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Union Pacific Diesel Locomotive Paint Schemes

Index For This Page

1983 to 2000 (Merger Era)

This page was last updated on January 10, 2016.

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February 1983 - White Vertical Handrails On Road Units

The color of the handrail verticals and step edges was changed from yellow to white in February 1983, to standardize the color scheme and match the existing standard used on switch engines. (J. F. McDonough letter to all locations, February 2, 1983; drawing dated January 28, 1983) The original yellow color had been adopted in 1980.

March 1983 - First WP Units In UP Yellow And Gray

The merger of Union Pacific with Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific was approved on December 22, 1982, with an effective date of January 1, 1983.

The only WP locomotive to be painted in UP yellow and gray and lettered for Western Pacific was GP40 3532, painted in UP's standard yellow and gray scheme in March 1983 and lettered with UP's gothic style red lettering. A new drawing was completed on March 7, 1983 that showed the approved painting and lettering scheme for Western Pacific locomotives, making use of a newly completed design for the word "Western" in UP standard lettering style. WP 3532 was renumbered and relettered to UP 680 in December 1983.

The first former WP unit to receive full UP paint and lettering was GP40 3509, completed as UP 658 in November 1983. Several others were completed during December. The last former WP unit to receive UP paint, number, and lettering, was wreck-repaired WP GP35 3020, completed as UP 798 in February 1987.

February 1984 - Gray Color On Trucks

The use of aluminum-colored trucks, dating from 1953, has always been one feature of Union Pacific's trademark paint scheme. In 1953 the new aluminum color was first used on turbines, and from 1954 and 1957 on the newest E9s and GP9s. The use of aluminum paint on locomotive truck assemblies replaced UP's use of Harbor Mist Gray, which was first used on the E6s when they were delivered in 1940/1941, and on the Erie-builts with their delivery in 1945. The use of gray paint was changed to aluminum paint on selected units in 1953 to 1955.

With the projected costs of repainting the entire MoPac locomotive fleet, the cost of aluminum paint was considered, along with its high maintenance costs, since aluminum color wears off rapidly, and must be refreshed at least three times as often as most other colors. To save the added cost of aluminum paint on upcoming MP and WP repaints, in 1984 the aluminum color was changed to gray on the railroad's locomotive trucks. The change to the painting diagram was dated February 15, 1984.

One of the first units to be completed was DDA40X 6922, which had its trucks painted gray in late May 1984 in Salt Lake City, in preparation for a Memorial Day excursion special between Denver, Colorado, and Speer, Wyoming.

During mid 1982, possibly as a brief test of different colors, some units were reported as having received gray trucks, but the gray was a bit lighter than the standard Harbor Mist Gray. During mid 1986, the gray trucks of the six GP40Xs were repainted back to silver because of these units' high visibility on Amtrak trains and on special passenger moves for company directors and shippers.

May 1984 - First MP Units in UP Yellow and Gray

No Missouri Pacific locomotives are known to have been painted to UP's yellow and gray until mid 1984, almost a full 18 months after the January 1983 date of control of MP by UP. On May 31, 1984, because Missouri Pacific was to remain as a separate corporate entity, the two roads announced that they would paint MoPac's locomotive fleet into UP's standard yellow and gray colors, but with Missouri Pacific lettering. The formal announcement actually came two weeks after the first unit was completed. Between May 1984 and November 1985, there were 395 locomotives painted in MoPac yellow (including 120 new units: 60 SD50s and 60 C36-7s), all with the unique MoPac North Little Rock style lettering. Most were lettered for Missouri Pacific, but a few UP units were completed with Union Pacific spelled out in the MoPac style lettering, at least temporarily.

The last unit to be painted in MoPac's blue was SD40-2 3270, completed sometime in late March or early April 1984.

