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Color Guide for Painting Model Pacific Electric Railway Cars

by Dave Garcia & George Huckaby

December 15, 1997

Both authors of this article have been queried many times concerning the colors for painting models of Pacific Electric Railway cars. This article has been written for the Trolleyville School and will attempt to answer as many of these questions as simply as possible. As more substantive data is uncovered, this article will be updated.

Before going any further into this subject, it must be recognized that the employees of the Pacific Electric mechanical department were a dynamic lot. They were always experimenting with new things from bow collectors and pantographs to striking paint schemes. Accordingly, several one of a kind paint schemes were tried and rejected after one trip to 6th and Main. Pictures of the rejected modernized 600 paint scheme and the rejected 5050 paint scheme exist and have been published. But there were also red and orange box motors, gray "Hollywood" and 1200 series interurbans and other such experimental schemes that we will not discuss here. All data contained in this article is supported by documentation or eye witnesses, unless otherwise stated.

1. Reds

First, there were at least five major (and a few minor) shades of red used on PERy cars from 1902 until its final demise in 1961.

The first is Pre-Merger Red. This color, sometimes referred to as "crimson" was used to about 1915. Very little documentation exists about this color except that it is believed to be a redder version of Electric Lines Red #1 which followed.

Electric Lines Red #1 was the first red adopted as the standard of the new Pacific Electric starting about 1915 up to about 1929. At the time of the writing of this article, an excellent example of this color is present on the PERy Birney car #331 located at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA. Also there is considerable evidence that the shade of red changed slightly when the method of painting changed from the two step base color paint and varnish method to the use of enamels. All cars delivered prior to 1930 were finished in this color. This was the standard red used on the Southern Pacific electric lines including Fresno Traction, and electric lines in Oakland, California and Portland, Oregon. There is evidence that this color actually originated in Portland. PERy roofs during this period were box car red, however, the type of paint used on canvas roofs of the wood cars tended to lighten with age to an almost milk chocolate brown. However, almost any brand of model box car red paint will do here.

Electric Lines Red #2 or Shoshone Red replaced Electric Lines Red #1 as the third major red external paint around 1930. It was a slightly redder color than Electric Lines Red #1 and was adopted as system standard. It can be approximated with a 50-50 mixture of Scalecoat #62 (Lehigh Valley Cornell Red) and #73 (Bright Caboose Red). It was only used until 1934 until the PERy specifically directed its use to be stopped. The Southern Pacific continued with this color on its electric cars until 1938. Pacific Electric resurrected this color and applied it to the "Valley Sevens", the car #107 modernization project, the first batch of Portland Box Motors converted from coaches, and a few other cars which happened to be in the shop for painting at the time. An original paint sample of this color was obtained from a retired PERy painter and still exists. The "Valley Sevens" were 15 "Hollywood" cars (735 through 749) that were given higher top speeds, overhauled and repainted beginning in 1938 for Valley service after service beyond Van Nuys was abandoned. The paint scheme was very unusual for the Pacific Electric as it was possibly the first time that the PERy abandoned the solid red paint scheme in use before 1911. Although red was used on both the letterboard and the area below the windows, the window area was a cream color. Black stripes separated the cream for the red on both the top and the bottom of the cream area and they outlined the bottom of the body from end to end. The cream color we currently use is a 50-50 mixture of Accuflex #16-30 (Sand) and Accuflex #16-304 (Dry Sulfur)

The fourth major red color became standard in 1934 and is designated Electric Lines #3 or Banderillo Red. This was the system standard to 1940-1941. It is, again a redder version of Electric Lines Red #2 and can be approximated with a mix of Scalecoat #73 (75%) and Scalecoat 62 (25%).

