Tuesday, April 12, 2005

CP (SP?) depot color in 1880.

From: "Wendell Huffman" wwhuffma@clan.lib.nv.us

While looking through my files for any information that might help Larry, I came upone the following in Best's notes. Since statements about color are few and far between, I thought I'd put these out for any intersted.

14 Aug 1880, Sacramento Union. "The new [Sacramento] freight depot was yesterday being given its first coat of paint — a light drab, which looks very neat. . . . The architecture of the building of the rustic order . . . "

31 August 1880, Sacramento Union. "The [interior] walls and ceilings are cased with narrow beaded ceiling. The walls are painted a light green and the ceilings white."



Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kevin" mikadobear45@yahoo.com>

Hmmm ... an 1880 citation with reference to "light drab" ... very interesting. I'm left to wonder whether this so called drab was either the first use of the olive green tint depot and structures scheme, or if it's the earliest form of what I've come to think of us "Huntington Drab," a lighter charcoal gray, both of which have been found on various post-1877 surviving depot structures.


4/12/2005 9:30 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman" wendellhuffman@hotmail.com

One point – which is probably obvious – this essentialy corresponds with the opening of the new Arcade depot (the freight depot more-or-less took over the ground of the old – presently reconstructed – passenger depot). That doesn't really tell us anything, however. We don't know if there was a relationship between the colors of the new freight depot and the new Arcade passenger depot. Nor do we know if a new color was unveiled for the new facilities (and opening of Benicia ferry route).

The only other references I have found to "drab" is that of the new water tank at Folsom being painted that color in October 1889, with the iron hoops and pillars in black.

And also FWIT, this is only a few years after Pullman color appeared on the co's passenger cars. Perhaps there was a color scheme being developed.


4/13/2005 4:50 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Actually, I believe Pullman color - and Pullman cars, came to the Central and Southern Pacific about 1882 or 83.

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

Note my work address has changed to: kwyatt@parks.ca.gov
My personal address remains: kylewyatt@aol.com

4/13/2005 10:52 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Dale Darney" vtshops@sbcglobal.net

The new depot in Reno built in 1879 was described as follows. Not much to be sure of.
Dale Darney

The building has been painted throughout a light drab, with dark trimmings. The house is the finest on the line of the road from Sacramento to Ogden. Hot and cold water runs all through the house.

4/13/2005 10:54 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman" wendellhuffman@hotmail.com

Kyle is exactly right. The reference to the Freight depot paint came before the switch to Pullman color. There was no relationship beteen the color used on the Sacramento freight depot and the switch to Pullman.


4/14/2005 9:45 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "woodburner" woodburner@earthlink.net

My impression was that the reference to Pullman color was correctly in reference to 1889 date of the water tank, rather than the 1880 reference date of the freight depot. In either case, everyone is correct here.


4/14/2005 10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Holly Kane" hkane@usc.edu
Subject: Southern Pacific depot paint colors

I'm researching early train stations in Los Angeles for a Master's thesis and came across your comments in the CPRR Discussion group from 2005.

I had something to add and wanted to pass it on to you. I found a newspaper article (Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1888, 2) that describes the new Arcade Station's appearance as:

"the main colors being a light shade of olive green and dark red."

This color combination differs markedly from those on the discussion site. I am wondering if the "light olive green" might in fact be a shade of gray, and if the dark red is more of a brownish tone. Additionally, the wording suggests that other colors might also be used in smaller quantities. Any wisdom you might have on this is greatly appreciated, and if you would like a copy of the article, please let me know and I'll forward it to you.

—Holly Kane

5/21/2007 10:43 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: kylewyatt@aol.com

Many thanks for your note on the colors of the LA Arcade Station. ... Speaking for myself, I'll be most interested in seeing the results of your research. And I would encourage you to place a copy of your finished thesis with the California State Railroad Museum Library in Sacramento.

