Color and The Chicago and North Western Bicentennial Hopper!

In our High School, our class schedule was organized by what was called "A" and "B" days.  For those of you not familiar with this kind of schedule, it is a method for having more classes than what may be allocated in one school day.  One schedule of classes occurs on A days, and a schedule of different classes occurs on B days, and then the two schedules alternate.

On one morning, I walked into my 8:00 a.m., A-day class. But rather than being received by the sober gaze of fellow math enthusiasts, I was met by a different set of faces, and my first thought was "What the hell are you people doing in my class!?"

Perhaps my first thoughts should have been 'it must actually be B-day, and I am probably confused."

The point is this: sometimes, notions that are preconceived influence our thought process.  And, this is true for how we deal with color.

In 2009, ExactRail made the first release of the Penn Central Greenville 7100 Auto Parts Boxcar.  For the color on this car, we missed the mark—no doubt about it. However, what I remember of the experience is that the person who chose the original color pointed to the new ExactRail model and decried adamantly, “I remember these cars, and they did not look like this!”  His perception of color influenced his thought process to such an extent that, when the accurate color was shown to him, he felt the accurate color was no more right for the car either.

(The picture below compares the color of the original release with the color of our recent releases that have been certified by the Penn Central Historical Society.) 

The lesson: You have to be careful.

When I started the bicentennial project with the CNWHS, I was surprised by the color.  The red and blue colors of the CNW bicentennial hopper are not the typical shades of red and blue.  The red color has hues of candy-apple/magenta, and the blue is quasi-powered in color.  And, these particular shades of red and blue are good candidates for being altered by our subjective precepts. With a bicentennial car, maybe we would expect to see a blue more toward the navy spectrum and a red that is more crimson?  As I was mixing paint to get the right color match, I was surprised by how far away the colors deviated from standard red and blue. 

The photograph below is the builder’s photograph as it was provided by the Chicago & North Western Historical Society (CNWHS).  With the age of the photo, the colors had shifted, and so I am also sharing my attempt to restore the color to how it most likely looked.

As indicated above, our perceptions of color are not irrefutable, and, as also indicated above, images themselves are not irrefutable either.  Identifying the correct color for equipment may be a complex process that requires the comparison of many different media so to tease out our subjective precepts and what may be lost to poor photo processing and age. Yet, color is such an important part of the model railroading experience. We are proud to work very hard to get it right.

Our Chicago & North Western Bicentennial Hoppers have been met with outstanding praise from the CNWHS. The Chicago & North Western Bicentennial Hopper is available only through the Chicago & North Western Historical Society by clicking here.

Happy railroading!


3 Responses

Brian Banna
Brian Banna

October 23, 2016

Color does scale due to the amount of surface area that light has to reflect off of. You can take the exact paint that was used on the prototype and paint your HO scale freight car and I promise you it will not look the same.

I am liking your blogs Blaine. They are short and to the point.

Thomas Austin
Thomas Austin

September 26, 2016

I agree with Eric…and you, Blaine. Having spent thousands of hours scouring photos of various Missouri Pacific equipment…I can attest to the simple facts that pictures can indeed “lie”. Most, if not all of the former MP equipment in good or original condition are captured on Kodachrome 64 slides…and the like. Paint hue is very important to we modelers…more so than to railroads…as they are simply repainting a piece of equipment to meet FRA regulations…and repair damage or prevent rust.

ExactRail has done an excellent job in researching and refining its’ Missouri Pacific paint schemes…and I can say, without a doubt…that you have a perfect array of paint colors and such…for your MP equipment…Pictures will always agree or disagree…but you guys hit it out of the park…with regards to lettering, nuance and required, and even with respect to the hobo art you put on some MP cars that you have released.

Thank you!


September 25, 2016

The magic number was 23! That is 23 times I painted and stripped the paint off my o scale model of MN&S #30. Modeling it right after it was rebuilt in the 70’s. I think I am dead on with the color. What was hard with the blue is realizing that many photographers during that time used polarizing filters which change the colors in the pictures. After painting I would go out and take a picture in the same light using these same filters. I think I have it now but just saying, even the pictures can be wrong.

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