Union Pacific Diesel Locomotive Paint Schemes

1934 to 1982 (Classic Era)

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This page was last updated on July 29, 2022.

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1934-1937 - Armour Yellow First Used

Union Pacific's first diesel fleet paint scheme was on the M-series Streamliners, which were painted in Armour Yellow and Leaf Brown, and Roman (serif) lettering. The first two of the three turret-cab Streamliners, M-10000 and M-10001 came in 1934, and the third, M-10002, came in 1936. On the earliest Streamliner, M-10000, the two-axle trucks had sheet metal covers to enhance the streamlining effect. To match the color of the upper body, these covers on M-10000 were painted Leaf Brown. The two later trains had exposed two-axle trucks, also painted Leaf Brown.

In March 1935, UP repainted two McKeen motor cars (M-23 and M-24), along with two matching trailers (T-18 and T-19) into the Streamliner yellow and brown colors. These two cars had originally been built as mechanical transmission motor cars and had been rebuilt as electric transmission cars in January 1929. After receiving the new yellow and brown Streamliner colors in 1935, these two train sets (motor car and trailer) entered service as the Capital Cities Limited between Kansas City, Missouri, and Lincoln, Nebraska, by way of Topeka. Both train sets were later repainted to the standard passenger car color of Pullman green.

In May to July 1936, UP received four motive power sets numbered as M-10003 to M-10006. These, too, were painted in the yellow and brown Streamliner colors. The new 14-car City of Los Angeles and City of San Francisco E2 sets came in October 1937 in yellow and brown. The trucks on the E2 units were EMC's new Blomberg three-axle, A1A passenger truck, and were also painted Leaf Brown. The E-3 set, numbered as LA-5 and LA-6, were delivered in March 1939 painted yellow and brown.

(Read more about Armour Yellow on Union Pacific)

July 1937 - Gothic Lettering On Steam Locomotives

In a reflection of Union Pacific's new awareness of its public appearance, lettering on steam locomotives was changed from Roman (serif) to the new Gothic (sans-serif) Streamliner style lettering in March 1937. "Union Pacific" was spelled out on the tender sides in the new Streamliner style. Locomotive numbers were moved from the tender sides to the cab sides. Possibly the first use of Gothic lettering was on the 4-6-2 (UP 2906) and 4-8-2 (UP 7002) that were modernized with roller bearings and other up-to-date features in late 1936, prior to their being streamlined in April 1937 for use on The Forty-Niner. The first new steam locomotives to receive the new lettering were the first order of 800-class 4-8-4s, delivered as UP 800-819 in July 1937, and the second order of 4-6-6-4 CSA-class Challengers, delivered as UP 3915-3939 in August 1937.

(Read more about the 1937 changes to UP steam locomotive painting and lettering)

(Read more about UP's use of Gothic lettering)

March 1939 - First Use of Nose Medallion

The EMC E3 set (LA-5, LA-6) was delivered in March 1939 with the apparent first use of UP's distinctive nose medallion, sometimes known as the winged shield. This is seen in a photo dated April 22, 1939.

At about the same time, LA-1 was for a brief time during the filming of the "Union Pacific" movie in April 1939 (the movie premiered May 1939, also given a version of the chrome nose medallion. This can be seen in a photo of the unit in The Streamliner, Volume 20, Number 3, page 35, and in the closing scenes of the movie itself. A later photo of LA-1 as UP 921A, taken on June 1, 1947, shows the unit with its original "T- shaped chrome multi herald emblem", a feature it was delivered with in October 1937. The unit's as-delivered appearance is shown in a dated photo in Denver on November 27, 1937.

The UP drawing for the wing shield nose medallion was 354-ST-1219, which referenced EMD drawings 8041706 and 8110294. The "Overland Route" shield was a separate piece and was shown on UP drawing 354-ST-1220. Both UP drawings were first issued on December 29, 1938, with some quick design changes done by January 13, 1939. The unpainted surfaces of both pieces were finished in Satin Chromium, and the assembly was attached to the nose with chrome-plated screws. This design was unique, in that it had a double satin chrome border around the shield - one on the wings piece and one on the shield itself. Later designs only had a single border around the shield. (Dick Harley email dated August 9, 2008)

Winged Medallion Usage

June 1939 - Gothic Lettering On Freight Cars

The lettering on UP's freight car fleet was changed from Railroad Roman to Gothic in June 1939.

June 1939 - Gothic Lettering On The Streamliners

The first use of Gothic lettering on the Streamliner diesel fleet was possibly on the City of Denver trains. The three trains had their car consists expanded in mid-1939, which required an added second booster diesel unit on each train. This change in configuration of each train's consist likely required repainting, and thus an opportunity for the application of the new lettering style. The first unit added was the former LA-4 booster unit; it was simply renumbered to CD-05-C in July 1939. The former LA-4 lead unit was rebuilt without its cab and numbered as CD-06-C in September 1939. The third unit, CD-07-C, completed in December 1939, was a new carbody with components from the retired M-10001. There is a Kindig photo of LA-4 at Denver on May 28, 1939, with name board reading CITY OF LOS ANGELES, in the new Gothic lettering, a smaller version than later name board size letters.

