paint and lettering

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Tue Apr 22 11:00:55 EDT 2014

On Apr 21, 2014, at 4:52 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:

> The N&W, and most railroads, did not use FONTs for lettering styles. The lettering on tenders, locomotives and cars was created in a hand drawing in the engineering/drafting department and approved by management. The draftsman then created a linen template, full size lettering, on this drawing fabric. He then punched small holes in template linen to create

> 'dots' or holes in the linen. This template was placed over the car side and then tapped with a chalk-filled bag to create a guide for the lettering painter to paint the lettering by hand. When paint spraying became feasible, they used a hardboard mask as a stencil.

I have to disagree Gary. This is not quite the process to my knowledge. The drawings frequently started as a pencil drawing, was approved or changed, then the draftsman inked the drawing on linen for final approval. Why would you do a drawing that was going to be used and eventually damaged? You'd then have to go back and recreate it, if you save the original drawing, then another print can be pulled.

The ponce patterns I have seen, several dozen over time, were all but one, not linen material, they had been traced onto a very heavy kraft-type paper then punched. Unless it was a total single use thing, the original linen drawing would remain in the files, so that prints can be sent out. The original linen drawing, to my experience, was either blue or white printed, and the print sent to the paint shop or shops, then one of the sign painters would take the drawing, and using graphic transfer paper, trace the lettering or image onto the heavy kraft stock, then punch that to make the ponce pattern.


> So how do you use the tools in your computer to make lettering decals from a

> font style? Well, you can't without studying photos and creating your own

> letters based on the old photo images. You will need to use a drafting

> program or a capable 'photoshop' program to create the lettering.

Photoshop would only a small part of the tool kit for creating the material. I've spent hundreds of hours recreating various lettering, N&W, Virginian, C&O, Southern, Norfolk Southern, etc. To properly reproduce the material today, a professional uses Adobe Illustrator or in the worse case scenario, Corel Draw. Photoshop is not nearly as precise. Nor can Photoshop be utilized to cut vinyl or stencils at a commercial sign shop with precision. I think Richard Shell of Shellscale Decals will back me up on all this.

By the way, my comments are based on the fact that I am a professional graphic designer in addition to thousands of hours studying the subject of railroad lettering.

See my followup post for more information on this topic.

Ken Miller

> Gary in Cincinnati


> -----Original Message-----

> From: nw-mailing-list-bounces at

> [mailto:nw-mailing-list-bounces at] On Behalf Of NW Mailing List

> Sent: Friday, April 18, 2014 8:36 PM

> To: nw-mailing-list at

> Subject: paint and lettering


> Anyone know what the lettering font was in the 50's?

> Also need a paint number for the Tuscan red.



> Thomas Anson

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