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.
. 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).
. 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.
. 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.
. 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:
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.