Re: Freight Car Colors


In a message dated 11/16/01 3:56:51 PM Eastern Standard Time,
ted_culotta@... writes:

don't put too much stock in exact color
matches. 1,000 cars in a given series built by/for a
specific road probably had color variances right out
of the shops.
Troo. A coupla years ago I read a 1920s industry book from Simmons Boardman
callled The Painting of Railway Equipment. It was intended to teach shop
employees the how's and why's of painting. It explained that paint was made
up of two things: the pigment (powdered), and the vehicle (the liquid in
which the pigment is suspended). It explained the various vehicles (linseed
oil, turpentine, etc.,) and the properties of each and its effect on the
drying, and it listed all of the pigments by name and its resulting color,
and how the colors tended to weather, and the basic recipes for each color.

Powdered pigments were bought by the bag, like cement or flour, and in the
quantities required for rail cars the pigment was added by the scoop or cup
or shovel, or even handful, I would imagine. Remember, too, that railroad
shops were industrial workplaces that hired industrial workers with or
without education or skill or intellect. Oxides were common and cheap, blues
and reds were rarer and expensive. Yellow was common, as were some greens
(Zinc chromate?).

Bottom line is -- and I didn't think much about this until reading the book
-- back in our favorite era paint wasn't purchased pre-mixed by computers in
neat little cans or barrels or drums. It was made from powdered pigments that
could be bought from many companies who competed to sell pigment, and many
variations in color were common between them. While I'm sure most bigger
shops had people who did nothing else but mix paint and they got pretty good
at it, the chances are also good that a lot of folks weren't critical with
the pigment or the vehicle, especially on the short lines.

I'm anal about paint colors, but I'm tending these days to think of boxcar
red colors in their relationships to the other boxcar reds. Some cars were
brown, some were burgundy brown, some were oxide, some were a reddish oxide,
some were orange-ish oxide, and so on.

While restoring a Lackawanna caboose in 1999 we found a bolt that had
original paint on its head that had been covered and protected since its 1954
birthday. We matched the new paint to that exactly, via computer and in
Centari 5000 (the latest in polyeurethane coatings). I painted a few samples
and compared them with photos in various light on different days before
painting the car, just to be sure. This new paint had all the personality of
the old -- the color looked completely different with and without sun and
based on the viewing angle; this often led many to think different cabooses
were different colors.

The weekend we were painting the actual caboose, I assembled the basic bodies
on a few IMWX '37 AAR cars and brought them down for painting. Granted, most
of the spray went into the air, and the paint did go on a little heavy, but
weathered up and detailed they'll blend well. It's nice to have the actual
color on a few cars, one of which right now is fully decaled. But it's
interesting to see how different the color looks in a basement in the even
flourescent lighting without the shadows and color of the outdoor sun or the
atmostpheric perspective of viewing the car from a distance.

A lot of us might be spending a lot of effort getting paint shades closer
than they need to be.


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