Everywhere a Sign

“The sign said you’ve got to have a membership card to get inside”
-Five Man Electrical Band-

I’m continuing on my detailing kick. Mostly to avoid tackling some of the larger, and possibly more pressing needs on the layout. But also because it’s a lot of fun… even if the final product only takes up an inch.


Road and building signs are a necessary and needed thing on any prototype-based layout. They help establish both locale and era, and are a key element in telling the story of your layout. For The Hills Line, all of the street signs were taken from the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) handbook, which gratefully offers vector images that can be scaled down to size.


The images were manipulated in Adobe Photoshop, and printed out on normal printer paper. Following a tip from Luke Towan’s absolutely amazing scenic tutorials on his equally amazing Boulder Creek Railroad website, I attach the paper to a flattened aluminum drink can, then cut the individual signs out one by one. The aluminum does an excellent job of simultaneously stiffing the paper, as well as simulating the metal backing of the real-world signs.


The signs are then mounted to either scale lumber or piano wire to match the prototype. The advantage of using extruded foam for the layout base is that signs can quickly be installed simply by shoving the end into the foam.


Additional signs are made for structures and lineside indications, again using prototype photos as both an image source and a reference for placement. It’s always possible to go overboard, but I’m often amazed at how many signs are present in a given area in the real world.

4 thoughts on “Everywhere a Sign

  1. Those look great James. Very convincing.

    But flattened aluminum drink cans?? To paraphrase “Airplane”, it looks like I picked the wrong week to give up drinking Coke. This might be enough to force me back off the wagon.



    Liked by 1 person

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