As to the question at hand, yes I'd be interested in a copy of the article. In addition, I suspect the CPRR Museum web site would be happy to post it along with the discussion. Sacramento had a very similar arcade station built in 1879, and it is most interesting to compare the two structures.

As to the "colors" of light olive green – yes I suspect it would have strong gray elements in it – olive colors often being described as somewhat "dusty" in coloration. I suspect some of the others will have more to say as well.

—Kyle Wyatt

5/21/2007 10:45 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman" wwhuffma@clan.lib.nv.us

"Drab" is a color term I've also seen in historic references to SP structure color. I'd associate "drab" with "light olive green."


5/21/2007 12:52 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Jim Wilke" woodburner@earthlink.net

Thanks for the description of the Los Angeles Arcade Depot colors. Its a handsome scheme, and very typical for the period.

It may be helpful to consider architectural colors from this time period, in addition to known SP depot colors. Thanks to Wendell, I have excerpts from the 1890-91 issues of Painting and Decorating magazine, two years away from the LA Times description of Arcade Station, which describe the use of "quiet olives and warm grays," yellowish brown, subdued red, and other muted tones.

It describes one house in olive with darker olive trim delineated by "brick brown, red or lake," and illustrates a Queen Anne house with "a rather bright olive in two tints, along with a rich maroon red or lake for wood-work." It continues that "an equally good effect can be obtained with two tints of brown or gray instead of olive," and remarks that "from such a combination of colors we should be pretty certain to get something of the qualities known in artist's parlance as "breadth and repose," and would hardly fail to produce a pleasing effect to all.

While olives and grays could be employed equally well, they consider the colors as distinct from each other. And the "light shade of olive green and dark red" of the Arcade Station sound very much like the olive greens and brick, subdued red and lake colors described above.

Olives in various shades were made from lemon chrome yellow, Prussian blue and lampblack, with ochre sometimes substituting for the lemon chrome yellow, or in addition for a richer color. Olive brown was made from raw umber, and lemon chrome yellow.

Drabs came in many shades. Clay drabs were made with white, raw sienna, umber and medium chrome yellow, while yellow drabs and "stone color" was made with white, chrome yellow and burnt umber for an "endless variety of drabs." Brown drabs employed Venitian red, lamp black and ochre, sometimes with white for intensity. Another simple drab, from carriage painter Fritz Schreiber in 1891, was "9 white and 1 burnt umber."

Given the significance of Arcade Depot as a major station in Southern California's largest city, and its distinctive architecture which is separate from the common SP stations, I'd think it would be a candidate for an equally distinctive color scheme, not necessarily one used elsewhere.


5/21/2007 6:59 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kevin Bunker" mikadobear45@yahoo.com

You have posed a tantalizing question and puzzle piece to a long running discussion and study of historic passenger depot color schemes used by Southern Pacific Company and its affiliate railroads.

In the mid-1980s I received a few commissions to assess and analyize historic color strata on several SP depots in Northern California that were all built between the mid-1870s and the 1890s. One, at Livermore (which was built in the 1890s) had as its first (earliest) color layer a uniform solid gray-green. Call it drab, call it olive – all its oldest exterior walls bore this somber color with strong evidence of deep red or lake window sash. At Livermore all original exterior shingles (often dip stained or painted to coordinate with wall colors) were long gone, however, having been replaced with later generations of green composition roofing allied to the post 1905 to circa 1930s "Colonial Revival" yellow, amber, brown and white colors.

SPCo and CPRR depots in the period c.1875-1885 were, by evidence gathered from four Northern California combination passenger and express depots built no earlier than 1865 and as late as 1877, were painted a duo-tone olive with white sash. These olives were bright, typically repeated twice into the early 1880s and clearly not related to the next generation of company colors.

Nevertheless, I began to see that what I had thought might be a primer layer on older depots color strata samples was in actuality a short-lived – perhaps ten years maximum duration – color scheme that I informally dubbed "Huntington Drab" since Collis P. Huntington, famous for his frugality, was then President of the Southern Pacific System.