1940 - Harbor Mist Gray First Used

The EMC E6A units delivered in August 1940 were the first units in Armour Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray. The new yellow and gray scheme continued in February and March 1941 with the delivery of the new E6s for the new City streamliners. This new paint scheme was also the first to use gray trucks.

In June 1940, Union Pacific changed the colors of its Streamliner trains from a combination of Armour Yellow and Leaf Brown, to Armour Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray. The first cars to receive the new colors came in July 1940 and were the damaged cars from the August 1939 derailment of the City of San Francisco, after they were repaired and returned to service.

The road's first switchers were delivered beginning in May 1940 in their all-black scheme with yellow striping and 11-inch yellow lettering. The lettering on the cab sides was "Serves All The West" on the left (fireman's) side and "Road of the Challengers" on the right (engineer's) side, with the words "The Challengers" in red. The trucks on these all-black units were also painted black.

The first use of the black switcher scheme was actually on the NW2 demonstrator from EMC, numbered as UP 1000, received for a six month demonstration period that ended in March 1940, when UP decided to buy the unit. During that demonstration period, UP 1000 had multi-colored Overland shields on both cab sides.

All switch locomotives delivered between 1940 and 1947 (when the yellow and gray scheme became standard for switching locomotives), were delivered in the black switcher paint scheme. Included were the EMD NW2s 1000-1075, Alco S-2 1036-1054 (later renumbered to 1100-1118) and 1119-1153, Baldwin VO-1000s 1055-1060 (later renumbered to 1200-1205), Fairbanks Morse H10-44s 1300-1304, and GE 44 ton 1399. Until 1953, locomotives were lettered with "D.S." prefixes on their numbers, denoting "Diesel Switch", similar to the "M" character in the road numbers of the road's Streamliner passenger motive power, which denoted "Motor".

1946 - Two-Tone Gray First Used

UP began using two-tone gray on all non-Streamliner passenger equipment in time for the inauguration of transcontinental Pullman sleeper service via Union Pacific on March 1, 1946. The first run of the new City of St. Louis streamliner was on June 2, 1946, and this was the only streamliner to receive the two-tone gray scheme, due to connections that the train made. Over 120 steam locomotives assigned to passenger service received matching two-tone paint schemes, but no diesel locomotives received two-tone gray because they were all assigned to Streamliner service. The new two-tone gray scheme may have been inspired by an earlier scheme used on The Forty-Niner train. Since 1937, the Pullman Company had been using a similar gray scheme, with black stripes above and below the windows, on its lightweight sleepers. When the all-Pullman, heavyweight Forty-Niner made its first run in July 1937, it was painted in this Pullman scheme.

(Read more about UP's use of two-tone gray on UP steam locomotives)

August 1946 - Green Noses

UP began painting the top of the locomotive noses with Dark Green flat paint (C. S. 22, No. 30). A review of available photos, with reliable dates, suggests that green noses were first applied to passenger units as they were delivered new, or renumbered to the 900 series numbers in August 1946. No photos were found with dates after 1946 that showed yellow noses.

Green noses first came to UP on the demonstrator FM Erie-builts in December 1945 (purchased by UP in May 1946), and were an innovation of the painters at Fairbanks-Morse. The positive feedback from the operating crews and testing personnel during the test and demonstration period, about the anti-glare advantage of green noses on the Erie-builts, would have reached the decision makers in Omaha, and the feature was added to the new E7s in August 1946. This was the same period of time (mid 1946) that the 900 series was selected for the diesel passenger fleet. The Alco PA passenger units, and the first EMD F3 units were delivered in September 1947 with green noses.

In addition to the top of the nose being painted dark green, the bottom horizontal frame of the front windows frame area was also painted the same dark green color. In later years, these two areas were connected, but when first applied, there was a masked area of yellow color between them.

1947 - Yellow And Gray On Freight And Switch Locomotives

With the inauguration of daily service for the Streamliners in 1947 (City of Portland in February, City of Los Angeles in May, and City of San Francisco in September), and to promote the new daily service, the all-black switcher scheme was changed to yellow and gray Streamliner colors. The previous 11 inch lettering was retained, changed from yellow to red, with a 1/4 inch black edging added (the drawing is dated August 8, 1947). The cab side slogan "Road Of The Challengers" was changed to "Road Of The Streamliners" and the red lettering was retained, with an added 1/8 inch black edging (drawing dated August 16, 1947). The last switch units delivered in the black scheme were the 25 NW2s, numbered 1051-1075, delivered in February to June 1947. Fairbanks Morse H10-44s 1301-1304 were delivered in February 1947 in the black scheme.

