19th Century Passenger Car Paint

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19th Century Passenger Car Paint

Postby TheTwistedmind » Fri Feb 14, 2014 10:02 am

I would like to know if there are any photographs or references to color schemes on passenger cars from the 19th century. Primary the 1870s-1900. I know each railroad had their own schemes, but I would like a few ideas for my set I am working on.

Rock On!

Posts: 90
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Re: 19th Century Passenger Car Paint

Postby ferroequine » Fri Feb 21, 2014 12:06 pm

I saw your message right after you posted it, and every day I’ve come to the forum, read it again and put off responding. Not because I don’t want to answer it, but because it isn’t an easy answer. I’ve needed to collect my thoughts and refine as much of this information as I possibly can into a single post. Keep in mind that this is a complex subject, and you’re right, paint does vary between the roads, but there are some common trends among them.

Quick Points:
A. Pullman “Green” is not a color until the turn of the century (1900). Prior to that, the standard color was just called “Pullman Color” and was a rich shade of brown. To see a modern example of this color you need to look no further than any UPS truck. I’ve been told that UPS still orders the color from their supplier as “Pullman” in fact. Before “Pullman Color” was brown, it was a dark plum shade (1860s).

B. Everything should be varnished, glossy and clean. Dirty passenger cars would indicate a lower class of service. Cabooses, Waycars, MOW Bunk cars, 3rd class (or lower) cars and “Drover’s” cars can be dirty. Typically a car gets repainted every few years, in between that repainting the varnish would be renewed to keep the car looking pristine. Varnish is always cheaper (and quicker to apply) than constant repainting. All of this varnish is often why cars appear dark, without striping or lettering in photos. Varnish would often darken the body color slightly, so if you have a color sample for a project, remember that your finished carbody should be a touch darker than the sample.

C. Photographs lie. As mentioned above, varnish and slow photographic processes often mask varnish and other detail. In addition, the type of emulsion used in the photography (dry plate, wet plate, etc) will result in varying degrees of color registration. Commonly used processes often rendered colors like reds darkly, near black, while blues and greens can appear near white. To complicate this, a different process might result with the opposite effect, reds being light and blues appearing black.

D. Ignore any/all color renditions from the following sources: Currier and Ives, Colorized Photographs/Post Cards, Ward Kimball, Disneyland, Tourist Railroads, Railfan Art (most of it), Railfan “Interpretations”, Hollywood, Toy/Model Trains and railroad history books published before about 1990. There are a number of reasons for each to be ignored as a true reference and should you want to know why, I can explain them in another post. Always take your color information from period references, newspaper accounts, first hand accounts, physical research.
Remember: Bad research begets bad research. ;)

There is a common style of car painting from the 1860s on:
Body Color
Trim Color (Corner Posts, Door, Sashes etc)
Truck and Platform the same color (alternately, platforms could be body color, but was rarer).
Body, Trim and Truck color should not be the same color.

Late in the 19th century, the trucks begin to match the body, so it would be save to say this was a trend starting around 1890.

There can be variants, like no trim color, but only contrasting trucks.
A good way to get a sampling of car paint is to take a look at the Jackson and Sharp archives. Being a large builder of the period, they followed and set trends other buildings were using. As you search through these you’ll start to see the above pattern applied to may cars, but with varying color.
http://cdm15323.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... osuppress/

Colors of the 19th century can share the same name as a modern color, but they will be different in shade, sometimes even in color. To get the correct shade, there are a number of different methods.
The easiest method would be to have a color sample, and match it. Period books on paint will often include color chips. While the quality of these book scans might not be the best, it will point you in the right direction. Over at PacificNG we have an ever growing list of those paint references available online. http://www.pacificng.com/template.php?p ... /index.php You might find some of the paint cards we posted handy, particularly the asbestos roofing paint samples from the 1880s.

