Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Decals for the Colorado & Northwestern Railway, Calamity's railroad

I had so much fun weathering the D&RGW cars that I have been itching to get to the rest of the freight and passenger cars for my Colorado & Northwestern Railway. This time though I wanted to have the decals done before I started the weathering process (I'll have to go back and apply decals to the tank car and do a little extra work there). After checking out the options for custom decals I decided that I would be better off trying to do my own. Totally new experience for me. First I was going to need a lot of white numbers and letters. Without access to one of the famous ALPS printers I can't print white. Somewhere I read about a brand of decal paper that might do the trick (and yes I am aware that there are decals papers that are white instead of clear). This paper is from Evan Designs specifically designed for Inkjets and doesn't not require a fixative spray afterwards. So five sheets, $20 bucks not inexpensive but I ordered it and it arrived a few days later, quite a bit faster than I expected it to.

To work on the graphics I downloaded a free program called Inkscape. The learning curve wasn't bad and there are plenty of tutorials out there if you get stuck. Nice piece of software. There were a couple of miss steps but I managed to get things to come together. I also bought some railroad fonts from Ribbon Rail Productions that would at least be close to what the C&N used. Searching for fonts that were close was the most frustrating part. Railroads just didn't use standard fonts and modern fonts don't look right. Ribbon Rail helped a lot, while I didn't get perfect matches I got pretty close which is all I really could hope for. 

So I'm humming right along laying out lettering and numbers and recreating the logos when I realized that all the white numbers and letters still need a colored border. Arrgh, there goes an hour or so of work. Now I need to paint the freight cars and then scan the color to create a background for the white letters that will, hopefully, be close enough to the actual paint color to be easy to blend in during the weathering process.

I talked with Darel over at C&Sn3 and he recommended Rock Island Maroon from Tru-Scale Paint (TCP-260) as a good match for the C&N boxcar over at the Colorado Railroad Museum. A trip to Caboose Hobbies to obtain some paint only to discover that they didn't have the newest colors yet and the Rock Island Maroon is like brand new this year (actually I think Caboose hasn't been keeping up with the paint, the rack was kind of bare). I decided on MOPAC Boxcar Red (TCP-139). It ended up being a good choice and I'm pretty pleased with it. You can see how it looks in tomorrow's post.

So after maybe 10 hours of research, work and learning some new software I managed to create three, count them three, sheets of decals. I comfortable with the process though so making more should be easy enough.

Checking out the colors on the logos. The logo on the left has a "gold" rim, hard to see in this photo, and the central peak goes all the way to the top of the square. This is for the locomotive tenders. The smaller logo doesn't have the "gold" rim and the peak only goes up about 2/3rds of the way to the top. This is one is used on freight and passenger cars.

A test print of the yellow lettering that will go on the passenger, baggage and observation cars along with the yellow numbers. The black numbers are pretty much worthless, since they need to be in white! This was the point I realized that I really needed to get some painting done.

A test sheet on regular paper. Not bad just need to move it a bit to the right.

Three sheets of decals; logos in three different sizes, a sheet of letters and numbers and a sheet of car data and logos. The Switzerland Trail lettering is not prototypical. I wanted to add some interest to the car sides which are largely blank. Although the Colorado & Northwestern was pretty small as far as railroads its actually fairly well documented. The Switzerland Trail of America by Forrest Crossen is my main reference ( I have several copies) and this title appears on the cover of the book, so I scanned it in to put on the car sides. 
So there you have it, decals from your inkjet printer. Hopefully I get some time to try them out this week.


  1. Well done Kris!
    I can't wait to see the results.

  2. So far so good! Although now that I think about it I probably should have cut those sheets down in case those colors don't work out. Thanks Darel!