The first switch units delivered in the new yellow and gray scheme were the 20 NW2s from EMD in March to September 1948, numbered as 1076-1095. The five new DS-4-4-10s from Baldwin, numbered 1206-1210, also delivered in September 1948, arrived in the new Streamliner colors.

Union Pacific's first road switcher freight units were delivered in the new yellow and gray scheme: two units from Alco-GE, RSC-2 1190 and RS-2 1191, both delivered in February 1947. The 11 Fairbanks Morse H20-44 road switcher units in the 1360-1370 number series were delivered beginning in August 1947, in the new Streamliner colors, and were immediately placed in helper service in Southern California.

The yellow and gray scheme, with gray trucks, was already in use on the road's passenger power, since 1940. The scheme was continued on UP's first combination freight and passenger units, the Erie builts from Fairbanks Morse in 1945. In 1947, 85 car body units were delivered, all in the new Streamliner colors. These included: EMD F3As and F3Bs in May; Alco FAs and FBs in June; Alco PAs and PBs in September; and the A-B-B-A set of FM Erie-builts in November. (This 1947 set of Erie-builts was the only A-B-B-A set; the other Erie-built units were delivered as A-B-A sets.)

Also to reflect the overall change to Streamliner colors, in June 1947, the color of cabooses was changed from Freight Car Red, with white lettering, to Armour Yellow, with red lettering. However, because the caboose fleet was so large, it took as long as three years to repaint all of the cars to the new yellow scheme.

1949 - Striping Changed From Yellow To Light Gray

The color of striping and lettering on the two-tone gray scheme on passenger steam locomotives was changed from Armour Yellow to Silver Gray (the letter of instruction was dated June 2, 1949). When first used in 1946, the striping between the two tones of gray had been what UP called "Silver-Gray." In December 1946 Union Pacific changed the stripe color from the original Silver Gary to Armour Yellow to match the yellow in the Streamliners whenever power shortages forced the use of two-tone gray steam locomotives. By mid 1949, there were sufficient numbers of yellow diesels that the bit of yellow color in the striping was no longer needed on the two-tone gray equipment, and the color of the striping was changed back from yellow, to the original Silver Gray, which later had its name changed to Striping Gray.

1950 - Nose Medallion Changed

The word "Railroad" was added to the nose medallion, under the words "Union Pacific." At this time, all nose medallions were metal and were mounted with screws.

1951 - Non-Skid Paint On Noses

From a letter to UP's mechanical shop forces systemwide:

Note the following from General Superintendent MP&M under date May 14, 1951, for your information and guidance:

"Dark green "Skidless Liquid Plastic" has been adopted as standard for top of cab hood on all diesel-electric lead road units in place of regular dark green flat paint.

"Arrange to apply "Skidless Liquid Plastic" to top of hood of all diesel-electric lead road units whenever units are repainted.

"Initial store stock of "Skidless Liquid Plastic" has been ordered on Requisition DSM-247."

Note the following from General Supertendent MP&M under date June 11, 1951:

"Relative to adoption of Dark Green Skidless Liquid Plastic for application to top of cab hoods on all diesel "A" road units:

"Any of the following manufacturers' plastic skidless paint that is available in store stock may be used for this.application.

1. Saf-T-Dek, made by Truscon Laboratories, Detroit, Michigan.
2. Sure-Foot Non-Slip Paint, made by frost Paint and oil Company, Minneapolis, Minn.
3. Skidless Liquid Plastic, made by Plastic Coating Corp., Houston, Texas."

1951 - Passenger Cars Painted Yellow And Gray

In November 1951, it was announced that all passenger cars would be painted in yellow and gray Streamliner colors, replacing both the two-tone gray adopted for non-Streamliner cars in 1946, and the few remaining olive green cars.

1953 - Diesel Switch (D.S.) Prefix Removed

The change to remove the "D.S." (Diesel Switch) prefix on road numbers for switching power was made on February 11, 1953. On the South-Central District, the D.S. prefix was removed from 78 road-switch and switch units between February and July 1953; 13 units were completed in February, 62 in March, and one each in April, May and July. A publicity photo of a UP-painted EMD GP7, with the road number of 1953 in the number board, was lettered on the unit's ends as D.S. 1953, possibly meaning that the GP7s were originally intended to be delivered (in 1953) with the D.S. prefix.

1953 - Nose Medallion Changed

The nose medallion on cab units and on Turbines was changed from a metal medallion fastened into place with screws, to a Scotchlite medallion that was applied as a decal.

The first units delivered with Scotchlite nose medallions were E8As 931-942, delivered to UP in March to May 1953.

Turbines 57-60 were delivered in May to August 1953 with metal medallions.

Turbines 61-75 were delivered in March to October 1954 with Scotchlite medallions.