Another source of information can come from restorations. Starting in the 1970s some museums started matching color layers found on equipment to the Pantone Color System as part of the restoration report. Should you find a reference to a Pantone match, they have a color finder available to assist with finding out what that should be: https://www.pantone.com/pages/pantone/colorfinder.aspx

As for what color to paint things, there is no simple answer. You’ll need to do some research to find a reference to what the believed color is. If you need info on CP/SP/UP, I have that info around but am not at liberty to share the source materials. As you need them, I can make color swatches and walk you through the process. I also have color info for: V&T, C&C, SPC, NPC, NCNG, West Side Lumber, DSP&P/C&S Way Cars, Colorado Midland, D&RG (1870s, 1910), Nevada Central, M&SV.
I know at some point I had a compiled list of other railroad paint references, however I cannot find it right now. I will have to look for it later when I am at home.

Some quick color references off the top of my head:
Out west: Chrome/Straw Yellow were commonly used on NG cars, but CP liked Yellow in the early days. SPC and V&T liked dark wine colors on their cars at varying times, this likely was to make the 1st class passenger trains match the locomotives (which were painted Wine from Baldwin). The NPC used Yellow until around 1902 when they switched to a lovely rich red when the line became the North Shore. For reference, the classic V&T Yellow/Green paint is a 20th century thing, they used Yellow and Brown more commonly prior to that. The NCNG passenger cars of 1875/76 were painted Umber.

Rockies: Umber and dark “Wine” again is frequently used. Many railfans will assume the D&RG cars are a sort of Tuscan color, this is incorrect. “Wine” and Umber were closer to the colors from what I’ve seen of existing samples. DSP&P colors remain a mystery before UP takes control, once that happens everything gets painted in UP standards. As I recall, the standard 1880s UP coach was a dark pullman like body color and Buff or Fawn colored trucks.

Pennsylvania RR: Tuscan!

Last but not least, cars of the period you are looking at tried to emulate Eastlake style design (http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/a ... tlake.html), which was all the rage of the period. You would be hard pressed to find a car that wore bright, hollywoodesq colors. You will want your colors to be rich, giving the appearance of quality. Using things like “fire engine” red was best reserved for some striping, but NEVER for a car body or truck. There were no pastel colors, neon colors, fire engine red, etc. As I mentioned before, don’t use Hollywood as a reference, they don’t do good research and paint things whatever the director wants them to be.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions, I will answer them as best I can, and if I don’t know the answer, I can assist in researching it. I've been chasing, researching and collecting color references for a decade now.

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Re: 19th Century Passenger Car Paint

Postby TheTwistedmind » Sat Feb 22, 2014 3:28 pm

Thank you so much for the info. The reason I ask, is because I am working on a set based out of the late 70s to mid 80s. I love 19th to turn of the century railroading. I also want to get the paint trim down pat, and to be authentic looking as possible.

http://hostthenpost.com/uploads/68fa2fa ... 3924ac.jpg

This is my combine I am working.

Thanks and Rock On!

Posts: 90
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2011 1:50 pm

Re: 19th Century Passenger Car Paint

Postby ferroequine » Mon Feb 24, 2014 9:20 pm

Your car appears to be based on a Jackson and Sharp car, well after a few rebuildings by the D&RG(W). As it stands, it is suitable for the 1890s onward, though the D&RGW shopping for that car would date to 1910 or so. With a little digging, I found a J&S drawing of a similar car, as built.

http://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 99/rec/352.
The car drawn appears to be a variant of the "standard" combine J&S was building during the late 19th century. Naturally, the car dimensions would change every few years, but the basic design is always there. Even from the earliest, tiny narrow gauge cars of the 1870s.
Example: http://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 1660/rec/2

Notice the baggage spacing here (1871):
http://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 666/rec/13

Montrose RR, 1872-3?, more traditional dimensions
http://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 2746/rec/4

For the Utah Western, with "hooded" clerestory. 1874?
http://cdm15323.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 745/rec/48

Caboose version, 1877
http://cdm15323.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 81/rec/152

1885, same as drawing
http://cdm15323.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 500/rec/21

1891, longer but still the same design
http://cdm15323.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 38/rec/199

Other cars of the period, with paint styles that could be adapted.

http://cdm15323.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 2545/rec/8

http://cdm15323.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 501/rec/26

http://cdm15323.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 2497/rec/7

http://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 80/rec/285

With a little care and modification, you could turn a single model into at least 3 variants, the arch roof, hooded roof (D&RG, etc had these) and the bullnose as is on the drawing.

