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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains

Family Garden Train's Graphic Files go Far Afield

Well, it's nice to know that your work is appreciated. I'm talking about the graphic files I make available in the Family Garden trains Free Large Scale Signs and Graphics page (the one with free downloads but which asks for a $1 donation for any file you keep and use).

A Little History

This page started back when it was almost impossible to get garden railroad structures that looked like they belonged in North America. I was trashbashing some toy American-style buildings to work on my railroad, and I needed some textures to make them look right. So I created some brick paper, some stained glass windows, and some signs to print on thin plastic sheets (using an ALPS, whose printouts were expensive, but waterproof). The results were so encouraging that I published those graphics on the web for other people to use. Since then, with the purchase of a digital camera, I've been able to add more textures and other graphics, and I've expanded that resource several times. At the moment, I have dozens of other graphics on my hard drive waiting to be reworked into something useful to the average hobbyist. So when I get caught up on my articles, more good things should be coming.

How Do You Define Success?

Have people liked what they saw? Over 32,000 high-resolution graphics files have been downloaded since I started counting (March, 2005). (My ISP estimates at least ten times that much, based on the bandwidth consumed, but I'm not sure they're counting the right downloads.) Even going by my very conservative estimate, if each person who had downloaded and used a file had donated a dollar, the rest of my middle daughter's college tuition would have been paid for by now. As it is, if you want to know how much income this project has actually generated, wait until your digital clock strikes an hour exactly, and look at the rightmost digit that appears. Okay, enough said on that subject. . . .

Where Are These Things Really Getting Used?

I knew from the start that most Garden Railroaders don't have color printers that produce waterproof ink, so I figured that these files would be used mostly by folks modeling in the smaller scales. But in the last several weeks, I've become aware of two other uses I had, frankly, not considered at all.

Several weeks ago, I came across a "craft item" that had a "name brand" of a local "artist." It was, of all things, a brick decorated to look like a house. I recognized my "stacked stone" graphic right away; on closer examination, I could even make out the not-so-good "splice" where I didn't do the best job of joining two images into one "wallpaper" image. The "artist" had digitally superimposed two cheezy-looking windowframes from another source, then printed the whole thing on sticky label paper. This "label" was then wrapped around three sides of the brick, and other details were added to make it look like a house. Imagine my surprise when I saw this thing (which was not THAT attractive, my contribution notwithstanding). First of all I thought, "Well, that's a use I hadn't considered." Then I thought, "Those windows are sure cheezy. Time to get some of those windows I've photographed cleaned up and published." It didn't occur to me until I was out of the store that the "artist" had used my property for a commercial product without reimbursing me - without even asking me. Still, the whole effect was so cheezy, I doubt the "artist" will sell more than a handful anyway. Note: This accidental disregard of one silly misappropriation of my intellectual property doesn't mean that you're free to start your own business based on my work, hint, hint.

The next "off the wall" use for one of my graphics came this week. A graphics designer from a sign company in Missouri wanted to know if I had a really high-resolution version of the stained-glass window graphic. Apparently a customer had come across my graphics on the internet and like the look of the stained glass image. The customer wanted the designer to print the graphic on transparent vinyl so he could use it to make some windows on a house or garage look like they were stained glass. I forwarded a vector graphic version of the file to the designer but I haven't heard if he was able to make it work or not, or whether the customer was satisfied with the results.

I have to hope that the other 31,998 downloads have been put to more tasteful use, but these were pretty funny examples of how an honest artistic effort can turn into third-rate kitsch in a hurry. To be on the safe side, I'll avoid posting anything with pink flamingos for a while.

If you need any particular signs or textures for your model railroad, please contact us - we may already have something you need, and it just needs to be moved up in the "queue."

If you want to make certain you don't miss any important announcements, please consider signing up for our e-mail mailing list soon.

Have a great summer (or winter, to my friends down under).


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