Union Pacific Diesel Locomotive Paint Schemes

Index For This Page

2000 to Present (Modern Era)

This page was last updated on July 31, 2015.

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2000 - Wings And Lightning Stripe

Union Pacific's standard yellow and gray paint scheme has remained unchanged since the E6 passenger units were delivered 1940. The lettering scheme has gone through several changes, but has itself remained unchanged since 1987. In late 1999, UP announced that its upcoming 1,000-unit order of SD70Ms would be delivered in a new variation of the standard colors. There would be a "lightning stripe" separation line between the yellow and gray colors, and the road would return to using the nose medallion, also known as simply "Wings."

April 2000 - Lightning Stripes

Lightning stripes first came to UP in late April 2000, when UP took delivery of the first of over 1,000 new SD70Ms. On the new SD70Ms, the location of the separation stripe was raised on the carbody to a higher position that allowed the red stripe's position of the locomotive cabs to remain in its original location. (List of units known to have wings and lightning stripes prior to 2003

May 2000 - Full Width Nose Wings

The first full width nose wings came to UP with the new SD70M units, which began arriving in May 2000.

According to John Bromley at the Union Pacific museum, in a message posted to the Trainorders.com online forum on January 25, 2000, the idea to start applying wings came in October 1999 from Mike Iden, UP's General Director of Locomotive Engineering and Quality. Mike found a set of decals and taped them to the nose of GE unit in the Proviso shop, and took photos. He worked to gain approval of the idea and the result was that the new SD70Ms were delivered with UP's Winged Shield.

UP 9826 (ex C&NW 8722) was repainted to full UP colors on December 13, 2000, becoming the first GE locomotive to enter regular service with the new Wings image; UP 7555, a new C60AC, was completed in the new image at the GE factory in Erie, Pa., at about the same time, but did not enter service until January 2001.

UP 8242 was the first SD9043AC to receive the full width nose wings, completed on April 8, 2001. UP 8242 had been wrecked on August 9, 2000 at Springfield, Colorado, while in service on the C-CQEY1-08, unit coal train that shipped coal from Energy, Colorado, to a power plant at Cochise, Ariz., to Energy, Colorado. The wreck damage was repaired and the unit was returned to service on April 8, 2001 painted with full-width nose wings.

November 2000 - Cab Side Sublettering

UP began applying www.up.com on new GE locomotives, starting with UP 6430 in November 2000, and on new EMD locomotives in December 2000 with UP 4285.

On repainted locomotives, the www.up.com was seen as early as February 2001 on UP 680, a repainted and renumbered ex MP GP38-2 that also received the new lightning stripe on its long hood.

December 2000 - High Stripe vs. Low Stripe

In December 2000, seven months after the first SD70Ms entered service in April 2000, UP began using the lightning stripe on repainted units. There are two known variations: the "high stripe" variation has the red separation stripe on the cab in its original location, with the carbody separation stripe raised to accommodate the lightning stripe, like on the SD70Ms. For the "low stripe" variation, the carbody stripe is in its original location from the previous paint scheme, and the forward portion of the stripe, on the cab, is lowered. This latter variation uses more gray color on the cab, and is visibly apparent when a unit is viewed from the front by fact that the front of the cab is solid gray above the low nose.

The first in-service (not new) unit completed with lightning stripes was C44-9W 9826, renumbered from C&NW 8722 on December 13, 2000. This was also the first use of the larger, full-width nose wings on a repainted unit. (see photo in Diesel Era, March-April 2001, page 7)

February 2001 - Small Nose Wings

A short-lived variation was the application of smaller wings on units with normal width noses. A smaller 72-inch (six feet) wide winged decal was applied, rather than the full 10-feet wide version used on safety cab wide nose units.

The first unit to receive small nose wings was UP GP38-2 680, renumbered and repainted from UP 2178 on February 8, 2001. Railfans immediately coined the term "Baby Wings" for this new smaller medallion. After completing at least 50 units, the use of small nose wings on repainted units apparently ended with the release of UP GP60 1979, repainted from SSW 9677 without small wings on May 29, 2002.

These 50 units (except for UP 6936, a wide nose unit that also received small wings), all have standard cabs with standard-width low noses. Since all units that received small nose wings were fresh repaints, they also received the new lightning separation stripe between the yellow and gray colors.

