The curious case of NP box car colors in the 50's


Mikebrock
 

Guys,

There are three photos in 2 books that indicate that NP changed the paint color on their box cars at some point during the '50's.

First, on pg 27 of Northern Pacific Color Pictorial Volume 1,  is a photo showing at least 7 NP box cars. Two are much darker than the others.,  In the book The Northern Pacific by Dale Sanders, pg 26 shows two NP box cars, one of which is lighter than the other. On pg 151 are two NP box cars, one lighter than the other. Apparently, NP changed the color of its box cars in the 50's and later. These photos were taken in the '50's.

When I built the SS model of the radial roof DS, I painted it in the lighter shade. The Rapido car is a bit darker. Note that I am comparing two cars in the same photo, I do not claim anything about the NP paint color in general.

Mike Brock

 


Garth Groff <sarahsan@...>
 

Mike,

Do you mean dark like the attached photo? Taken about 1975 in South Los Angeles. Count on 30 years of weathering though.


That's spilled dog food on the ground that the forklift operator was going to be cleaning up.

Yours Aye,


Garth Groff  🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

On 12/16/18 4:01 PM, Mikebrock wrote:

Guys,

There are three photos in 2 books that indicate that NP changed the paint color on their box cars at some point during the '50's.

First, on pg 27 of Northern Pacific Color Pictorial Volume 1,  is a photo showing at least 7 NP box cars. Two are much darker than the others.,  In the book The Northern Pacific by Dale Sanders, pg 26 shows two NP box cars, one of which is lighter than the other. On pg 151 are two NP box cars, one lighter than the other. Apparently, NP changed the color of its box cars in the 50's and later. These photos were taken in the '50's.

When I built the SS model of the radial roof DS, I painted it in the lighter shade. The Rapido car is a bit darker. Note that I am comparing two cars in the same photo, I do not claim anything about the NP paint color in general.

Mike Brock

 



Mikebrock
 

Hi, Garth,

I don’t think so. The darker colored cars in the photos

are distinct but still a shade of “box car red”. OTOH, 30 yrs of weathering is..well..30 yrs of weathering.

 

Mike Brock

 

Mike

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io <main@RealSTMFC.groups.io> On Behalf Of Garth Groff
Sent: Sunday, December 16, 2018 5:43 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] The curious case of NP box car colors in the 50's

 

Mike,

Do you mean dark like the attached photo? Taken about 1975 in South Los Angeles. Count on 30 years of weathering though.


That's spilled dog food on the ground that the forklift operator was going to be cleaning up.

Yours Aye,


Garth Groff  🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

On 12/16/18 4:01 PM, Mikebrock wrote:

Guys,

There are three photos in 2 books that indicate that NP changed the paint color on their box cars at some point during the '50's.

First, on pg 27 of Northern Pacific Color Pictorial Volume 1,  is a photo showing at least 7 NP box cars. Two are much darker than the others.,  In the book The Northern Pacific by Dale Sanders, pg 26 shows two NP box cars, one of which is lighter than the other. On pg 151 are two NP box cars, one lighter than the other. Apparently, NP changed the color of its box cars in the 50's and later. These photos were taken in the '50's.

When I built the SS model of the radial roof DS, I painted it in the lighter shade. The Rapido car is a bit darker. Note that I am comparing two cars in the same photo, I do not claim anything about the NP paint color in general.

Mike Brock

 

 


Robert Heninger
 

That isn't a 30 year old paint job, though. The "Northern Pacific Railway" lettering in the monad is late 50s-60s era, and the 6 panel Superior door isn't original. Note the lack of a running board and the end support on the roof. I'd bet this car was refurbished and rebuilt by the NP sometime in the 1960s (based off of the lack of running board supports - when the GN, NP, or Q removed running boards, they usually removed the supports as well - BN usually didn't bother removing the supports), so the paint is probably 10-15 years old.

