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Union Pacific Passenger Car Paint and Lettering

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This page was last updated on November 15, 2015.

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(incomplete; research continues... )

Streamliner Yellow and Leaf Brown

Union Pacific began using its combination of Armour Yellow and Leaf Brown on its first Streamliner, the M-10000 in 1934. In June 1940 the Streamliner colors were changed to Armour Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray. The first cars to receive the new colors came in July 1940 when the damaged cars from the August 1939 derailment of the City of San Francisco were repaired and returned to service.

(Read more about Armour Yellow on Union Pacific)

Jeff Koeller wrote the following in an email dated November 2, 2014:

In the book, SP Passenger Cars Vol. 4, at the top of page 382, there is a photo of the COSF at Alameda on 6/14/41. The caption says, "By the date of this photo, however, the Leaf Brown areas (of SP 10310) had been repainted in the new Harbor Mist Gray color." Exactly when the COSF cars had their brown areas repainted to gray has not been resolved in my research.

The four new 4-4-2s and single 10-5 sleepers were incorporated into the 're-equipped' 8th Train beginning on 6/17/41 (per Pullman Lines 4331 and 4332). Since these five cars were delivered in the yellow and gray colors, one would assume the balance of the train was painted to match, but maybe not. SP 10310 was replaced in this train by the new 1941 EMBARCADERO (2nd), which was not completed until 6/17/41. This new car probably entered service shortly thereafter, possibly the train's next 'sailing,' and I wonder if the UP (or SP) would have justified the cost of repainting SP tavern car 10310 for perhaps just a couple of round trips.

Keep in mind that UP Dorm-Kitchen/Diner 5104 continued to operate in the 8th Train until being replaced by the 1937 articulated CS-Kitchen/Diner off the COLA 7th Train. This car was renamed MISSION DOLORES/PRESIDIO (2nd) and was not made available for shopping until the delivery of new COLA cars MISSION INN and BILTMORE, both completed on or around 6/18/41. It would have taken a few days or more to repaint and refurbish the COLA's 1937 CS-Kit/Diner for the COSF 8th Train, so these cars probably did not enter COSF service until early or mid-July 1941. It seems unlikely that UP would have repainted the brown areas on DK/Diner 5104 to the new gray colors for less than a month's service, but this has yet to be verified.

The issue of when the 1937 COSF cars were repainted from yellow & brown to yellow & gray remains a mystery to me.

Streamliner Yellow and Gray

In June 1940 the Streamliner colors were changed to Armour Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray. The first cars to receive the new colors were the damaged cars from the August 1939 derailment of the City of San Francisco, after they were repaired and returned to service in July 1940. In August 1940 the first locomotives with the new colors of yellow and gray were the new E6 locomotives from EMC. These new locomotives were assigned to many of UP's lightweight non-City passenger trains. Additional new E6s, also with the new colors, were delivered in February and March 1941 and were assigned to the City of Los Angeles (9th Train) and City of San Francisco (10th Train).

Tom Madden, of the Pullman Project, wrote the following in an email dated May 12, 2006, concerning the change from yellow and brown, to yellow and gray:

I just checked the back sides of the Car Construction Records for all 15 cars in Lot 6525 (The sleeping cars for the Seventh and Eighth Trains were all delivered in December 1937.) That's where a car's shopping history is spelled out. None of the 14 survivors (TWIN PEAKS was lost in the Harney wreck) shows a shopping correlated to a 1940 repaint. In fact, seven of the cars apparently weren't shopped by Pullman until 1944 and 1945. The CCRs show no-code Pullman shoppings in the summer of 1941 for the six cars involved in the renaming shuffle, plus a no-code shopping of SAN FERNANDO in September 1941. The only unusual entry is an "SA" (Special Accident) shopping of SAN DOMINGUEZ  from 1/2/41 to 3/14/41. I presume it was involved in an altercation in late 1940?

The temptation is to say the UP did the repainting from brown to HMG, but I don't think we can say that for sure. I think that particular repainting was done "on the fly", as it were. Two citations: I'll have to do some major excavation in my studio to find it, but back in the early years of THE STREAMLINER, a sales brochure included with one of the subscriber mailings showed a Kindig (I think) in-service color photo of the COD. The roof is HMG, the pilot and skirts are brown. That tells me the equipment was being repainted piecemeal between runs, and either Pullman or the UP could have done that.

Second citation is an old copy of INDUSTRIAL REVIEW I picked up at an antique shop in Kalona, Iowa about 15 years ago. That was the company magazine of the Industrial Tape Corporation, manufacturer of Permacel industrial tapes. The issue is undated but obviously, from the content, published during W.W.II. The feature article shows how Pullman used Permacel paper tape at the Calumet works to mask passenger cars for fast turnaround spray paint jobs. There are five pages of text and photos showing how to mask, paint and letter SAN DOMINGUEZ, including one photo showing the car completely covered with Kraft paper! The article is written from the perspective of a visit to the Calumet works.

But the interesting thing is the two-page centerspread (which is in addition to the five pages of the article). There sits a full-color 11 x 17 artist's rendering of FERRY BUILDING, apparently based on a photograph considering the access ladder perched at the non-vestibule end and the accuracy of the detail around the exposed diaphram. The thing is, this 1941 car is shown with BROWN, not HMG, roof & skirts. I doubt the Industrial Tape Company prepared that illustration. My opinion, and I'm only speculating here, is that the UP provided the illustration, the intent was to have the 1941 trains delivered in yellow & brown, but sometime during the construction of those cars - and possibly after the delivery of FERRY BUILDING (in June 1941) - the railroad decided to switch to HMG. Then it was a matter of scrambling to get the roofs & skirts of the earlier equipment repainted to match.