The fifth and final red, Pacific Electric Red, emerged in 1939 for the Butterfly 1200 series cars and the modernized "Hollywood" cars but was not made standard until the coming of the PCC cars in 1940. In 1939 "Hollywood car 608 became the first PERy car to get the butterfly treatment, i.e. red body, orange letterboard, silver roof and striping with green trolley base shroud. After the 608 paint scheme was approved, "Butterfly" cars 1216-1221 were put through the shops along with the first batch of 600 class "Hollywood" cars. Meanwhile, because the new red had not yet become system standard, all other cars continued to be repainted in Electric Lines Red #3 with the mineral red roofs and yellow lettering without any striping. It is known for a fact that cars 1110, 1204 and 1252 were repainted in the earlier scheme during this time. General rehabilitation and upgrading of the 600-759 series "Hollywood" cars kept the shops busy until at least September 1941 as a report by the Superintendent of Equipment stated that only 21 more "Hollywood" cars need to be upgraded as of July 1941. Pacific Electric Red, #83-19024, was adopted as standard with the approval of car 608 and was used for everything to the very end. It can be approximated with Scalecoat #26 (Santa Fe Red). It is important to remember that the only wood bodied cars that received this red paint were the 950, 1000, and 1400 series cars still on the roster after 1941. No other wood cars, including the 800's ever wore this shade of red. However, there is evidence that about four single truck Birneys and at least electric motor #1609 received the final Pacific Electric Red paint.

The Northwestern Pacific 4500-4518 "Blimps" started though the shops beginning in the spring of 1942 and emerged with Pacific Electric red bodies with silver lettering, French gray roofs and green trucks. But no striping was applied

The Maritime Commission "Blimps" went through the shops during the summer and fall of 1942 and emerged in Pacific Electric Red with mineral red roofs (later French gray). Motor cars were lettered in dulux yellow and the trailers lettered in white. Trucks were black at this time. These same cars later, as the 4600 series "Blimps" had the "PACIFIC ELECTRIC" lettering in silver with the numbers in silver or dulux yellow.

During 1942-1943, the whole fleet underwent rehabilitation using the new standard paint scheme consisting of 83-19024 Pacific Electric Red car body, orange letterboards and striping, silver striping and lettering, French gray roofs, green trucks, black underbody, hardware and roof details. This was applied to all remaining 100s, 950s, 1000s, 1100s, 1200s and steel 1400s. There was no striping on wood cars or steel combos.

2. Oranges

Orange was first used as a trim and striping color on modernized "Hollywood" car 608 in 1939. This was a shade very similar in color to Southern Pacific Daylight orange. During the 1947-1949 period, Southern Pacific Daylight Orange, (Southern Pacific color panel No. 29) was used. However, this was dropped in favor of the former color by 1951. Use photographs when deciding to finish cars with orange striping as not all cars received the full treatment as to the application of striping. Steel combines 1370-1376 never received any orange striping during either the 1942-1943 upgrading or any subsequent shoppings. Some 1100 and 1200 class cars initially did not get the orange and silver striping below the windows but did get orange letterboards. In most cases, they did get the striping later. There is no evidence that any wooden car received orange paint. We recommend Scalecoat #30 (Daylight Orange) for the orange on all PERy cars as both oranges were so similar. Due to all the possible variations, we strongly recommend the use of reference photos before finishing any PERy car.

3. Roofs, Striping and Lettering

Lettering on PERy cars was gold until no later than 1918 when the color changed to dulux yellow. This lasted until about 1940. Generally speaking, when the cars were repainted Pacific Electric Red, the lettering became silver. Box Motors were lettered in the same manner as passenger cars as long as they were in Electric Lines Red attire. When the box motors became Pacific Electric Red, the lettering changed to silver. There were, as usual, exceptions. The 1459 through 1462 Box Motors emerged from the shops initially with white lettering. The last repainting of RPO #1406 resulted in a Pacific Electric Red car with dulux yellow lettering. Meanwhile, most wooden box motors had been repainted into mineral red colors during World War II. They were lettered in white. These is also evidence that several 800's were lettered in silver edged in black during the mid-1930's even though they were attired in Electric Lines Red. Locomotives 1616 and 1617 were delivered with silver lettering.

