This caught my interest, "photo-taking, model-making obsessives are documenting the state’s vintage signs before they vanish"

This caught my interest this morning,
Meet California’s Nerds of Neon
These photo-taking, model-making obsessives are documenting the state’s vintage signs before they vanish.

by Jody Amable October 4, 2019

... And Raley isn’t interested in doing what everyone else is doing.

His workshop—a spare room in his tan, two-story Fresno home that’s painted yellow and filled with thrift-store finds—attests to this fact. Standing atop a table are several unique acrylic models of commercial signs, most less than 18 inches tall, that you won’t find in Vegas gift shops—signs advertising the Safari Inn, Western Appliance, the Sun N’ Sand Motel, and more.

Raley, an affable, soft-spoken 48-year-old who favors a T-shirt and jeans, has been building these miniature signs for the past two years. He belongs to a loose fraternity of Californians who are obsessed with vintage signage. Sometimes referred to online as #signhunters or #signspotters, these sign geeks congregate around photo-sharing sites like Instagram (and in the earlier days of the Internet, Flickr) and bond over their love of the big, bold, over-the-top signs of the mid-20th century—the glory days of roadside advertising.

But that was then. These days there aren’t many neon beacons beckoning to drivers on California thoroughfares. As the state’s population swells, and its once-funky places gentrify, a small community of signhunters (the sign geeks who visit vintage placards in person) are racing to document the signs they love—taking and sharing photos, rendering skillful sketches, making miniature scale models—before they get knocked down to make way for condos and Walmarts.


I love Atlas Obscura! A great place to learn interesting things! And this is an interesting topic to learn about!

A few years ago the Greenway (a park in Boston in the footprint of an elevated highway that was torn down) put up an exhibit of old neon signs from the area. You can see them here:

My favorite is the sign from Fontaine's, which was a restaurant not far from where I grew up. It was lit up in such a way that it looked like one wing was flapping.
Hey, cool! Looking at photo with base for the soon coming Flying Yankee sign brings to mind this,
Story of the Flying Yankee
In the midst of the Great Depression the conditions in America were so bleak that serious minded folks wondered if, in fact, this experiment in Democracy was really working. Doris Kearns Goodwin, in her book No Ordinary Time describes how in the late Depression in fact America had double digit unemployment, one third of the population had no running water, and education was obtainable by only a small number. In the years following 1929 rail passenger traffic had fallen by one half and railroads were seeking to discontinue unprofitable passenger service. The Interstate Commerce Commission had to grant approvals to discontinue service and was stingy with these permissions.

The Boston and Maine and Maine Central Railroads were in dire straits that reflected the times, which brings us to the crux of the story.

The tradition in America is that when we face adversity we bring technology and ingenuity to the fore. And so it was that the Boston and Maine-Maine Central Railroads undertook to order a new train set that for its time was truly revolutionary.

The solution was a streamlined three car unit train ordered from the Budd Company in Philadelphia on a one page letter from Mr. French, President of the Boston and Maine railroad. The new Flying Yankee was given road number 6000. It followed the delivery of the Pioneer Zephyr by only a few weeks.

Revolutionary? The train was designed as a sprinter, covering intermediate distances quickly. The Winton 201 A Diesel Electric (the first type of longer distance train not powered by steam) powered the train. The train was the first with fixed windows, thus we see Air Conditioning for the first time.

The Flying Yankee restoration group has the original maintenance manual from GM Frigidaire with a disclaimer on page 3 from the US Department of Commerce assuring users that Freon was safe for the atmosphere. The train had no diner, and indeed food was prepared in a galley and served on trays to passengers. The trays affixed to the seat in front. A prelude to airline-type service. (The Yankee's food was better!)


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