Rio Grande Diesel Locomotive Paint Schemes

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on April 11, 2023.

(Return to Rio Grande Diesel Locomotives Index Page)

Color Notes

1. Two shades of yellow are referenced below. The first color, usually known as Ochre yellow, was first used in 1941 on the first 15 yard switchers, and in 1942 on other units. It was a lacquer paint with the trade name of Duco Gold, similar in color tones to today's Dijon-brand mustard. This color was often used to simulate gold leaf. This color had the trade name of "Duco Gold," and should not be confused with the later paint that used the trade name "Dulux Imitation Gold," which D&RGW began using in 1946.

2. The second yellow color, first used in 1946, was the result of the change from Duco lacquer paint to Dulux enamel paint. The later yellow color had the trade name of Dulux Imitation Gold (DuPont color 246-54015). It was a lighter and fairly bright yellow, compared to the earlier ochre yellow, which had darker tones. In later years, the newer yellow faded to a creamy yellow color.

3. D&RGW's famous Aspen Gold, also known as Grande Gold, had the formal name of Duco Orange (DuPont color number 254-6479; EMD color number 8173994). Aspen Gold was adopted for freight equipment and cabooses in early 1956. It was first used on the Prospector passenger equipment as early as 1950, and on locomotives as part of the four black stripe scheme in 1951. The color first came into use in 1949 as the Aspen Leaf scheme on the noses of the Alco PA passenger cab units, and on the narrow gauge C-16 2-8-0 268.

4. Beginning in the mid 1920s, DuPont produced two types of paint; Duco lacquer and Dulux enamel. Duco was a lacquer formula dating from 1923. It held its gloss better over time and stood up to regular washing better, and being a lacquer, took less time to dry. Duco was also more expensive. Dulux was an enamel formula introduced in 1926. It took longer to dry (usually overnight), but was less expensive. Dulux enamel was more resilient and resistant to chipping, and was a better choice for locomotive and car running gear. Many railroads, including D&RGW, specified Duco lacquer for use on the carbodies of their diesel locomotives, but continued to specify Dulux enamel for use on locomotive running gear. (Read more about DuPont Dulux and Duco paint)

5. Aluminum paint color, sometimes known as bright aluminum, was used to simulate polished stainless steel. Depending on the needed durability, both Dulux Aluminum and Duco Aluminum were used.

Flying Rio Grande Lettering

April 1940
The following comes from the first issue of D&RGW's newly adopted employee newsletter, later called "Green Light" with the second issue:

Denver Employe Draws Streamlined Monogram -- Folks, we want you to meet Miss M. Laura Bramkamp, of the Purchasing Department, creator of the streamlined "Rio Grande" monogram.

This emblem now appears on our locomotives, freight and passenger cars, stationery - in fact, streamlined lettering is likely to greet you under any circumstances where the words "Rio Grande" are used. as standard.

The monogram was not originally designed for such general use. It had its inception in connection with our Exposition Flyer trains. A number of the 1000 series coaches had been remodeled and redecorated and were about ready for transcontinental service. The last item to be considered was head rest covers. They had to be secured quickly to be available by the time they were needed. The shield emblem previously used was not in harmony with the general interior design. A discussion followed as to the proper insignia - a few pencil lines, and "presto," the Rio Grande monogram was created.

Miss Bramkamp is modest about her part in bringing the "Rio Grande" up to date. She says "Necessity is the mother of invention," and that the necessity in this case concerned only an order for head rest covers. However, she did admit on questioning, "It is thrilling to know that the monogram was sufficiently attractive to warrant its adoption."

Cab Units, Black with three ochre yellow stripes

(EMD FT Units)

First used in 1942 as the original scheme applied to the FTs. The ochre yellow color (Duco Gold) and striping pattern was the same as that used on the FT units for Boston & Maine (maroon with gold stripes) and Lehigh Valley (Cornell red with black stripes). By 1944, the road decided to add their new and distinctive flying Rio Grande on each side of the nose signal light, interrupting the upper yellow stripe. Three of the four A-B-B-A sets of FTs in the third order (548-551) were delivered in 1944 with the new flying Rio Grande lettering on their noses, and all of the earlier units soon had the lettering added. For unknown reasons, the Rio Grande lettering used on 549 was much smaller than what was used on the others.

