Union Pacific Steel Passenger Cars

This page was last updated on December 26, 2007.

Questions and Answers

Which end is front on a passenger car, i.e., on the diagram sheet, is it right or left? Is it always the same?
For the most part the railroads (Union Pacific) did not have a "forward or rear" of their passenger cars. However, a few cars did operate in one direction as a rule: RPO/baggage cars operated RPO forward due to mail contract. Some coaches operated vestibules forward, and other coaches operated vestibules to the rear. Diners and kitchen cars operated vestibules to the rear. UP domes had a deflectors on the roof line for better wind flow over the dome. Lounges were vestibules forward. Some lounge cars ran with main lounge area to the rear. In short they had no real set rules on this. The mechanical people will say the direction of travel was marked by the placement of the car brake wheel; but problems have been found with this too. (based on information from David Seidel, September 14, 2004)

Are passenger cars "rebuilt" or "remodeled"?
Passenger cars are "rebuilt" if walls change inside of the car. They are "remodeled" if only the furniture is changed. (information from David Seidel, September 14, 2004)

When did passenger car trucks change from gray to aluminum paint?
While PL&N drawings have not yet been located, we have found builder's photos of the Pullman-built Dome Chair cars taken in November 1959 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)

When did UP stop painting passenger cars green?
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 tow 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)

Q&A 362 concerning the history of UP Roadway diner 906201, preserved at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California, The Streamliner, Volume 17, Number 4, Fall 2003, page 38

What are the differences between the CITY trains and the CHALLENGER trains?
The basic differences between the "City" and "Challenger" trains were price and schedule. The Challenger- trains were established in the 1930s as economy versions of the extra fare "Limited" trains. 'They offered coach and tourist sleeping car service, using modernized heavyweight equipment, on the same schedule (nominally 60 hours) as the LA Limited and San Francisco Overland Limited trains without the aggravation of extra charges, and as an antidote to the Depression. An excellent article oil the history, equipment and operations of the Challenger trains is presented in The Streamliner, volume Nos. 9-4 and 10-1. The City trains, on the other hand, were intended to reduce passenger schedules to less than 40 hours between Chicago and the west coast. To accomplish this, they were built of lightweight Aluminum alloys and powered by diesel electric locomotives. They were the best passenger trains on the railroad. The Challenger trains were discontinued in 1947 as the Union Pacific began operating the City trains on daily schedules. In January 1954, a streamlined Challenger train began service between Los Angeles and Chicago on a schedule as fast as the City of Los Angeles (COLA). At the same time, extra-fare charges on the COLA were eliminated, so there was no longer any difference in price and schedule between the two trains. In fact, in the 1960s, the two trains were often combined as a single train in one or two sections as needed. (Q&A 371, The Streamliner, Volume 18, Number 3, Summer 2004, page 5)

What is the disposition of a 49'er car, specifically the 17 roomette-1 section car Roaring Camp. After the cancellation of the 49'er in 1941, did this car see service on other trains, did it change colors (two-tone gray and/or Armour yellow) and did it keep the same name?
In addition to the information in the 49'er article in this issue, the following information about Roaring Camp was found in both the Ranks & Kratville book UP Streamliners and in Arthur Dubin's book Pullman Painting & Lettering Notebook. Both books have nearly the same information. Roaring Camp was a Pullman-owned car while it was in 49'er service on the UP. When the 49'er was canceled in 1941 (after the 10th train City of San Francisco was started), Roaring Camp was repainted into Pullman two-tone gray (NOT the same as UP TTG) and returned to the Pullman pool. In June 1944 (Pullman records) and/or April 1945 (repair drawing (late), Roaring Camp was painted into B&O blue & gray colors and assigned to B&O service to December 1948, the car was sold to B&O. We do not know the further disposition of this car. (Q&A 372, The Streamliner, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2004, page 39)

A question about the upper red stripe on Harriman Postal and Horse-Baggage-Automobile cars
On November 26, 2009, Al Prochnow wrote:

I notice that pictures of yellow & gray Harriman Postal cars #2063, 2064, 2065 & 2069 didn't have the red stripe under the roof on the letter board. Also pictures of Horse-Baggage-Automobile cars in yellow and gray are absent of the red stripe on the letter board. Pictures of UP Harriman baggage coach 2700 & 2749 in yellow & gray show no red stripe under the roof on the letter board. What other series of UP Harriman postal and baggage didn't have the red stripe under the roof on cars painted yellow & gray? I have pictures of Harriman yellow and gray cars 1736 & 3070 showing the red strip on the letter board.