Regards,

Bob Heninger
Minot, ND


Dennis Storzek
 

On Sun, Dec 16, 2018 at 07:59 PM, Robert Heninger wrote:
That isn't a 30 year old paint job, though.
I really hate to comment on railroad specific practice of roads I'm not familiar with, but it looks like no one is going to come up with the definitive answer, so I will say this; during the fifties the railroad industry as a whole moved from organic pigment paints to synthetics, and the standard colors changed at that time. My favorite road Soo Line made the change about 1957, the oxide red becoming a darker, browner color, and I believe the mighty PRR made the change at about the same time. It wouldn't surprise me if the NP did also, but it would surprise me if it happened before the later half of the decade. 

Dennis Storzek


Ken Adams
 

I was looking for a darker NP boxcar red recently and wound up using Vallejo model color 70.814 Burnt Red thinned with 1 drop to 5 matt medium and brush painted. The project was the rebuild of a 1970's purchased Athearn blue box boxcar and is not complete. Decals were from Speedwitch. NP used a rather unique stirrup design so am still looking into what I have to do to replicate.

Car on right is old Atlas Blueprint car. 


np328
 

So many balls being juggled in the air in this question.
    In the 1930s, there were more or less about 40 some "shop" areas on the NP system. I am currently looking over some NP mechanical shop letters from the 20s and 30s in which letters are going out from the top stating more or less to - Please follow and use uniform standards when applying data markings to cars.   
    Some of the shop areas were applying data lettering to cars uniquely to others and also to the larger shop areas. 

     Next - Paint - Again in the 30s, I need to count how many companies supplied paint to be used in painting rolling stock, it is much more than a dozen and possibly more than two dozen. Does anyone here think that every single paint will match? Honestly? The purchase of paint was made mostly on price. Yes durability counted however in the end, the most durability for the cheapest price got the sale.  
I am trying to find a logical manner of getting this above researched information out. Anyone who has researched railroad history on more than a superficial level understands the prior sentence. 

Fast forward to the 1950s to closer address your concern Mike. At this time there were about six more or less paint suppliers approved to supply rolling stock paint. Again I ask, does anyone here think that every single paint will match?

Then come Dennis's comments. I greatly respect his research and feel his comments stand tall.
          I do recall my mother commenting on how much more stable synthetic dyes were in clothing. Being a teenager in the late 60s to 70s and at times purchasing (tie-dyed) clothing made "naturally and organically" that was in vogue back then, I was dismayed on how quickly they faded. That lead to my mothers comment above.   

And the book, I like the book that Mike mentions however I cannot help but wonder at times if some of the photos were enhanced for publishing. I know I have done it for RPM presentations. 
                                                                                                                                                                
Mike I will take a look at the photos in the book and if time allows, research the purchase orders and get back to you on this at CCB.                              Jim Dick  



np328
 

   A bit more on paint - this I recall from an NP Como Shops veteran. (Como Shops being closest to NP headquarters in St. Paul, MN) 

He said that: Heck, the colors (Loewy Green passengers colors) didn't always match right on. However it was our job to paint and not ask questions. Also one or two trips out on the road and several washings? Nah, you guys put too much into that. If they get close, some dirt and grime will even out the colors. We had paint cans at Como that did not match one to another. Sometimes we mixed the paint up, most guys just painted with what was in the can.

I asked about freight car paint and got the same feedback. 

Next, Larry Schrenk, mentor, friend, visionary, archivist, and author of numerous NP books showed me an older factory supplied paint chip for the railroads use, inside an envelope designed to hold it. Then he turned one over so I could read the back of the chip, which noted the paint chip was to be replaced every six months. And stated that the paint chip was decades old. And smiled.    

                                                                                                                                                                                 Jim Dick - St. Paul MN
              


spsalso
 

For REAL railroads, when they specifically chose special colors for the cars of their leading passenger trains, I am sure they MEANT the colors to match.  Which likely meant that, if they couldn't see a difference, there was no difference.  But I am sure there would be (or was) a point where a dreaded message from management informed somewhat lower management that upper management WAS NOT PLEASED by mismatching cars.

