Re: GN Airslides, color(s) of lettering



Thanks for responding.

When I first noticed that the herald on the artwork for the Athearn GN car was wrong, I wrote to Athearn to warn them of the error. They responded that their artwork was based on photos from RPC Vol. 17. I looked there and noted that their artwork did not match the photos. While looking at the shots of 71904, it appeared to me that there might be a red background in the herald. After all, it was there in all the later airslides and, I think, all GN grey grain cars. But I also know the "mind can fool the eye". And the difference in shading in the pictures is strikingly small, if it exists at all. I decided to scan the two pictures and compare the grey in the background area with the grey adjacent. I found the herald area to be slightly darker and decided that was evidence for the red background.

BUT, a gent scanned a portion of his copy of the builder's photo of the car; and, with that one, I can find either minimal or no difference in shading.

So there is a contradiction. To that I say "Double-darn". And more.

There seem to be three possiblities for the lettering of the first batch of cars: black paint with red herald background, black paint, or box car red paint. Right now, to me it's a coin toss. Triple-darn.

The photo in the book of 71916 of the second batch exhibits problems too. The herald background is certainly NOT the car color (as it possibly is in the earlier example). My first thought was that it was an experimental herald with the goat in a color (red?) and the herald background in black, as is the car lettering. But I came upon another explanation for the "experimental" herald: Perhaps it is red, and that red is recorded as a VERY dark grey because the photographer used a filter to bring out the background that failed to show up in the photos of 71904. So, the shade of grey of the goat conceivably matches the lettering while the red records as a much darker grey due to the filter.

Sadly, this makes another double-darn, 'cause I can't see how to pick one over the other.

I suggested to Athearn that they ought to someday (soon) do GN airslides in the later scheme, as it was around for a much longer time span. And kinda looks cooler, too. And the lettering colors can easily be determined. Here's hopin'!!!!


Edward Sutorik

--- In STMFC@..., Ed Hawkins <hawk0621@...> wrote:

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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