Billboards HO size help


Registered Member
Staff member
I'm kind of thinking I'd like to make a few billboards for the layout. Funny I can even remember the name of the company who owned them around here in the 50's and 60's, I know they are big, but I have no idea of the dimensions. I think the older ones have a bit more class than what you see on the sides of the roads today (if any). I have lots of pictures of old billboards I got off the net, but I have no idea of what measurements to use for an HO size billboard. Even a good guess is better than nothing.
Cheers Willis
In 1900, the original billboard standard was developed. The standardized structure was designed to hold posters of three (4 ft. x 8 ft.), eight (5 ft. x 11 ft.), or sixteen (10 ft. x 16 ft.) sheets. However, it proved to be anything but standard. Early frames were build with dimensional lumber, and could be any size at all. Later frames were covered with 4 x 8 sheets of plywood, so the dimensions tended to be 8,12, or 16 feet tall and 12, 20, 24, 32, or 36 feet wide. The actual "image" size is somewhat less, due to the required supports. Currently, the most popular sizes are (image size) 12 by 24 feet (30-sheet) and 5 by 11 feet (8-sheet).

So you will be accurate, no matter what size you choose, so long as it is reasonable.

In measuring some commercial HO billboards I have, the sizes are: 12 x 18, 12 x 20, 12 x 24, and 16 x 48.

Hope this helps,


PS: Some billboard facts -

The first American billboard originated in New York in Jared Bell’s office where he printed posters for the circus in 1835.

The earliest recorded leasings of boards occurred in the U.S. in 1867.

By 1870, close to 300 small sign-painting and bill posting companies existed.

In 1872, the International Bill Posters’ Association of North America was formed in St. Louis.
OK, so what's the rest of the story... How did you find out so much about billboards? I'm guessing maybe you're in the business? Or is it just a hobby of yours?
Actually, I just went to the OAAA (Outdoor Advertising Association of America) website and clicked on the history link. But I love :p billboards, and have a WHOLE bunch ready to go onto the layout once the trackwork and basic scenery are down. I think they add so much character and realism to a layout.

I just went to the OAAA (Outdoor Advertising Association of America) website
Hmmmm! can't recall coming across that one during the search, but I did get lot's of nice pictures to put on them. The ones I remember from the 50's and 60's were neat in that the bottom area was lattice and the framework and lattice was dark green. Yes I'm going to have a few of them on the layout and also extras so the advertisments can be changed every so often. Thanks for the info, it's appreciated
Cheers Willis
Shucks. I guess Burma Shave signs would be too tiny for HO, huh? But those could be fun, too! (Or are those just a U.S.A. thing?)
Willis - The OAAA was a link off a commercial billboard site. I went there to see if they showed the sizes of billboards available for rent (they did). I'd suggest getting either a Blair Line (#2430 or 2431) or JL Innovative (#276) kit and use it as a pattern to make multiples. Beats having to figure it all out by scratch. I have also found a number of great billboards on the web -- just stay away from ModelBuilders.Info.

Claudia - Oh! Burma Shave signs are not too small for HO. I have two sets ready to go --

To steal, A kiss, He had the knack, But lacked the cheek, To get one back, Burma-Shave


Violets are blue, Roses are pink, On graves of those, Who drive and drink, Burma-Shave.


Burma Shave signs were introduced in 1925. At their peak, there were 7000 sets on the roads. They lasted until 1963. There were over 600 jingles. GI's took the Burma Shave signs world wide during/after WWII.
Last edited by a moderator:
Willis -