I wonder what the Como Shop veteran felt about "stuff" that rolls down hill.


Ed

Edward Sutorik


np328
 

     If there are any letters or inter-company correspondence concerning paint matching or miss-matching, in decades of research, I have never seen them. For the numerous times I have diligently researched any file containing the word -paint, I should have stumbled upon one, however no, not one. I would imagine based on research, that would be the storekeepers purview, and in correspondence from officers of the corporate structure and the mechanical departments and purchasing, no.  And again, I have not found evidence of such on either freight cars (this strings subject) or passenger car paint colors.

Upon reflection, I take that back. There are two times. Both were in the signaling department. First was in time frame of WWI, various semaphore blades on the Yellowstone district, (Glendive, MT to Mandan, ND) were painted Canary Yellow (railroad officials description) rather than Signal Yellow and in the reply the head storekeeper stated that due to the war, signal yellow paint could not be found and the lighter paint was used. During WWII (IIRC) some signal bases were painted white vs standard of aluminum silver. Signal paint standards were hastily revised to reflect that and then post war, revised back. So, I think I would find letters elsewhere however, no, none by myself have ever been found again on freight car paint or passenger car paint.   
       
     I do find in the NP General Managers files, concerning passenger cars, plenty of letters of accounting containing much red ink in the numbers columns.

One thing I have noted of railfans, myself included, we often overlook that the railroads were run for profit.    And the freight cars we talk of here were only vehicles - to make money for their owners. 
   That is the President and Board were accountable to stock holders who cared not one wit about matters we often discuss here however were quite, quite, sensitive to the price of the stock share they held. When passengers trains are losing money, and post WWII, they were, I would feel that the outflow of capital was more of a concern than paint matching. 

Again of the Como Shop veteran, I did ask if he could see the end of passenger train service coming and emphatically he stated YES, and that he felt lucky to be eligible to retire before Amtrak. That was the stuff rolling down hill that he was concerned about.
                                                                (Sorry Sheriff if this went off-topic.)                                                                                                                                         Jim Dick - St. Paul                                                                                      


Dave Parker
 

In general, I agree with Jim's point.  I think we obsess more about paint color than did most railroads back in the day.  And quality control WRT paint color was probably a fair bit cruder than it is today.

But, there's always a nagging data point or two, and here's one.  The caption for this Jack Delano image at the LOC reads:
Laboratory worker at the research laboratory at the C & NW RR's [i.e. Chicago and North Western railroad's] 40th Street yard, examining paint samples used on freight cars and coaches of the railroad, Chicago, Ill.

The photo is dated December, 1942.  Hmmmm....

Dave Parker
Riverside, CA


Donald B. Valentine <riverman_vt@...>
 

    I have another question with regard to paint suppliers on a road the length of the NP. Would the paint bought
at a specific time be used by all shops on the railroad or did different shops use different suppliers in order to 
shop as locally as possible? Different suppliers in different locales that a railroad served could easily cause a
difference in color or shade of a color.

Happy Holidays, Don Valentine


Richard Townsend
 

I suspect this research was more about things like durability and opacity than whether they met the exact color they wanted. Note the photo shows many samples of colors that are very similar.

Also, the "same " paint from the same supplier likely changed from time to time. If you need an example of that, just try to match different jars of the "same"Floquil.paint.
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Parker via Groups.Io <spottab@...>
To: main <main@RealSTMFC.groups.io>
Sent: Wed, Dec 19, 2018 3:57 pm
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] The curious case of NP box car colors in the 50's

In general, I agree with Jim's point.  I think we obsess more about paint color than did most railroads back in the day.  And quality control WRT paint color was probably a fair bit cruder than it is today.

But, there's always a nagging data point or two, and here's one.  The caption for this Jack Delano image at the LOC reads:
Laboratory worker at the research laboratory at the C & NW RR's [i.e. Chicago and North Western railroad's] 40th Street yard, examining paint samples used on freight cars and coaches of the railroad, Chicago, Ill.

