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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Q: Have we met somewhere before? Perhaps Paris? The fonts look very familiar.

A: Chances are, you've already seen my work. The fonts have appeared in Model Railroader, Pacific Rail News, Railway Age, Railfan and Railroad, Vintage Rails, Steam in the Garden, and several other publications. They have also been used to letter train cars from N-scale all the way up to a full sized coach. You may even recognize some of my customers along the right of way, ranging from standard gauge: WC and CSX, to HO scale: Accurail, Walthers, LifeLike and ConCor models.

Q: Will the fonts work with my computer?

A: The fonts should work with your computer if you have a Macintosh or a PC running Windows. However, if you've never installed a font or downloaded something from the web, we may not be able to walk you through all of the steps. So, we strongly recommend that you download the sample font, install it and try printing it before you purchase a font and discover a problem. Also, if you have an older computer (pre 1995), it probably won't like some of the detailed fonts like the Heralds, Rail Art, Rail Dingbats, LaGrange and F7 Profile. The lettering fonts should work just fine on any computer that can use Postscript or TrueType fonts.

Q: But what programs will the fonts work with?

A: The fonts and artwork look like... well, they look like fonts to your computer. So, if your program can use different fonts, then you should be able to use these rail fonts with them. Of course you will have greater flexibility with graphics programs like CorelDRAW or Illustrator, you can still do a lot with Microsoft Word or another word processor.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for using the fonts?

A: Here's a short list of ideas: Correspondence / Stationery, Birthday / Father's Day / etc., Children (do you know a Thomas the Tank Engine fan?), Business cards, Advertisements, Model railroad decals and detailing, Announcements, Brochures, Newsletters, Full sized railroad lettering, Screen savers (use text mode and select RR font to scroll trains across your screen).

Q: What are some other ways I can use the fonts on my model railroad?

A: The rail fonts can be quite handy for the model railroader. First off, you can make your own decals. Now you can even print your own decals. But have you thought about making paperwork for your railroad? Have you thought about making paperwork for your railroad? Consider this switch list I put together using a few of the fonts and a spread sheet program. Don't forget your streets, with some yellow paper, you can quickly add street signs to your layout for an added touch of realism.

Q: How do I make decals?

A: First off, you can layout your own decals using a word processor or more sophisticated graphics program (e.g., SuperPaint, Freehand, Illustrator, CorelDRAW, etc.). There are a number of companies that will convert your artwork into decals. You may want to check out:

and many other locations.
If you are really serious, you can find decal paper for your printer. Unfortunately, most printers are designed to print on white paper (i.e., they don't print white ink), but now you can even purchase a color printer that prints white, gold and silver:
The ALPS Micro Dry Printer.

Q: Why don't you make a font of ...?

A: I am always interested in making new fonts, but I have two big constraints: time and lack of reference material. The former is a fact of life, while the latter can always be overcome with a little help. For example, if you are interested in a particular railroad's lettering, do you have reference material that could help me create the font? To do it right, I would need examples of most letters "A"-"Z", numbers "0"-"9" and special characters, e.g., "". Keep in mind I can not return reference material unless we make prior arrangements, but I can usually work from photocopies or electronic copies. Finally, I may not be able to make a font based on your submission, but if I do, I will provide you with a complementary copy.

Q: Where do the fonts come from?

A: Sometimes I base the lettering fonts on photographs, other times I work from company lettering diagrams or stencils. The artwork fonts are even more varied, sometimes they are done freehand, other times I use several photographs for reference. Each font is a fascinating research project, whether it's learning how many different "o"'s C&O used, looking at details on steam engines, or researching old rail artwork.

Q: Do you know the names (and/or publishers) of the original fonts that a given railroad used for it's various locomotive & passenger car graphics? Do you know if the originals are available anywhere?

A: Even in the days of streamliners, the railroads hand lettered their cars. The painters would use lettering diagrams to produce "pounce patterns" (pin hole traces of the desired lettering), use the patterns and chalk to outline the lettering, and finally fill in the outlines with paint. Of course, for lower priority equipment such as boxcars, they simply used stencils. As such, most of the lettering never existed as a "font".