The first MP unit to receive UP colors, with MP lettering, was MP SD40-2 3291, completed on May 10, 1984. (Railfan, September 1984, page 26)

During the summer of 1984, UP held a Family Days in St.Louis. They ran the employee free-ride train, using UP cars of course, with the MP 3291 in UP yellow and gray on one end of the special train, and MP 3270 in MP blue on the other end. (Mark Bess, email dated October 8, 2004)

The last MP unit to receive UP colors and MP lettering was MP GP38-2 2214, completed on November 21, 1985.

A group of five Missouri Pacific units repainted to UP yellow and gray, with Missouri Pacific lettering, were displayed to the public on July 14, 1984, the day that the new Jenks Shops in North Little Rock were dedicated. The five units were: B30-7A 4800, MP15 1357, GP15 1708, SD40-2 3291, and GP50 3501. (Extra 2200 South, Issue 81, July-August-September 1984, with photo)

1984 - Experimental Paint Schemes

During 1984 as MP units were being painted to UP's yellow and gray scheme, with Missouri Pacific lettering, the combined roads were searching for a simplified paint scheme that could be adopted for the entire post-merger locomotive fleet.

In the first known attempt at a common paint scheme, in February 1984 UP's paint shop in North Platte, Nebraska, completed a single locomotive with an experimental scheme, consisting of a solid yellow unit, with 20-inch Missouri Pacific lettering and the MP buzzsaw logo. Originally a Missouri Pacific unit was sought for the test, but UP SD40 3030 was next in line for a standard paint job, and was selected as the test unit, giving it the distinction of being an MoPac unit for at least a single day. After its brief stint as MP 3030, UP 3030 was immediately returned to the North Platte paint shop for its standard UP yellow and gray scheme.

In June 1984, an SD40-2, UP 3391, was given a different test scheme that was all-yellow, with black undercarriage (trucks, fuel tank). The unit was finished with standard 20-inch red lettering and numbers, and a red stripe separating the yellow and black paint.

Also in June 1984, UP another SD40-2, number 3479, in a the standard yellow and gray scheme, without red stripes separating the yellow and gray, with just "UP 3479" in 20-inch letters and numbers on the side of the long hood.

These three test paint schemes, on UP (MP) 3030, and UP 3391 and 3479, were really more of an attempt to save painting costs rather than an attempt to give the merged roads a new image. The resulting simplified paint schemes were seen as unsuitable by upper management, including Mr. John Kenefick, the road's then-president, and were repainted to UP's standard yellow and gray, with black-edged red lettering.

No official photos are known to exist of these experimental paint schemes.

1984 - Anti-Skid Color Changed

UP's previous standard of anti-skid green on each unit's short hood anti-glare panel and area around rear sand fill was changed to anti-skid gray in mid 1984, at the same time as the first former MP units were repainted to UP yellow and gray, with MP lettering and numbers.

1985-1986 - New UP Yellow

The standard for UP Armour Yellow did not change for over 50 years, from 1934 to the mid 1980s. The color remained unchanged in 1979, when in response to the ban in 1977 of lead in paint coatings, paint manufacturers had to end the use of Lead Chromate, or Chrome Yellow. Union Pacific reformulated its paint, and produced a new set of color drift cards to ensure consistent colors across vendors and sources.

In December 1983, the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued regulations that mandated the reduction of volatile organic compounds in paints. VOCs are the solvents used in paint, and their reduction in relation to the solids, or the actual color pigments, meant that paint coatings again underwent a radical change in chemical formula. In many early examples, the new formulas were found to be less durable, and subject to severe weathering, and therefore a change in color tones, usually known as fading.

In addition to changing the chemical make-up of its paint coatings, the EPA regulations also covered how and where painting was taking place. Prior to 1986 all of the locomotive painting on Union Pacific was done at individual shops, with North Platte, Nebraska, carrying most of the workload for about two years. North Platte had been the road's major paint shop since the shop opened in 1973. Up until the shop's opening, other shops such as Salt Lake City had been painting as many as three units per week, in the open area of the shop itself, not in a dedicated, closed area.

