Shining Time Station fans are a creative bunch, and we're quite chuffed to showcase their projects here!

For our 1st Project Showcase, Shining Time Station Fan "A.C." shares how he constructed his own awesome version of the iconic sign seen in the TV series! (Added 2017-SEP-02)


If you're as much of a fan of the nostalgia of Shining Time Station as I, you wonder what could have happened to the beautiful mural that adorned the station walls during its run. I loved every bit of it, including the "TO ALL TRAINS" centerpiece. It's funny - I never understood the sign as directional. I always thought it was a tribute, an ode to trains that stated "here's to the beautiful trains that pass through this station every day, bringing magic into the place." There was always a bit of magic in it.

Over the past few years, I toyed with the idea of purchasing a sign such as this, as they are found in most railway and subway stations. I never could find one that I liked. I even went so far as to commission a sign business to make a custom sign for me in the likeness of Shining Time, but it was going to be far too expensive. Suddenly, I thought: if I'm willing to shell out that kind of money for a sign, why not simply make one myself? It can't be that hard, and I might even have a bit of fun in the process. As it turns out, I was right on both counts! Therefore, I highly encourage you to give it a go.

I purchased all of the supplies for the sign from a trusted local art supply store. I would highly recommend this as not only are you supporting local business, but you are also learning from the expertise of artists who use these materials daily. For the sign itself, I began with a 12” x 36” wood craft board (this particular one was birch) with a depth of 1 ”, so that I could get a nice border that would also be easy to hang. They had wood boards in all sizes. Alternatively, you could use a nice piece of pine or other wood that is in decent shape. Whatever you choose, you’ll want to make sure that it is big enough, to really get the full impact of the sign.

Cradled 1.5" deep birch wood craft board similar to the one used by A.C. to make his sign

To start, I gave the board and its border two coats of black gesso acrylic paint. This prepares the surface for painting, helps the final colours pop, and assists with the later process of "aging" the board (if you choose to do so). For the colours of the actual sign, I used standard acrylic paint (Amsterdam All Acrylics 120ml bottles). I began by painting the outside border on the board a dark gold colour called Raw Sienna, which reminded me of the colour of the arch under the mural. I did two coats of this. Then, I painted the whole front of the board dark green (Olive Green Deep), a colour that reminded me of that beautiful green of the interior of the station (definitely my favourite colour). I did one thorough coat of this.

Amsterdam Acrylic paint

For painting, I would recommend buying a solid set of brushes. One good-quality medium brush with fine bristles (no streaks!) for the broader painting and a nice selection of small brushes for detailing such as the lettering and border. Also, make sure you allow enough time for the paint to dry in between coats. I know, the waiting can be hard…

Set of brushes used by A.C. to paint sign sign

Next, I did two coats of the yellow border on the front of the board (Naples Yellow Deep). To do so, I measured the border at ” thick, using pencil marks to mark it. Then, to ensure straight lines, I used painter’s tape to line up the straight lines that I had marked out and to keep the paint from dripping down the side onto the gold border. If you make a mistake, don’t worry – you can always paint over it once dry or sand it off during the "weathering" stage.

Now, the tricky part… the lettering! I got a lot of tips on how to do this from online sources as well as some feedback from the staff at the art store. First off, I downloaded Adobe Illustrator and used it to create the lettering. The font of the sign is none other than Times New Roman in bold (which I found to be closest to the Shining Time lettering). Basically, in Illustrator, you need to create an “art board” that has the same dimensions as your actual wooden sign so that the lettering will print out at the exact size you want. I modelled mine at 11.5" x 35.5" (to account for the half inch yellow border). I then typed out the lettering and adjusted the size of the font to fit the board (to roughly 240 point, I believe). The next step was curving the bottom of the lettering, which looks so great in the show as it goes above the archway. (You could make a curved wooden sign too, I suppose, but that seemed too difficult to me). I simply opted to curve the lettering which I did with the Warp>Arc Lower feature in Illustrator, and adjusted the bend so that it looked about right (I think it was -30%). Some sites say that this "warp" feature distorts the text but this was not an issue for me on this project. I then centered the text on the art board and stretched/adjusted the text so that it looked just right, filling up the right amount of the sign. If you need help with these steps, simply Google your issue and there will be many threads that can assist you with it. When you’re done, you can create a PDF of the sign and, under printer preferences, print it as "poster" at 100% to print the letters in actual size. This will print multiple sheets that you then have to cut and tape together (mine printed on 10 altogether).

Now, the fun part: tracing! You could use transfer paper if you like but it is quite expensive. A cheaper option is to buy tracing paper and a solid #2 pencil. Put a large piece of tracing paper over the taped-together full-size text and trace all of the letters. When done, flip the tracing paper over and retrace the same outlines that you just made. Apply the pencil liberally during this step, pressing a little hard and spreading the lead around somewhat. You want to do this because you will be transferring the lead directly onto the sign in the next step (it sounds tedious but it really is quite exciting). Once you have done this, flip the tracing paper over, place it on the sign, and tape the whole sheet into place exactly where you want your final lettering. Then, pressing hard on your original lines with a pen (you could also use pencil but lead might break), carefully outline each letter. This will transfer the lead from the back of the tracing paper to your sign, creating perfect letters! I did this over the green paint and it showed up perfectly. Works like a charm.

Tracing paper used to transfer lettering onto sign

Next, paint in your letters. I was originally going to paint the letters yellow but opted instead for a light yellow (almost white) which I ended up being very happy with (Naples Yellow Light). I did two coats of this, colouring in the letters with very fine paintbrushes. Move carefully and slowly during this step, aiming to stay within the lines as much as possible as it will minimize your work later on. However, mistakes can always be painted over after.

Freshly-lettered sign before weathering

At this stage, you have a beautiful, shiny sign! However, I am always one for weathering, distressing, or aging things to make them look more realistic. Think the first two seasons of Thomas & Friends: this is how they made the models and sets look so realistic. After all, Shining Time is a very old station and if you can remember from the early episodes, they aged the station, showing chipped and faded paint, cobwebs, and other signs of wear and tear.

So, I chose to weather my sign by doing two things: Firstly, I bought a sheet of 220 grit fine sandpaper and cut it into 6 pieces to use. I then sanded all over my freshly painted board – the front, edges, and border – to “age” away some of the paint, expose some of the black underneath, and give it the look and feel of aged wood. I did this a few different times (outdoors, of course), wiping away paint and wood dust between steps with a slightly damp cloth. Save a few pieces of sandpaper for the next step. Secondly, when I was satisfied with the effects of the sanding, I applied a thin layer of a mixture of one part white paint (I used the Naples Yellow Light) and one part water (it seems very thin at first but sets more as it dries) over the whole sign. I did this to try and replicate a sort of “white-washed” effect that I had seen on the green paint of Shining Time’s walls. When this is dry, sand the whitewash until you get the desired effect.

Sign after weathering process

Lastly, I hammered a hook into the back of the sign with a couple of nails, and… it is now hanging proudly on my wall. If this project seems a little daunting, it is much easier than it seems. And it affords many hours of fun as you recreate a classic piece of Shining Time. Just because the mural is gone doesn’t mean that it cannot live on…

Finished sign - All Aboard!

Lastly, I thought I would include a PDF of the lettering for the sign, if fans wanted to make one the same size as mine (12"x36") without fiddling with Adobe Illustrator. Simply print this at full size, which is discussed in the instructions above.

Happy painting!

By A.C.

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