing and advertising were designed in house. Printer's type also came with varieties within a font adn its sizes, depending on manufacturer, as also the dies used in the hot lead lino-type machines.

The basics of each type face were subject to some interpretation as well,  such as the middle bar of the "E" in B&O's locomotive and passenger car lettering having a 'droopy tail.' It is something not usually seen among Roman style fonts and seems to be uniquely "B&O."

Ssome railroad lettering also may not be 'scalable.' That is, smaller sizes had slightly different characteristics than larger sizes of the letters and numerals in the same class - such as in freight car lettering. 8", 5", 3" and 2" lettering while looking alike were somewhat different, yet all would be 'railroad Roman.'

B&O lettering samples and designs are available for free download at the B&O Railroad Historical Society's website:

http://borhs.org/Logos/bo_font_logo.html

 

Could such may be so for some other railroad historical societies as well?

Ed Bommer


Gary Ray
 

I produced a set of fonts using the SP lettering diagrams in Bruce Petty's Book.  I use them to produce my own decals. I did use a very early version of Fontographer - still on floppies - paid about $20 for it, used the auto trace function after over jpeg from lettering diagram, and then fine-tuned the letter.  You could use the same method for lettering you are interested in.

 

I use Word 2010 to make the sheets, and the letters can be kerned (for instance the distance between A and V by 1/10 points).  I am not interested in producing decals for others but am willing to share my fonts.   Email me privately if interested the font I created.

 

Gary Ray

Modeling 1926 Shasta Division

 

 

From: STMFC@... [mailto:STMFC@...]
Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 8:22 AM
To: STMFC@...
Subject: [STMFC] Fonts for railroad lettering

 




Back in the Fifties, the period I model, the railroads used a variety of fonts, depending upon someone's choice at a particular railroad.  Until recently I had relied on Jerry Glow's outstanding selection for my decal needs.  Now I see the necessity of accessing a source of fonts so that I can create my own artwork on the computer.  Jerry must have had such a lettering program available to him.  Does someone out there know of a lettering/writing program that displays fonts of various railroads?   I have created a limited amount of artwork from my writing program, but finding the variety to match the lettering of some railroads requires a specialized program.  Any recommendations?

 

Tom Baker





Tony Thompson
 

Ed Bommer wrote:

One of the issues about accurately modeling railroad lettering is that for the most part, the styles used were designed in house by draftsmen in their
engineering departments - often quite a long time ago in the late 19th and early 20th century. 


       Ed is exactly right, and this is a vital point to understand. In general, railroad lettering prior to the 1960s was NOT a font in the traditional sense.

Cataloged fonts as we know of them now were not commercially available then. Lettering and numerals used in manufacturing and advertising were designed in house. Printer's type also came with varieties within a font adn its sizes, depending on manufacturer, as also the dies used in the hot lead lino-type machines.


        Not really. The font catalogs were even bigger in those days than now, it's just that they were all made in metal.

Ssome railroad lettering also may not be 'scalable.' That is, smaller sizes had slightly different characteristics than larger sizes of the letters and numerals in the same class - such as in freight car lettering. 8", 5", 3" and 2" lettering while looking alike were somewhat different, yet all would be 'railroad Roman.'


        This is also an important point. Those railroad draftsmen knew what typographers know: what looks good in a big size may not look right at a small size. Any book you would consult on understanding type will probably illustrate this by showing an 8-point letter printed at 60 points, and perhaps a 60-point letter printed at 8 points. They simply are not the same font, even if the family resemblance is strong. Railroads knew this and usually made,as Ed say, separate drawings for EACH size of letters. This is good for us, because we can digitize from those full-size letters and make corresponding fonts for whichever size we want.
        And by the way, there is no such thing as "railroad roman," despite decal makers' wish that it was. Even the Master Car Builders recommended lettering was not adopted by many railroads, and it differs from Champ's Railroad Roman in a number of ways.
         In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit to being a little bit of a type geek.

Tony Thompson             Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705         www.signaturepress.com
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, tony@...
Publishers of books on railroad history





Tim O'Connor
 

Al, this would make a wonderful CLINIC for the next RPM meet ! It would
very cool to actually see someone do this interactively by projecting the
PC screen. I just need to see it done to believe that I can do it myself.

Tim O'Connor

Tom � If Railfonts can't supply what you want use the old fashioned way. Scan a broadside into the computer, increase the contrast and size and print out individual letters. Clean them up with White Out and ink and rescan. Import them into a graphics program and set type. - Al Westerfield


sprinthag@...
 






Ed Bommer wrote:

One of the issues about accurately modeling railroad lettering is that for the most part, the styles used were designed in house by draftsmen in their
engineering departments - often quite a long time ago in the late 19th and early 20th century. 


