An experiment in free, downloadable decal artwork
Now available- the R.
MacRoberts Haggis billboard for your model railroad!
One of several billboards available for free download from Fritz's House o' Model Billboards
For a number of years, haggis was the subject of a number of running jokes on the rec.models.railroad Usenet newsgroup. This Scottish delicacy, made of a sheep's stomach stuffed with oatmeal, entrails and seasonings first reared its head(?) during a now-legendary debate over the merits of the various regional barbecues/BBQs/bobby-ques found across the United States. This has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that when three or more model railroaders get together to talk trains, the topic of food will inevitably come up.
In the late 1990s, discussions of haggis came up in rec.models.railroad ("r.m.r") every few weeks, to the point that "haggis" became synonymous with nearly any humorous, off-topic thread or post in that newsgroup. As such, haggis was part of the ecology of r.m.r, to the amusement of some, and the disgust of others. Foremost among the "haggisters" in r.m.r was the late "Big John" Dalton, who single-handedly did more to foster good-natured humor and a sense of perspective in r.m.r than most of the rest of us, combined.
To recognize its place in r.m.r lore, and inspired in part by a December, 1999 thread attempting to answer the age-old question "what kind of car would you use to carry it in?" I designed a set of decals for a billboard reefer for a fictitious haggis company. This would be cheaper than running a special freight car for r.m.r, and serve as an experiment in distributing decal artwork via the Internet.
These decals were designed to fit an HO scale Accurail 4800-series wooden reefer kit. This is mainly because I had several on hand at the time, and because I already had artwork on hand from another project.
If you wish to paint your own, I recommend starting with the Accurail #4800 undecorated reefer, though if you are not averse to painting, you could start with any reefer, really. Keith Heinsohn suggested a faster way involving less painting: Use the Accurail #4895 data-only reefer, which already has a boxcar red roof and ends. If you do that, simply leave off the dimensional data provided in the decal artwork and use that which is already there.
The artwork should fit other makes of refrigerator car as well.
Creating Decals from this Artwork
I'm only providing enough artwork for one side of the car- this cuts down your download time, and the amount of space I need to store it. Just print it twice.
You need two things to make decals from this artwork:
- A decal-capable printer, such as a laser printer or an ALPS MD-series "micro-dry" transfer process printer. Color isn't necessary for this set. Personally I don't consider inkjet printers to have reached the point where they are uniformly truly decal-capable, but if you've tried it and think the results are acceptable, go right ahead. Just don't ask me how to use this artwork to make decals on an inkjet printer, since I've rarely gotten satisfying results making decals with an inkjet printer, and consider using inkjets to try to make opaque high-resolution decals a dead-end. It's like nailing a custard pie to the wall, but not nearly as tidy. Of course, like so many other things in life, your mileage may vary.
- Blank decal paper, such as that available from Bare-Metal Foil Co., Champ, Microscale, Tango Papa and Walthers.
The procedure is pretty simple, really:
- Download the PDF.
- Open the PDF using a PDF reader such as Adobe Reader or another compatibel program..
- Print the decal artwork on blank decal paper.
I've included one-inch and 20 millimeter "sizing bars" to help you determine whether everything is scaling the artwork properly. Fortunately, the size isn't really critical on this set.
This artwork has been tested using a couple of models of HP laser printers and an ALPS MD-1000 printer. Both yielded usable results. The ALPS had the advantage of letting you print the reporting marks in white for the ends of the car. If you use a laser printer, you may want to paint the ends yellow (perhaps only painting the roof a contrasting color) so that you can see the reporting marks.
Painting the Car
One of the reasons I designed this decal set around the Accurail wood reefer is because you can make an attractive-looking car with a minimal amount of masking and painting. Other cars will work perfectly well. As the drawing shows, I see it having "reefer yellow" sides and "boxcar red" ends and roof. This is an entirely arbitrary decision on my part, based on typical billboard reefer practice, and my own particular tastes. Use any color scheme you'd like-- I won't be offended. Really!
The Boring Legal Stuff
When I put this artwork together, I did so with the idea that I would make it available for free for people to download and use to letter their rolling stock, and perhaps structures. With this in mind, I am making this artwork available under the following simple licensing conditions:
- The machine-readable versions of this artwork may be distributed for free. If you wish to post it on your own web site, go ahead, but you may not charge for this artwork, and I ask that you keep my copyright notice on it. A link back to this page would be appreciated.
- Decals may be made from this artwork for personal use only. If you want to make a small fleet for yourself, or for your friends, that's cool. If you intend to letter and sell cars using this artwork, I'd really rather that you not do it, since it violates the spirit of what I'm trying to do here. In other words,
- By downloading this artwork you agree that I am providing it to you solely for noncommercial use.
- If you want to enlarge or reduce it for use in other scales, I won't complain. Really.
- As the creator of the artwork, I specifically do not relinquish the copyright to my original artwork by publishing it here and making it available for downloading.
- This artwork is provided "as-is" without warranty or promise of any kind of support whatsoever.
How This Set Was Created
I put together this set in CorelDRAW 8 on a PC. Several months earlier, I completed the artwork for a set of Pere Marquette wooden refrigerator cars, so I had already drawn the artwork for a reefer body similar to the Accurail car. It took about an hour to change the features of the car body to match the Accurail car and produce a full-size (HO) diagram I could develop the decal artwork against. My approach is to draw up the car or locomotive shape before I begin the decal artwork, then put it on a drawing layer in CorelDRAW beneath the layer I'm actively working on. When I'm done, I not only have the decal artwork (which I can then copy and consolidate for the distribution sheets), but I also have the lettering diagram for the instruction sheet.
Rick Johnson described a very good process for creating custom decal art using a computer drawing package in the March, 2001 issue of Model Railroader magazine. Several of the techniques he described are the same as I have been using.
I sell decals to model specific prototype equipment. Information on my HO scale sets is available at http://fritzmilhaupt.com/decals. Currently I offer several sets for Michigan-based prototypes, with a decided bias toward the Pere Marquette.
Do you have questions or comments regarding this Web site? E-mail to
All original contents of this Web site are Copyright © 2000-2020, John F. ("Fritz") Milhaupt, All Rights Reserved.