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Evolution of the Herald

 I was excited to do a proto-freelance railroad, because among other things it meant that I got to design my own herald.  The challenge was to make it railroad-y, but not obviously a copy of any known line's logo, especially famous or oft-used shapes.    

At some point it occurred to me that one shape I couldn't recall ever seeing was the hexagon.  
Now why might this be?  I thought of three possible explanations:

      1. The shape might suggest you were a nut.
      2. The name "hex" might connote curses and witchcraft, which people may have been sensitive about in the old days.  Hey if Procter & Gamble got in trouble over their moon & stars, you never know!
      3. No one ever bothered.
In the lazy man's world, as in theoretical physics, the simplest explanation is usually the right one.  
So #3 was the answer, and the Suffolk Northern's uniquely shaped identity was born.  The first one I developed was the filled-in one most often seen in 1952.  However as time has gone on, the need to tell additional stories, and/or accommodate friends in newer eras, has led to some expansion on the concept.

Here's a brief history:


Engineers and draftsmen in the day, such as my father and grandfather, often signed their drawings and edits with their initials crafted into some sort of a medallion, and a hexagon or a diamond shape was not uncommon.  
Companies used this technique as well for branding their products, such as furniture or pottery.  
To me it seemed to say "antique but related", which was what I was after.


All right, the Depression is waning, time to brighten things up with more zoot!

This was the initial herald I designed, and I was told after the fact that I had totally ripped off the Southern with the "S" shape, and the N&W with the "N".  I honestly had not intended that, but I guess old loves run deep.  
Let's call it "channeling" - a subconscious influence - rather than "theft".    


For tax and legal purposes, or because merger approval has not yet been forthcoming, the SNR has always maintained a certain degree of independence for its subsidiaries, as is detailed elsewhere.  Starting after WWII though, the railway began consolidating loose ends by applying a common herald, even as equipment continued to be lettered for predecessor roads.  

This is a direct mimic of the New York Central System, whose herald is formed by applying the word "System" to the New York Central herald, which is then pasted on all the scattered sheep such as the P&LE, Michigan Central, Big Four, and on and on.  

Man I love this stuff.


In my 1952 sleep, I was visited in a dream by visions of a strange and amazing future world, where all manner of wonders could be seen, including space travel, bell bottoms, Astroturf, garish new railroad colors that had been ushered in by that madman Patrick McGinnis over at the New Haven, and crazy 10' tall multi-mark heralds that were only vaguely recognizable as anything at all.   

But when I woke up, I knew what I had to do, and that was to create a future version of the SNR herald, so I could do up boxcars for numerous friends who model the mid-70s and beyond.  

Goal 1 was to keep that trademark hex shape.  Goal 2 was to make it not so funky that you couldn't recognize it as an SNR car, since it wouldn't exactly be showing up at everyone's local grade crossing.  But Goal 3 was to channel something in that era that would connote "1970-ish" and modernity.  I tried the mating worms, wet noodles, Pac-Men, etc., but nothing really came through.

 Enter the BN.  I was just cutting my teeth on trains when the BN showed up, with that amazing "N that isn't there" herald.  It happened I got a BN boxcar with my first train set, and I used to stare at that herald and watch the N appear and disappear depending on how you looked at it.  Had to be done.  Make a hex out of the S, then bother your friends with reviewing 400,000 versions of it, et voila.  Call M.C. Escher.

SNR 29306 at Port Newark on Matt Snell's Conrail Shared Asset Operations, NJ Div.  
Photo by Matt Snell.

Above is an entire cut of Suffolk Northern cars, proudly sitting on John Miller's Kanawha & Lake Erie, set in 1976.  On the far right is the original car I gave him.  All the remainder are his own doing - he just asked for a sheet of decals and charged ahead.  The man absolutely loves freight cars.  Tom Patterson photo.

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