Seeking colour schemes for agricultural agents sheds in SAR rail yards

  SAR On track Beginner

I seeking assistance from anyone who may remember the colour schemes used for signs on old private agricultural agents sheds found in at least a couple of SAR rail yards in the 50s, 60, & early 70s.

By way of explanation you may recall there was (to use today’s parlance) a number of agri-businesses which had their own sheds alongside SAR rail sidings.  Usually known as agricultural, live-stock, wool and/or produce brokers, they used the SAR to transport primary produce they had been purchased from farmers as well as to deliver consumables, equipment and machinery they sold to them.

Three substantial brokering firms which originally started in South Australia were;
(1) Bennett & Fisher Ltd,
(2) Elders Smith and Co (later to become Elder Smith and Goldsbrough Mort and then Elders IXL under John Elliott), and thirdly
(3) South Australian Farmers Union Cooperative Ltd.

I have found a number of black and white photos of these sheds but only one (and a half!) colour images so far.

Some black and white online examples of sheds at Naracoorte can be found at ,
and Millicent can be found at

The colour image I found is of the remaining half of a Elder Smith Goldsborough Mort sign.  It had a cream background with black writing and light red lining similar to the style on their old Port Adelaide wool sheds

Unfortunately, I forgot to record the source of that image when I made my copy, but the “half” image is in the 2005 Modelling of the Railways of South Australia convention notes (pg 1-492).  This colour panorama of Naracoorte yard in the late 1960s shows a shed with just the word “Elder” visible, the rest of the sign appears to have been painted over in white.  (Perhaps the sign was being repainted at the time.)

I am making a model of these type of sheds and any assistance which could be provided with the colour scheme would be appreciated,


SAR On track

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  DJPeters Deputy Commissioner

In most instances the colours would what what is called the house colours of the company or if you like their standard colours. So any signs would reflect this. In years past the main colours would not change that often as some do now though and they could last for decades rather than a couple of years as we see now. So in printing signs to suit your era look for what where the colours used on signs in that era. Black and white photos though might not tell you the full story though as old black and white films can hide a colour two such colours totally different like dark grey and red can show up as the same colour in a black and white photo.

Thus the colour of the West End M van by Orient Express might be wrong as the base colours for West End beer are or where red, black and white no grey at all, so the background colour on the van could indeed might have been red on them, it is hard to say one way or the other though. It is very hard to tell the difference between these two though in an old photo.

Now here is two photos found by me on the internet and in the first black and white photo the loco appears all dark grey but if you look carefully at it on the front nose you can see a different colour might be there. The second photo shows the same colour scheme though so the camera or early films at least can lie about what they see.

So after seeing this do not really rely on old B&W photos to show you the different colours for things. Some show up quite well while others look the same but are actually different.  To research things a bit try searching for companies by their histories or something some times they show you old colours for signage etc that the company has used over the years. Also if you do a search for say Elder Smith and Company click on the image tab on Google or what ever you use it might show a old image or sign etc that you might be able to use.

One like this for instance found on the image tag for a search for Elder Smith & Co Google.

If you click on these photos it will come up smaller but clearer for you.
  DJPeters Deputy Commissioner

One other thing to remember as well is that in the past colours and fonts were not as plentiful as they are now so the use of really brilliant colours for signs was not really the case they tended to use basic colours in most cases and the same went for fonts sign writers used to work out by hand what each sign had to be and after marking them out then hand painted the sign on something. So it was quite possible that two signs for the same company could vary because two different sign writers painted them. Even the colours could vary slightly as well. But overall they projected the companies corporate image at that time or era.  Most computer printed signs for models cannot show this however so it might not look 100% a modern computer printed version being used. Signs used to be all done by hand and lots of variations would have been common in the older days even on things like company logos etc.

I have seen and worked on signs made from scratch using just the sign writers talent to get it right, but sometimes a whoopsy can be made and on the signs I helped on the sign writer did make one accidentally. It would not be noticed by probably anyone but the sign writer noticed it though.

Even up to the late 1950's and early 60's this was still happening, after that things changed rapidly though.
  SAR On track Beginner


Thanks for your responses to my request.

I’ve tried a number of hardcopy and digital sources in my search for this information but, in short, colour photos from this era are scarce and colour images providing enough detail to accurately assess a sign’s colours are even rarer.  

I’ve gone with a “ELDER, SMITH & CO., LIMITED” sign because it was the only useful colour photo I found, and Elders was certainly were a notable South Australian agricultural, live-stock and wool brokerage.


SAR on Track
  DJPeters Deputy Commissioner

Yes it can be hard to search for some things from the past, but thankfully some old buildings etc were photographed in black and white and show at least lettering types on signs etc so the rest is really just a matter of deduction at the best of times for colours etc. So if you get the colours wrong at least you get the font right or near to it anyway.

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