Steam decals

nw-modeling-list at nw-modeling-list at
Sun Dec 12 20:51:38 EST 2004

I would like to comment on the information needed to properly make 
decals. Paint and lettering happens to be my specialty, I do it for 
both professional and hobby. I will point out that, I am not now a 
modeler, simply no time for such. However, I am probably one of the 
pickiest people out there about model lettering. I do not understand 
how a manufacturer can go to such great lengths on a model, only to 
drop the ball at the last minute on one of the most visible parts of 
the model.

I have been involved in decal artwork, and producing full size stencils 
for the real thing, N&W, Virginian, NKP, Western Maryland and C&O. You 
suggest the lettering diagrams be sent to the manufactuer and there it 
is.  I will offer that the lettering diagrams are seldom the absolute 
correct art. It takes a lot of work to find material that is truly 
right. If you send a simple lettering diagram to someone who is not 
prepared and does not truly know what is right and what is wrong, you 
will get wrong decals, stencils or vinyl.

A perfect example of this material is C-630 No. 1135 at the Virginia 
Museum of Transportation. The style of lettering, heralds, numbers and 
numberboards are incorrect (not even mentioning paint shade here). Why? 
Very simple, the person handling the restoration some years back sent a 
lettering diagram to a sign company in Pennsylvania to have them cut 
vinyl lettering. The diagram was so no specific, the sign company 
looked at it and said "this looks like Helvetica" and that was what 
they cut and sent back. The person at VMT had no knowledge about what 
is right and what is wrong so there they go up on the unit. Now it 
represents, incorrectly, the 1960s Pevler blue scheme in a Museum as 
history, but it is wrong, I consider it as false history. The right 
information and people were out there, myself, Richard Shell of 
Shellscale, but not consulted. In fact, we were told our help and 
knowledge were not needed or wanted. Now that changed with the NKP 
caboose, and the 1776 (again, not mentioning incorrect nose color), but 
the lettering is correct on both of those.

In some cases, the drawings virtually do not exist for the actual 
correct work. When working on lettering my Virginian caboose No. 342 
back in 1989. I went to the Motive Power Department to see if the VGN 
drawings for the letters themselves existed on micro film. No, not in 
the main set, not in the set in the vault. Why? Someone apparently took 
the original linens before they were in the group to be microfilmed, 
probably before 1970. The VGN cab at Virginia Museum of Transportation, 
again, is wrong. Now this time it was the railroad that painted and 
lettered it in the early 1980s. Again, there were no drawings 
available, so they used a Champ decal set and made up something that is 
totally wrong. What I had to do get my lettering correct was find the 
sole remaining Virginian painted caboose, a difficult task as late as 
1989, I went and traced the original lettering, or what remained of 
such, and went and redrew it. All told this little portion of a job 
took over 100 hours. The general arrangement of lettering that finally 
surfaced several years ago is great, but not the complete story. 
Accuracy is a tough thing to accomplish, and requires someone who has 
knowledge, material, and cares enough about it to make the job right. 
Most manufacturers will not devote that kind of time and research to a 
project that will rarely sell enough to pay for the time.  I am sure 
Richard Shell will back me on the effort required to gather and produce 
artwork for decals. In both his and my case, it is a labor or love, 
there is virtually no way to get paid for the time involved.

Ken Miller

On Dec 12, 2004, at 4:22 PM, nw-modeling-list at wrote:

> Alan:
>   So your 2 cents says that we don't need the society to do anymore,  
> Wrong!  Hire someone!  The C&O
>  scociety does and has done over 1 million in sales, just ask Dixon.
>   Why is there always someone with an excuse of why the Society can't 
> do something?  We need to do away with the Can't attitude and adopt 
> the Can attitude!  If the volunteers are taxed to the limit, does that 
> mean the Society stops growing cause we can't do anymore?  Again, I 
> say Hire someone!
>   By the way, I wasn't asking for the Society to make the decals, I 
> was asking for the Society to have the decals done by a professional 
> maker.  The time to make the decals doesn't take that long.  You can 
> fax, mail, email, etc., the lettering diagrams from the archives to 
> the decal maker and he does the rest!  Once a decal is done, the work 
> is where's the "overwhelming burden"?
>   I do agree with Jimmy.  Why are there no decals for O Scale when 
> there are more O Scale products produced now more than ever??  Is it 
> because someone in our Society says it doesn't sell?  Or is it because 
> somebody might be overwhelmed?
> Stephen Rineair
> ----- Original Message -----
>  From: nw-modeling-list at
> To: nw-modeling-list at
> Sent: Sunday, December 12, 2004 8:43 AM
> Subject: Re: Steam decals
> The store is already offering decals from 5 different people. The 
> archive is run primarily by volunteers and that is already time 
> demanding on them. To add decal making would be an overwhelming 
> burden. Stop and think of what goes into producing a quality, accurate 
> decal. This process can be time consuming. As it is there are some 
> decals that are not 100% accurate. Is that the way you would like to 
> go?  The latest "Commissary" has an updated to March 04 CD of the 
> archuves and additional information. This CD has been available for 
> some time and is updated when time allows. Perhaps you need to read 
> the article in the NOV/DEC 2004 "The ARROW" by Gordon Hamilton before 
> you make any more comments on the availability of information from the 
> archives and the Society. My 2 cents worth.
> Alan Cox
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