Research suggests that an early formula of new environmentally safe but less-durable yellow was used in 1984 on the new SD50s in the 5000 class delivered by EMD, along with new C36-7s in the 9000 class delivered by GE in 1985. These were the only units delivered new from a factory during this time period. All other painting was taking place either at North Platte, or at locations across the Union Pacific system.

Beginning in May 1986, all of UP's painting was done at the new high-tech, environmentally safe paint shop in the new Downing B. Jenks Shop complex in North Little Rock, Arkansas, and the North Platte shop was gradually shut down. In August 1986 the equipment at North Platte was removed and shipped to North Little Rock for use there.

In the 1985-1986 time period, UP began using clear coat to protect the less-durable formulas for both yellow and gray paints when they started painting the Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific units after the 1983 merger. The first new units using clear coat protection were the new 6000-series SD60s delivered by EMD in 1986.

Clear-coat protection tends to change the appearance of a paint's color, and Union Pacific's Armour Yellow was no different. This was a totally different shade of yellow, with the clear coat bringing it into look-alike range of real Armour yellow. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, whenever a locomotive was seen with patches of light yellow, it means that the clear coat was wearing off and the yellow underneath is showing its true color. This was especially true for locomotives built by EMD in the 1991-1992 period.

June 1986 - Classification Lights Removed

In 1986, the Federal Railroad Administration made a published decision that called for the continued maintenance of all intact equipment on railroad locomotives. By that time many of the nation's railroads had gotten out of the habit of using the classification lights, a feature that had been installed on diesel locomotives almost from their first appearance in the 1930s. Due to lack of regular use on UP, most of the classification lights on locomotives were inoperable, and to comply with the new FRA ruling, if class lights were installed on the locomotives, they must be maintained in operating condition. The most common response by many of the nation's railroads was to simply paint over the class lights, making them the same color as the background sheet metal. UP was no different with its response, with UP GP15-1 1625 being the first to get painted-over classification lights, in June 1986. Later, UP began a program to actually plate over the classification light openings, with varying degrees of success in the finished appearance.

August 1986 - Use Of North Little Rock Lettering Stopped

In a reflection of the January 1, 1986 combining of Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific operating departments, in August 1986, the paint shop at North Little Rock stopped using MoPac's unique square lettering (known to railfans as "North Little Rock" style lettering) on repainted locomotives. From then on, although there may have been a couple stragglers, all repainted locomotives were lettered for Union Pacific, using the Union Pacific standard, rounded Gothic lettering, which dates from the first use on the Streamliners of the 1930s.

November 1987 - Rear Number Boards Painted Over

UP began painting over the rear number boards on all units assigned to road freight service. This change in number board configuration (dated November 12, 1987) reflected the MoPac practice of road freight units not having rear number boards installed when built. This MoPac practice continued with the delivery of UP's first post-merger motive power, the SD50s in late 1984, the C36-7s in 1985, and the SD60s in 1986.

On the same date, the 6-inch rear numbers were changed from red, with 3/16-inch black edging, to white, with 1/8-inch black edging, retaining the reflective Scotchlite feature.

August 1988 - MKT Repaints

Union Pacific's control of Missouri Kansas Texas took effect on August 12, 1988, and on December 1, 1989, MKT was formally merged into Missouri Pacific.

The first MKT locomotive to be repainted to UP's yellow and gray, with UP lettering was MKT GP38-2 315, completed as UP 2346 on 11 November 1988. The last former MKT unit to be repainted to UP was SW1500 53, completed as UP 1325 on 25 November 1993.

November 1988 - Operation Redblock

Three SD40-2 locomotives had an "Operation Redblock" logo added to the sides of their carbodies. UP 4238 was the first, upon being repainted and renumbered from MP 3238 on November 21, 1988. UP 3798 was completed as the second unit on November 29, 1988, and UP 3626 was the third unit, completed on December 1, 1988. Operation Redblock was started in 1983-1984 by UP and CSX, and the operating unions as a substance abuse prevention program.