In the intervening years I have examined a few more SP and CP railroad depots and found the same drab/olive color layer – one layer only – that always falls between the late 1880s and about 1905-15. Only one other small depot that I've been able to examine had dark red or perhaps lake window sash; the rest had off-white sash at the same historic strata levels relative to the drab/olive.

It has since become my studied opinion that SP adopted this "drab scheme" which was a variant of the then popular olives and stone-colored drabs throughout the US, but surrendered it to the more familiar yellow, amber, brown and white scheme (with green shingled roofs where appropriate) following Huntington's death and the during the build-up for increased West Coast tourism allied to the simultaneous Panama-Pacific International Exposition and Panama-California Exposition in San Diego during 1915.

To no avail (so far) I have tried to watch carefully for any reference in historic news reports of colors on Sacramento's massive trainshed depot – demolished in the 1920s – that was somewhat similar to the one in Los Angeles built during the same interval. In vintage photographs, both appear to be wearing the same basic color scheme when new, but I have not – until your query – been able to firmly posit what that scheme may have been.

—Kevin Bunker

5/21/2007 7:03 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Holly Kane" hkane@usc.edu

Dear Kevin,

Thank you for your extremely informative reply. I should mention that I'm writing this thesis to satisfy a Master's in Historic Preservation. It's a fairly new program at USC, so we learn the basics and then learn in the real world. I'm familiar with analyzing paint colors and find that aspect of preservation fascinating; one of the other gentlemen responded with an excellent description of paint compositions.

With your permission, I'd like to include some of the information you've provided in a footnote or an appendix, with full credit given to you for the information. This is a huge topic, and I want to try to make my work as complete as possible, while staying within the parameters of principal train stations in Los Angeles.

I am continuing to do research, and in fact had identified the Sacramento station as having similar architecture. I will stay on the lookout for any reference to paint colors. Has someone checked old Sacramento newspapers around the time the station was constructed? I've used the historic Los Angeles Times database for many of the smaller details in my research, but I'm finding that the best tidbits are published before the station opens, because, naturally, the whole town has already seen the new station by the time it opens so they all know the color by then!

—Holly Kane

5/21/2007 11:44 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Holly Kane" hkane@usc.edu

Dear Jim,

I like the reference you've cited from Painting and Decorating magazine, your analysis is quite logical. This is what occurred to me after reading the description and seeing later SP model colors labeled gray (lark and lettering) but appearing rather olivey green.

Putting the design decisions in context has been a challenging aspect of my research, your comments certainly help. With your permission, I'd like to include some of your remarks, with proper credit, in my thesis.


5/21/2007 11:47 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: kylewyatt@aol.com

[There] are several photos of the Sacramento Arcade Depot taken in the first years of operation (opened in 1879). Most of these are from the Sacramento History On Line web site, although the newpaper boys photo ... belongs to Chris Graves, part of a large collection he purchased recently. ... Two photos are held by SAMCC (Sacramento Archive & Museum Collection Center), and one by SacLib (Sacramento City Library History Room). Also note the 1923 view from CSL (California State Library) showing the basic color scheme, as represented in black and white photography, doesn't appear to have changed significantly over the years. Can't say about the specific colors, however.


5/22/2007 12:05 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "John Snyder" johnsnyder@onetel.com

Be careful about judging colors based on model paints, and always go back or original sources or samples whenever possible. Again harking back to paint tests that Kevin Bunker was doing when still on staff at the CSRM, I recall him going a bit crazy trying to get a Munsell match to a dark SP gray that visually appeared to have a blue cast to it. He had tried matching to every conceivable Munsell chip when I suggested trying the Munsell neutral grays, which provided a perfect match – there was no blue at all in the original gray.

