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Union Pacific Freight Car Paint and Lettering

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This page was last updated on April 2, 2017.

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(under construction; much more to add later)

Mineral Red

The following comes from Model Railroader magazine, February 2017:

The mineral in mineral red is lead tetroxide, also known as "red lead" or "cinnabar," a heavy, brilliant red pigment formed by heating white lead in air. But the name "mineral red" derives not from the word mineral, but from the similar-sounding Latin word for red lead, minium. Red lead has been used to tint paint and ink since Roman times. Railroads used Mineral Red to paint wooden boxcars, hoppers, stockcars, and more not because they liked the color, but because it was cheap, hid rust and dirt, and inhibited rot.

But because railroads purchased their paint from different manufacturers in different parts of the country at different times, what one railroad called Mineral Red paint might have been very different from what another railroad called Mineral Red. If you compare a bottle of Mineral Red hobby paint with bottles of Oxide Red, Light Freight Car Red, and Boxcar Red, you'll find the differences very slight - slight enough that in the real world, the differences could be plausibly chalked up to sun fading, weathering, or variations between batches from the paint factory. So these different colors might all have been simply "Freight Car Red" to the railroads. In fact, it's conceivable that some of these names were assigned not by the railroads, car makers, or their paint suppliers, but by the makers of hobby paint.

Modern paint no longer includes lead. So while the name "Mineral Red" may have come from the pigment that once tinted paint, today it's simply the name of a color - one of many similar shades that could plausibly adorn a model freight car.

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