Posted on Sunday, October 29th, 2023
If you’ve seen photos of busy US cities in the 1930s, you know that there were plenty of signs—on shopfronts, walls, vehicles and windows. With little besides newspaper advertising for marketing, most businesses—small and large—relied heavily on signs to get the job done.
We got an email the other day from Don Merrifield [Merrifield Graphic Design, Dewey, Arizona] with a link to the Facebook page for The Franklin & South Manchester Railroad. It’s an HO railroad-based layout that features a fictitious town and railroad. Some believe it is the most highly detailed layout ever.
The railroad and buildings are amazing, but the hundreds of signs are a central player in creating the authentic look of a mid-thirties town. The sign layouts are authentic and are aged to perfection. And they are everywhere: on walls and rooftops, storefronts and windows, vehicles and billboards.
George Sellios began creating the layout on a benchtop in 1984. It’s grown to occupy 23-by-42-feet and nearly 1600 sq. ft. of space. It’s located in Peabody, Massachusetts, and has been the subject of a book, several documentary videos and a number of YouTube videos.
The signs for the pool halls, general stores, taverns and diners are all there. Ads for tobacco, automobiles and beer abound. If you’re looking for inspiration for vintage sign design from the 1930s, you’ll find plenty of it in this incredible model railroad village.