—John Snyder, White Ensign Models

5/22/2007 10:25 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "John Snyder" johnsnyder@onetel.com

Kevin Bunker and I found that light olive color on a number of SP depots while doing paint analysis. We had a Munsell match for it, but I no longer have those with me here in England. Not sure if Kev still has his notes, or whether it’s all lying in a file folder somewhere at Caltrans HQ in Sacramento.
—John Snyder, White Ensign Models

5/22/2007 10:26 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "John Snyder" johnsnyder@onetel.com

I recall running across a newspaper account of the then-new Sacramento Arcade Station which described its colors, but can't tell you now what they were nor the name of the paper. The California State Library, California Room holds an index for the Sacramento Bee which may be of some use.

—John Snyder, White Ensign Models

5/22/2007 10:30 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Holly Kane" hkane@usc.edu

Thank you for all your replies, I realize that the (mostly) solid information I do have about the original colors of the Arcade in Los Angeles is the short description from the newspaper, and that is someone's impression rather than a Munsell chip.

In an attempt to make the information in my thesis as complete as possible, I would like to include a short appendix with a discussion on depot colors, time periods, paint content. I know this is wading into tricky territory because there is so much to know and I am not an expert. If I work up a description from the emails from all of you, and send the final out to the discussion group for approval, is that acceptable? I will give full credit for the ideas and descriptions.

—Holly Kane

5/22/2007 10:54 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "John Snyder" johnsnyder@onetel.com

Works for me....

—John Snyder, Principal, P.S. Preservation Services

5/22/2007 10:59 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Jim Wilke" woodburner@earthlink.net

I'm glad it was helpful, and please feel free to use whatever information I've provided that would be useful to your work.

Thank you also, for sharing the information regarding the colors. I'm from an old Los Angeles family, with a relative who rode on horseback from Compton to the groundbreaking of USC in 1880, I believe for the square wooden structure in the center of campus. Los Angeles in the eighties was going through the first significant fluorescence of growth towards what would later become a major city, and the construction of the station during the land boom is a significant emblem of that. An interesting story must be behind its construction.

On a subjective note, I think the Arcade Station was rather successful in design, in that the adaptive Queen Anne architecture lent itself well to the requirements of a large open shed. The turrets on the corners were better proportioned in relation to the mass of the structure and the main entrance was modest and well balanced. Light olive greens and dark reds appear to be very sound for its design as well.

In contrast, the Sacramento station always struck me as shabby; a jumble of cheap outbuildings massed around a large shed, where badly proportioned turrets and carpenter Gothic offered little credibility. Part of this may have been economic restraints in the wake of the 1873 depression, however. The only redeeming architectural feature about Sacramento's station was the use of the monumental Gothic arch on the main shed – in the hands of Frank Furness, it may have been a truly worthwhile structure.

The Central Pacific and Southern Pacific did employ a sound approach to their stations in that they generally did not overbuild in advance of traffic, a lesson not known to the Los Angeles & Independence. And in accordance with the regional nature of the West Coast, their structures were somewhat vernacular, and usually wooden, in even the best of circumstances. They offer strong contrasts to the truly great stations of the time, such as Paddington and the original Euston in London, Central Station in Milan, or the Nordbahnhoff in Vienna.

A noteworthy American example is that of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Harrisburg, built, I believe, in 1888 – an excellent example of understated late aesthetic architecture, still very much in use today. You might find it offers an opportunity to contrast practices between two companies and regional concerns, and many of us have noted that the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific occasionally adapted designs for operations, cars and other elements from the Pennsylvania railroad, making it a sound comparison.

—Jim Wilke

5/22/2007 2:19 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Randall Hees" hees@rcn.com

You may want to check with the folks at Heritage Square along the Pasadena Freeway (an optimistic thought) for information on the paint colors they found on the Hale House. It is shades of green and red, and may provide contemporary context for the paint colors found on the depot.

Several years ago I checked with Caltrans district 4 (Oakland) and with Caltrain looking for the paint information they had generated for the Bay Area depots. At that time most was missing... They are still looking.