When the car bodies were Electric Lines Red, roofs were mineral brown, which can be approximated with any box car red, although we normally use Scalecoat #13 (Box Car Red). However, since the wooden cars had canvas roofs, a roof emulsion was used which tended to lighten quickly as it dried out. With the red and orange paint scheme also initially came the silver roofs, although they were eliminated by the order of the Army Air Defense Command in 1942 due to their high visibility from the air. Roofs immediately became "battleship gray" and a barrel of paint was actually acquired from the U. S. Navy at the time. This should be able to be duplicated with Floquil #818652 or any other Battleship Gray. Other shades of gray were also used due to the urgency to complete the repainting. This color can also be approximated using Scalecoat #33 (Union Pacific Dark Gray). The standard fleet roof color for a few years was a color identified as "French Gray" as it was very close to the colors of pre-revolutionary French Army uniforms. This color can be closely approximated with Scalecoat #32 (Union Pacific Harbor Mist Gray). In 1944, the final tan roof color appeared and can be approximated with Floquil #81, Earth. We frequently add different splashes of gray or brown paint to it for variety. Looking at photos, it does not appear that any two PERy cars had the same roof color after the late 1940ís. Just to confuse things even more, at least the first seventeen "Hollywood" cars converted to one-man and renumbered into the 5050 series emerged from the shops with mineral red roofs but were later changed to tan. Note that after 1953, the roof color was "Taffy Tan", the same color used by Los Angeles Transit Lines.

4. Pacific Electric Truck Green

Another frequently asked question involves the actual color of the trucks. The correct color for all passenger car trucks is Southern Pacific Passenger Car Green, (Southern Pacific color drift panel No. 7, No. 1 & No. 2 Olive Green). This color can be created with a 50-50 mixture of Scalecoat #17, (Pullman Green) and Scalecoat #19, (Southern Green). This same color is also used for the pole base shrouds on both the PCC cars and the modernized Hollywood cars with silver roofs, along with the "mohawk" roof treatment applied to certain PCC cars, Hollywood cars and "Blimps". In the case of the PCC cars, after the roofs became tan, not all cars had green poles base shrouds. Again, we recommend that photos be consulted before finishing models of any PERy equipment. Work equipment and electric locomotive trucks were usually black, although there is evidence that sometimes green was used. There is actual evidence that sometimes the backshop at Macy Street repainted passenger car trucks in black. There is no actual evidence that pilots were painted green, however, it looks good on models and we occasionally do it.

5. Pacific Electric Mineral Brown

At the present time, we are using a 50-50 mixture of Box Car Red and Tuscan Red for the mineral brown work equipment such as the 002 wrecker and the 00157 Tower Car. But we do try and make the roofs a slightly lighter color to simulate the baking of the emulsion type paint used on canvas roofs under the Southern California sun.

6. Locomotives

Locomotives were lettered dulux yellow the same as passenger cars during the period of Electric Lines Red. Both black and green trucks existed. In 1928, the cab side numbers became 15 inches high, and at first these large numbers were white while the rest of the lettering remained dulux yellow. Finally all lettering became white.

When the steel locomotives started to be repainted black in 1944, they were all black, including roofs and trucks, with white lettering. The first engines to be painted black did not have striping on the ends of the hoods, just on the pilot beams. When the white striping on the pilot beams and hoods was added, various patterns were used, the number of stripes being 10 or 11. In some cases, the motorman's cab window sash was painted red similar to Southern Pacific practice. Wooden locomotives such as the 1560s, while black, had mineral red, gray, black or tan roofs as they were canvas and roof emulsion was used. Some of these locomotives were entirely mineral red. During the summer of 1948 the orange lettering and striping appeared. Only minor lettering on the locomotive remained white.

One more point, locomotive 1544, the 'Electra', was never painted in service in the colors that it wears today at Traveltown in Los Angeles. The exterior of this locomotive was Electric Lines Red until the late 1930's when it was reclassified as an M of W car and repainted Mineral Red.

In 1940, locomotive #1609 was painted Pacific Electric Red with silver letters and white numbers. With its mineral red roof and green trucks, it just may have been the last locomotive painted red.

Should there be any questions concerning this information, please contact us by mail at Custom Traxx, P.O. Box 641175, West Los Angeles, CA 90064-1175, by E-mail at traxx@earthlink.net or by phone at (310) 475-5597 weekdays between the hours of 6:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M. (PST/PDT).