548, RG Diesels, Vol. 1, p.71
549, Mainline Modeler, 9/81, p.34
550, RG Diesels, Vol. 1, p.71
551, Rails to the Rockies, p. 60

Black with three yellow stripes, and yellow nose

(Cab Units, 1946 to early 1950s)

Similar to the original 1942 scheme, but with a new shade of yellow (Dulux Imitation Gold), with an added yellow nose, pilot, and windshield area for improved visibility to motorists at grade crossings. First used on the F3s delivered in November 1946; the early F7s, and the Alco PA and PB passenger units were also delivered with this scheme between 1948 and 1950. The FT units were repainted to this scheme. Some units received yellow over their roofs above the cab area.

"The earliest dated picture that I could find of a Rio Grande FT with the full yellow nose is number 541 on page 58 of "The Revolutionary Diesel, EMC's FT", and is dated March 20, 1947. That is five months after the first F-3, and two months after the first PA-1 were built using variations of the black with yellow nose scheme." (Steven Seguine, December 30, 2007 email to D&RGW Yahoo group)

(In a related subject, Steven also notes that at the same time that the FT units received their version of the solid yellow nose paint scheme, they also received the revised number boards and classification lights that were unique to D&RGW's FTs.)

According to Rio Grande Diesels Vol 1, only the FTs wore the black paint/yellow stripes but no wide yellow patch across the nose. The F3s and most of the F7s were delivered with the modified version adding yellow across the top and front of the nose for better visibility at grade crossings (according to captions). The last group of F7s, the 5700 series were delivered with the Grande Gold/silver, 4 black stripes, in 1952. (Jim Fitch, December 30, 2007 email to D&RGW Yahoo group)

On EMD cab and booster units, the original 1942 version of the multiple yellow stripes scheme had two-inch yellow stripe below the side grilles. This 1946 version added a second two-inch yellow stripe above the side grilles. Both the 1942 version and the 1946 version included three stripes on the lower carbody side, with a single stripe along the bottom edge of the locomotive's side, a total of four stripes. The Alco PA and PB passenger units were delivered without the side grille stripes. The two lower stripes in the upper group of three stripes on the Alco units were narrower that those used on the EMD units, and the stripe along the carbody bottom edge was wider. This later yellow color, used on both EMD and Alco units, tended to lighten ("chalk") over time from both oxidation and sun bleaching, fading from its original bright hue to a much creamier yellow hue.

The Alco passenger units retained this scheme for just two years, from their delivery in early 1947 until they were repainted into the California Zephyr-inspired solid aluminum and Aspen Gold scheme in mid 1949, following the CZ's March 1949 inaugural run.

EMD units retained this scheme until they were repainted to the Aspen Gold, aluminum, and four black stripes scheme first used in 1951.

Aluminum with Aspen Gold nose

(Alco PA and PB passenger units, 1949 to 1951)

Also known as the Aspen Leaf scheme. Applied to the Alco PA and PB units by August 1949, following the inaugural run of the California Zephyr in March 1949. Both of the Alco passenger A-B-A sets were repainted to Aspen Gold, aluminum, and four black stripes in 1952 after one set was replaced on the Zephyr by passenger-equipped F3s (the other set remained on the CZ as late as 1958). The photo, with the latest documented date, of the aluminum-colored PA/PB units is one taken by Otto Perry on September 22, 1951 (Otto Perry DPL OP-10997), showing D&RGW 6011 in the earlier paint scheme, and one of the PB unit in the newer Aspen Gold with four black stripes Prospector scheme.

Aspen Gold was also used in late May or early June 1949 to paint D&RGW narrow gauge C-16 class 2-8-0 number 268, and its accompanying passenger cars for display from June to October 1949 during the second season of the Chicago Railroad Fair. (The display also included a half-size mock-up of the east portal of the Moffat Tunnel, and may have been the first use of the famous "Main Line Through the Rockies" logo.)

Four black stripes, Aspen Gold and aluminum sides and roof

(Cab Units, 1951 through 1960s)

Known by some as the Prospector scheme, from its first use in March 1950 on the new lightweight passenger equipment for the overnight Prospector train when it was combined with The Royal Gorge west of Grand Junction. (Read more about The Prospector train)

For diesel units, this "Prospector" scheme included a 1-5/8 inch black stripe along the edge of the roof, to separate the roof's aluminum color from the body's Aspen Gold. When seen directly from above, the black line separating the aluminum color and the Aspen Gold color on the roof was oval or elliptical in shape, with the Aspen Gold being toward the front of each unit's roof.