February 1991 - Desert Victory

On February 27, 1991, UP SD40-2 3593 was released from Jenks shops painted with a U. S. Army-inspired camouflage paint scheme, named Desert Victory, to commemorate the 66 UP employees who participated in Operation Desert Storm. The unit was repainted back to standard UP yellow and gray on October 11, 1991.

November 1993 - Last MP Repaints

After MP 2310 became UP 2310 on 16 November 1993, there were only two more ex-MoPac units repainted, MP 2092 and MP 2103, both being part of a 37-unit group which UP had planned to return to their owner at the expiration of their lease in 1994. However, due to a motive power shortage, only 22 units of the 37-unit group were returned to their owner, Helm Financial.

The remaining 15 units of this 37-unit group were retained for an additional 10 years, until 2004. Included in this remaining 15-unit group were the two last ex-MoPac units to be repainted from MoPac blue to UP yellow and gray, numbers 2092 and 2103. MP 2092 became UP 2092 on June 2, 1994, and MP 2103, the last MoPac blue unit on UP, became UP 2103 on August 2, 1994. Other than these two units, there were no ex-MoPac units repainted from MoPac blue to UP yellow and gray during 1994. With the merger between UP and C&NW in April 1995, these 15 units were renumbered into the 1800 class, as 1829-1843, following the 29 former MoPac GP38-2s leased from Helm in 1989.

The last MP-lettered yellow unit to be relettered to UP was ex MP MP15DC 1382, completed on November 23, 1993. The last MP blue unit to be repainted and relettered to UP yellow was ex MP GP38-2 2103, completed on August 2, 1994.

August 1994 - United Victory

On August 18, 1994, UP released SD40-2 3300 in a special red-white-and-blue paint scheme to promote Union Pacific's, and its employees' involvement in the 1994 United Way campaign. Because of its age, at 32 years since being built in 1975, the unit was retired in July 2007. But due to its special paint scheme, and public relations value, it was returned to service within a week.

At about the same time in August 1994, SD40-2 3301 was released with special handrail placards celebrating Jenks Shop's "Pulling For Safety" campaign.

1995 - C&NW Repaints

UP was given regulatory approval to control C&NW on April 12, 1995, and the road was formally merged with UP on October 1, 1995. Former C&NW C44-9W 8699 was the first ex C&NW to receive UP yellow and gray paint, completed as UP 9668 on June 16, 1995. During that month of June 1995, a total of five units were completed, and another six units were completed in July.

Of the 776 units that came to UP in its merger with C&NW, 625 units were assigned new UP numbers. By January 2000, a total of 328 units had been completed (27 during 1999 alone), leaving 297 units still in C&NW yellow and green.

1996 - Minor Changes To Lettering Style

After no major changes in UP's standard paint scheme since 1987, and with the increase in leased units, there were some minor variations in the scheme as it is applied by various paint contractors. The most noticeable variation is the rounded-top on the numeral 3. The Union Pacific standard numeral 3 has a flat top, but with the advent of computer fonts being used as patterns to cut the decals, the use of a graphic-standard numeral 3 with a rounded top has been approved to facilitate lower painting costs.

April to December 1996 - We Will Deliver

The "We Will Deliver" slogan was based on a mission statement by Ron Burns during his tenure as CEO of Union Pacific Railroad, from August 1995 to November 1996. The slogan was first used on a group of new covered hoppers delivered in early 1996, and first appeared on repainted locomotives coming out of North Little Rock in April 1996. On freight cars, the slogan included either three ending periods (known as an "ellipsis") or a single ending period. On the locomotive fleet, the slogan did not include an ending period.

Time span for use of "We Will Deliver" was between mid-April 1996 (UP 5081, completed on 18 April 1996) and mid-December 1996 (UP 1183, 5968, and 5999, all completed on 12 December 1996).

