Thursday, September 07, 2006

In the beginning, there were train sets

When I was young, I obviously wasn't able to drive myself to the street department or flea market in search of old street signs. Sure, I was given a few here and there by people who thought it was "cute" that I liked signs so much, but those instances were few and far between. (Alas, they were some of the greatest days of my childhood, not to mention that these signs were the foundation of what would eventually become my current sign collection.)

But there were train sets. And with train sets come accessories, including miniature street signs (a.k.a. train set signs).

One Christmas, my sister and brother-in-law gave me a Tyco HO-scale train set. It was in the shape of an oval, and came with about 5 cars and an engine. This was the only train set I ever owned. Needless to say, I had train set signs long before the train set.

I'd set up train set signs all over the floor, pull out my Hot Wheels and drive them around the carpet. Oftentimes, the signs would get stepped on and break from the base, but my mom had a great fix: She'd heat up the bottom of the "sign post" with a small flame and melt the sign back to the post, and it was good as new again.

I still have the signs, along with an assortment of telephone poles, packed away somewhere. It's interesting to see how "to scale" they are to real street signs - the toy manufacturers seem to follow the MUTCD standards as strictly as the federal highway department. Here's one of my favorites: a pole-based traffic signal with a "Don't Walk" pedestrian light.