The first known use of the new Aspen Gold, aluminum, and four black stripes paint scheme on a diesel locomotive was on FTA 5481 in March 1951. The unit had been wrecked in early December 1950 and sent to EMD for repairs, returning to Rio Grande home rails as the first unit to wear this much more visible scheme. The other cab unit (5484) and the two booster units (5482, 5483) of this four-unit FT set were repainted to match the 5481 at about the same time, between December 1950 and March 1951. The earliest available EMD styling and painting diagram, number 8174189, is dated March 5, 1951. This EMD drawing makes reference to D&RGW drawing 21741-5-203, which likely predates the EMD drawing.

(The earlier paint scheme used on the Prospector passenger train, re-introduced in October 1945, and repainted to the all-black with yellow (Dulux Imitation Gold) stripes by 1947, matching the 1946 version of the black with yellow stripes scheme used on diesel cab units. This early prospector scheme was changed in 1950 to the above scheme.)

Between March and December 1951, motive power assigned to passenger service was repainted into this new scheme; this included the A-B-B-A set of passenger F3s assigned to the California Zephyr, 5521, 5522, 5523, 5524, and the Alco PA and PB units. In June 1952, D&RGW received five A-B-B-A sets and two A-B-A sets of F7s (14 A-units and 12 B-units) painted in the new scheme.

For underframe color, a painting diagram dated January 1952 shows black as only being used on the trucks. Generally, silver trucks were used on units assigned to passenger service and black was used on freight units. In later years, even passenger units received black trucks. In June 1955, the fuel tank sides were changed from aluminum to black. The two steam generator cars (250 and 251) were completed in this scheme when they were converted in 1953 from retired steam locomotive tenders.

Included in the list of units repainted during 1952 and 1953 were F3A 5531 and the F7s 5571-5574. The F7s received the new four-stripe paint following repairs following a wreck in Pueblo, Colorado, in May 1952. F3A 5531 had apparently received the new scheme by the time of its wreck damage in November 1953, and along with F7A 5571, returned from wreck repairs at EMD in February and April 1954 with the new scheme. In September 1955, the two F9As and four F9Bs were delivered wearing the new scheme.

February 24, 1957
"Repainting Boxcars" (Ogden Standard Examiner, February 24, 1957)

During 1956, the Rio Grande initiated a program which will result in eventual repainting of all boxcars belonging to the road. A new paint design, featuring the railroad's distinctive colors of Grande gold, silver and black, was adopted for use on all new and old box cars. New equipment is being painted as it rolls off the assembly lines of manufacturers and old cars are scheduled to receive their "new look" when they come into the home shops for general overhaul.

The brightly painted cars provide a vivid contrast to the traditional red of the nation's box car fleet. They also heighten the safety factor considerably and serve to publicize the home railroad of Colorado and Utah all over the country.

In addition to boxcars, Rio Grande cabooses also are being repainted in the new colors. The caboose paint scheme was designed to match that of Rio Grande road locomotives, giving the railroad distinctive head end and rear end identification on all its trains.

The first D&RGW caboose in the gold and silver with four black stripes paint scheme was D&RGW 01402, completed in June 1956. At the same time, it received sealed windows using rubber frames with rounded corners. The cupola side windows retained their original wood frames.

5524, Steinheimer photo, Dec 1951
5571, Cox card
5571, Andrews photo, Sep 1953
5531, Andrews photo, Jun 1952
Caboose 01408, RG Trackside, p. 68

Single black stripe, Aspen Gold and aluminum sides, black roof

(Cab Units, 1961 through 1970s)

The use of a single black, seven-inch stripe was first used on locomotives in 1961. The first units with this scheme, the A-B-B-A set of passenger F3s (D&RGW 5521, 5522, 5523, 5524) assigned to the California Zephyr, were completed in mid-April 1961. Alco PA passenger unit 6001 was also painted during April 1961. The only new units delivered with the Aspen Gold and aluminum with single black stripe were the Krauss-Maffei diesel hydraulic units, built in Germany in June 1961 and delivered to Rio Grande in November 1961.