The slogan was used on 52 new units from EMD and on 36 new units from GE, delivered between June and September 1996. Although the ex-D&H GP39-2s in the 2729-2748 series were given their UP numbers between late August and mid-September 1996, they did not carry the We Will Deliver slogan.

At least 266 units (including 88 units delivered new) received the "We Will Deliver" slogan. Research during 2004 confirmed 234 units.

Apparently not all units repainted during the April to December time span received the new slogan. The following units have been confirmed as not having the slogan: UP 400, 407, 927 (possibly as 5536), 2749, 5999, 9055. UP 2987 was initially reported has having the slogan, but a photo taken on November 6, 1999 shows that it did not. UP 3074 was seen in July 1996 without the slogan; other reports show it as having the slogan. (List of "WWD" units)

Late 1996 - Cab Side Sublettering

In mid to late 1996, UP started applying the model designation (SD60M, GP38-2, etc.) to the cab sides of new and repainted locomotives.

1996 - SP/SSW/D&RGW Repaints

UP received approval to control Southern Pacific on September 11, 1996. A renumber plan was approved by early December 1996, and the first unit to be repainted was ex SP SW1500 2662, completed as UP 1183 on December 12, 1996. A revision of the plan was approved on March 5, 1997, and a final version was approved on September 2, 1997 that fully integrated all of UP's existing units and all of the SP, SSW, and D&RGW units that needed new UP road numbers.

November 1996
"The first Southern Pacific locomotive is being repainted in UP colors this week at Jenks Shop in North Little Rock, AR. The SW1500 road switcher, SP 2662, with red paint and white lettering, will be UP 1183 in armour yellow when it's released back into service Friday. Units will be painted as part of the general overhaul process with eight more scheduled at Jenks Shop by year-end along with another 12 or so to be repainted by an outside contractor at Denver." (Update Line, Union Pacific Communications Department, November 21, 1996)

The 1996 merger between UP and SP, and its D&RGW and Cotton Belt subsidiaries, brought the combined SP and SSW 2,196-unit fleet, along with D&RGW's 184-unit fleet into the UP roster. Of the SP/SSW units, 297 were not assigned UP numbers. By January 2000, with 1,899 SP and Cotton Belt units to be renumbered, 334 units had been completed (159 during 1999), leaving 1,565 units still in either SP's or Cotton Belt's gray and scarlet colors, although many of those had been retired by UP.

Of the 184 D&RGW units, 153 units were assigned UP numbers. By January 2000, of those 153 ex-D&RGW units that needed to be repainted and renumbered (including 26 units previously repainted to SP), 33 had been completed (19 during 1999), leaving 120 units that still needed to receive UP's standard yellow and gray paint. Many had already been retired, or would soon be retired before being repainted.

May 1997 - Operation Lifesaver

In May 1997, UP SD40-2 3459 received "Operation Lifesaver" lettering on the sides of its long hood.

Late 1997 - Cab Side Sublettering

In November 1997 (on new GEs) and January 1998 (on new EMDs), they added "Under Warranty" to the cab sides of new locomotives, which was replaced by www.up.com in November and December 2000.

Late 1999 - SP SD40T-2 Repaints

There were 11 units that received the "simplified" SP paint job in the October-December 1999 time frame. All 11 units were built in March to July 1980 as part of EMD order 78265, numbered as SP 8230-8299 (70 units).