Research has found that not all units fully repainted at Jenks Shop in North Little Rock between February 2001 and May 2002 received small wings. Although there were numerous units repainted, only the 50 known units completed at Jenks actually received small wings. (List of units with small wings, including UPY units) The program apparently came to an end in late May 2002, when on May 29th, GP60 1979 was released without small nose wings. Besides Jenks, no other location is known to have the personnel or special tools and materials for the application of the decal.

August 2001 - White Cab Roofs

Between August 22, 2001 and March 26, 2002 the paint shop at Union Pacific's Jenks shop in North Little Rock, Arkansas, painted at least 47 units with white roofs.

The white roof feature was originally meant to be a single-unit experiment on UP 6714 (ex C&NW 8812), but the unique and non-standard feature continued through an apparent miscommunication between Jenks personnel and planners in Omaha. It is not known if all units completed by the Jenks paint shop received white roofs.

There appears to be variations in how the white roof was actually painted. There are apparently several locomotives that received white paint on just the tops of their roofs. This feature is very hard to observe without being above the locomotive. The other, much more visible variation, includes a white roof, with the sloped sides also being painted white. Some railfans call this the CSX-style roof, after the method used by that road.

No units are known to have received a white roof without the entire unit having also been fully repainted. Some new SD70Ms in the 4700 series have been seen with white roofs.

Published reports suggest that the white cab roof treatment included some form of spray-on insulation material, and is only used on non-air conditioned units. Other reports show that UP began experimenting with white painted cab roofs, using white epoxy paint, to better reflect the sun and reduce cab interior temperatures. Epoxy paint was used to ensure durability and longevity on the painted cab roof surface. (see Extra 2200 South, Issue 123, April 30, 2002, page 33)

Before the formal program began in August 2001 at North Little Rock, and as early as the summer of 2000, at least three former SP units were seen with white roofs. These include SP GP40R 7677, SP GP40 3086 (ex D&RGW 3086), and SP MP15AC 2721. (see photo in Diesel Era, July/August 2002, page 6, photo taken on 12/15/2001) (SP 2721 information from Brandon Kilgore, posted to LocoNotes email discussion group, March 3, 2001)

(List of units known to have white cab roofs prior to 2003)

November 2001 - Flags and Building America Slogan

On November 16, 2001, UP unveiled a new variation on its standard yellow and gray paint scheme. Three new SD70Ms (UP 4526, 4527, and 4528) were the first units to wear a waving American flag on each side of each unit's hood, with the added slogan, "Building America". Both the flag and the slogan are in memory of the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

To introduce the "Flag" scheme to the railroad, a special train ran across the system, with UP 4526 and 4527 as motive power, along with nine passenger cars from UP's Heritage Fleet. The special train was photographed as it passed through Utah from west to east on November 19, 2001.

In addition to the first three units completed in November 2001, all new locomotives, beginning with new SD70Ms 4735-4999 in January 2002, and new C44AC-CTEs 5770-5864 in February 2002 were delivered with the new flag emblem and slogan.

There is a slight variation between the flag decals used on the first three units (UP 4526-4528) and the flag decals used on subsequent units. The earlier version used a wooden pole (versus a metal pole in the later version), and the flag's waving shape was slightly different.

The first repainted unit to receive the flag decals and Building America slogan was former SP SD70M 3974, repainted from SP 9800 on March 1, 2002.

For repainted units, UP stopped applying the flag decals and Building America slogan in about August or September 2002. However, the decision may have come earlier, since SD70M 3991 was repainted in February 2002 and did not receive the flag decals or the slogan. SD60M 6101 was also repainted at about the same time without the flag decals and slogan.

For new units, as of January 2014, UP continues to apply flags and the "Building America" slogan.

The "Building America" campaign was a project of Robert Turner, who came to Union Pacific in 2000, and in 2015, was senior Vice President - Corporate Relations. In that position he was responsible for internal and external communications, public affairs, media relations, brand management and advertising. (Progressive Railroading, July 31, 2015)

2002 - Red Rear End Numbers

During 2002, UP began replacing the white unit numbers on the rear of each unit's carbody, first applied in November 1987, with red numerals, and lowered to about the middle of the yellow area. Also, the single white number on the rear was changed to two red numbers, one on each of the angled sides of the carbody rear-end.

2005 - Yellow Frame Stripes

In accordance with a ruling by the Federal Railroad Administration, effective on March 4, 2005, Union Pacific began application of a yellow reflectorized stripe along each and every locomotive's frame side sill. The FRA ruling calls for a certain square feet of reflectorive material on each locomotive, freight car, and passenger car. For its locomotive fleet, Union Pacific has elected to apply the needed amount of material in the form of a continuous yellow stripe. Although UP has used red Scotchlite striping since the early 1950s, FRA studies dictated that the visibility of super-reflectorized yellow stripes, and in some cases white stripes, exceeded the standard Scotchlite red stripes already used by UP. The FRA rule specifically calls for yellow "retroreflectorive sheeting" to be used on all applications, except where white material has already been applied.

