Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Font Frustration

Transfers are one of the biggest challenges for narrow gauge modellers.

There are precious few authentic decals produced for our branch of the hobby, most probably because there are so few of us compared to the standard gauge crowd, so we end up having to adapt some of the vast selection of products produced for them to work for us.

Our current quandary is how best to letter up our South African wagons?

Let's make it quite clear that we haven't got any hope of getting something accurate because SAR used stencilled letters and numbers and I do not know of any transfers of that kind in 4mm. (If you do then please let me know.)

So our usual solution is to raid the catalogue of Fox Transfers. Their waterslides are easy to use and because they carry a comprehensive range of British outline designs dating back over the last century there's usually something in there that we can get away with.

It is, however, sometimes an expensive process of trial and error.

This is a shot of Himself's first try at lettering up one of the DZ wagons.

The numbers looks great. I think they may be from a set intended to renumber 1960's diesel locos. They all started with the prefix D, of course. Now, if only BR had a Z designation as well we'd be laughing...

What Himself used in the picture weres ome letters from a Gill Light alphabet sheet. Now, I've nothing against Gill - in fact I am distantly related to the late Eric - but these don't look right at all.

So instead I've raided my drawers and found a sheet of Franklin Heavy which are a bit chunkier and sent them down south to be stuck on and see if they work a bit better.


  1. I am awaiting some from South Africa and will keep you and others informed.

  2. I've kind of wondered about this because I'm a huge typography nerd (considering getting some typefaces commissioned for better nameplates). But I'm not sure what the technology requirements are so its a bit of a "what if" for now.

    I've heard that Precision Labels are good for custom work though.

  3. I'm a bit of a typography nerd too. My father was a signwriter, and I find that signs are often the worst-done part of a model railway. To my eye, otherwise excellent work is sometimes ruined by signs done in Helvetica, the most commonly-available Letraset font. It just shouts 'Letraset'...

  4. If the SAR lettering is originally done as a stencil, and you are having the bogies etched, why not experiment with including a correctly designed stencil onto the fret with the bogies. You could then simply tape or hold it to the model (and the brass is probably thin enough to bend to the shape of the model if needed) and then run a paint brush across it. This way you get the correct style of letting and don't have to worry about finding a font that looks only almost right.

    If it works well maybe Steve could branch out into doing custom stencils for this kind of work as well as nameplates?

  5. you can get dry transfers from me. I make SAR stencils for HO but these work perfectly on OOe stuff as the ng ones were slightly smaller, so scale out perfectly. Lots of people have used them on their B and DZ ng wagons in OO.