—Randy Hees

5/22/2007 7:51 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: kylewyatt@aol.com

The Sacramento Union (or Record-Union) has frequently had articles collected and transcribed by researchers, but for some reason the Sacramento Bee has only infrequently been consulted.  Several researches that I know who made a point of surveying both papers often noted that the articles were complementary, each paper providing only part of the story, with the whole picture emerging from the combination of both papers.
There is an extensive article (but no colors) in the Union on Aug 2, 1879 while the depot was still under construction – I'll send a copy of a transcription tomorrow.  It wuld be interesting to survey the Bee around then and later when the depot is actually complete to see what they have to say.


5/23/2007 8:59 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: kylewyatt@aol.com

[Here] are several items that may be of help.  These include a transcription of a past discussion of depot colors, a general summary of depot colors by period, and a couple of other items.


Historic Paint Colors

SP 1897 Colors

Gray Paint and Red Station Trim in the 1880's

Southern Pacific Depot Colors

CP/SP Depot Colors by Period

This is intended as a general outline only of when different paint schemes were in used by CP/SP. There are numerous individual variations in actual practice.

1. c. 1864 to 1867 – Light color (buff? canary? or maybe a Gothic Revival inspired blue-gray?) with white trim on Sacramento depot.

2. 1860s-early 70s - Solid "metalic" brown with white trim.

3. mid 1870s - solid "metallic" brown with rose-beige trim.

4. late 1870s-early 1880s -2-tone green.

5. c. 1880s to late 1890s - gray/drab color.

6. mid 1890s to 1930s - colonial yellow/amber/dark brown trim/medium green dipped shingles. The color is a rich amber, and used only on exterior wainscots, false or otherwise -- and add rich medium green color-dipped roof shingles

7. mid 1930s to c. 1960s - as above, dropping the amber, with alternate roofing allowed: green composition or other roofing material(s).

8. c. 1937 to 1960s - 2-tone seafoam green scheme, used on some SF Peninsula depots and perhaps some other Coast Division depots. Perhaps associated with introduction of the Daylight.


5/23/2007 9:04 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "John Snyder" johnsnyder@onetel.com

The problem with checking with Caltrans District 4 is that they didn't generate the paint info – we did it from Caltrans Headquarters on request from D-4. If the information is still there, you should contact

Gloria Scott, Chief
Built Environment Preservation Services Branch
Cultural & Community Studies Office
Division of Environmental Analysis
California Department of Transportation
(916) 653-1029

She replaced me when I retired, and should be able to locate the records

—John Snyder, White Ensign Models

5/23/2007 9:06 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "John Snyder" johnsnyder@onetel.com

Apropos of the time period in question (late '70s/early '80s), I undertook paint analysis on the Governor's Mansion (Albert Gallatin House, 1877) in Sacramento a few years back, finding that the original colors were a pale greyish olive green for the body color, dark olive green for the trim, and deep red sash; the banded imbricated shingles on the tower and Mansard roof slopes were in bands of the two greens. The house was still in this scheme when acquired by the State in 1903, but they've chosen to continue with its all-white scheme in the latest restoration ...

—John Snyder, White Ensign Models

5/23/2007 9:09 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kevin Bunker" mikadobear45@yahoo.com

And I'm pretty sure I've spoken with (via email) Larry M regarding the SPCo color samples supposedly preserved at OHS here in Portland; few chips remain - some have been torn off the paper page(s); some have been corrupted by contact with other acidic paper and documents over long periods of time, probably while the documents were in other collections or still with SP. The lot of these pages of copy CS drawings were, surprisingly, in a varying state of disarray in each folder and box, and the librarian was very apologetic but said she lacked staff and money to keep up better. They have several blank original copy pages where chips should have been tipped/glued in but never were.

I asked whether the chief librarian would permit the remaining sample chips to be safely cleaned, quick-flashed with ultraviolet light to restore some color accuracy to their oil-base and if proper color photographic copying and Munsell matching could be done (I don't recall any gray or drab or slate color chips) but was told a formal letter of request would have to be presented, which I didn't do because of no pressing need.


5/24/2007 8:53 AM  

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