According to Joseph Strapac in his "Rio Grande Diesels", Volume 1, page 109, only nine F7s (of 38 total units) did not receive the single stripe scheme, including D&RGW 5601, 5604, 5611, 5614, 5624, 5631, 5651, 5661, 5701.

Ed Fulcomer points out that the quantity is actually eight units. Mr. Fulcomer had taken two photos of D&RGW 5624 with the single stripe scheme in September 1966. One was used on page 97 of Mr. Strapac's Rio Grande Diesels, Volume 1 book, and another view showing D&RGW 5624 with the later single stripe scheme was used on page 39 of the Diesel Era article about D&RGW F units, in Diesel Era, Volume 10, Number 4, July/August 1999. (email from Ed Fulcomer, March 30, 2004)

Of the 36 F7 booster units (42 if you include the six very similar F5 booster units), photo research has found that all except the following 10 units received the single-stripe scheme: D&RGW 5602, 5603, 5612, 5613, 5623, 5632, 5633, 5652, 5683, 5692. (email from Ed Fulcomer, December 28, 2007)

For freight cars, as shown in the 1956 corporate annual report, a similar paint scheme without the black roof, was used on several 40-foot boxcars that were repainted in August 1956. This same 1956 annual report shows the first known use of the earlier four-stripe scheme on a caboose.

Also in August 1956, Rio Grande received 100 50-foot sliding single-door boxcars from ACF. These 100 cars carried D&RGW 64000-64099 reporting marks and numbers, and were the first examples of freight equipment delivered in the new single-stripe scheme. In 1957, Rio Grande leased from General American (GARX), 100 50-foot, plug-door RBL boxcars that were delivered in the new scheme, with GARX 50900-59999 reporting marks and numbers.

Many cabooses also received this new single-stripe scheme. The first D&RGW steel cabooses with the single black stripe scheme were the 11 cabooses in the 01480-01490 number series, built by D&RGW in their Burnham shops in July 1959. Fifteen wide-vision cabooses (01500-1514) were delivered in 1966, also in this single-stripe scheme.

(In later years, the caboose fleet concurrently carried a great variety of paint schemes, including the earliest all-black scheme, the all-black scheme with twin yellow stripes that denoted radio equipment, the Aspen Gold and aluminum with four black stripe scheme, the Aspen Gold and aluminum with single black stripe scheme, and the final (after 1975) all-orange scheme. This final all-orange scheme used an orange that was darker than Aspen Orange, but not as dark as the later Kansas City Orange.)

In the case of passenger cars, the first examples were likely the former Northern Pacific cars acquired in 1960, refurbished and repainted by D&RGW and placed in Ski Train service very soon after. These cars may have been the first passenger cars to receive the single black stripe scheme.

F3s, RG in Color, Vol. 1, p. 11 (Aug 1961)
50-foot boxcars, RG Equipment, p. 39

Switchers and Road Switchers

Black with yellow end stripes

(1946 through 1960s)

First used beginning in 1946 on new and repainted yard switcher and road switcher locomotives, including the Alco S-2 yard switchers and the Fairbanks Morse H10-44s and H15-44s delivered in 1948. This is the same yellow first used in 1946 on the new EMD F3 and F7 road freight locomotives (see above).

This color had the trade name of "Dulux Imitation Gold," and should not be confused with the earlier paint that used the trade name "Duco Gold." This earlier color is also known as Ochre yellow.

(Note that the later switchers, SW1200s in 1964 and 1965, and SW1000s in 1966 and 1968, were delivered in the later black with Aspen Gold end stripes.)

38, RG Diesels, Vol. 1, p. 53 (1955)
38, RG in Color, Vol. 4, p. 23 (Sep 1963)
42, RG in Color, Vol. 4, p. 23 (Jul 1962)
42, RG Trackside, p. 19 (Jan 1959)
74, RG Diesels, Vol. 1, page 10 (Jun 1961)

D&RGW's GE 44-ton locomotives -- Many questions have been asked about whether or not the Bachmann HO scale model is "correct" for D&RGW. The short answer is, no. D&RGW owned just six of these units, and soon after accepting delivery, they found that they were severely underpowered, and that they were failures almost from the beginning. Only D&RGW 43 somewhat matches the Bachmann model, and it was retired in 1949.