Dick Harley wrote:

I have known for several years that the top red stripe on UP arch-roof (Harriman) passenger cars appeared to be missing on some cars. However, I have not really made of study of that piece of history, so I don't yet have any strong conclusions about it. Since I have not yet studied it, I have no idea whether the practice was done by car class or not, nor whether the missing stripe would have been on the side too or just the roof.

Here are a few things I do know: When UP decreed in 1952 that all passenger cars would be painted yellow & gray, the lettering on the sides and the lower red stripe were to be done in Red Scotchlite, and the upper red stripe was to be painted (see my article in the UPHS magazine The Streamliner, vol. 20 no. 1). At that time, it was known that Scotchlite would last longer than red paint.

For the height (distance above the rail) of the upper red stripe to match the lightweight cars, the location of the upper red stripe on arch-roof cars was often on the roof rather than the side.

Because of various filters and types of film, it is often very hard to distinguish between red and Harbor Mist Gray in black and white photos.


  • The upper red stripe was applied (painted), but had worn off by the time the photo was taken.
  • The red stripe is really there, but it is hard to detect in the photo.
  • The particular shop painting the car did not have red paint in stock that day, and the car was sent on its way without the upper painted red stripe.
  • It was determined that painting the upper red stripe on the roof was too much work or not cost effective, and a letter was sent out to the car shops to stop painting it. (Such a letter has not yet been found, as far as I know.)
  • One or more of the car shops determined that the upper red stripe was not cost effective, and eliminated it on their own. (I have no idea whether a car shop would really do that in the 1950s or '60s.)

If you would like to further study this issue, it would be a great help. I think the first work would be a thorough photo study. I have copies of most of the PL&N drawings, and do not remember seeing any without the upper red stripe, but I could look again. If you want to help, let me know. I have several suggestions for photo studies, if you'd like some direction.

David Seidel wrote on November 30, 2009:

Did a quick check of slides of these passenger cars taken in the Omaha area.

All show a thin red stripe just on the roof line of the car:

  • For RPO - 2004 in 1961, 2005 in 1960, 2065 in 1958, 2067 in 1957, 2070 in 1964, 2329 in 1955.
  • For Horse-Auto cars - 1794 in 1959 and 1796 in 1963.

It is my thought that the red paint just worn off due to age.

Since most of these cars were on their last miles, the railroad did little maintenance to them.

In fact at the end they were in storage most of the time used only during high mail periods, such as during the Christmas rush.

I don't think the railroad had a directive not to paint the top red stripe, I think the cars just were not painted at all and the resulting lack of maintenance lead to the overlay red paint just wore off.

A good study of UP passenger equipment is in the Morning side Books "UP color guide to freight and passenger equipment - volume 2".

  • Between pages 64 and 81 many examples can be seen of the old cars in poor shape lacking a top red stripe.
  • Page 64 shows RPO 2062 with only a trace of parts of the red stripe on its roof line.
  • Page 67 shows horse - auto 1372 also in poor shape with no trace of its top red stripe.
  • Page 78 shows lounge 3585 in storage with very few traces of its top red stripe.
  • Page 81 shows "Edgewood" a 12-1 and again very few traces of the top red stripe can be seen.

Attached is photo of UP horse-auto car 1794 with top red stripe taken in Council Bluffs in 1959

Al Prochnow wrote:

The horse, baggage, automobile car were built by two companies ACF and Bethlehem. The original car number were in 1700 series in 1958 changed to 1300 series with five cars going into M of W flat car service. I direct our attention to the Streamliner volume 14 #1 page 32 picture of 2 tone gray car being loaded showing a lip under the roof. Now go to page 34 & 35 for pictures of yellow and gray cars. The pictured Bethlehem car could have a red stripe under the roof the rest in my opinion ?.

A picture I took twelve years ago of RPO #2065 at the Orange Empire Museum in Perris, California shows NO visible red stripes. The only picture I have that clearly show a red stripe on this series of postal cars is in Terry Metcalf's "Union Pacific Modeler" volume three, page 42. The picture is of RPO 2069 at Cody Park, North Platte, Nebraska. We all know the efforts made to paint a car for public display.

Go to page 63 of the Morning Star book you gave as reference.You can see the red stripes on the baggage express and baggage cars but not on the Horse,baggage, automobile car.The picture of 2062 on page 64 and 1372 on page 67 clearly show no stripes under the roof. Other Harriman cars with pictures taken in the same position clearly show red strips under the roof. On page 71 of the same book show a picture of a baggage car on train #52 with red strips. My point is that pictures taken of horse, baggage, automobile cars and RPO's in the same position don't show red stripes on the roof. On page 68 a well worn baggage coach 2700 shows red strips under the roof. On page 69 coach # 1341 need a paint job but shows red strips under the roof. Now maybe the Horse, baggage, automobile cars had red stripes, we need better proof than what has been available.