Re: GN Airslides, color(s) of lettering

Ed Hawkins

On Aug 29, 2011, at 7:16 PM, spsalso wrote:

The below has been on the GN group for a few days. I thought I'd bring
it here to a wider group.

Athearn has announced GN airslides. The artwork they show if for GN
71904 (series 71900-71909). These were built 11/54 and were GN's first
airslides. I thought the herald looked a little funny on their
artwork. It turned out that it was, but the investigation has kinda

GN's AFE called for boxcar red paint, RPC Vol. 17 says the paint was
The herald may or may not have the typical red background behind the
goat--VERY hard to tell.
I'm asking the members of this group if they can help resolve the
above conflicts.
Athearn is also planning on doing these cars as GN 71926 and 71947
(series GN 71925-71949). More wondering:
Did these cars have roller bearing trucks like the second GN series
or plain like the first?
If they had roller bearing trucks, was that proudly noted as it was
on the second series?
Were these cars lettered in the later slant-serif style or the early
simple block lettering style?
Inquiring minds want to know (yes, there's actually more than one
person who cares).
I have been in touch with Staffan Ehnbom, and he brought it to my
attention a copy of an AFE pertaining to the 71900-71909 series having
box car red stencils rather than black as I had indicated in my photo
caption in RP CYC Vol. 17.

Truth be told, I made an assumption about the color of the lettering
based on the vast majority of Airslide cars built during the 1954-1956
time period that were painted gray with black stencils (not all, but a
large percentage). I carefully looked at the original images and could
not see any reason to believe the lettering on both series of cars was
other than black. I also looked at color photos in the GN color guide
book in hopes of finding a color photo of the cars. All of the covered
hopper photos were taken in the 1960s (or later) having the slant Great
Northern. All of these were gray cars having black stencils, which
further backed my assumption about black stencils.

We know that black & white photos can be tricky to interpret, and I'll
happily stand corrected by defering to painting/lettering diagrams if
they can be located. The AFE may well be correct about the use of box
car red stencils, but on gray Airslide cars built in 1954-1955 this
color would be pretty unusual.

The circular GN emblem on the first series appears to be a single color
(black or the same color as the rest of the stencils) without a colored
background. The second series, GN 71910-71924, clearly has a colored
background (likely red) surrounding the goat on the inner circle.
Otherwise, both series of cars were lettered essentially the same
except the latter series stating "ROLLER BEARINGS" under the road name.

Regarding trucks, the first series used plain-bearing 50-ton Barber S-2
trucks. The second series used 50-ton Barber S-2 with Timken roller

Let's hope that someone has the documentation that specifies the colors
so that the model Athearn produces can be accurately painted and
lettered. I've heard there are a lot of GN drawings at the Minnesota
Historical Society, so that's a possibility.

What I would relish is the opportunity to gain access to the GATC
archives of drawings and bills of materials, presuming they still
exist. I'd be there in a heartbeat if anyone could verify the existence
of such a data repository and a way of gaining access. I've been told
by what I believe are two reliable sources as recent as 5 years ago
that the technical data still existed for GATC's freight cars built at
E. Chicago. My repeated efforts to discuss the matter with anyone at
the current company (GATX Leasing) has fallen on deaf ears.
Ed Hawkins

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