(Roster listing of D&RGW 44-ton units)

Photos of these units in the early yellow scheme are pretty rare, especially the four units retired in 1949 and 1954. Gordon Cardall told me a couple times that one was used in Ogden, but the few photos I have seen of D&RGW in Ogden don't show them (keeping in mind that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence). Bob Webber remembers that there were also 44-tonners assigned to passenger switching duties at both Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

The roster shows that D&RGW 39 and 43 were gone in 1949, and D&RGW 40 and 41 were gone in 1954. Only D&RGW 38 and 42 were still on the railroad after that, being retired in 1964. D&RGW 38 was assigned to Alamosa, and was one of five units with special dual gauge couplers. Only 38 and 42 would have been in service to receive the later Aspen Gold striping, possibly replacing the earlier yellow stripes. But did they receive the new color?

Black with yellow carbody stripes

(Road Switchers, 1950 through 1960s)

This was the same black and yellow (DuPont Dulux Imitation Gold) scheme first used D&RGW's EMD F-units delivered in 1946, adapted for use on the road's first road switchers. The first units delivered with this scheme were the GP7s in 1950 and the Alco RS-3s in 1951. The second order of GP7s in 1952 and the SD7s in 1953, and the first orders of GP9s in April to June 1955 also wore this scheme. During the early 1960s, some units received yellow side sills.

5300, RG in Color Vol. 1, p. 22 (yellow side sills)
5300, RG in Color Vol. 2, p. 46 (Jun 1964, yellow side sills)
5300, RG in Color Vol. 2, p. 39 (yellow side sills)
5301, RG in Color Vol. 2, p. 39 (yellow side sills)
5924, RG in Color Vol. 1, p. 48 (Feb 1959, black side sills)

Black with Aspen Gold carbody stripes

(Road Switchers, 1956 through 1960s)

The original road switcher scheme of black with yellow carbody stripes was changed to black with Aspen Gold carbody stripes in 1956, matching the 1956 Grande Gold advertising campaign. The second order of GP9s in July 1956, and the SD9s in July 1957 were delivered with this scheme. Units repainted after 1956 also received this scheme.

An example of a repainted unit is RS-3 5203, completed with Aspen Gold carbody stripes before July 1957. The RS-3s may have been repainted at the same time they received additional openings and exposed air filters in their hood doors for improved engine cooling. At about the same time, and within a year, the units were upgraded with Alco's water-cooled turbochargers (crosswise exhaust stack), replacing their original GE-design air-cooled turbochargers (lengthwise exhaust stack).

Other units repainted with the later Aspen Gold carbodies stripes include GP7 5100, SD7 5301, and SD9s 5308 and 5311. Repainted units also received Aspen Gold side sills, as did some units that were not repainted.

5100, Vol. 1, p. 24 (Sep 1962, Aspen Gold side sills)
5203, Vol. 1, p. 61 (Jul 1957, black side sills)
5301, Vol. 2, p. 45 (Sep 1965, Aspen Gold side sills)
5306, Trackside, p. 68 (Jun 1967, Aspen Gold side sills)
5308, Vol. 1, p. 126
5311, Vol. 1, p. 125 (Dec 1966, black side sills)
5932, Trackside, p. 123 (Jul 1958, black side sills)
5944, Trackside, p. 91 (Mar 1961, black side sills)
5952, Cox card JT-453 (1962, black side sills)
5952, Trackside, p. 91 (Mar 1961, black side sills)
5953, Trackside, p. 43 (Sep 1956, black side sills)
5953, Vol. 2, p. 24 (Mar 1960, black side sills)

Black with Aspen Gold end stripes

(Switchers and Road Switchers, after 1962)

Known by some as the "switcher" scheme because it was first used on the early switchers, this later scheme used Aspen Gold to replace the yellow end stripes of the earlier switcher scheme, with the addition of Aspen Gold side sills and end plates. In 1962, this switcher scheme was adopted as the standard for road switcher locomotives, with the GP30s wearing the new colors when they were delivered in April 1962. Examination of photos reveals that although the color name, Aspen Gold, remained the same, the actual color may have been a slightly darker shade of orange, compared to the previous shade of Aspen Gold used on the earlier four-black-stripe scheme on the carbody units.

All subsequent new units were delivered in this scheme. Units repainted during and after 1962 also received the new paint scheme, with GP7 5101 being one of the first units repainted, in mid 1962. Other repainted units include VO-660s 72 and 73, S-2 112, H10-44 122, and RS-3 5204 (the only RS-3 to receive this paint scheme). A feature of the first generation units (GP7s, GP9s, SD7s, and SD9s) was the flying Rio Grande in black, on the units' Aspen Gold ends.

