model train set on track

Personalize Your Train Layout Billboards

e*Train Issue: Jan 2018   |   Posted in:

By Bob Harder [email protected] – (217) 779-8502        Winter 2018

Whether we run toy train layouts or beautiful hi-rail pikes, landscape and structures always add extra detail and interest. Billboards are a simple and effective way to add such interest, and to put your unique ‘signature’ on your layout.

Lionel has offered its ‘Classic Billboards’ for many years, portraying a wide array of subjects: famous trains, household products, automotive services and more.  These have been as simple as ‘static’ signs, as well as illuminated, flashing, and operational animated displays.

Billboards can be even more interesting, however, if they are personalized with your own unique ‘story.’ From family, friends, and favorite trains, to excursions, adventures, and more, your billboard scenes and pictures can reflect your wide variety of train interests to show and share with those who visit your layout.

Here are some of the stories I have told with my own billboards.

Special Trains on My Layout – A number of trains that I operate have interesting stories and histories of their own. A billboard with a good picture of your train and a few lines of text can make your trains ‘come alive’ for your visitors.

Favorite Train Shops and Experts – Billboards using enlarged versions of the business cards from your favorite train stores, service repair experts, and scenery artists make great billboard displays (and keeps their phone numbers and email addresses always ‘close at hand’!).

Train Rides and Museums – As train lovers, we all enjoy riding on excursion trains, visiting train layouts, and visiting train museums. Keep lasting memories of these great adventures with some billboards. You can use brochures, postcards, and your own pictures to ‘tell the story’ to all who ask.

Pictures of Friends and Family at Train Events – Whether it’s at a train show, amusement park with a train, or climbing all over a static train at a local park, someone is sure to be ‘trigger happy’ with their camera. Get a copy of the photo and put it on display with a layout billboard.

Train Layout Scenes and Themes – When many of us build our layouts, we enjoy modeling a particular story or theme: The New York area in the 1940’s, modern freight operations in the Midwest, or a specific logging road at the turn of the century. Often our trains travel from one community to another, or our layouts include an action-packed circus, a busy freight terminal, or a large passenger station complex.  Each of these themes and scenes are perfect opportunities to use billboard signs to distinguish and identify these special areas (which can be especially informative for your layout visitors).

My own layout depicts four major themes: Strasburg Rail Road visitor center and museum; Strasburg Rail Road maintenance-of-way yard; ‘Lionel Train Town’ with a Lionel hobby shop, accessories, and a trolley to get from place to place; ‘Howarth Park’ (a local city park) with an amusement park complete with a carousel, HO-size train ride, petting zoo, and pony rides!  All such areas can be highlighted with their own billboards.

Shelf Displays – Whether we currently have an operating layout or not, we all often have a train or two displayed on shelves around the house. These trains may be particularly meaningful to us or have historic and interesting stories of their own. A billboard can be a great way to have these train displays ‘come alive’, both for you and your visitors.

The bottom 3/4-inch of your front-side billboard insert will be hidden behind the bottom of the billboard frame. You should confine your front billboard picture or ‘message’ to 2-inches by 5-inches and place it at the top of billboard insert so all of it will be visible. The billboard insert for the back of your billboard frame can be the full 3-inch by 5-inch size.

With these examples – and many more of your own- – your railroad layout billboards can reflect your favorite train memories and stories … and ‘lure’ your visitors into listening to your very own ‘Tall Tales’!

Happy Railroading!