Phil Anderson Signs - Traditional Sign Writing, Coach Painting, Lining and Gold Leaf in the North East of England
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Image from Beamish Museum

How times change! Although this photograph is quite obviously staged (the absence of paint being the biggest clue) it must be assumed that it offers a true reflection of a North Eastern paint shop around about 1900. However, since the demise of Trams and Steam Locomotives and the endless search for both speedier and cheaper methods of painting and sign writing the skills that these men possessed have unfortunately almost disappeared. Even in this old black and white image it’s clear to see the superior finish they were able to achieve.

These marvellously engineered workhorses were often very striking, baring beautiful liveries with distinctive lining and scroll work which perhaps by today’s standards may be seen as a little excessive but civic authorities and railway companies alike were immensely proud of them and felt the need to convey this pride, not just as a means of identification but something that was also pleasing to the eye.

‘It’s a rare occurrence these days to come across one traditional sign writer let alone three of them in the same place! These men were photographed applying the finishing touches to a rake of refurbished trucks passing through Darlington’s Faverdale Works, probably in the mid 1920’s. Again the quality of craftsmanship is evident, note the reflection of the closest sign writer in the gloss finish. It may well only be a truck but great pride and care was still taken. First and foremost these vehicles were painted to prevent corrosion but again, both identification and aesthetics were clearly a priority too.’ Click for a bigger image
Image from Head of Steam Darlington Railway Museum