Most of the GP7s and GP9s were completed by 1964-1965, but some of the SD9s remained in their previous scheme as late as 1967.

38, RG Trackside, p. 20
72, RG Diesels, Vol. 1, p. 54
73, RG Diesels, Vol. 1, p. 90
112, RG Diesels, Vol. 1, p. 32
122, RG Diesels, Vol. 1, p. 11
5101, RG Diesels, Vol. 1, p. 23
5204, RG Diesels, Vol. 1, p. 24

Variations on the later road switcher paint scheme

In a change that apparently took place with the delivery of the SD45s in 1967, a six-inch stripe was added to the walkway decking around the end steps, and to the step along the left (fireman's) side walkway. This was done to enhance worker safety by providing a contracting color at the edge of walkways. The SD45s, delivered with small lettering, were the first, and all subsequent deliveries also received this safety feature. Later repainted units also received the feature, although not all of the former Conrail GP40s were repainted this way.

Vertical handrails were painted white, along with white step edges, on the SD7s and SD9s as early as 1977. The SD40T-2 tunnel motors and the GP40s apparently received white handrails and step edges by 1978. The three GP60s were delivered with aluminum vertical handrails, which were repainted to white in about 1992.

Large Lettering

Beginning in 1968, on either new units or on most repainted units, the Rio Grande lettering was made larger, with the Rio made 24 inches high, and Grande made 60 inches high. This later scheme included a black rectangle on the nose of the unit, with a flying Rio Grande lettered in Aspen Gold on the black rectangle. (D&RGW 5333 was reversed, with black Rio Grande on an Aspen Gold background.)

A total of 24 units are known to have been repainted with large lettering, including: GP7 5103; five GP9s (5902, 5903, 5904, 5911, 5954); four GP30s (3001, 3002, 3014, 3027); GP35 3048; and 13 SD45s, including 5315, 5322, 5326, 5327, 5328, 5329, 5331, 5333, 5334, 5336, 5337, 5338, 5340.

D&RGW SD45s 5336 and 5337 were the first units completed with large lettering, in August 1968. Four other SD45s, D&RGW 5326, 5328, 5331, and 5338, were completed in February 1969 to support Rio Grande's new image for new unit coal trains from Carbondale and Somerset, Colorado, and from Sunnyside, Utah, to Kaiser Steel's steel plant at Fontana, California. SD45 5331 was completed with new image large lettering in June 1969. Steam generator car 252 received the new image in July 1969. SD45s 5329 and 5333 received large lettering after wreck repairs completed by EMD at LaGrange in September 1969. In October 1969, GP30s 3014 and 3027 received the new image after wreck repairs completed by EMD at LaGrange. All four units (3014, 3027, 5329, and 5333) had been wrecked on Christmas Day 1968 in Colorado. For unknown reasons, GP9s 5942 and 5943 did not receive large lettering after being wrecked in September 1969, repaired by EMD and returned in May 1970.

GP30 3002 received the new image following wreck repairs by D&RGW at Denver in November 1970, following a wreck in Colorado in September 1970. GP35 3048 received the new image following wreck repairs by EMD at LaGrange in June 1971, after a wreck in Colorado in September 1970.

The repainting of units stopped for over two years, beginning again in October 1974 with the completion of GP9 5902 in the early part of the month, and SD45 5315 in the late part, both with large lettering.

After the change to large lettering in 1968, all new units were received in the new image, beginning with 13 GP40s put into operation as D&RGW 3081-3093 in 1969 and 1971. In 1972, 1974, and 1983, all 37 GP40-2s, numbered as 3094-3130, were delivered with large lettering. The 73 SD40T-2s received in 1974 to 1980 had the new lettering, and the 23 former Conrail GP40s received in 1983, numbered as 3131-3153, also received large lettering as they were painted during 1984 and early 1985, albeit with a much darker orange color known as Kansas City Orange. The last two groups of new units delivered to D&RGW also came with large lettering, and included the 17 SD50s in 1984 and the three GP60s in 1990. These last two groups used the later shade of Aspen Gold, known as Anschutz Orange, which is just a bit deeper in color tone than the previous version, although not as dark as the former Conrail repaints.