1955 - Aluminum Paint On Locomotive Trucks

The color used on locomotive trucks was changed from Harbor Mist Gray to Aluminum. After several test applications, a letter from D. S. Neuhart was issued on March 29, 1955, instructing that all Diesel and Gas Turbine locomotive trucks were to be painted with aluminum paint. The revision of the painting diagram for Turbines 61-75 (new in March to October 1954) was changed in September 1955 to include aluminum trucks.

The aluminum color for trucks was first used on the later test runs of propane-fueled Turbine 57 in early June 1953. Harold Ranks took a photograph of Turbine 63 in 1954 with newly painted aluminum trucks. A photo of Turbine 55 in June 1955 shows it with aluminum trucks. Turbine 61 is shown in a November 1955 photo with aluminum trucks.

Photo research has found that the first passenger units to be delivered with aluminum paint on their trucks were the E9s delivered in May and June 1955, numbered as UP 948-956 and 960B-966B. The previous order of E9s delivered in May and June 1954, numbered as 943-947 and 950B-959B, have been confirmed in photographs as having gray trucks. The switchers delivered in 1955, Alco S-4s 1154-1188 came with gray trucks.

The first new freight units with aluminum trucks were the 100 GP9s and GP9Bs in the 300-class from EMD, delivered between July and October 1957 (the painting diagram for these units is dated March 29, 1957, and shows aluminum-colored trucks). (Passenger cars began receiving aluminum paint on their trucks in June 1958.)

The color used was C.S. 22, No. 26, meaning Common Standard specification 22, color number 26.

1959 - Dependable Transportation

With the delivery of new SD24s in June 1959, the slogan on diesel units was changed from "Road of the Streamliners/Serves All The West" on cab sides to "Dependable Transportation." First used on the new SD24s in June to September 1959, and on the GP20s in July and August 1960.

The SD24s were the first units on UP with low noses. This feature brought with it the addition of non-skid dark green paint to top of low nose units. Previously, dark green had also been used on the tops of the noses for all UP's cab units.

Research among photographs shows that several Alco S-2 and S-4 switchers, as well as a few EMD NW2, SW7s, SW9s and TR5s received the Dependable Transportation slogan. (Many more EMD switchers received the later We Can Handle It slogan.)

1959 - Union Pacific on Cab Unit Noses

The words "Union Pacific" were added below the upper headlight on the noses of all of UP's cab units, including the E8s, E9s, F3s, F7s, and Alco units. The change that added the lettering to the Painting, Lettering & Numbers drawing was dated January 1, 1959. Depending on the locomotive model, the lettering was either in 6-inch, 8-inch, or 10-inch letters.

1959 - Changes For Visibility

A photo of UP Alco PA no. 606 was taken at the Omaha shops on January 22, 1960, showing the reflective "Scotchlite" unit numbers, the medallion wing decals, and the silver painted trucks, all designed to increase visibility at night and enhance grade crossing safety. At the same time, the application of new hand holds to the side of the nose was completed in conformity with the AAR's new Safety Appliance code. (ALCO PA-1 Locomotives on the Union Pacific, by Gary Binder, The Streamliner, UPHS, Volume 8, Number 3, 1993, page 12; caption for Union Pacific photo M-3701)

1960 - Color Of Ends On Cab Units

The ends of F units and E units were changed from yellow and gray, matching the side colors, to all gray without yellow. The ends on the 500-class F9s, rebuilt from F3s by EMD in 1958-1959, were delivered with yellow and gray ends. The same change was apparently done on the Alco FA and FB cab units in about 1957. Unfortunately, there is no documentation for the exact date that the color of the ends was changed from the body color (yellow and gray) to just gray alone.

1960 - Contrasting Color on Switcher Handrails

Switching locomotives assigned to Ogden had their handrails and grab irons painted white, as a contrasting color, in accordance with a letter dated May 12, 1960. Later research has found that this letter was in relation to the renewed joint operations agreement with Southern Pacific for Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company. A handwritten note on the letter shows that the first unit was completed on June 16, 1960, and photos were furnished to Omaha.

1962 - Spokane International

The 11 Spokane International RS-1s are leased to UP in 1962 and painted yellow and gray, with Spokane International spelled out in UP's unique Gothic red lettering, with black outline.

September 1969 - Medallion Changed

In September 1969, the wording on the UP medallion (shield) was changed from "Union Pacific Railroad" to just "Union Pacific." This change reflected the new Union Pacific Corporation, organized in January 1969 as a holding company for the railroad and all of its non-rail subsidiaries.

The most visible evidence of the change came on the 6900-series Centennial units. UP 6900-6924 were delivered in April-December 1969, and 60-inch medallions were applied along with lettering and numbers by UP at their Omaha Shops. The first 25 units received 60-inch medallions with "Union Pacific Railroad" spelled out. After the wording on the shield was changed, plain blue paint was used to cover the word "Railroad". As updated 60-inch shields became separately available in mid 1970, they were applied to units with the painted-out shields. This was a priority effort by the painters at North Platte, so by mid 1971, all had been replaced. Other units with smaller shields had them replaced by other paint shops as the updated shields became available. Some units retained their "crossed-out" medallions as late as 1973 (UP 6904, 6923) and 1974 (UP 6903). Photos taken in the late 1970s show that most of the Centennials had the newer two-word version. Other units with smaller shields had them replaced by other paint shops as the updated shields became available.

