Information Regarding Locomotive Paint Schemes
By Jason Kuehn


The first two diesels RS-1's 1000 and 1001 were not black on receipt. They were Pullman Green or O.D. if you prefer.  The lettering was originally dulux silver and shortly after repainted in White. Number 1000 is at the Museum of Transportation and Industry and I personally have removed the various layers to get to the bottom of these questions. Their second incarnation was the 1948 blue and gold scheme followed with black and yellow when the noses were chopped in the Anchorage Shop. - Pat Durand


From 1947 - 1951 the ARR acquired a bunch of Army surplus RSD-1's which were designed for use in Europe and Asia and were essentially RS-1's on six-axle trucks with lower clearance cabs. Some of these were converted to a covered carbody for passenger service. These were in blue and yellow and interestingly enough the road switchers seem to have had black lettering, while the carbody conversions had yellow lettering.

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See also: Complete Roster

Other army surplus Baldwins, Porters, and SW-1 were also acquired and wore various variations of the blue and yellow road switcher scheme.

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The carbody scheme was applied to the 12 F7's purchased new from EMD in 1952 and 1953


See also: F Paint Schemes

The first black and yellow seemed to appear with the Army Surplus GP7's acquired in 1960, and I speculate was because the units were delivered in a basic army switcher black and yellow paint which the ARR just painted out the letter and numbers and applied their own lettering


Various modifications to this scheme occurred as the GP-7's were reconfigured over the years:


Including at least this one with just a solid yellow block on the nose instead of stripes:


This black and yellow was applied to the ordered new GP30, the GP35's in 1963-1965, and the first two orders of GP-40's in 1975 and 1976, And to two of the rebuilt GP7-s:

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S-2's from Army surplus also wore the black and yellow


At least one GP35 received solid yellow frame striping:


The army surplus Alco MRS-1's acquired in 1974 and 1975 were all painted in the black and yellow scheme with out pointed stripes (except for 1605)


image (note the short hood stipes)

Silver trucks started to appear on the black and yellow GP's starting around 1978? (reportedly after to GP40-2's were given silver trucks while on lease one winter to the AAR test center in Pueblo, CO.

Also note the big dipper applied to the air duct. I think only 3011 and 3008 had this applied and I don't know what year it showed up.


A black and yellow scheme was also created for the F7's (and carbody RS-1's). I don't know when it was first applied, but probably sometime in the early to mid-1960's:

Many of the carbody Alcos were retired in the mid to late 1960"s and never received black and yellow paint.

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By the early 1970's most of the F7's had been repainted into black and yellow and this is the scheme as did most of the second hand GN and DRGW F7's received when acquired by the ARR in the early 1970's

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The DOT passenger scheme was adopted with the acquisition of second hand passenger cars from the UP after the formation of Amtrak. The cars debuted in 1972 I believe. Four locomotives all with steam generators were painted to match (1512, 1514, 1517, 1509). In 1975 fully rebuilt F7 1530 (no steam generator) was also released in this scheme:

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In 1976 the ARR hired Chester Mack to develop a bicentennial scheme and he also developed what I call the "bold" Alaska Scheme. The 'bold' Alaska scheme debuted on the last 8 Paducah rebuilt GP7's 1802-1809, then appeared on the 3rd order of GP40's 3012-3015 and on the second hand GP40's and the rebuilt ungraded GP35, and the GP49's. Six F7's (two ABA sets - 1500-1502-1503 in 1980 and 1506-1508-1517 in 1982 were painted) as were the 2 ex-Amtrak E8's and the second hand GP38's and MP15's. It became the standard scheme until the SD70Mac's arrived in 1999/2000:

image As the first locomotive to debut in this scheme 1802 was given a snow plow pilot and was often used on the Whittier shuttle.

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image (only a handful of locos received the 75th anniversary decals - at least 2005 and 1503, maybe a few others in 1998).


image (note different font on 1553 only)

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Note that black trucks were on the first locomotives to wear this scheme in 1976 (1802, 3015), but were changed to silver trucks later on (again probably the late 1970's or early 1980's).