About the authors, Dave Garcia & George Huckaby

Dave Garcia is currently one of the senior members of the mechanical department at the Orange Empire Railway Museum. Born in 1945 in Glendale, his love of the Pacific Electric began with his Sunday outings with his grandfather when he was 5 and 6 years old. His grandfather would take him and his cousins on various lines of the Los Angeles Transit or the Pacific Electric Railway and they usually ended up at Philippes on Alameda street, famous for roast beef sandwiches. About the time he became 9 years old, he was introduced to the Long Beach line where he was enthralled with the 6th and Main activity, the four tracks, Amoco Junction, Slauson Junction, Watts Junction and electric locomotives. He even noticed the wrecking crane outside of the Watts Carhouse. By the age of 12, he was modeling. His parents, particularly his father, were very supportive and accommodating to his interests. Now living in Whittier, he observed the coming and going of the box motors and the locomotives working the packing houses. Starting out with a Walthers passenger car kit, he converted it to a PERy "Blimp". For Christmas, he was given a Suydam PERy 950 by his parents and he distinctly remembers how his grandfather could not believe that the model cost a whopping $24.95. With the acquisition of the PERy 950, he became interested in all those boxes and tanks under the car so he proceeded to ride his bicycle all the way to Watts Carhouse and was allowed to go into the pits under "Hollywood" car #5112. So began a collection of technical data and over 200 models.

Dave joined the Orange Empire Railway Museum in 1960 when he learned of its existence from the Foreman of the Fairbanks Car House. He has been Mechanical Superintendent, Master Mechanic, Purchasing Agent and Chief Instructor in his 37 year tenure at OERM. Many hours were spent interviewing both then active and retired PERy shop men from the Superintendents to the laborers. These interviews produced voluminous notes on everything from air brakes to wheel turning. He stayed in contact with a number of these men until the end of their lives. In the process, he acquired many diagrams, notebooks, desk diaries, shop manuals and personal photos, etc. His specific project in 1962 was to research PERy paint data for the restoration of the real thing. In 1965, a huge break occurred when much of the remaining files of the PERy Mechanical Department were transferred from 6th & Main to Watts and given to him. This data contained paint data, drawings, photos, memos and data about pre-merger cars. Dave still works one to two days a month at OERM and is a member of the Southern California Traction Club.

George Huckaby started with trains early as a child. His mother used to take him to 25th and Diamond Streets to watch trains. She says it seemed to be the only thing that would shut him up. The view here was the four track main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad with many steam engines, GG-1s, P-5s and unique Baldwin diesels. A train passed almost every minute. Also there was a streetcar line on almost every north-south street except Broad Street. So he was in the middle of heavy trolley watching with routes 3, 8, 21, 33, 39, 57 within walking distance. By the time he was in the first grade, he knew the different classes of cars even before he know the official names like Peter Witt and Nearside. PCC cars were then called "Streamliners" by the Philadelphia Transportation Company and the general public George did not learn about the term PCC until it was printed on a trading card that he acquired in 1953. He distinctly remembers learning this in the schoolyard at recess at Our Lady of the Rosary school on 63rd Street in West Philadelphia. He also remembers the few PCC cars painted without the maroon belt rail on Route 13, a fact he thought might have been purely imagination until about forty-five years later when such a picture appeared on page 52 of the book "Rail Transit Philadelphia - The PTC Years" by Richard Vible & Henry Elsner.

George's Pacific Electric experience started in 1971 when arriving in California. Within two months of arrival, he became member #832 of the Orange Empire Railway Museum, where is a qualified motorman to this date. After riding car #717, he was amazed how the interior reminded him of the Frankford Elevated cars which had been retired in 1960. So he immediately began learning about all that he had missed not being in California and within years the PERy became a close second in his interest to the native Philadelphia trolleys.

George founded Custom Traxx in 1992 to increase the numbers of electric railway modelers. His goal was to find out where the traction suppliers were and let everyone know what was out there and how to do things. In 1995, George founded the Southern California Traction Club. (SCTC). The SCTC is an HO scale traction club using the modular concept and operating from live overhead wire. By the end of 1997, they will have displayed their operational modules at six different shows in California from Paso Robles to Anaheim. In 1996, Custom Traxx began conducting workshops at the Great American Train Shows (GATS) held in California, showing prospective modelers how to hang operable overhead wire and by the end of the year had evidence that several modelers had successfully erected overhead wire as a result.

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