Friday, July 24, 2020

Color of Older Steam Locomotive Lettering

I've blogged about Central Vermont steam locomotive paint and lettering schemes prior to the familiar "tilted wafer" that became a Canadian National system wide standard in the 1930s. You can find that discussion here
A while back, Matthieu Lachance was kind enough to prepare the artwork for the CV steam locomotives in this era (there was an even earlier CV steam lettering style, shown below on 4-4-0 no. 100), but the style in the artwork and shown on no. 101 above dates to 1900, and lasted up through the mid 1930s with some variations.  
I've just about got the artwork arranged into number jungles that match some of the engines I might want to model someday. So I'm all set to get decals printed, Right? Wrong. 
I don't know what color the lettering was. 
My best guess is it was either some form of "white" - even a very light gray. I don't think it would have been aluminum paste lettering, like that found on Santa Fe locomotives up through the end of steam. 
Or the lettering was some version of yellow - "Deluxe Gold" - best described as "mustardy" yellow and applied to Pullman and other passenger cars starting in the early 20th century. 
I don't think it would have been gold leaf - which would appear like glittery gold lettering - since gold leaf was more expensive and likely went out of style about the same time locomotives lost their Russia Iron boilers jackets. 
Perhaps in-depth examination of the railroad's accounting records would reveal if, and when, they bought a particular stock of paint for the locomotive shops. Perhaps, but I simply don't have the resources or information to conduct such detailed research. 
Of course, it's also possible they did something like apply gold lettering to passenger engines, and white to freight hogs. 
I have reached out to some experts in the railroad's early history to see if they can offer any insight. Otherwise, I'll figure it's a best guess and press on. I know which way I'm leaning. I'm leaning towards some form of yellow lettering, , but that's wishful thinking based on the fact I think the locomotives would look sharp - but I have absolutely no evidence to support that choice. 
Come to think of it, I have no evidence to dispute it either!
Maybe I should have the decals printed up in both colors to hedge my bets? 


Bill Gill said...

Marty, I've hedged with even just plain white decals for my freelanced RR, adding some to the mix with different lettering styles that could reflect different time periods and give a sense of history...or just be extra decals that stay in a drawer.

If you need lots of them, having twice as many printed might be a bit much, but you might be able to add a few of the less-certain-you'll- use-this-scheme color on the sheet beside the more-likely-scheme and if you like it the same artwork easily could be adapted to the second choice and reprinted if the original artwork was created in separate color layers.

If you do go with a "Deluxe Gold" I'd be really interested in who you have print them, how they are printed and how they turn out. I tried to have some printed for a couple milk and passenger cars. The first batch had tiny dithering dots of yellow, red and black that stood out in close up photos. The second attempt was done with three separate solid color overlays (white and two different yellows). The registration was off a smidge and one of the yellow layers had places where it either didn't print for some reason or delaminated later.

I then looked for someone stil screen printing decals since they'd be down with a single, solid color. I don't need many, but couldn't find anyone still making decals that way.

CVSNE said...

Hi Bill,
Thanks for your thoughts.
I know printing deluxe gold can be a challenge. In asking around about custom decal printing one source keeps coming up -

I'm going to try them - at first for some freight car lettering I also need and then the steam locomotives.

Based on the minimum order, I may have a few extra sets left ... !!

Matthieu Lachance said...

Glad to see the artwork is now ready for printing! Can't wait to see the final result. I recall reading a long time ago the Deluxe Gold and Silver appearing in the 1900s and being implemented as a standard by WW1 when it was no longer possible to justify such a costly expense. The old fancy CV paint scheme is quite elegant, I'm surprised to learn it survived well into the 1930s.