UP 6925-6946 were delivered in June 1970 through September 1971 with only "Union Pacific" spelled out on the shield, although photos of at least three units (UP 6928, 6929, 6932) show that some did receive "Railroad" medallions, with the word painted out.

(Listing of 6900-series units with and without 'Railroad' on the medallion.)

For freight cars, and at the same time, the word "Railroad" was removed from the 60-inch (with border) and 96-inch medallions. The new medallions were applied to new freight cars, but cars delivered prior to the change remained unchanged for a much longer period; some had the word painted out when being shopped for other reasons

March 1972 - Imron Paint

UP began using DuPont Imron paint, as evidenced by the following stenciled information seen on GP30B 737B: "Dupont Test Painted, Imron, N. Y. OM 3-13-72. Do not paint or touch up unless authorized by F. D. Acord, Omaha, Nebraska." Imron was introduced by DuPont in 1970 as their brand name for a two-part polyurethane enamel introduced for added chemical resistance and durability.

July 1972 - No Black Edging On Lettering

To reduce the cost of painting a locomotive, the lettering on diesel locomotives was changed in July 1972 by elimination of black edging (3/16 inch on the 5-inch Dependable Transportation, and 6-inch front end letters and numbers, and 1/4 inch on 8-inch, 10-inch, 11-inch letters and numbers). The first units completed at Salt Lake City included GP9Bs 302B and 323B, SD24 413, SW9 1841, and SD40 3032, all in July 1972.

Although none are known to have received it, the black edging was also removed on the painting diagrams for the larger lettering used on the road's U50C and Centennial units: 1/4 inch on 13-1/2 inch numbers (U50C and DDA40X cab numbers); 3/8 inch on 24-inch (U50C); and 1/2 inch on 35 inch letters (DDA40X). As mentioned, none of these large double-diesels are known to have actually been repainted without black edging on their lettering.

September 1972 - We can handle it.

Cab-side slogan on diesel units was changed from "Dependable Transportation" to "We can handle it." without black edging on the letters. UP 70 was the first locomotive to receive UP's "We can handle it." slogan, in late April 1972. Other early units were GP9s 202 and 206, done at Council Bluffs, Iowa, both in late October 1972. The official UP engineering drawing is dated September 28, 1972.

The first new locomotives being delivered during this period of mid to late 1972 were SD40-2s 3173-3202, and U30Cs 2810-2829.

GE 44 ton 903999, Roadway shop switcher in Pocatello, Idaho, was completed at Omaha with "We can handle it." in mid February 1973.

UP U25B 638 was repainted in July 1973 (while out of service at Council Bluffs, Iowa) by UP, including the then-current "We can handle it." slogan, and sent to Milford, Utah, to commemorate that city's 100 year anniversary. The unit was also used to represent Union Pacific at centennial ceremonies several other Utah and Idaho cities that year, after which it was returned to storage at Council Bluffs.

(The "We can handle it." advertising campaign was announced in the April 1972 issue of the employee magazine, UP INFO, and was first used in newspaper advertising in mid-May 1972.)

(The slogan was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on August 16, 1977, and was allowed to expire on May 11, 1999; registration no. 109350; license no. 7313779.)

March 1973 - Black Edging Returned

When first applied in September 1972, the "We Can Handle It" slogan was without black edging. The other lettering was also without black edging. Within a few months, members of the railroad's upper management observed the new scheme and ordered that the black edging be reinstated. The order to officially reinstate black edging was issued in March 1973. The black edging used returned to the previous 3/16 inch for end 6-inch numbers, 1/4-inch for the 8-inch end letters and 11-inch side letters, and 5/16 inch for the 20-inch side letters. The first new units to receive the new style were SD40-2s 3203-3242, delivered without lettering in April through June 1973, and these units had their lettering applied by UP at Omaha upon delivery.

January 1975 - Anti-Skid Green Added to Rear Rooftop

In January 1975, non-skid dark green paint was added to roof top at the rear of each unit, extending four feet from rear. Previously, only the top of the low nose of units so equipped was painted with non-skid dark green paint, a practice that began with the SD24s in 1959.

October 1975 - 20-Inch Lettering

In October 1975, the use of 11-inch numbers and lettering ( with 1/4-inch black edging) on the hood sides was changed to 20-inch numbers and letters ( with 5/16-inch black edging), except on GP7s, GP9s, GP20s, and SD7s, which retained the 11 inch letters due to lack of space. (The 20-inch letters had been used earlier on the DD35s and DD35As in 1964-1965, but with 1/4 inch black edging.)

