Photos by Richard Schumacher
Visitors to your model railroad look for both the familiar and the unexpected: landmarks, structures, scenes, and brands they recognize. Scenes and landmarks set the place for your railroad – where it is located, what town and cities it serves. Structures add that next level of detail to the towns, telling the story of what is important about that location as well as highlighting the industries served by the railroad. And the details on those structures, and on and along the streets, help establish the era of your railroad. And there’s nothing quite like vehicles to firmly and visibly set what era you have modeled for (non-rail) visitors.
Your layout is always more interesting if there are details to be discovered. Brands on vehicles and structures provide easy opportunities for visitor discoveries. Many modelers add cultural references to their industry signs. Tim the tool-man would always approve of a “Binford Tools” structure. Prototype signs are appreciated as well – one of my St. Louis area structures has a lighted and flying Anheuser-Busch eagle. A Reddy Kilowatt sign firmly identifies a power generating plant, as well as it being from an older era. But there is one brand that is always immediately recognized, and Mini Metals has released a new series of 50s-era Coca-Cola models. Obviously, they are perfect additions for my 50s-era St. Louis Southern Railroad.
Bottle delivery truck models have been hard to find in the past. The new 1954 Ford trucks by Mini Metals are just what I needed for my railroad, but other manufacturers have announced they will be offering earlier (1947) and modern trucks if you are looking at other eras. The Mini Metal truck has great bottle details at scale size.
Mini Metals hasn’t forgotten other aspects of the soda infrastructure. The sales agent’s delivery wagon and the Aero van trailer would be perfect parked outside the local bottling plant (served by rail, of course!).
The delivery truck will obviously stop at your local grocery stores, but soda vending machines were everywhere starting in the 50s. Mini Metals is offering Coca-Cola vending machines to go along with their vehicles, but I also like the soda machines made by JL Innovative Design. The JL Innovative Design machines are available as painted or unpainted models. Their 347 (unpainted castings) vending machine detail set has two 50s-era ice machines as well.
Comparing to an HO figure, the Mini Metals upright soda machines seem a little small, and the JL Innovative Design machines and soda cases seem a little big (enough so that you might get away with using them in S scale too). All of them look great.
The Mini Metals Coca-Cola billboards have nicer printing than the Athearn ones made a few years ago (which always looked a little fuzzy to me). I did like the more traditional and lighter wooden framework design of the Athearn billboards.
Mini Metals also offers the 1954 bottle truck with Dad’s Root Beer branding. This goes perfectly with a JL Innovative Design Dad’s billboard I purchased a few years ago. The JL Innovative billboard is made of laser-cut wood.
Another new 50s-era Mini Metals set I liked was for Hostess cupcakes. Another brand from my childhood. There’s a box of them on my kitchen counter right now.
The lattice at the bottom of the Mini Metals billboards, as well as the entire back, is a printed graphic.
All of these items are available from any dealer or hobby shop reselling products distributed by Walthers. I purchased mine at retail directly from Walthers and an online hobby shop.