To make things worse, the painters often took artistic license (read, "were lazy and did things their own way"), so if you look at enough cars, you will find some large variances... particularly if one car was built by Budd and another was built by Pullman, and hence, lettered in different company shops.

Q: What's the difference between True Type and Post Script fonts?

A: These are just two different formats to describe the character shapes (much like Betamax and VHS were two formats for VCR's). Most computers can use either format and often have fonts of both formats installed (but be sure you don't have both formats of the SAME font installed). Some people prefer one format over the other. In the event you have a problem with a given font, you may be able to solve it simply by switching formats (be sure to remove the older format of the font, install the new format of the font, and finally, restart your computer and printer to clear any hidden memory buffers).

Q: What do the various suffixes mean on the font files?

A: For the PC/Windows fonts: .ttf = TrueType font file (newer versions of Windows may hide this suffix from you); .pfb = Postscript font file; .pfm = postscript font metric file (most PC users probably don't need this); .afm = adobe font metric file (most PC users probably don't need this). For the Mac fonts: .suit = TrueType font file; .bmap = bitmap font (this is what your computer uses to show a Postscript font on screen); <truncated name, no extension> = Postscript font file (this is what your computer uses to print a Postscript font to the printer).

Q: How do I make fine adjustments to the font spacing?

A: If you are using a sophisticated graphics or text layout program, you will have a number of tools to make fine adjustments (e.g., kerning). On the other hand, if you are only using a word processor, you can still do a lot by placing spaces between characters. When adding extra spaces, if you want to decrease the space, simply shrink the font size for the space character (tip: most word processors will let you manually enter a non-standard font size in the font size window, just click on the current value and try typing a new one). If you want to increase the space, add multiple spaces because going to a larger font size will disrupt your line to line spacing.

Q: What do I do with a .ZIP file???

A: When we bundle your PC fonts for Email, download or produce a CD, the fonts are placed into a compressed file format to save space. This "ZIP" file must then be uncompressed to extract the fonts and instructions. If you need a program to "unzip" your files, there are many utilities. Below are links to the most common.

Once you font file is "unzipped" you may install them as per the instructions.

Q: Hey, I am having problems installing the fonts?

A: Installing fonts is very simple if you know what you are doing... but, there are a lot of small errors that can derail you. Is this the first time you have installed fonts on your computer? If so, take a second look at the documentation included with the fonts and then refer to the help files or manuals that came with your computer (in particular, look up "font" in the index and on-line help). You should also verify that you have the right files in the right place (e.g., the .ttf files for Windows True Type fonts). Mac users, if you are using Post Script fonts, remember that you have to install two files for each font, the screen font (i.e., the bitmap font) and printer font (i.e., the Post Script font). See the documentation included with the fonts for more details.

Q: The fonts installed okay, but some of the characters look funny on screen, what's up?

A: Chances are nothing is wrong. It is just that your monitor has a resolution on the order of 72 pixels per inch and your printer probably has a resolution of more than 300 dots per inch.

Q: Some of the characters don't print right or they are replaced with rectangles, what's up?

A: Some of the lettering fonts do not have full punctuation or accents. If the font does not have a given character, you may get all sorts of strange things when you try to print that character. This is just your printer doing what printers are suppose to do. On the other hand, some of the artwork fonts are very detailed and they may tax older computers or printers. When your computer or printer runs out of memory it may mess up printing a character or replace it with a rectangle. Here are a few tips: one, the larger the font size, the more taxing it is on your system. Two, when you are just on the verge of having a problem, sometimes you can eliminate it by shifting up or down one or two point sizes. Three, if the TrueType version of the font gives you troubles, try switching to the Postscript version, likewise, if the Postscript version gives you troubles, try switching to TrueType. Note, when you change formats, be sure to remove the older format of the given font, then restart your computer and printer to clear out any hidden memory buffers. Four, if you have a high end graphics program like CorelDRAW or Illustrator, you can change the fonts to artwork or outlines and print them that way (note, you can only use this artwork on a computer that is licensed for the given font(s)).

Q: What key corresponds to what character?