At the same time, a 24-inch UP medallion (shield) replaced the "We Can Handle It" slogan on the cab sides. The use of 10-inch numbers, with 1/4-inch black edging, was retained on the air equipment door below the cab-side.

The first repainted unit with the new 20-inch lettering scheme was U30C 2867, completed in January 1976. The second known unit was SD24 446 when it was mated with newly rebuilt yard slug S5, in March 1976.

The first new units to be delivered with the new scheme were U30Cs 2920-2959, received in July to October 1976, and new SD40-2Hs 8035-8064 in July 1976. When UP 3240-3274 were renumbered to UP 8000-8034 in February to July 1976, most received the newer large letters and numbers, except at least three, UP 8000, 8020, and 8021, which also retained their previous "We Can Handle It" cab-side slogans. The lettering on cabooses was changed to 20-inch at the same time.

A review of drawings shows that at this same time, the anti-skid color of the low noses was changed from dark green to Harbor Mist Gray.

June 1976 - White Vertical Handrails On Switch Units

In June 1976, white paint was adopted for handrail verticals and step edges on switching locomotives, including all NW2s, SW7s, SW9s, and TR5s, and after June 1980, on GP7s, GP9s, GP20s, GP30s, GP35s, and SD24s assigned to switch service. (from GP7 PL&N drawing 357-ST-6541, revision H, dated 6-2-80)

This change came from UP's participation in developing rules that would enhance overall safety on the nation's railroads. When the new safety rules were formally adopted by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in March 1977, they stated that:

1) All locomotives used in switching service built after March 1977 must be equipped with illuminated step treads, and that all locomotives used in switching service built after March 1977 must have their vertical handholds painted a contrasting color at least 48 inches above the step tread surface.

2) After September 1979, all locomotives used in switching service built before April 1977, and not equipped with illuminated step treads, must have the outer edge of each step tread painted in a contrasting color, and that after September 1979, all locomotives used in switching service built before April 1977 must have their vertical handholds painted a contrasting color at least 48 inches above the step tread surface.

April 1978 - White Vertical Handrails On Road Units

Research using dated photographs indicates that UP began using white handrails on road units as early as April 1978. Photos show that SD45s 3603, 3609 and 3632, along with GP9 327, all received white handrails in the April to June 1978 period.

The 89 SD40-2s numbered as UP 3410-3498, delivered in March to May 1978, and the five GP40Xs delivered as UP 9001-9005 in March 1978 did not receive contrasting color handrail verticals or step edges.

Only the last SD40-2s delivered in 1980 received contrasting handrails.

Although photos show road units with white vertical handrails as early as April 1978, the official paint scheme drawing was not changed until June 23, 1980. This change included yellow vertical handrails and step edges on all units.

The color of the vertical handrails and step edges was officially changed from yellow to white on February 2, 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)

(In June 1960, switch locomotives assigned to Ogden as part of the joint operation with SP, of Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company, had their handrails and grab irons painted white, as a contrasting color, in accordance with a letter dated May 12, 1960.)

June 1978 - Yellow Vertical Handrails on Road Units

The first new units with contrasting yellow handrails, instead of white, were the 25 C30-7s, UP 2415-2439, which started delivery in June 1978. All later new C30-7s, to UP 2539, also received yellow handrails.

As early as June 1982, many of the GE units delivered with yellow handrails, had been repainted with white vertical handrails. By 1986, yellow vertical handrails on GE units was a rare thing. (Bill Metzger, email dated September 24, 2001)

April 1979 - Change In End Road Number

A further change for only UP's GE road units took place in April 1979. On GE U28Cs, U30Cs, and C30-7s, the 6-inch UP initials on low nose were removed, and 6-inch road number was centered. This was done to accommodate the blanked-off headlight opening on the new C30-7s. The first new units were UP 2460-2539, delivered in January to October 1980.

1972 to 1980 - Lettering Schemes On SD40-2s

1980 Changes

The paint scheme changes in 1980 were in response to UP starting to use video cameras in their yards to allow clerks to view the car numbers and locomotive numbers of trains as they entered the yards.

This was just when the UP had reduced the number of clerks in its yard offices. Until that time, a clerk had to go out to greet most trains as they entered the yard, and write down each car number as a positive record of where the cars were on the railroad. In 1968, the American Association of Railroads had mandated the use of Automatic Car Identification (ACI) labels for its member railroads. By 1975, about 90 percent of the fleet had been equipped with ACI labels, but due to dirt accumulation and physical damage, the read-rate was down to about 80 percent, meaning that the railroads had positive locations for just over 70 percent of the national rail car fleet.

UP's response to this low read-rate, was to have a yard clerk meet all, or most trains and establish a written record. The number of trains at the larger terminals soon became a problem, and UP tried using video cameras, with a clerk sitting at a desk looking at a monitor. The test worked, but the low resolution of the black and white video images made it difficult to see the locomotive numbers. Less than five years before, UP had changed to larger numbers on their locomotives to make them more visible to yardmasters and other yard personnel, but the placement of the larger 20-inch numbers on the hood side became a problem because the resolution of the video images was blurred by the handrail stanchions. So the 20-inch numbers were moved to the cab side.