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Re: 19th Century Passenger Car Paint

Postby ferroequine » Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:18 pm

I made a mistake with that drawing, it should match the Illwaco car, not the older ones. The design should be similar enough that you just need to shorten it for the earlier cars by removing a set of windows from the length.

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Re: 19th Century Passenger Car Paint

Postby ferroequine » Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:00 am

Here are some car color examples, they were compiled by Adrian Hundhausen and shared on an email group.

...Here is my complete list of COACH colors (no other cars unless noted) from entries in the National Car (and Locomotive after 1886) Builder. I read every page of the publication from Jan 1881 to July 1887.
First color listed is ground (=body) color.

Mar.1881 p25 NP: change from brown to yellow

Nov.1881 p130. CM and StP: ochre

Feb.1882 p14. Wisc Central: straw, corner boards and letter boards light umber.

Apr. 1882 p38. Chic, St.L and New Orl: yellow

Aug.1882 p86. CB and Q: canary yellow

Sep.1882 p101. Fitchburg: straw

Jan.1883 p6. C and NW: bright yellow, letter board ultramarine blue

Jun.1883 p61 Mich Central: dining cars, outside finish is in the regulation ochre shade of the road (for all car types???)

Jun.1883 p66 NYC and HR: straw

Jul.1883 p80 Chic and Atlantic: light yellow

Nov.1883 p122. Louisville, NO and Texas: dark canary

Jun.1884 p70. LS and MS: light yellow, corners black, letter board yellow ochre, door casings black, trucks bright red

May 1885 p57. D and H: yellow, trucks green

Dec.1886 p155. AT and SF: canary

Nov.1892 p170. Old Colony: yellow (last 8 or 9 years)

May.1882 p50. Rich and Danv:standard pass car color Tuscan red

Jul.1883 p86. Cincin, Van Wert and MI: Tuscan red

Sep.1883 p98. S. Carolina RR: Tuscan red (standard for pass cars)

Mar.1887 p36. Grand Trunk: Maroon like PRR (=Tuscan red)

Jun.1883 p61. Lake Erie and Western: Pullman color

Jul.1883 p80. NP: Pullman color (not yellow anymore)

Jul.1883 p80. NYNH and H: Pullman color

Jul.1884 p81. Central Pac: Pullman color (previously straw or yellowish according to Silver State of Winnemuca, Nevada)

Sep.1886 p118 Old Colony: dark Pullman color (also concurrently had yellow pass cars according to OC Master Painter C.M. Lang. See above)

Jan.1885 p10: Jacksonville, Tampa and Key W: sage green

Mar.1882 p26. Ches and Ohio: tried Pullman color for 3 years, now back to orange.

Note that many RRs color-coded their cars according to function, e.g. the CM and StP had ochre coaches but maroon dining and parlor cars.

Additional CB&Q References.

CB&Q References:
Locomotive Engineering 1895 page 763 - yellow
Railway Review 1887 page 692 - Fort Wayne green
Railway Review 1888 page 581 - Tuscan red

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Re: 19th Century Passenger Car Paint

Postby TheTwistedmind » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:16 am

Wow! I can't thank you enough for all the research you have done for me. I feel lazy now lol. I did model my car after a Bachmann On30 combine. I've also used this as somewhat guide. http://www.midcontinent.org/rollingstoc ... onary1.htm

http://www.midcontinent.org/rollingstoc ... /index.htm

Again thank you very much!
Rock On!

Posts: 90
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2011 1:50 pm

Re: 19th Century Passenger Car Paint

Postby ferroequine » Wed Jun 04, 2014 4:33 pm

It turns out the Jackson and Sharp build register for the 1880s - 1890s is stored in the archives at the Smithsonian. A friend of mine was back that way a few months ago and returned with a digital copy of each page. After skimming through the records I can tell you this: Tuscan was a very popular color during that period for NG and SG cars alike, especially on the east coast.

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