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Union Pacific Passenger Car Paint and Lettering

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on March 24, 2016.

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Dark Olive

(incomplete; research continues... )

The following comes from Dick Harley's research, via email dated March 13, 2007:

The proper color name for UP (and presumably SP) is "Dark Olive". As far as I know, the UP color standard was unchanged up through the 1950s.

The way UP Dark Olive and Pullman Green were mixed is with just yellow and black pigments (hard to believe, but true). So, Dark Olive had more black than Pullman Green. Which color was used on sleepers after UP purchased them from Pullman is a good question, which I have not researched.

All three UP schemes (Dark Olive, Two-Tone Gray, and Yellow and Gray) were applied to both heavyweight and lightweight passenger cars. Era and type of service determined which was used.

In the late 1940s, UP streamliners were Yellow and Gray, overnight trains were Two-Tone Gray, and day trains were Dark Olive. That means lots of cars would have been Dark Olive up until they were painted Yellow and Gray, following the official change in 1952.

Two exceptions to the above would be that the City of St. Louis, definitely a Streamliner, was painted in TTG. The Kansan (Train 39/40) was a day train, and it had head-end equipment that was TTG.

The following comes from Steve Solombrino. via email dated March 14, 2007:

In its early days the COSL had heavyweight equipment as well as lightweight equipment. Some sleepers, the diners, lounges and some head end cars were heavyweights. It was first TTG then went yellow when all lightweight equipment was assigned. The lightweight TTG and any remaining lightweight green cars went to yellow to help cover this train and the other city trains when daily service was started. At that point the COSL became a true streamliner. Also many new lightweight cars were bought about the same time (all yellow) to boost the City fleet for daily service.

Eventually everything not yet yellow became yellow. During the short transition, one could find green, TTG and yellow mixed on most anything except COSF, COD, COP and COLA which were all yellow to begin with. Heavyweights and lightweights were mixed as well on non City trains. It may not have happened every day but the published photos showing this are too numerous to quote here.

The Challenger

The following comes from Jeff Cauthen, via email dated April 18, 2008:

I just received the Pullman builder's specs on Lot 6510, the Challenger cars. These came from Illinois Railway Museum via Ted Anderson.

The original specification called out Dark Olive on these cars, but the specification was revised as follows:

Exterior color as: Exterior-Synthetic enamel; to be Pullman standard shade of green color as used on conventional steam equipment; to be applied to sides, skirts and ends. Following manufactures to be used:

DuPont Dulux "standard green" on 28 chair (mixed passenger) cars
Sherwin-Williams "standard green" on five dining cars
Glidden "standard green" on five kitchen-dorm cars
Thresher Varnish "standard green" on 12 women's chair cars

(Note that different manufacturers likely had slight variations of "standard green.")

Exterior lettering to be Imitation gold, DuPont #95-020 Dulux

Scarlet striping color (DuPont #95-055 Dulux) to be used for body of letters in the words "The Challenger".

These cars also had multiple interior color schemes, from multiple manufactures.

The specification also calls out an 11' wheel-base for the 6-wheel truck under the center of the articulated diner. UP drawings say 11' 10". Anybody have an explanation for this difference?

(Read more about Pullman green)

Streamliner Yellow and Leaf Brown

(incomplete; research continues... )

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 Lettering

David Randall's "Official Pullman Standard Library" Volume 13, page 78, in a caption for M-10004 in original lettering, says the lettering was gold leaf.

Arthur Dubin's "Pullman Paint and Lettering Handbook", on page 132, in a caption for sleeper Hawaii for the COSF, says the lettering was silver with black edging.

The following comes from Dick Harley, via an email dated March 17, 2016:

Lettering on all the early streamliners up to 1939 was gold leaf with a 1/8" black edging. Gold leaf was the standard for UP passenger car lettering, and the black edging was used because the gold leaf didn't contrast much with the Armour Yellow sides. Color photos seem to be nonexistent.

I had not noticed Dubin's comment about "silver" on page 132 (and 133). I know of no documentation for that and suspect it is an error derived from the "imitation silver" lettering applied to the early TTG cars on the UP.

The replacement 8th train in August 1939 seems to be the first actual use of Red lettering (with a wider black edging) on passenger cars.

Locos are another story, as Black edged Gold Leaf changed to solid Black, changed to Black edged Red, with the additional complication of the lettering in the Red banners.

Although documentation has not yet been found, research suggests that Streamliner lettering was changed from all-black, to red with black edging with the cars that were repainted for use as part of the replacement train following the wreck of the City of San Francisco in August 1939. The replacement train entered service on August 28, 1939. Many of these cars had previously been in Pullman's pool for service on Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central. (Jeff Cauthen, email to Passenger Car List dated June 8, 2006)

Streamliner Yellow and Gray

(incomplete; research continues... )

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 cars damaged in the August 1939 derailment of the City of San Francisco, after they were repaired and returned to service in July 1940.