Drawings were prepared in May 1980, with both red numbers and black numbers. Red numbers were tried first, since it was what UP used as part of its overall paint scheme design. Although the drawings for the numbers themselves were prepared in late May, implementation was delayed until mid November 1980 while drawings were prepared showing the placement for individual locomotive types. This was when the last of the 36 SD40-2s in the UP 3769-3804 group were being delivered. Research using photographs indicates that UP 3779 was the first newly delivered locomotive to receive red 20-inch cab-side numbers, in mid November 1980.

It was during this May to November time period that UP changed the black edging on the 20-inch numbers from 5/16 inch to 1/2 inch, in an attempt to make the numbers more visible.

Tests with the red numbers showed that the numbers were still hard to read on the video monitors, even with the thicker black edging, so on December 11, 1980, instructions were issued to begin using black cab-side numbers. Research has not yet identified the first locomotive to receive black numbers, but the program continued from January to April 1981, with 26 units known to have received black numbers. The low number of units painted suggests that it was only Omaha and North Platte doing the work, with Omaha only painting the SW10s as they were completed.

Similar to when UP stopped using black edging on its numbers and letters in 1972, and returned to black edging in 1973, in mid April 1981 a member of upper management saw a unit with black cab-side numbers and instructions were issued to stop using black numbers and return to the use of red numbers. More tests followed in May 1981. The solution for the use of red numbers was to increase the black edging from 1/2 inch to 7/8 inch. In an internal memo, one manager called the thicker edging "satisfactory," while another remarked that the test results were "striking." The first unit completed with red 20-inch numbers, with 7/8 inch black edging was UP 3763 after wreck repairs in October 1981.

One other detail that changed in 1980 was the anti-skid color on the low noses of UP's diesel locomotives. In 1980, the color was changed back to dark green, from the Harbor Mist gray that was used starting in late 1975.

(The above summary of the 1980s changes was first posted to the UP Modelers Yahoo discussion group on April 28, 2013.)

May 1980 - 10-inch Cab-Side Numbers Removed

On May 9, 1980, the numbering scheme was changed to remove the 10-inch road numbers from air equipment door below the cab-side. The 24-inch medallion was retained on the sides of the cab. The 20-inch number was retained on the sides of the hood. The change was to take place only on units that were completely repainted.

Only a few locomotives actually received this combination (24 inch medallion, without cab-side numbers), including some of the former Rock Island GP40s and U28Bs in 1980. The last 40 C30-7s, 2500-2539, were delivered in August to October 1980 in this scheme; SD45M Sulzer 60 is another example, when it was completed in August 1980.

June 1980 - Sub-Lettering On Units Leased To WP.

During June 1980, 15 SD40-2s were leased to future merger partner, Western Pacific. The leased units were lettered on the cab side, below the cab window, with "Leased To Western Pacific" in 3-inch black letters. Included were UP 3352, 3360, 3419, 3421, 3424, 3475, 3478, 3504, 3519, 3528, 3536, 3542, 3546, 3565. Eleven of the units were returned to UP in October 1981. The merger with WP was approved in December 1982.

July 1980 - Fuel Conservation Slogans On SD40-2s

In July 1980, UP began installing 15 different fuel conservation slogans. These slogans, mounted on 30 x 98-1/2 inch placards on the unit side handrails, were first used on new SD40-2s. Apparently, other than a sole repainted unit, the slogans were only applied to the newest SD40-2s delivered in September 1979 through March 1980, including UP 3609-3658 (50 units) and UP 3659-3768 (110 units). The only report of a repainted unit receiving a fuel slogan was in July 1980 when UP 8073 received the first example. (UP 8073 was renumbered to UP 3408 in August 1981.)

To allow visibility of the hood-side road number, the slogan placards were at first located on the first three handrail stanchions on both sides, immediately behind the cab. After November 1980 when the road number was moved to the cab side, the location of the slogan was moved to be centered on the length of the handrails.

Based on photographic research, and the railroad's 1982 calendar, an incomplete list of SD40-2s with fuel conservation slogans shows at least 22 units: UP 3292, 3408, 3587, 3611, 3617, 3619, 3632, 3639, 3672, 3675, 3681, 3687, 3701, 3720, 3723, 3738, 3746, 3753, 3754, 3790, 3802, 3808. All units' slogans were located in the early forward position, except at least five with in the later centered position: UP 3292, 3746, 3790, 3802, 3808.

November 1980 - 20-inch Cab-Side Numbers

During early 1980, UP began using video cameras at its major yards and terminals. Many bugs had to be worked out, including the fact that due to the cameras' low resolution, the vertical handrails on locomotives interfered with the visibility of road numbers on the hood sides. To improve visibility to video cameras, the 20-inch red road numbers on the hood sides (first used in late 1975) were moved to the cab sides, and the black edging was changed from 5/16-inch to 1/2-inch.