As an aside, the cover photo on the magazine is a gorgeous (and no doubt UP-provided) full color shot of the entire 1937 COLA in yellow & brown with gold lettering posed by the row of eucalyptus trees at Burlingame.

In March 1952, UP announced that all passenger cars would be painted yellow and gray regardless of train assignment. The announcement spelled the end of not only the green (officially Dark Olive) paint scheme but also the attractive two-tone gray scheme as well. Since passenger cars were painted every two or three years, green cars would be quite rare after about 1955. Since many of the green cars were painted two-tone gray beginning in 1946, photos or individual car records would be needed to determine what paint scheme was used on any specific car during the period 1946 thru 1955. (Q&A 335, The Streamliner, Volume 15, Number 3, Summer 2001, page 39)

The Budd UP Chair cars (UP 5508-5527, delivered in 1960) were painted UP Streamliner colors. The Budd UP Postal Mail - Storage (RPO) cars (UP 5903-5911, delivered in 1963) were the only UP passenger cars to have a major portion of the car left in bare Stainless Steel - even in MOW service. Ranks & Kratville probably talk about that in their book. (Dick Harley, email to Union Pacific Modelers YahooGroup on January 31, 2007)

Two Tone Gray

Union Pacific adopted its two-tone gray (TTG) paint scheme in 1946 for its secondary passenger trains, including the Portland Rose, City of St. Louis, Pony Express, Utahn, Idahoan, and the Mail & Express train. The two-tone gray scheme was applied to heavyweight cars and to lightweight cars.

Beginning in February 1946, two groups of lightweight Chair cars delivered in 1941 as UP 5331-5345 (15 cars) and UP 5351-5365 (15 cars) were changed from their as-delivered paint scheme of olive green paint with "The Challenger" lettering, to the new two-tone gray scheme. Union Pacific Painting Lettering & Numbering drawing PL&N drawing 357-CB-23984, dated February 6, 1946, shows these 30 cars as being painted in the two-tone gray scheme.

At the same time, most of the 30-car group of lightweight Baggage cars (UP 5601-5630), delivered in 1942 wearing olive green paint, were also changed to two-tone gray. A few cars in this same group were changed in 1947 to yellow and gray Streamliner colors for service in the new daily Streamliner trains.

In 1950, 25 of the 50 Pacific-series sleepers delivered in 1950 were delivered wearing two-tone gray.

In 1952, Union Pacific adopted its yellow and gray Streamliner paint scheme for all of its passenger cars. Of the heavyweight cars painted in two-tone gray, some ran into retirement in the early 1950s still wearing TTG. Union Pacific kept its passenger equipment in good condition, with cars receiving scheduled inspection and maintenance. Most cars were repainted to yellow and gray during their scheduled visits to the railroad's shops.

For the Pullman-owned sleeper cars, after the two-tone gray scheme was adopted in 1946, Pullman began a program to repaint the cars assigned to Union Pacific trains. When the change to yellow and gray was made in 1952, Pullman continued to keep its cars painted in the colors that matched the trains the cars were assigned to. In at least three cases, cars were repainted from coach green to two-tone gray, then to yellow and gray, then back to TTG when a car's assignment changed. These three cars were Plan 3585 10 section, 1 drawing room, 2 compartment sleepers, Lake Hazen, Lake Dickey, Lake Waccamaw. (Read more about these three Pullman cars)

Gary Binder wrote on the Union Pacific YahooGroup on December 24, 2007:

There would have been a number of TTG cars/trains through Ogden, etc. The only "City" train in TTG was the "City Of St. Louis" which was originated with mixed heavyweight and lightweight equipment, but some other non-Streamliner trains carried TTG.

Passenger steam locomotives were painted to match the trains, including all the 4-8-4s, many 4-8-2s, and a number of 4-6-2s. As steam gave way to diesel, early passenger power showed up, FM "Eire- builts", E6, E7, ALCo PAs, and so on. The UP bought their first small batch of E8s in 1950, so these may have pulled some TTG equipment but were usually used on the Streamliners.  By the time the E9s came (1954) there were few TTG cars active.

Dick Harley wrote on the Union Pacific Modelers YahooGroup on January 31, 2007:

Of the 50 "Pacific" series sleepers bought by the UP, the first 25 (alphabetically) were painted UP Streamliner colors (Armour Yellow & Harbor Mist Gray). The second 25 (alphabetically) were painted UP 2-stripe Two-Tone Gray, when new.

Aluminum Paint on Passenger Car Trucks

On June 18, 1958, D. S. Neuhart issued instructions that "whenever passenger equipment is shopped or trucks are removed from cars for any other purpose, present paint should be completely removed and trucks repainted with one coat of Chromate Primer CS-22 No. 38 followed by two coats of aluminum paint CS-22 No. 28."

While PL&N drawings have not yet been located, we have found builder's photos of the Pullman-built Dome Chair cars (UP 7011-7015) delivered in November 1958 with gray trucks. Photos of the 5007-5016 Lunch Counter Cafe Lounge cars delivered in April 1959 show aluminum (not silver) trucks. We would like to hear from anyone with PL&N drawings that show dates for this change. Note that this is quite a while after locomotives were changed to aluminum trucks, beginning in 1953 with Turbine No. 57. (Q&A 303, The Streamliner, Volume 13, Number 3, page 37, and Volume 13, Number 4, page 38)

More Information

The Pullman Project -- Tom Madden's database of Pullman-built passenger cars, including painting and lettering information.