One more note on billboards: paper posters were designed to last for 30 days, direct paint lasted for up to a year. So just think how often you could change your bills - every 8.27 hours (an HO scale month)!
a trash can of usless, unrelated, knowledge.
Well now how do you like that, I find out I'm a dump picker nowdays. :D
Oh! well recycling is the name of the game today, thanks I can use the info and in fact is quite interesting.
Cheers Willis
I have about 10 billboards on my layout & get a lot of comments about them from visitors. I like to take pictures off the internet & put them on my "Print Shop" program
& then add company names of my friends that help me work on my layout. I also get
magazine ads & scale them down to H.O. scale. Build my own structures(billboard frames) out of strip balsa & plastic sprues from kits. Some of the neatest signs I like are 3 dimensional. Use letters that you get in the craft dept. at Walmart, about 1/8th to 1/4" & attach them to the frame w/toothpicks glued to the back.
The new signs of today are made out of plastic canvas attached to a sign frame w/ropes. They make the signs on a roll, usually 12 by 24 to 32 ft. long & just hang them up like a curtain. The only problem that I have seen w/this type of billboard sign is hard winds tare them to shreds. The cost is way up there, to have your sign disappear in the wind.

Hi Larry, yep that was my plan. I've downloaded a lot of potential billboard signs off the net and can edit and resize them to what I need. In the 70's there were still some billboards around here but they are not allowed to be errected anywhere close to the 100 series Main highways nowdays, and there is no sense putting them on the secondary roads, so they they may be a thing of the past around here. Since my time frame is is in the 70's it'll be ok. Haven't thought much about what I'll make them out of yet, but you have a good idea using plastic sprues. (I'm glad I didn't throw them out) and balsa, sounds like a good way to go.. I'll probably only have a few on the layout at anyone time, but I plan to make many so they can be sort of a rotation.
Thanks for the tips it's appreciated.
Cheers Willis
Hello Willis,

just have seen the postings about billboards. Below you'll find one of mine. At the moment I've only 2 but looking for more especially from the 70th. Unfortunately I've found only more from the 40th, 50th and 60th.
Here's a good adress for download:

So I would like to ask if it's possible to post some web adresses where I can find some from the 70th or will it be possible for you to send them (zipped) to me?

Would be great!!!

Thanks a lot.

Hi Hartmut, no problem in sending you all I have, have to learn how to zip them in a folder first, shoudn't take too long for me to get the hang of it. It's supposed to be on this machine somewhere, I'll ask the younger crowd around here. I have quite a mix probably mostly 50's and 60's and stuff I've downloaded to make billboards have no idea of the sites I got them from. Found another site today but it was all joke billboards, I downloaded them just in case. Anyway I'll get back to you on this soon.
Cheers Willis
Ok the above is to a comedy ad I fixed up there are many more in the folder but I dont know if you'd be interested in these. I believe this is the only one I've edited for use so far.
I did come across a site advertising 70's signs for sale in HO, but the pictures were too small to do anything with, mostly automobile pictures,
Most of the rest I have came from the following places I may have some that didn't, I just copied whatever, whenever I came across something I thought I could use:

There were other places, I guess I didn't bookmark them, LOL took me awhile to find these. Guess it's time to prune the "favorites" lots of deadwood I'll never use again :D
BTW I found out how to use the ZIP folder so no problem if you want to do that also.
Cheers Willis
I just received the new Dover Publications ( Pictorial Archive catalog. (catalog was free) There are a number of "label art" collections, which come with a printed book and CD-ROM. They include fruit and cigar labels as well as lots of other images that could be included in custom posters or billboards for those familiar with Photoshop/PaintShop/etc. There's also a collection of "match book covers" that looks to be good stuff. And a book of Circus posters from 1890-1940. While not quite suitable for billboards, there are some potentially great signs and posters for the sides of buildings, etc.

Pictorial Archive catalog
Hi kevin, I just checked out the Dover website and I'm interested in their catalogs.
Of the 9 available which one is the Pictorial Archive catalog which one or ones did you choose?
Cheers Willis
Willis -

On Dover's Home Page, on the right hand side "Click Here" for 'Free Catalogs'. On the catalog request page, under Step 1, select the 4th box down, "Clip Art and Pictorial Archive". Then add any others that sound interesting. I'd suggest the "New Books", "Architecture" (contains great ideas for scratch building, as well as historical reference), "Science and Math" (some really strange stuff here), and, even though there's a wait for the reprint, the "Crafts, Needlework and Hobbies" catalog.

Ok thanks Kevin I'll do that, there was a few mor that looked interesting, I'll give it a try.
Cheers Willis