Topics

Factory-applied Color of B&M's Composite USRA Gon series #90000-91499

tim gilbert <tgilbert@...>
 

Roger,

You wrote:

Was the original cars painted black or red ?? I tend to think they
were painted box car or freight car red.
I do not believe back in 1919 when the cars were made the 'standard'
color for gondolas was black. Red was the norm for most cars of the
time.

In the "Central Vermont Railway" series of books by Robert C. Jones,
Vol. 4, pg.128 shows a great picture of #91097 with the spelled out (1
line) BOSTON & MAINE lettering. This is an original car with the
Murphy end. Compare the b&w shading of the car next to B&M Pacific
#3634 which we know is some shade of black.

I have a note from the late Harry Frye stating that the 1933 / 34
rebuilt cars received the black paint and square B&M herald. This to
me surely indicates the original paint scheme was other than black.
Red would be the logical color.
I cannot give you a definitive answer - perhaps someone else can - but I
tend to agree with you because of the following reasoning based upon
certain assumptions.

1) I do not recall whether the 1900-1907 B&M Paint & Lettering Diagrams
ever used the color BLACK. Most of the wood-sided cars were BROWN which
I translate as a red oxide/boxcar red.

2) B&M's first steel-sided cars were the #80000-80999 series Gons built
in 1909-10. These gons appear to have been painted BLACK. The
#81000-81499 series steel gons built in 1913-14 were also painted black.
(The #33000-30499 Flats were built in 1902, but purchased by the B&M
from the NH in 1911. The sides of the #33000's were Black.)

3) It appears that the B&M used mostly "red oxide" for wood-sided cars
and "black" for steel sides prior to World War I. I am no chemist, but
apparently the red oxide of the time penetrated and preserved the wood
better than black. I don't know whether black paint adhered better to
steel surfaces than red oxide, but there had to be a reason why black
was the designated color for steel cars. (Yellow Reefers were the
primary exception, and chosen perhaps because it reflected the sun
better. If so, why not yellow roofs instead of a red oxide?)

4) The USRA assigned newly constructed cars to railroads. The railroads
seemed to have had very little to say about what they got. Indeed, after
the USRA was dissolved, railroads bickered over the price that the USRA
liquidators were selling the cars - as an intermediary step, the cars
were owned by the Columbia Trust and marked "C.T."

5) The USRA probably had specifications for colors which followed
established practices like a red oxide for wood and black for steel.

6) Most of the models of the USRA gons seem to have had a
manufactured-applied red oxide including Intermountain's C&O RTR model.
I believe that C&O's all-steel hoppers and gons were painted black. The
reason for the different color may have been based upon what was a
better preservative for the material used.

If someone else has other ideas, I would be interested in hearing them.
Better yet, if someone actually knows what color was used originally for
either the B&M Composite Gons or the USRA color specifications, please
let us know.

Thank You,

Tim Gilbert

John Nehrich <nehrij@...>
 

In the '22 Cyc., it mentions about painting, and says that black (I can't
remember if it was carbon black or iron oxide black, but I think carbon
black) was supposed to be better at preventing rust. I don't know that it
really was, but it that's what they felt, that's what determined what got
painted what (including the practice of painting iron hardware on house cars
black, and also steel ends and steel roofs on wood cars, although has been
pointed out, they might also have been using "car cement"). Up until the
Duco lacquer paints developed in the '30's, it was very hard to get paint to
adhere to steel - one of the factors that hindered steel car construction.
I think the reefer yellow sides (or gray or white) was to use a light
color as a canvas on which to handpaint all that fancy billboard lettering.
Dark colors cover better over a light surface than light colors over a dark
surface. (On the other hand, I think house cars otherwise were painted
oxide red aka brown because the paint was cheap, and it was easier to renew
the lettering as the car got dirty by restenciling the white letters. If
the car was light colored, and got dirty, you'd have to paint the body
color, not the letters. For reefers, some if not many got washed. They
also probably got new schemes regularly, so it was easiest to cover the
whole car with a light color and then start over. And yellow, as another
form of iron oxide (iron has at least three colors of oxides, a lemon color,
a "box car red" or rust, and black), was probably the cheapest.
Around 1940, there seems to have been a major shift in railroad color
schemes, with many roads going from black open top cars (NYC and CN are the
two major ones that come to mind) to red for all cars. I think this
reflects the availability of the Duco paints, where pigment didn't really
matter and they could standardize on one color to cut down stocking costs.
- John

----- Original Message -----
From: "tim gilbert" <tgilbert@...>
To: "Roger Robar" <rrobar@...>
Cc: <BM_RR@...>; <STMFC@...>; "The Freightcars List"
<freightcars@...>
Sent: Wednesday, September 26, 2001 9:07 AM
Subject: [STMFC] Re: Factory-applied Color of B&M's Composite USRA Gon
series #90000-91499


Roger,

You wrote:

Was the original cars painted black or red ?? I tend to think they
were painted box car or freight car red.
I do not believe back in 1919 when the cars were made the 'standard'
color for gondolas was black. Red was the norm for most cars of the
time.