The retroreflective material noted in the ruling is further described as, "ASTM standard D 4956-01a, Type V Sheeting," with a detailed description showing its full name as "super highintensity retroreflective sheeting." The reflectorized material is to be placed at 42 inches above the rail level. Even in low light situations, with headlights of automobiles traveling parallel, the super reflectivity is very apparent when viewed from adjacent highways.

The schedule provided in the FRA ruling allows all railroads quite a long period of time to comply. It shows that all locomotives not already having the new reflective material as of January 3, 2005, must have the needed reflective material by May 31, 2010, allowing the railroads five years to come into full compliance. A table was provided in the ruling that shows that a specific and increasing 20 percent each year of each road's fleet must be completed, so that by the end of the five years, the full 100 percent will have been given the new reflectorized stripes.

With a fleet of over 7,000 locomotives, this schedule meant that UP must apply yellow frame stripes to 1,400 locomotives every year, or about 115 locomotives each and every month. A formal program was initiated on February 7, 2005. Known as Mod 067, it was meant only for units being repainted at North Little Rock. Numerous repainted units were completed, in addition to new units. As of late August 2005, the new yellow frame stripe was only being applied to repainted units released from Jenks shop in North Little Rock, Arkansas, with no stripes known to have been applied to any in-service units, other than on SD70M 5015. In-service units required special cleaning of the surface where the stripe was applied. On September 2, 2005, changes were made to the Mod 067 program to include all locomotives in service, and all maintenace points were instructed to apply the yellow stripe modification as soon as kits could be procured and distributed to all points. These kits included the needed special cleaning and application materials to ensure successful application to units that had not been freshly painted.

The first unit seen with the new frame stripe was SD70M 5015, which had a yellow stripe added as a test in January 2005. Selected at random as the test case, the test was done at Proviso in Chicago, and the unit immediately entered regular service. The second unit on UP to be finished with the new yellow frame stripe, a new unit completed in March 2005, was the new environmentally friendly "Green Goat" yard switcher UPY 2004, a hybrid diesel and battery locomotive built by Railpower Technologies as their model GG20B. It was seen at Roseville, California, on March 10, 2005, en route from its builder in Canada to Fresno, California, for extended testing in the Fresno yard. The third unit, another non-new unit with just a yellow stripe added to its existing paint, was ex C&NW SD40-2 2980, seen in Chatanooga, Tennessee, on April 17, 2005. Other repainted locomotives that have received the new yellow frame stripe during the initial April to June 2005 time frame include GP38-2 609; C44-9CW 9578 (completed on May 10, 2005); C44-9CW 9833; and SW1500 1221 (released from North Little Rock on June 1, 2005).

New Units With Yellow Frame Stripe

The first new unit to receive the new yellow stripe was UP 8334, an EMD SD70ACe delivered on April 21, 2005 to UP at Chicago. Its first trip was from the Global 2 intermodal yard in Chicago on April 22, to Oakland, where it arrived on April 27.

For unknown reasons, the deliveries of new EMD units to UP was not in numerical order, so the last unit to receive the original red stripe was UP 8326, delivered on May 29, 2005. In addition to UP 8334 delivered in April, six other units (UP 8332, 8337, 8339, 8341, 8342, and 8348) were delivered with yellow stripe in April 2005. In May, a total of 25 new SD70ACe units were delivered. Of those, 21 units had the yellow stripe, and four units (UP 8319, 8322, 8325, and 8326) had the red frame stripe.

(List of SD70ACe units sorted by delivery date)

The first new General Electric unit was UP 5454, a new C45ACCTE GEVO unit delivered to UP on May 10, 2005. According to one knowledgeable source, the use of yellow frame stripe on new GE units was begun with the 101st unit (UP 5454) of a 200-unit order (UP 5354-5553), with several other upgrades and enhancements being included at the same time.

(See also: article with photos, "Union Pacific's New Yellow Stripe", by Don Strack, "The Streamliner", Volume 19, Number 4, Fall 2005)

(See also: article with photos, "Union Pacific and Scotchlite", by Dick Harley and Don Strack, "The Streamliner", Volume 20, Number 1, Winter 2006; text)