The photo is dated December, 1942.  Hmmmm....

Dave Parker
Riverside, CA


Tony Thompson
 

     This discussion brings to mind something I was told by Earl Hopkins, retired Chief Mechanical Officer of PFE, about paint color matching. He said that the PFE representative at the manufacturing plant would have the PFE color chip samples with him, along with a list of approved suppliers, and he would make a judgement if the paint was "close enough" on a new car batch. He readily conceded that different paint companies would "match" desired colors differently, but that PFE's plant representative had the responsibility to accept or reject a particular paint.

Tony Thompson             Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705         www.signaturepress.com
(510) 540-6538; e-mail, tony@...
Publishers of books on railroad history






Dennis Storzek
 

Another consideration concerning paint, color matching, and cost. 

Anyone who has purchased paint commercially, even model paint, knows that, unlike the paint department at the big box store, different colors have different prices. And, unlike the fixed chromatic values of the RGB phosphors on a computer monitor, paint is made with pigments that, whether natural or synthetic, are not a "pure" color. The end result is there is more than one way to formulate an acceptable match to a desired color, and the way to win that big contract is to figure out how to do it with the least expensive pigments. This may explain why many railroads went to darker freightcar colors when synthetic pigments became available. In the days of natural pigment, the various natural clays colored orange with the oxides of iron were likely cheapest; this may not have been the easiest color to match with the new synthetics, and one by one, the railroad's desire to have everything neat and tidy was overruled by the potential for cost savings if the color could be changed.

Likewise, new streamlined passenger trains should be matched sets... but fifteen years later, when the only color the accounting dept. was seeing was red, maybe matched sets were no longer that important.

Then there were times when color was important simply because the executive suite said it was. As related in The Little Jewel Wallace Abby, who was involved in the affair, states that the Soo Line's red, white, and black color scheme, developed for locomotives just after the end of the time period of this list and soon migrating to freightcars, was a direct result of the mechanical department's  cost cutting measures that eliminated the imitation gold trim on the locomotives, turning them into solid maroon blobs, on the eve of the merger that top management wanted to portray, for PR purposes, as dynamic. Once the executive suite was involved, they were several color changes on successive locomotive orders until they were satisfied with the contrast between the base color and lettering.

Moral of the story is there are many unseen forces at work, and the desire that all things match is normally not the most important of them.

Dennis Storzek


Schuyler Larrabee
 

Don, I can shed some light on this question, MAYBE.

 

When the ERIE’s PAs were delivered, they wore a black and yellow paint scheme, adapted from the freight locomotives.  Later the ERIE bought E8s, which were delivered in the two-tone green scheme.  Then management decided that since the PAs were passenger locomotives, they too should be two-tone green, like the E units.

 

Some years ago, I arm wrestled with some other guy on eBay to buy a fairly thick file regarding the repainting of the PAs into the two-tone green.  It was a bit expensive but I wanted that file.  What it include was that the PAs were to be repainted in the shop in Jersey City, but that each engine was to receive a different manufacturer’s paint, all mixed to “the same” colors.

 

Now they were close enough that AFAIK, no one ever said “Hey, those engine’s colors don’t’ match!”  But the point was, and is here, that the one shop did this so that they could keep tabs on the performance of the paint over time, presumably hoping to identify “the best” paint.

 

So in this particular case (which doesn’t mean you can generalize) only the one shop had this program.

 

It’s my intention to examine these files and if the information warrants, write an article about what was discovered.  There is enough longitudinal record keeping that I think they may have come to some conclusion.  I need to retire from real work so I can do that.

 

BTW, in black & yellow, in two-tone green and in the (sometime in the future for this list) gray, maroon and yellow, the PAs did haul freight cars. *whew*

 

Schuyler

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io <main@RealSTMFC.groups.io> On Behalf Of Donald B. Valentine via Groups.Io
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 7:43 PM
To: main@realstmfc.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] The curious case of NP box car colors in the 50's

 

    I have another question with regard to paint suppliers on a road the length of the NP. Would the paint bought

at a specific time be used by all shops on the railroad or did different shops use different suppliers in order to 

shop as locally as possible? Different suppliers in different locales that a railroad served could easily cause a

difference in color or shade of a color.