In the "Central Vermont Railway" series of books by Robert C. Jones,
Vol. 4, pg.128 shows a great picture of #91097 with the spelled out (1
line) BOSTON & MAINE lettering. This is an original car with the
Murphy end. Compare the b&w shading of the car next to B&M Pacific
#3634 which we know is some shade of black.

I have a note from the late Harry Frye stating that the 1933 / 34
rebuilt cars received the black paint and square B&M herald. This to
me surely indicates the original paint scheme was other than black.
Red would be the logical color.
I cannot give you a definitive answer - perhaps someone else can - but I
tend to agree with you because of the following reasoning based upon
certain assumptions.

1) I do not recall whether the 1900-1907 B&M Paint & Lettering Diagrams
ever used the color BLACK. Most of the wood-sided cars were BROWN which
I translate as a red oxide/boxcar red.

2) B&M's first steel-sided cars were the #80000-80999 series Gons built
in 1909-10. These gons appear to have been painted BLACK. The
#81000-81499 series steel gons built in 1913-14 were also painted black.
(The #33000-30499 Flats were built in 1902, but purchased by the B&M
from the NH in 1911. The sides of the #33000's were Black.)

3) It appears that the B&M used mostly "red oxide" for wood-sided cars
and "black" for steel sides prior to World War I. I am no chemist, but
apparently the red oxide of the time penetrated and preserved the wood
better than black. I don't know whether black paint adhered better to
steel surfaces than red oxide, but there had to be a reason why black
was the designated color for steel cars. (Yellow Reefers were the
primary exception, and chosen perhaps because it reflected the sun
better. If so, why not yellow roofs instead of a red oxide?)

4) The USRA assigned newly constructed cars to railroads. The railroads
seemed to have had very little to say about what they got. Indeed, after
the USRA was dissolved, railroads bickered over the price that the USRA
liquidators were selling the cars - as an intermediary step, the cars
were owned by the Columbia Trust and marked "C.T."

5) The USRA probably had specifications for colors which followed
established practices like a red oxide for wood and black for steel.

6) Most of the models of the USRA gons seem to have had a
manufactured-applied red oxide including Intermountain's C&O RTR model.
I believe that C&O's all-steel hoppers and gons were painted black. The
reason for the different color may have been based upon what was a
better preservative for the material used.

If someone else has other ideas, I would be interested in hearing them.
Better yet, if someone actually knows what color was used originally for
either the B&M Composite Gons or the USRA color specifications, please
let us know.

Thank You,

Tim Gilbert


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thompson@...
 

4) The USRA assigned newly constructed cars to railroads. The railroads
seemed to have had very little to say about what they got. Indeed, after
the USRA was dissolved, railroads bickered over the price that the USRA
liquidators were selling the cars - as an intermediary step, the cars
were owned by the Columbia Trust and marked "C.T."
I think there may be some confusion here. The "C.T." was an early
feature, not a late one. The USRA certainly ASSIGNED cars to railroads
without their say-so, but there were numerous cases of roads refusing to
accept them. If you read the James Lane article in "Railroad History," it
seems that there were as nearly as many reassignments as there were
original assignments.
Al Westerfield has researched this topic in more detail than most of us
and can probably comment in more detail.

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2942 Linden Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705 http://www.signaturepress.com
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, thompson@...
Publishers of books on railroads and on Western history

thompson@...
 

John Nehrich said:
Up until the
Duco lacquer paints developed in the '30's, it was very hard to get paint to
adhere to steel - one of the factors that hindered steel car construction.
Gosh, John, I wonder how they painted automobiles and bridges and storage
tanks and ... must have really impeded construction using steel, starting
around 1880 ...

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2942 Linden Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705 http://www.signaturepress.com
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, thompson@...
Publishers of books on railroads and on Western history

John Nehrich <nehrij@...>
 

There was an extensive article in Invention & Technology about painting
autos prior to the Duco paints, which said it took about three weeks. They
would brush on a coat, and then the car would sit under heat lamps in a
special painting room, waiting for the linseed oil to dry. They had workers
who were totally clothed in lint free uniforms whose job it was to pick off
any hairs, etc. that settled onto the sticky surface, toiling under these
heat lamps. (Some parts could be baked, but not most). Then they would
brush on another coat crosswise to minimize the brush marks.
The article said that the real reason Ford went to "Any color you want,
as long as it was black" was that black absorbed the heat a little faster
and dried a little faster. When the Duco paints came on the scene, GM
quickly realized this and went for more color (and also style), while Ford
remained stuck in the mud and lost the edge.
I've also seen somewhere a contemporary D&H explanation as to why they
were still building composite hoppers thru the early '30's, and it said one
reason was the problem of getting paint to stick on metal vs. wood.
By the way, the Cyc. also mentioned that it was possible to paint the
black as a primer and then paint over it, so box car red open top cars were
still possible (as we know). But in addition to black being common for cars
that were among the first to go to all steel, it would seem that locos,
bridges, signals, and even so much ornamental iron work (as we still have in
Troy) were painted black for this reason. (My point is not that they
couldn't paint steel, it was that it was difficult and they felt black
worked better than the other choices they had. And for freight cars, with
many factors affecting the shift from wood to steel, this was yet another
factor that slowed the acceptance of all-steel construction, a factor
eliminated with the Duco paints.)
- John