       Ed is exactly right, and this is a vital point to understand. In general, railroad lettering prior to the 1960s was NOT a font in the traditional sense.

Cataloged fonts as we know of them now were not commercially available then. Lettering and numerals used in manufacturing and advertising were designed in house. Printer's type also came with varieties within a font adn its sizes, depending on manufacturer, as also the dies used in the hot lead lino-type machines.


        Not really. The font catalogs were even bigger in those days than now, it's just that they were all made in metal.

Some railroad lettering also may not be 'scalable.' That is, smaller sizes had slightly different characteristics than larger sizes of the letters and numerals in the same class - such as in freight car lettering. 8", 5", 3" and 2" lettering while looking alike were somewhat different, yet all would be 'railroad Roman.'


        This is also an important point. Those railroad draftsmen knew what typographers know: what looks good in a big size may not look right at a small size. Any book you would consult on understanding type will probably illustrate this by showing an 8-point letter printed at 60 points, and perhaps a 60-point letter printed at 8 points. They simply are not the same font, even if the family resemblance is strong. Railroads knew this and usually made,as Ed say, separate drawings for EACH size of letters. This is good for us, because we can digitize from those full-size letters and make corresponding fonts for whichever size we want.
        And by the way, there is no such thing as "railroad roman," despite decal makers' wish that it was. Even the Master Car Builders recommended lettering was not adopted by many railroads, and it differs from Champ's Railroad Roman in a number of ways.
         In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit to being a little bit of a type geek.

Tony Thompson             Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705         www.signaturepress.com
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, tony@...
Publishers of books on railroad history

This has been an interesting thread. Tony has a lot of very factual information here.

Yes, there is no universal Railroad Roman. I have three different RR Roman fonts, all different and none that seem to work on any decal project I've done without modifications.

All railroads pre 1960's used lettering as drawn by their draftsmen. Not only were they not the same railroad to railroad but were often different from shop to shop of the same railroad. Others in this thread have described how they draw or modify fonts using prototype photos. That is the best way to get a convincing "font". I use Photoshop to remove any perspective and/or other distortions (like from using wide angle lenses) and then scale the photos using some known dimension, often a wheel set. I then open the photo in Illustrator (or CorelDRAW) and draw the font, saving it in vector format os it will have well defined, non-pixelated edges and can rescaled at will. Sometimes I will use a similar font and makes modifications but, if it is more than a rather small amount of mods I just start from scratch. Doing this for like 15 years has taught me methods that make drawing faster than modifying.

And, yes, many fonts cannot be reduced in scale too much as you will get to the point where they don't print well. The thin parts of letters just disappear and the open areas of P's and Q's fill with inks. Even reducing a drawn font down to model rr scale sizes often requires changes. You have to satrt with a prototype photo and to get the lterr correct and then make it LOOK correct in whatever scale you are printing.

The thing is the bar has raised so much over the years from the old hand drawn sets what with manufacturers using pad printed cars and locos that it takes a lot of effort with some decent photo editing and drawing programs to achieve satisfactory results.

John Hagen





 

Tim – I’m afraid it wouldn’t be very long and pretty boring if they just watched me ink. I’m attaching a corrected font to duplicate NYC IRT lettering. You can see that only the center horizontal is changed. As I recall the letter was printed out about as large as the program would permit. It’s pretty rough but when reduced in size to match existing letters in the font set the change is not detectible. The letters are of standard IRT height and extended or contracted to match the size of the sign, the color selected as white to go on the standard size blue sign, all done in CorelDraw. It is then simple to duplicate the sign for as many as necessary for the station. With this success I then went back and corrected all the other letters necessary to do all the other station signs. – Al


From: mailto:STMFC@...
Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 2:20 PM
To: STMFC@...
Subject: Re: [STMFC] Fonts for railroad lettering



Al, this would make a wonderful CLINIC for the next RPM meet ! It would
very cool to actually see someone do this interactively by projecting the
PC screen. I just need to see it done to believe that I can do it myself.

Tim O'Connor

Tom – If Railfonts can't supply what you want use the old fashioned way. Scan a broadside into the computer, increase the contrast and size and print out individual letters. Clean them up with White Out and ink and rescan. Import them into a graphics program and set type. - Al Westerfield




[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


Eric Hansmann
 

And it is indeed a clinic at the upcoming RPM-East meet!! John Frantz of Mount Vernon Shops will present "Creating and Applying Decals from a Professional Perspective." It is one of many interesting clinics set for the event. Check out the website for the current presentation details.
RPM-East Railroad Prototype Modeler Seminar

 



Eric Hansmann
RPM-East publicity and web guy


Tim O'Connor
 


Cool, I wish I could go... maybe John will come to the New England
prototype meet usually held in early June. I would really like to see
this clinic.