On the rear, the previous UP initials and number as 6-inch red letters and numbers, with 3/16 inch black edging, remained unchanged.

Although planned as early as May, the change did not take effect until November.

New units were still being delivered without lettering, so red numbers were used on these units' new cab-side location. The first new units known to receive the new red 20 inch numbers on their cab sides include the 36 SD40-2s delivered in October and November 1980, numbered as 3769-3804, along with the four upgraded SD40-2s, 3805-3808. Based on photo research, the first unit to receive red cab-side numbers appears to be 3779, completed by UP's Omaha shops in mid November 1980.

At first, the new cab side placement used red 20-inch numbers, with 1/2 inch edging replacing the previous 5/16 inch black edging. The thicker edging on the 20-inch red numbers did not solve the video visibility problem, so the numbers were changed to all-black.

November 1980 - 24-inch Nose Medallion

At the same time as the change to 20-inch cab side numbers, the placement of the 24-inch medallion was changed from its location on the cab side, right below the cab window, to being centered on the low nose at the front of the unit (replacing the earlier combination of 8-inch Union Pacific lettering, and 6-inch UP initials and road number).

December 1980 - Black Cab-Side Numbers

UP's Painting, Lettering & Numbering drawing for black 20-inch numbers is dated May 13, 1980. In preparation for the change in the location of road numbers, there were two general arrangement drawings for typical units with cab-side numbers, both were completed on November 26, 1980. Both drawings show an SD40-2 and a C30-7 with 20-inch numbers, and an SW10 with 16-inch numbers. One drawing shows the units with red numbers, and the other drawing shows the same units with black numbers. UP's Chief Mechanical Officer, J. F. McDonough, instructed all locations in a letter dated December 11, 1980 to begin using the new paint scheme.

No official record was kept of units that received black numbers, because they were completed in accordance with the painting and lettering specification in effect at the time. Photographic research shows that units repainted between late November 1980 and late April 1981 received black numbers on their cab sides. An incomplete list includes:

Model Road Number
SD45 UP 1, 19, 46
SD45M UP 60
SD24M UP 99
GP7 UP 112, 126
GP9 UP 180, 188, 231, 265, 336, 338, 345
SD24 UP 425
GP35 UP 745
GP30 UP 859
NW2 UP 1039
SW10 UP 1214, 1215, 1216, 1217, 1218, 1219
GP38-2 UP 2005, 2016, 2028, 2036, 2043
SD40-2 UP 3215, 3243, 3292

The on-going completion of SW10s during this time frame gives a close indication of the period that black numbers were being applied. UP 1214, 1215, 1216, 1217, 1218 were completed between January and April 1981, all with black numbers. UP 1219 was first released in mid April with black numbers, but was returned to Omaha shops for some final mechanical adjustments. When it was released a week later, it had red numbers, with 1/2-inch black edging. UP 1220 was completed in late April with red numbers.

September 1981 - Lower Red Stripe Changed

In a letter dated September 9, 1981, Chief Mechanical Officer, J. F. McDonough, instructed all locations that the lower Scotchlite reflective red stripe on all units had been changed from 4-3/4 inches to 4-1/2 inches. The letter stated that all remaining stock of the 4-3/4 stripe was to be used before changing to the new 4-1/2 inch stripe. No reason was given for the change; a likely reason would be that a production change in the stripe material itself would have required special handling to produce the wider stripe.

October 1981 - Red Cab-Side Numbers

The black 20-inch cab-side numbers were officially changed back to red in October 1981. The previous 1/2-inch black edging was replaced with 7/8-inch black edging. A 10-1/2 inch medallion was added to the air equipment door. There was a report that UP 3763 was the first unit completed, in October 1981 following minor wreck repairs.

A test was completed to see if 7/8 inch black edging could replace the all-black numbers. In a letter dated May 13, 1981, J. W. Rettie informed J. F. McDonough that the test had been "entirely satisfactory", and that the use of black edging would provide a positive television image under both day and night lighting conditions. McDonough then informed UP Vice President of Operations, J. R. Davis, on May 14, 1981 that the use of a 7/8 inch black edging, replacing the previous 1/8 black edging, produced "striking results," and included a video tape of the test.

The six GP40Xs were upgraded in October and November 1981, and received 20-inch red numbers on their cab sides at that time.

In a letter dated August 10, 1981, all locations were instructed about the change to the lettering scheme on the 6900-class DDA40X units. This new scheme, although never used, included 20 inch numbers with 7/8 inch black edging, and 35 inch UNION PACIFIC letters, with 1-1/4 inch black edging.

July 1982 - Cab Interior Color

The cab interior color of all UP locomotives was changed from light gray to beige in July 1982. The interior color of the engine compartments remained as light gray.