 

Happy Holidays, Don Valentine

 


John Hagen <sprinthag@...>
 

A comment that really has little bearing on the matter at hand, but I absolutely love the black and yellow scheme.

I understand the desire on the part of management to set the passenger units of on a different level, particularly at a time when passenger business was losing money but still……. To me the black/yellow WAS Erie.

I’ll go back to my lurkers corner now.

John Hagen

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io <main@RealSTMFC.groups.io> On Behalf Of Schuyler Larrabee
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 10:45 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] The curious case of NP box car colors in the 50's

 

Don, I can shed some light on this question, MAYBE.

 

When the ERIE’s PAs were delivered, they wore a black and yellow paint scheme, adapted from the freight locomotives.  Later the ERIE bought E8s, which were delivered in the two-tone green scheme.  Then management decided that since the PAs were passenger locomotives, they too should be two-tone green, like the E units.

 

Some years ago, I arm wrestled with some other guy on eBay to buy a fairly thick file regarding the repainting of the PAs into the two-tone green.  It was a bit expensive but I wanted that file.  What it include was that the PAs were to be repainted in the shop in Jersey City, but that each engine was to receive a different manufacturer’s paint, all mixed to “the same” colors.

 

Now they were close enough that AFAIK, no one ever said “Hey, those engine’s colors don’t’ match!”  But the point was, and is here, that the one shop did this so that they could keep tabs on the performance of the paint over time, presumably hoping to identify “the best” paint.

 

So in this particular case (which doesn’t mean you can generalize) only the one shop had this program.

 

It’s my intention to examine these files and if the information warrants, write an article about what was discovered.  There is enough longitudinal record keeping that I think they may have come to some conclusion.  I need to retire from real work so I can do that.

 

BTW, in black & yellow, in two-tone green and in the (sometime in the future for this list) gray, maroon and yellow, the PAs did haul freight cars. *whew*

 

Schuyler

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io <main@RealSTMFC.groups.io> On Behalf Of Donald B. Valentine via Groups.Io
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 7:43 PM
To: main@realstmfc.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] The curious case of NP box car colors in the 50's

 

    I have another question with regard to paint suppliers on a road the length of the NP. Would the paint bought

at a specific time be used by all shops on the railroad or did different shops use different suppliers in order to 

shop as locally as possible? Different suppliers in different locales that a railroad served could easily cause a

difference in color or shade of a color.

 

Happy Holidays, Don Valentine

 


Dennis Storzek
 

When a shop had pride, and someone felt that it mattered (and with freight cars it normally didn't) they would often retain small odd lots of previous paint orders so they could have some chance of successfully touching up damage. Such was the case with the transit authority I once worked for, and apparently was the case in the Soo's Shoreham coach shop because the Society has obtained three home made non-matching maroon samples, just paint brushed on stencil card with manufacture names scrawled on the back in pencil. Most likely when the painter was assigned to touch up a car that had been repaired, he took the samples out to the shop to see which one was the best match, then drew that paint out of the storeroom. Of course, as the retained stock was depleted, that was no longer an option, and then he just used what was available.

Dennis Storzek


Andy Carlson
 

Hello-
One thing to think of about colors is costs of custom blends. If a RR was to have a special color, getting timely restocks could be delayed, and the costs could be hard to justify to management.

I remember back in the 1980s (pre PC era for me) I wanted accurate colors for the Pacific Great Eastern RR's diesel locomotives. I went through my own color prints of the two-tone green locos and selected prints which appeared good to me as being a match.

I went to an auto paint supply dealer and on a whim, checked through a large catalog for fleet colors. I found two good matches on the Sherwin Williams chips which I was able to purchase in lacquer. To this day I am pleased with the mix, and it has solidified my belief that even large corporations may seek the economy and convenience of stock, fleet colors. BTW, I guess that these would even be suitable colors for the NP passenger greens of the late 1950s.

