Re: Date of Change in NYC Painting Practice (was Intermountain kits)

John Nehrich <nehrij@...>

One of the things that I wasn't aware of concerned the development of paint.
There was an article in Invention & Technology (I think that's the right
name) about the problems of painting autos. It seems the lacquers in the
early days took a long time to dry and didn't cover well on metal. It took
something like 17 days to paint an auto, which was set under enormous heat
lamps with men in lint free coveralls and gloves working under the
sweltering conditions whose only job it was to pluck dust, hair, off the
slowly drying paint. Henry Ford's famous slogan "Any color you want as long
as it was black" was not that he didn't want to store a whole lot of colors,
but that black absorbed the heat the best and dried a little faster.
After WWI, Du Pont found itself with a lot of nitroglycerin on their
hands (or maybe it was other chemicals related to explosives), and in the
1920's, developed the Duco paints of synthetic paints. This took the time
down to a few hours (on autos). And Ford stuck to his plain jane Model-T
and lost his edge to GM who went to colorful autos that were stylized.
In the 1922 Cyc. for instance there is mention about using a paint with
carbon in it as the best on metal. (I'm not sure if this was true, but if
they believed it, that is what is most important.) Thus a box car red was
an iron oxide
paint using the cheapest pigments, and favored on wood, while black was
favored on freight cars made up mostly of metal. (And even box cars and
reefers got their hardware painted black on a lot of early schemes, not just
for the builder's schemes.)
I'm not sure when railroads got the message. There may also be a
question of when they switched from hand-painting to spray-painting. This
doesn't sound the most reasonable, but maybe not having to clean the
airbrush from red to black and back again was a factor. (I don't know about
them, but it would sway me.)
The question of paint raises another point. Early steel cars would be a
pain to paint (I'm sure they didn't do it like autos, but still) and I don't
think the paint stuck that well, either. When the Duco paints came on the
scene, the balance may have tipped a little more from wood to steel.
By the way, the Rutland stuck with their NYC scheme of red wood cars
(mainly box cars and reefers, but also
ballast cars, and black open top cars. The D&H, always trying to be
different, went the other way it seems. Their hoppers and gons had been red
through the '30's, and about 1940 switched to black, although that is when
they first started getting steel hoppers and gons in quantity. - John

----- Original Message -----
From: "Stafford F. Swain" <sswain@TOTAL.NET>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, December 26, 2000 8:41 PM
Subject: Re: [STMFC] Date of Change in NYC Painting Practice (was
Intermountain kits)

This early 1940s timing of shifting painting open top cars from black
to a freight car red coincides pretty tightly with the CNR's dates of
doing exactly the same thing to the same groups of cars. Could this
be a wartime supply issue??

Richard Hendrickson <> wrote:

But supposedly they switched from
>black to box car red for their open top cars in '41,

Correct on all counts, John.
Well, almost correct. Once again, in the interest of accuracy,
according to an article in the July 1974 issue of the NYC Headlight,
the date of change in the painting of open-top freight cars from
black to f.c. red was "up to the end of 1942 or early 1943".
It is likely that there was no exact date, and that each shop
used up their remaining supplies of black paint on different dates in
a period of time that could have extended months following
issuance of an official edict (whose date is still unknown to modern
modeler/historians), if there was such a formal issuance, as
opposed to verbal orders. Also it is likely that individual shop
managers had their own personal opinions about how quickly they
were going to adopt a new policy they may or may not have
supported personally.
The above change of date for painting whole cars is not
completely consistent with the elimination of black from the
background of oval heralds on f.c. red cars (indicating that it is
possible that there were some f.c. red open-top cars with black
backgrounds in '42-'43-'44). The elimination of black from heralds
is reflected in a drawing dated 3-2-44 for the size then currently
used on box cars, according to the same Headlight article. For
other size heralds (including the one usually used on hoppers and
gons), the article says black was eliminated "at about that time".
Apparently no drawings with specific instructions have turned up.
I have no doubt that the box cars built up to 1942 had the black
background, and that the ones built starting in 1945 did not. There
were no box cars built new for NYC in 1943, but I'm still looking for
unambiguous evidence of whether Lots 734-B and 735-B had black
backgrounds when built (both by Despatch Shops). I have not yet
turned up a builder's photo of Lot 735-B, which I expect lacked the
black, but I have a fuzzy rendition (2nd or 3rd generation copy
neg?) of a builder's photo of Lot 734-B which, in my opinion, is
inconclusive as to whether there is a black background. I've done
some extreme contrast/brightness manipulation with a scan of this
photo and I can sort of maybe say it looks like there is a black
background, but I don't have any confidence in this.

Lot 734-B = NYC 159000 - 159999
Lot 735-B = NYC 161000 - 161999

NYC AAR-design 40-ft cars, and some PS-1s, occupy a
chronologically consistent run of numbers except for leaving the
160000s vacant. I believe this was because there was still a
handful of USRA ss cars hanging on in that block, but they were all
gone by the July '47 ORER.
Other cars built after 1941 but before the first documented cars
without black backgrounds included:
Lot 729-B = IHB 10000 - 10599, blt 3-44 DSI
Lot 730-B = IHB 10600 - 10999, blt 4-44 DSI
Photos of cars with as-built paint jobs are pretty clear that the IHB
herald has a black background. Since Lot 734-B followed pretty
soon after 730-B, that's just one more little piece of circumstantial
evidence supporting black for Lot 734-B.

Jeff English Troy, New York
Proto:64 Classic Era Railroad Modeling

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