Kansas City Orange

During 1984, Rio Grande began using a darker orange, known by some as "Kansas City Orange." This new color was used in February 1984 to April 1985 by Mid America Car in Kansas City, Missouri, as they repainted the former Conrail GP40s into D&RGW colors.

Anschutz Orange

On October 29, 1984, the parent company of the D&RGW railroad, Rio Grande Industries, was purchased by the Anschutz Corporation. Several pieces of equipment were refurbished and repainted, including the very visible equipment used on the Ski Train, including the F units, the former Rio Grande Zephyr passenger fleet, and the steam generator cars, receiving a still different but only slightly darker shade of orange, known by some as "Anschutz Orange." The 20 newest locomotives on the railroad, the 17 SD50s (new in September 1984) and the three GP60s (new in May 1990), were delivered in this newest shade. When seen together with the other two shades of orange (the original Aspen Gold and intermediate Kansas City Orange), the later shade is obviously different. (see Rio Grande, Scenic Line of the West, p. 55)

"Rio Grande" Nose Lettering

At least three D&RGW GP40-2s had the "Rio Grande" on their noses removed. These include D&RGW 3097, 3103 and 3116. This happened during various maintenance repaints by D&RGW, long before any UP repaints or patch renumberings. The reason is not known. (from Lou DiGrazia, via email to the D&RGW group on March 8, 2006)

This is from Nathan Holmes, via email to the D&RGW group on March 8, 2006:

The missing nose lettering on 3097 goes back a long way, at least back to 1984.

This nose lettering wasn't part of the small "Rio Grande" paint scheme, and appears to have been added with the advent of the big "Rio Grande" paint in the late 1960s. Of course the high nose units had something similar with the "Small Grande" scheme, but it was inverted (black text on gold background) and much smaller.

As best I can tell (and I'm sure someone will be able to prove me wrong), the GP40/40-2s seem to be the only group where "Big Grande" didn't assure nose lettering, and conversely "Small Grande" assured just stripes on the nose. It does mostly correlate in the GP40s, but there are a few exceptions (notably the ones Lou mentioned already).

D&RGW units painted to SP

Following the October 1988 merger with SP, it took almost four years, in mid 1992, for SP to begin repainting former D&RGW units to its familiar gray and red paint scheme. On July 18, 1992, D&RGW GP40 3086 was completed as the first D&RGW unit to receive SP paint, with new large SP speed lettering. This new speed version of Southern Pacific lettering was inspired by D&RGW's own flying Rio Grande, first adopted by the road in June 1939.

SP adopted this Rio Grande-inspired speed lettering for its own units in early 1991, with GP40M-2s rebuilt by Morrison Knudsen being the first units, first using the early, small version in March 1991. The larger version was adopted soon after, in April 1991. Also in April 1991, SP began receiving 55 additional GP60s, joining an already existing fleet of 115 GP60s. These 1991-built GP60s were themselves joined in 1993 and 1994 by 25 more GP60s, all with the new larger version of SP's new image. After SP's rebuilt GP40M-2s and new GP60s, the first SP unit to be repainted to the new image was an MP15AC completed in October 1993. (Read more about SP's use of speed lettering)

As already mentioned, the first D&RGW unit to be repainted into SP colors was completed in July 1992. It wasn't until May 1994, two years later, that the second D&RGW unit, SD40T-2 5380, was completed with SP paint and lettering.

Over the period of the next two years (ending with the UP merger in September 1996), a total of 25 D&RGW units were repainted to SP.

Each of these D&RGW locomotives painted in the SP scheme remained as D&RGW-owned. After receiving SP paint, each D&RGW locomotive received "DRGW" sub-lettering on the cab side, just below the road number.

Following is a list of D&RGW units painted in SP's gray and scarlet scheme:

Each of these units remained in D&RGW ownership, retaining their original D&RGW road numbers, and after receiving SP gray and scarlet paint, with SP speed lettering, were identified with the DRGW reporting mark on the cab sides above their road number. After control of SP and D&RGW by UP in 1996, UP records mistakenly showed the units as SP-owned, with SP reporting marks. It wasn't until June 1997 that formal merger and ownership of D&RGW's equipment passed from D&RGW to UP.


Emails from Jay Barnaby, Jim Eager, Jim Fitch, Steve Seguine, and Bob Webber.