(More research is needed to explain the November 1939 photo by Richard Kindig, showing the City of Portland, powered by M-10002, departing westbound from Cheyenne, Wyoming. In this very early color photo, what should be brown areas above and below the yellow area, appear to be gray rather than brown, with red separation stripes. This photo was used on the cover of The Streamliner, Volume 5, Number 3, published by Union Pacific Historical Society. -- Andy Sperandeo, email dated May 11, 2000)

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 World War 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 center spread (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 diaphragm. 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 August 1946, Union Pacific received delivery of eight E7 locomotives from EMD, including four cab units and four cabless booster units, all of them jointly owned by either UP and C&NW, or by UP, C&NW and SP. A three unit set was assigned to City of San Francisco service, and included lettering in banners on the sides saying "City of San Francisco." Originally intended to be numbered as SF-7, SF-8, and SF-9, they were instead delievered numbered as 907a, 908b, and 909b. A second three unit set was assigned to City of Los Angeles service, and had similar lettering in their side banners saying "City of Los Angeles." These three units were originally planned to be numbered as LA-7, LA-8, and LA-9, but were delivered numbered as 927a, 928b and 929b. A two unit set was assigned to City of Portland service, numbered as 930a and 931a, instead of their planned CP-1 and CP-2 numbers. Photos show that both the COSF set and the COLA set had banner lettering, but research has not yet found photos of the COP set with banner lettering. Instead, this set apparently ran with empty banners for approximately 18 months, from the time of delivery in August 1946 until the locomotives were renumbered, and partially repainted, as 989J and 990J, in March 1948.

(Read more about Union Pacific's E7 passenger locomotives)

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)

Pullman Yellow and Gray

In its Car Construction Records (CCR), Pullman-Standard used CED5645 as its number for Union Pacific Armour Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray.

In an email to the Passenger Car List Yahoo Group, on March 21, 2005, Jeff Cauthen wrote that CED5645, Revison J (written as CED5645J), was issued on April 26, 1955 to eliminate the yellow and gray from going around the blind ends of Budd 10-6 sleepers Pacific Bay and Pacific Bend.

Two Tone Gray

(incomplete; research continues... )

The combination of two-tone gray was first used by Southern Pacific in May 1941 for its Lark passenger train, and early 1942 for the UP-SP-C&NW San Francisco Overland train. Also in 1942, SP changed the colors of its Golden State Limited train to two-tone gray. Internal documents from SP records show that the two-tone gray scheme was first agreed to in 1939 when UP, SP and C&NW agreed to purchase new sleepers for the San Francisco Overland. These sleepers, named in the "American" series, were delivered beginning in May 1942.

On UP, SP and C&NW, the two shades of gray were initially named Lark Exterior Dark Gray and Lark Exterior Light Gray, separated by Aluminum Bronze horizontal striping.

In March 1946, the color of the striping was changed from Aluminum Bronze to Silver Gray.

Research has found that there were two schemes known as Two-Tone Gray. One is generally known as the Western TTG, and the other is generally known as Eastern TTG. Within the Western scheme, there was a 4-stripe version, and a 2-stripe version. Union Pacific used both the 4-stripe version and the 2-stripe version. (Dick Harley, email dated March 13, 2007)

Union Pacific adopted its two-tone gray 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 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.

David Seidel wrote in an email on January 11, 2008:

The reason for the UP going to the two tone gray scheme was do to a general make over of its non Streamliner First Class overnight trains in the post World War era. At war's end, Pullman was reworking its cars due to poor condition of equipment with lack of maintenance during the war. To get the work done, Pullman went into a "get the work done ASAP mood". One of the short cuts was the newer two stripe paint scheme. Art Riordan points out that some of these car started showing up in the first months of 1946. To match equipment and to give UP trains a good new general look was the reason the UP scheme looked so much like the Pullman scheme.

First of the UP fleet for this new look was the "San Francisco Overland" and "Los Angeles Limited" -- the two premier non-Streamliner trains. Because of its history on the railroad, the "Overland" was painted in the letterboards of cars assigned to the "SF Overland Limited" and later on, to the City of St. Louis name to that train. Through trains to the Northwest also were reworked. The transcontinental Pullman sleepers were just a part of this Overland operation, but not the sole reason for it. A general rule of thumb was that any overnite train was redone in the two-tone scheme with the local/day trains remaining in green.

It should also be pointed out that at first the two-tone steam locomotive had yellow stripes. If they were used to power Streamliner trains, the railroad figured it would match up better. The main backup steam power for the Streamliners were the two yellow and brown Streamlined steam engines: 2906 and 7002 in 1936. When the 49er came on in 1937 as the heavyweight service to San Francisco on non-Streamliner days, these engines were used on it. In 1942 these two engines lost their Streamlining. By 1949 the railroad had enough diesels on hand to protect the Streamliners. Then on those engines in two-tone gray, the stripes became silver to match the two-tone passenger equipment.

Jerry LaBoda wrote in an email on December 22, 2011:

According to Tom Madden's Pullman Car Construction Records site no cars remained in green beyond 1952, with all cars receiving UP paint by the end of 1952. The only cars to remain in TTG until retirement were three of the Plan 3585 10 Section - 1 Drawing Room - 2 Compartment sleepers which were repainted in Armour Yellow cars were repainted once again into TTG, Lake Hazen in October '55, Lake Waccamaw in November '55 and Lake Dickey in January '56. All three lasted into the 1960s under lease to Pullman but there is no indication these cars were repainted once again before being withdrawn and retired... Lake Dickey being withdrawn from Pullman lease 20Jun61, while the other two cars were withdrawn from lease on 24Mar65. These were the only former Pullman sleepers to wear TTG beyond 1952, and as mentioned, they were repainted from yellow. Lake Waccamaw became MW 906045 in Apr66, according to your report, while the other two apparently were scrapped.

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."

On-delivery photos of storage mail cars 5711-5745 and baggage-express cars 5664-5678 (the last in November 1957) shows these cars with Harbor Mist Gray trucks. (See pp. 416-417 of Rank's & Kratville's Union Pacific Streamliners book.)

Dome coaches 7011-7015 (delivered in November - December 1958) are shown in a builder's or on-delivery photo (p. 501 of the Streamliners book) with gray trucks.

The first newly-delivered passenger cars with aluminum-painted trucks were cafe-lounges 5007-5016 (July 1959) (see p. 466 of the Streamliners book).

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. 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; 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.

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