Create Your Own Signs
and You Personify Your Layout

There are few projects that can bring life to your scale model railroad layout like era-appropriate signs whether they are billboards, wall signs on structures or roadside/trackside signs. But to stimulate the “WOW Factor”, you need one or two ghost signs on structure walls.

BE CAREFUL This is an area where it is easy to get carried away. Ghost signs can be anyhwere from 50 to 100 years old. If you are modeling turn-of-the-century (18th to 19th), you could easily pre-date your sign with a faint reminder of a sign that couldn't have existed.


Newer signs tend to add realism and brighter colors than a fading sign on a brick facade. They also tend to convey the impression of a highly detailed layout.

The Internet has provided literally hundreds of sources for signs and signing ideas for almost any era. You will find there are several modelers who keep a collection of sign art by industry, by era or by medium (metal, paper posters, billboards etc.)

There are very few scale modelers today who don’t utilize a computer to create, download, scan and alter images and other printed material for modeling purposes. There are also software programs meant for purposes like creating banners or other signs for the printed page. With a little adjusting, cropping and shrinking, they are perfect for scale modeling.

You can build your name into a store banner and spruce up an otherwise blah product line creating a sign like this one on your computer.

For years I have been creating my own signs for buildings using a program called “NetStudio” to create a “free-hand” factory or retail sign in any font style, color and even shape, though for simplicity’s sake I normally work with a square or rectangle.

Once I get the “sign” to look the way I want, I use another program called SnagIt to grab a copy and resize it to match the scale of my model, add a border if suitable and print the result.

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