Why would a railroad paint its cabooses different from the diesels?

rg5378 Dec 24, 2013

  1. rg5378

    rg5378 TrainBoard Member

    Hi everyone,

    I am wondering if it is plausible to have a diesel engine painted one color and the caboose another color? I have a caboose that I painted a bright red. But I have recently decided that my railroads' engine colors are going to be maroon and white. I like both paint schemes and don't really want to repaint the caboose.

    I know that the Santa Fe had red cabooses and blue / yellow diesels so I have a prototype to follow.

    I guess a related question would be "Why would railroad paint their cabooses different fom the diesels"?

    I am just looking for a plausible excuse to run my red cboose behined the maroon engine.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.
  2. Eagle2

    Eagle2 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I'm sure someone with a better knowledge of history can answer this better, but in many ways the choice of relatively standard colors just was, to what I can tell. In some ways this explains why we can refer to colors such as "reefer yellow," "boxcar red" or "caboose red." For the cabooses, I can speculate that part of it may also be choosing a visible, bright color for safety. And as you noted about Santa Fe, I'll say the same for MoPac - the diesels were blue or blue and gray, cabooses were red. So in roundabout fashion to get back to where you started, I see no reason to consider repainting your stock.
  3. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    depends on the road. The SP used Mineral Brown until the end, but kept adding sections of Daylight Orange...first the ends in 1955, then in the 1960's, the sides of the bay windows, then in the 1980's, the footstep wells....The UP had yellow cabeese before they had diesel power, and the AT&SF aways painted their hacks red....
  4. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

    In the 1950s Canadian National had red or orange cabooses while its road diesels were painted green and yellow. Only after their 1961 image change, to the "noodle" scheme, that the caboose was painted in similar colors to the locomotives (black and red with white noodle).
  5. GP30

    GP30 TrainBoard Member

    I don't really know why either. My CC&CI runs a black & Yellow scheme on it's locomotives (Think NKP, D&TS, Clinchfield, etc). No one runs black cabooses (or not common place, at least) so my cabooses will either be mostly Red or mostly Yellow.... or both.
  6. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Good question. For many companies, it was certainly obvious, the beginning and the end of a train.

    Milwaukee Road had orange in most of their diesel schemes, and orange or orange/ black cabooses. NP had black/yellow with a little red engines, and a brown-ish cabooses.
  7. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

    SOU had some different caboose schemes that showed what the caboose was set up for. Some were for road freights and some were designated for local service. Neither scheme matched the engines at the time.
  8. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

    About 1970, Texas Mexican eastbound train switches Robstown, Texas with green diesels, orange trim.

    The diesels pulled only a portion of the front of the train into Robstown, and left most of their train a mile west of town with a green and orange caboose.

    But for a switch, by the 1980s, cabooses were out of use on freight trains. But Tex Mex painted a surplus caboose in passenger train colors. Passenger? Yes, 40 years after its abandoning passenger service at the end of WWII, and 15 years after Amtrak took over most remaining passenger service of private railroads, Tex Mex REINSTITUTED 3-round-trip-a-week intercity passenger service on their own. Inswtead of buying a baggage car, they used a surplus caboose to carry the baggage.
    Photo at Hebbronville westbound for Laredo, 1988.
  9. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

    Early on, locomotives could be very ornate with all their brass fittings, brightly painted cabs and Russian Iron boiler jackets. Cabooses were typically mineral brown or red, inexpensive paint colors to mix. Locomotives evolved into simple all black while cabooses stayed brown or red. Some railroads like the UP or MKT chose other colors like yellow while a few others had even other colors. When the diesel locomotive came along, unique complex paint schemes seemed to become the rage for a while on locomotives. Then as profits slid, simple paint schemes came about. I can think of a few railroads like the C&O (Chessie) and Con Rail that painted cabooses to match their locomotives at one point.
  10. rg5378

    rg5378 TrainBoard Member

    To everyone who responded, Thank you and have a Merry Christmas!
  11. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

    Sorry, but the Armour Yellow UP cabeese were conceived in 1949 in Los Angeles and painted in 1949 through 1950 system wide. The UP had diesel power long before that. However, the "Streamliner" Armour Yellow paint scheme on UP's passenger equipment was adopted over a six year period between 1949 and 1956 on all passenger trains, with two-tone gray and Pullman green cars taking that long to finally all be painted Armour Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray. This time period therefore, is interesting as some branchline wooden CA and CA-1 cabooses stayed brown well into the 50's too. Up until 1949, the UP's cabooses varied between straight old "Boxcar Red" to a much more reddish "Mineral Red", with the new steel-bodied cabooses ( CA-3's & 4's) painted the reddish Mineral Red.

    The Armour Yellow caboose paint scheme was developed to both make the cars more visible and to advertise UP's Streamliner colors...even on freight trains pulled by two-tone-gray or black steam engines.

    So, since the vast majority of freight trains were pulled by steam engines in 1949 on the UP, if the railroad was interested in the caboose and engine matching color-wise, the cabooses would have been painted shiny black. By 1956, the tide had turned and F's, Alco FA/FB, Geeps, etc., were now in the majority and the cabooses and engines mostly matched since both were Armour Yellow...to specifically advertise the "Road of the Streamliners" propaganda UP wanted the public to see.

    Sooooo...having the cabooses different colors than your engines is regular practice with railroads. Cabooses on the same road often were different paint schemes too when the railroad was transitioning from an old scheme to a new one, with some cabooses simply never being painted into the new scheme until they were retired.

    On my UP layout, which I allow engines, trains and paint schemes from 1947 through 1956, cabooses are mostly Armour Yellow, with a few Mineral Red holdouts rolling along with the Yellow ones. It adds interest and is also prototypical.

    Here's a photo of trains at the 1000 mile signal bridge in Wilhemina Pass on my layout. Time for this shot is obviously either 1949 or 1950 since there are two different colors of cabooses on the same train:

    And, it's also FUN! :)

Share This Page