Tim O'Connor


And it is indeed a clinic at the upcoming RPM-East meet!! John Frantz of Mount Vernon Shops
will present "Creating and Applying Decals from a Professional Perspective." It is one of many
interesting clinics set for the event. Check out the website for the current presentation details.

RPM-East Railroad Prototype Modeler Seminar


water.kresse@...
 

There are always exceptions.  In late-1947, Robert Young, President of the C&O, formed an Office of Research and Design (like General Motors had in Detroit) in Cleveland.  It was eventually slit with the Office of Design from Research with design and decorating group being put under the PR Department VP.  In the mid-50s, the Office of Design brought out the Futura and Speed Script lettering styles to the railroad.  They played with limited-run Futura Medium and then Semi-bold Futura lettering schemes to see how the operating folks "could live with them."  The PR Department felt that the Roman-style lettering had to go along with the steam locomotive's demise.  The Engineering folks just wanted the cheapest paint that lasted the longest and could easily be read when dirty and during the twilight hours (i.e. black and white for everything).  The New York marketing folks were bending the railroad folks ears.
 
Al Kresse


From: "sprinthag@... [STMFC]"
To: STMFC@...
Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 5:47:15 PM
Subject: Re: [STMFC] Re: Fonts for railroad lettering

 






Ed Bommer wrote:

One of the issues about accurately modeling railroad lettering is that for the most part, the styles used were designed in house by draftsmen in their
engineering departments - often quite a long time ago in the late 19th and early 20th century. 


       Ed is exactly right, and this is a vital point to understand. In general, railroad lettering prior to the 1960s was NOT a font in the traditional sense.

Cataloged fonts as we know of them now were not commercially available then. Lettering and numerals used in manufacturing and advertising were designed in house. Printer's type also came with varieties within a font adn its sizes, depending on manufacturer, as also the dies used in the hot lead lino-type machines.


        Not really. The font catalogs were even bigger in those days than now, it's just that they were all made in metal.

Some railroad lettering also may not be 'scalable.' That is, smaller sizes had slightly different characteristics than larger sizes of the letters and numerals in the same class - such as in freight car lettering. 8", 5", 3" and 2" lettering while looking alike were somewhat different, yet all would be 'railroad Roman.'


        This is also an important point. Those railroad draftsmen knew what typographers know: what looks good in a big size may not look right at a small size. Any book you would consult on understanding type will probably illustrate this by showing an 8-point letter printed at 60 points, and perhaps a 60-point letter printed at 8 points. They simply are not the same font, even if the family resemblance is strong. Railroads knew this and usually made,as Ed say, separate drawings for EACH size of letters. This is good for us, because we can digitize from those full-size letters and make corresponding fonts for whichever size we want.
        And by the way, there is no such thing as "railroad roman," despite decal makers' wish that it was. Even the Master Car Builders recommended lettering was not adopted by many railroads, and it differs from Champ's Railroad Roman in a number of ways.
         In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit to being a little bit of a type geek.

Tony Thompson             Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705         www.signaturepress.com
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, tony@...
Publishers of books on railroad history

This has been an interesting thread. Tony has a lot of very factual information here.

Yes, there is no universal Railroad Roman. I have three different RR Roman fonts, all different and none that seem to work on any decal project I've done without modifications.

All railroads pre 1960's used lettering as drawn by their draftsmen. Not only were they not the same railroad to railroad but were often different from shop to shop of the same railroad. Others in this thread have described how they draw or modify fonts using prototype photos. That is the best way to get a convincing "font". I use Photoshop to remove any perspective and/or other distortions (like from using wide angle lenses) and then scale the photos using some known dimension, often a wheel set. I then open the photo in Illustrator (or CorelDRAW) and draw the font, saving it in vector format os it will have well defined, non-pixelated edges and can rescaled at will. Sometimes I will use a similar font and makes modifications but, if it is more than a rather small amount of mods I just start from scratch. Doing this for like 15 years has taught me methods that make drawing faster than modifying.

And, yes, many fonts cannot be reduced in scale too much as you will get to the point where they don't print well. The thin parts of letters just disappear and the open areas of P's and Q's fill with inks. Even reducing a drawn font down to model rr scale sizes often requires changes. You have to satrt with a prototype photo and to get the lterr correct and then make it LOOK correct in whatever scale you are printing.

The thing is the bar has raised so much over the years from the old hand drawn sets what with manufacturers using pad printed cars and locos that it takes a lot of effort with some decent photo editing and drawing programs to achieve satisfactory results.

John Hagen