A: You can't tell the players without a program, but fortunately, this is included with your order. If you are not a do-it-yourself-er, you need to view or print the legend file. This is simply an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf suffix) showing the map from keystroke to artwork and one is included with each font package. If your computer tells you that you can not open this file, then you probably have to visit http://www.adobe.com/acrobat/ to download the free acrobat reader. With the reader, you can view and print all of our legend files.

Q: What's a .pdf file and how can I view/print it?

A: See, "Q: What key corresponds to what character?" above.

Q: How do I read the legend file?

A: See, "Q: What key corresponds to what character?" above.

Q: How do you create the fonts?

A: I use a collection of commercial graphics programs including: Fontographer, Freehand and Illustrator. Fontographer is a dedicated package for generating fonts, sometimes I use it for the entire creation process, while other times I only use it for the final steps of tying artwork to keystrokes and generating the font files. I don't know of any shareware or freeware programs that will create fonts.

Q: What do you do in real life and how did you get into rail fonts?

A: I have always loved trains. Some of my earliest memories include watching the MNS switch crews shunt cars at Glenwood Jct.. About half way through college I started to volunteer at a railroad museum. It was very ironic to go from my day job, working in a clean room on high tech micro-chips with features too small to see, to the train museum and work on steam engines with all the soot, cinders, grease and huge metal parts. Both arenas were cutting edge technology in their day. I have gone on to work at about eight different museums and still love the old trains. After college, I moved to Berkeley and started pursuing a higher degree in electrical engineering... but the trains got the best of me and I soon switched to transportation engineering. Although most of my professional work is spent looking at automobiles, I still find them much more tangible than electrons. The first hints of the rail fonts came when I got a Commodore 64 in 9th grade. I spent a considerable effort to make the computer print out bitmaps using machine language. But this was very difficult and it didn't go far (one locomotive and one car). Although I pursued a career in engineering, I once considered majoring in visual arts and was one course shy of an undergraduate art minor. By the time I hit grad school, I could sneeze off a 36 exposure roll of film in about a minute. Boy can photography be an expensive hobby, especially on a student's budget. It was about this time that I started playing with a friend's copy of Fontographer. Shortly after getting my first Mac (A Macintosh Classic), I wanted to make a font of railroad cars that would couple together as you typed and now I finally had access to the necessary resources. I produced the Passenger font first and went through a lot of paper once I had my toy working. I was so pleased with the ability to couple train cars together that I quickly produce a second rail font, Freight train, and now had the ability to mix cars between the two fonts. I thought one or two people would find these fonts interesting and released them over the Internet. Boy was I wrong, they proved more popular than I would have imagined. I started playing around with the GN herald and about this time one of my customers talked me into doing Railroad Roman. Another customer said that I am the president of a shadow railroad. Some of the fonts are fonts are as much a work of engineering as they are of art. This is most evident in the way the tracks fit together in the train tracks font, or the way you can build bridges with the trestle font.
Well at any rate, one thing lead to another, and the fonts became my sanity peg through grad school. They quickly displaced photography as my top hobby. I have distributed the fonts in many ways, most recently via the USPS. But, as the Internet is coming of age, my customers are coming to expect instant delivery. Hence my move to this automated system. It's not quite as personal as I would like, but it is much faster than I will ever be. Thank you for stopping by and looking through my catalog.

Q: But why on earth should I pay for these fonts?

A: I have put thousands of hours into the fonts and I am particular about the details. Although I would have made more money by spending the time working at McDonalds, I would not have had the creative outlet. Your registration will help speed the development of new fonts. In short, I will spend less time on my day job and more time producing fonts (but don't tell my boss that).

Q: What if I have problems, can I return a font after I buy it?

A: First, PLEASE be proactive. Before placing your order, download the sample font and install it. If this works, you should have no problems installing the other fonts. Second, if you do have problems after ordering, contact us within 30 days at: problems@railfonts.com. We will try to solve your problems, but if we can not, we will authorize a return.

Q: I am still confused... Nothing ever works for me!

A: Having one of those day eh? Email us at HELP@RailFonts.com and we'll try our best to get you up and running with your new fonts.

Benjamin Coifman

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All fonts and accompanying files are /1994-2004 Benjamin Coifman and all artwork /1994-2004 Benjamin Coifman, all rights reserved.