Monday, February 14, 2005

San Joaquin & Sierra Nevada locomotive colors


I realize this is tangential by virtue of the SJ&SN's later absorption into the SP, but given the preserved combination car, I think it has some significance.

I've been reading the Porter Memorandum Books and found an interesting note regarding the finish of SJ&SN mogul locomotive "Jacob Brack." The engine was large for Porter, with 12x18 cylinders, 40" drivers and 26" truck wheels. It was equipped with a 1050 gallon tank on eight 24" wheels, no injector, (although #4 Sellars 1876 is written after that) and a 16" Williams lamp. The name "Jacob Brack" was to be put on the cab panel, and the tender was to be lettered "San Joaquin & Sierra Nevada" with no abbreviation for railroad following.

Of great interest to me was the note regarding the engine's painting.

It was to be painted in "our regular style of Painting with Gilt letters &c. & Blue paint where we usually put brown in tender striping, etc.."

This is remarkable – most entries specify lettering and numbering, but very few mention painting color or style; exceptions are generally a specific request from a purchaser, such as "black with gilt" and so on. This entry not only describes a specific request - blue striping - but also offers a rare account of brown striping as "usually" used on tenders.

Photographic evidence indicates that Porter began to employ a painting style similar to that of the Pennsylvania Railroad in about 1878, which used a black or dark green ground for panels of gold and white, with "stiles" or border stripes at the top and bottom of the cistern in brown. The brown "stile" (Baldwin's term) is documented on both contemporary Baldwin drawings of PRR tenders in the Stanford painting data books, as well as large scale models of Pennsylvania engines and the 1939 PRR restoration of a 1880s PRR consolidation locomotive. I had suspected that brown would have been employed in on the Porter copy and was very happy to see it confirmed.

I am not aware of photographs showing the engine as built, but believe it would have had a tender divided up into panels with ornamental ends, of gold, possibly with a smaller cream stripe inside, and the blue stiles at top and bottom of the tank.

One question remaining is the ground color – was it dark green or black, as PRR practice, or another shade? It would be logical that whatever color was employed would be visually harmonic with blue stiles, or that Porter would have determined another ground color to suit the blue. Other requests in the Porter memorandum books for the same time period mention black with gold, with one request for red wheels. While it seems safe to assume that red wheels were not a Porter standard, the requests for black may or may not be duplicating an existing finish, and entered to record the customer's desired color.

An additional locomotive ordered from Porter by the SJ&SN, the "B.F.Langford," has no mention of blue.

The obvious connection here is to the use of blue as a ground, or body color for the preserved SJ&SN combine – its clear that someone on the railroad liked the color and was in a position to employ its use. The other interesting thing is that this is a fairly early example of a deliberate harmony of colors used on both and engine and a passenger car. I've seen other examples, but nearly all are later, from about 1902-1907, and refer to engines painted Pullman color to match their train; the earlier example is a second or third hand account that describes an entire 1840s train, engine and cars, painted pale blue, but within a vastly different period of aesthetics.

All in all, the little line must have been a sight to see.

Jim Wilke


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

I had the opportunity to do some paint reserch on the little Porter 0-4-0T (6x10 cylinders) built in 1887 for the 30-inch gauge Eureka Mill railroad in Nevada. The loco was found at the bottom of Butt Lake in the Sierras near Chester, California, where it had been abandoned by the contractor after dam construction in the early 1920s. It's now on display in Chester. It had what I interpreted as black paint (although on reflection it might have been dark green). We did find the original "EUREKA" lettering on the saddle tank. It's called out on the spec sheet, but doesn't show up in any known photos.


Note my NEW address of

Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum

2/14/2005 12:36 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Thanks for the first hand description of the engine's paint, Kyle. Both black and dark green are logical for the period and for Porter's post-1878 style. It helps narrow the focus, at least for late 1880s Porter engines.

A number of shipping references in the memorandum books indicate a fairly rapid delivery schedule, usually for contractor and industrial engines, with one engine being shipped 15 days from date of order. It suggests that Porter employed driers and other methods to speed up painting in addition to construction techniques. Perhaps this may account for the use of black or dark green in addition to other factors.

Thanks again,

2/14/2005 2:58 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Recent Messages