-Andy Carlson
Ojai CA

On Wednesday, December 19, 2018, 8:38:41 PM PST, Dennis Storzek <destorzek@...> wrote:




Anyone who has purchased paint commercially, even model paint, knows that, unlike the paint department at the big box store, different colors have different prices. And, unlike the fixed chromatic values of the RGB phosphors on a computer monitor, paint is made with pigments that, whether natural or synthetic, are not a "pure" color. The end result is there is more than one way to formulate an acceptable match to a desired color, and the way to win that big contract is to figure out how to do it with the least expensive pigments. This may explain why many railroads went to darker freightcar colors when synthetic pigments became available. In the days of natural pigment, the various natural clays colored orange with the oxides of iron were likely cheapest; this may not have been the easiest color to match with the new synthetics, and one by one, the railroad's desire to have everything neat and tidy was overruled by the potential for cost savings if the color could be changed.



Garth Groff <sarahsan@...>
 

Friends,

Something nobody has mentioned is that in the early years of the 20th century, some railroads were still buying dry pigment (probably in barrels) and mixing their own paint with linseed oil. Every mix would likely have been slightly different. This was done on the Northern Electric Railway for the poppy-orange color used on both their interurban cars and freight motors. When the road was reorganized as the Sacramento Northern Railroad circa 1920, passenger cars were repainted Pullman green and the freight motors solid black. SN expert Bob Campbell thought that stocks of the yellow pigment were still around after WWII and were used to paint the yellow scare stripes on the electric locomotives. The SNRR and SNRY built or completely rebuilt some of their wooden freight cars up into the 1920s, and likely those cars where painted with rollers and brushes, whether the paint was dry pigment or pre-mix.

When pre-mixed paint came along, many railroads still applied it with brushes and rollers.
Remember, even Henry had his Model-Ts brush painted for many years. Then spray equipment became common, and likely required a different formula to work in the machines. This change could have marked a difference in how the paint looked on some roads.

Those of you who know more about the history of railroad paint might be able to suggest when pre-mix paint and then spray equipment became common.

Yours Aye,


Garth Groff 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿


On 12/19/18 11:38 PM, Dennis Storzek wrote:
Another consideration concerning paint, color matching, and cost. 

Anyone who has purchased paint commercially, even model paint, knows that, unlike the paint department at the big box store, different colors have different prices. And, unlike the fixed chromatic values of the RGB phosphors on a computer monitor, paint is made with pigments that, whether natural or synthetic, are not a "pure" color. The end result is there is more than one way to formulate an acceptable match to a desired color, and the way to win that big contract is to figure out how to do it with the least expensive pigments. This may explain why many railroads went to darker freightcar colors when synthetic pigments became available. In the days of natural pigment, the various natural clays colored orange with the oxides of iron were likely cheapest; this may not have been the easiest color to match with the new synthetics, and one by one, the railroad's desire to have everything neat and tidy was overruled by the potential for cost savings if the color could be changed.

Likewise, new streamlined passenger trains should be matched sets... but fifteen years later, when the only color the accounting dept. was seeing was red, maybe matched sets were no longer that important.

Then there were times when color was important simply because the executive suite said it was. As related in The Little Jewel Wallace Abby, who was involved in the affair, states that the Soo Line's red, white, and black color scheme, developed for locomotives just after the end of the time period of this list and soon migrating to freightcars, was a direct result of the mechanical department's  cost cutting measures that eliminated the imitation gold trim on the locomotives, turning them into solid maroon blobs, on the eve of the merger that top management wanted to portray, for PR purposes, as dynamic. Once the executive suite was involved, they were several color changes on successive locomotive orders until they were satisfied with the contrast between the base color and lettering.

Moral of the story is there are many unseen forces at work, and the desire that all things match is normally not the most important of them.

Dennis Storzek