Here is a list, with their subsequent disposition:

  SP Road
Number
UP Road
Number.
Date To
UP Number
Date Retired
By UP
Photo
Before Repaint
Photo
After Repaint
  SP 8232 UP 8850 16 Jan 2001 14 Apr 2004 SP 8232 SP 8232
  SP 8233 UP 8784 20 Feb 2001 14 Apr 2004 SP 8233 SP 8233
  SP 8241 UP 8852 18 Aug 2001 24 Jan 2008 SP 8241 SP 8241
  SP 8247 (UP 8853) (not renumbered) 27 Jun 2000 SP 8247 SP 8247
  SP 8250 (UP 8796) (not renumbered) 27 Jun 2000   SP 8250
  SP 8256 UP 8801 7 Jul 2001 26 Dec 2001   SP 8256
  SP 8258 (UP 8857) (not renumbered) 22 Aug 2001   SP 8258
  SP 8259 UP 8803 21 Aug 2001 12 Apr 2010 SP 8259 SP 8259
  SP 8261 UP 8804 26 Sep 2003 14 Apr 2004 SP 8261 SP 8261
  SP 8263 UP 8858 12 Dec 2000 29 Aug 2001 SP 8263 SP 8263
  SP 8296 UP 8868 30 Jul 2001 24 Jan 2008 SP 8296 SP 8296

The story on these 11 units is that some UP (former SP) employees took their dedication a bit too far by "touching up" some SP units whose paint had deteriorated badly. It was either send them to get repainted into full UP paint, or repaint the units themselves into their "proper" SP paint. Someone with proper authority made sure UP actually owned the units, as opposed to merely leasing them, and ordered the painting supplied that would be needed. The units were brought into one of the former SP shops in California (likely Roseville) and repainted into their proper SP gray and scarlet red paint schemes. No SP lettering was available, so the units received simplified SP block lettering. The apparent justification was to bring the units into compliance with Rule 5.11 of the General Code of Operating Rules, which states, "Trains will be identified by initials and engine number, adding the direction where required."

Many railfan rumors got started that the federal Federal Railroad Administration forced UP to repaint the units because their paint had deteriorated so badly. Other rumors about FRA rules said that a locomotive's ownership must be obvious and readable. Contrary to all these railfan rumors, there is no FRA requirement that a locomotive be either painted or fully lettered. Neither is there any FRA requirement that a locomotive have any sort of reporting mark, which is an AAR interchange requirement. FRA rules (49 CFR 229.11, para b) require that a locomotive's number must be visible, as well as its front end must be so designated, but FRA does not require any kind of lettering or reporting mark, or paint to be in "serviceable" condition.

Later research found that when the new Western Region Vice President arrived in Roseville to take over his new position in the summer of 1999, he noticed several "ratty" looking T-2s, and issued verbal instructions to get them repainted. The ownership of the units was checked and they were found to be owned by SP(UP) rather than leased. The management of the Roseville diesel shop did not want to send the units to UP's only paint shop in North Little Rock. Instead, they decided to take advantage of the loophole in California's environmental laws that allowed touch up of paint for industrial purposes. They used their purchase authority to buy some SP paint and had the painters cut some SP decals. The units were placed in Roseville shop, washed, and painted into the simplified scheme that was seen by so many railfans, with all-grey carbodies, red ends, without wings on the noses, and just "SP" on the carbody sides. By the time that 11 units had been completed, the railfans noticed and naturally wanted to know the the story. Word soon reached UP management in Omaha and cease and desist orders were immediately issued, or as John Bromley put it in March 2000, "a couple of shops in California were surrounded and the painters were told to drop their red and gray paint and come out with their guilty hands up."

The truth is that some former SP employees simply overstepped their authority and repainted some "ratty" looking SP units, without the units losing their SP heritage. The railfan community is somewhat to blame here because as they started seeing the repainted units, the fans started asking questions. No disciplinary action was taken, the program simply came to an end after being discovered. One of the employees involved later said that he was quite surprised at how fast the railfans reacted, saying that the program would have completed several more units if the railfans hadn't gotten so excited.

Unfortunately, the new paint jobs didn't age well. By the time UP 8801 (ex-SP 8256) hit the Roseville deadline in 2002, the red nose had already faded to a chalky pink, and the stick-on SP letters on the sides of several units had begun to fall off. (Evan Werkema, email dated June 26, 2006)

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