Photos by Richard Schumacher
In 1953 Vess Bottling Company of St. Louis commissioned a giant revolving neon-lit soda bottle which was erected at the corner of Hampton and Gravois in south St. Louis. The steel bottle was fabricated by the W. E. Caldwell Tank Company (who also made the 70 foot tall Brooks Catsup bottle water tower in Collinsville and the giant 120 foot Louisville Baseball bat) and lit with 600 feet of neon tubing created by the Treesh Neon Sign Company of East St. Louis. The 2,000 pound, 12 foot tall replica of a Lemon-Lime Vess soda bottle sat atop a 13 foot pole and revolved at three revolutions per minute. As an (old) south county boy, I remember seeing the sign many times as a child.
The sign was placed in storage and then relocated in 1989 to it’s new location in north downtown at 520 O’Fallon Street where it has been designated city landmark #120. The neon is now broken, and it doesn’t rotate on the new pole, but it is still an impressive advertising statement.
There are two approaches you can take if you want to model a giant soda bottle sign on your layout. One would be to download my photo of the Vess bottle (the photo is provided here for your personal use only, clicking on the image loads the full-resolution version), print it in the size appropriate to your scale, cut out the bottle, and glue it to your backdrop on top of a painted pole.
An actual three-dimensional model bottle may also be mounted on a pole (a small low-rpm motor could even be used to make it a revolving model). Appropriate size bottles are available as dollhouse miniatures and holiday ornaments. Do an Amazon search for “miniature coke bottle” to find a bottle that will work for you. One of the 1:12 dollhouse bottles would look correct for HO. The 12 foot tall Vess bottle would be 1.65 inches in HO scale.