Penitentiary Productions Plates

Licence Plates photo LicencePlates-01_zps3db69a2c.jpg

Look closely at the rear of the two vehicles in the above photo. What do you see? Yes – licence plates. Not only that, but Ontario licence plates – from the 1950s.

I make a quick stop at George’s Trains this week and while poking about the store I came across a sheet of 1950s Ontario licence plates in HO scale:
 photo LicencePlates-02_zps2e7d7b3f.jpg

In the 1950s, the province of Ontario used four colour combinations of plates – introducing a new colour combination each year, as follows:

– white on black (1950, 1952, 1957, 1959)
– black on white (1951, 1958)
– white on blue (1953, 1955)
– blue on white (1954, 1956)

As the above photo shows, the set includes combinations for all years. It two plates of for each number, and for any given colour combination there are enough plates to do 24 passenger cars/light trucks, eight commercial vehicles, and six transportation vehicles. (I’m not sure what’s meant by a “transportation vehicle”, but my best guess is “trailers”.) Not bad for less than $10.

Picking a year was a bit of a challenge since I run two operating schedules – 1953 with the Moguls and a baggage-mail car, and 1957 with the 10-wheelers (and, eventually, a regular baggage car, without an RPO section). In the end I decided on the white on black, since they were used in four of the 10 years of the decade, including the first and last.

I cut out the plates with sharp scissors, working just outside the edge of the printed area. I then stuck the plates in place with a tiny drop of CA.

The plates are printed to HO scale, so they’re a little small in the licence plate holders included on some of my S scale M2 / Auto-thentics vehicles. But I think the plates look really nice – a definite improvement over raw chrome – and as the cropped close-ups below show, the print is legible:
Licence Plate photo LicencePlates-03_zps265f6d09.jpg
(Plate “8 F 884”)

Licence Plate photo LicencePlates-04_zps5ca1f479.jpg
(Plate “195 X 8”)

(Click on either image to view a larger version)

The plates are printed on photo (glossy) paper and offered by a company called Penitentiary Productions. I have not been able to find any more information about the company online, but George’s Trains had plates for other provinces and eras as well – all in HO scale.

This is one of those little projects that one can undertake when one has 15 minutes to spend at the workbench. And over time, attention to little details like this makes a big difference on a layout, so I think they’re worth the trouble.

11 thoughts on “Penitentiary Productions Plates

  1. I remember lining up each year with my Dad along with everyone else to get the new plates before they changed the system to renew in the month of your birthday. Also reminds me of a story of a person at the University of Windsor who went many years with the same plates but repainted them to the correct colour for the current year!

    • Hi Bruce:
      Thanks for this – it answered a question for me about whether I should have two colours of plates on the the vehicles (some for owners born before August, which is the month I model, and some for owners born after). Obviously, not.

  2. My understanding of copyright law (which I welcome correction on) is that you are perfectly legal to enlarge the plates to S scale on a copier or by scanning and printing them as long as you do not give the resulting copies to anyone else.
    But being Ontario licence plates, they may be Crown copyrighted anyhow.

  3. Looks really good, Trevor. Actually HO-scale seems to be OK from what I can tell in the photos. Triggered by your post, I, too, did a search for that company and came up empty. However, I did stumble onto Howards Hobby, which seems to sell license plates in a couple of scales, including S, and including Canadians license plates, but just outside your time period. Their site is:
    I know nothing about the company, but wanted to pass it along.
    Keep up the creative ideas!
    – Peter.

  4. I went into the web site recommended by Pieter, but found I ‘Access Denied’, so I could not access the Californian page. I am looking for good images of Californian 1954 licence plates – red background – for my layout vehicles. All I can locate are images of the bottom right corner with ’54’ on it, but not the whole plate. Can anyone assist?

    • I found the same problem for NY and NJ, which I had accessed originally. The is a link to query the web master about it.

      Internet searches can help, and I found a seller on eBay producing 1/25 scale plates including the ones you asked about. I don’t know if he would produce them in another scale, but they are inexpensive enough to buy and reduce in a photo copier to size.

      Pieter Roos

      • Thank you Pieter. I tried sending an e mail to the address, but it was returned undeliverable…….
        My searches in ebay found a fact that was interesting to me, in that the plates issued in 1951 (yellow on black) were updated each year with a plate (1954 – red) that was affixed to the bottom right corner of the plate to update the 1951 plate.
        Thank you for putting me on the right track. Regards

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