The bicentennial scheme was applied to FP7's 1510 and 1512


The Big Mac scheme:


The Baby Mac scheme current for GP40's and GP38's although not all have been repainted:

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Key pages for loco photos are:

I doubt often, if ever, did all the locomotives on the ARR ever where the same paint scheme except during the 1950's when everything was in either the road switcher blue and yellow or the cab-unit blue and yellow. After that point. Things were pretty consistently black and yellow in the early 1970's except the few F units painted in the DOT passenger blue and yellow scheme.

After 1975 everything was mixed with at least 2 different paint schemes on locomotives:

From 1976-1985 there were black and yellow (both F and road switcher), DOT passenger blue and yellow, Bold Alaska (F's and GP's), and bicentennial units.

From 1985-1999 you had a mix of black and yellow GP's and Bold Alaska GP's and MP's (plus F7B 1503)

After 1999 there was a mix of Big Mac, Baby Mac, Bold Alaska, and black and yellow GP schemes which still exist today.

Additional notes from Curt Fortenberry

Excellent summary I agree. I'll point out some extra details that are in the photos.

The GP7's arrived with their original switcher trucks and high short hoods. The ARR swapped out the trucks and chopped the noses.

The anti-glare/anti-slip black paint on top of the nose did not start until the arrival of the GP49's. The GP40's and GP40-2's did not have this detail. All units painted after that did get the antiglare coating (GP38's and -2's and MP15's). I know 1551 and 1552 had it, but I never got close to 1553/1554 to verify but I suspect they did. 3012 was touched up in the 90's and it too got the black top, that oddly wrapped down around the top of the nose. The MAC and repainted units in the new scheme got a greatly expanded antislip paint that was on every flat surface to include the roof. 3008 got the dipper due to an employee initiative. ARR did not have a paint shop after the mid-80's so they officially never repainted a unit. They did have a contractor paint some passenger cars in the ARR shops but the painted faded since they had to use a "lesser" paint.

ARR added the extra cab side windows to many GP units.

ARR added plows to most units but not all. A few GP40-2's of the middle order seemed to not get them for some reason. The plow on the front, since is had a sharper angle

1503 and 2005 are the only units I can think of that got the 75th anniversary logo. Several passenger cars did as well.

I was trying to figure out which units are in their original paint and this is what I came up.

GP38's: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008

GP40-s: 3001, 3003, 3006

Due to the initiative of the Chief Mechanical Engineer, 3004 was modified with a unique feature that allowed the trucks to perform as if they were the steering type trucks on the SD70MAC's. What they did was swap out the bearings to a different type that had more play in the frame. This was attached to a setup that was mounted to the frame that as the truck swiveled the moved the bearings. The test was successful but the experiment never repeated. I was told by the CME that it could allow SD40 type locomotives to be had on the used market, modified the same way, and used on ARR's sharp curves. The older SD truck was desired as the -2 truck wasn't suitable for the mod. One success of the SD70MAC was the steering truck that reduced wheel flange wear.

A couple of the locomotives repainted stateside did not get the ARR style numbers due to the paint shop error. ARR did not make them correct it to avoid delays in delivery.

ARR does have a paint code for the modern blue/yellow, but seems modelers worry about paint more than than ARR did. You can easily see the differences when locomotives of different paint shops are coupled together.

1500 was painted differently that the other F7's in the bold scheme. If you look at the paint line across the top, the angle goes up to the fan hatch before moving forward to the front of they dynamic brake hatch. Since 1500 was the first unit painted, they made a change to the units the had the angle line stop at the top of the roof edge radius, then go straight across.

The front doors on the FP7's were changed during their tenure in bicentennial paint. They started with no headlight and a large circle of stars, and eventually got a nose door with a headlight. They also lost their painted scenes at some point.

ARR started adding ditch lights in the 90's, as well as moved the horns forward to meet federal sound levels for crossing warning. This also caused more noise concern for crews in the cab. Most units also got the FRA class lights in the nose as well.

I should add that the ARR drawing that is titled "Proposed for Road and Freight Locomotives" in the black scheme is dated 1-28-1959. This is the black/gold scheme drawing for the F units and shrouded alcos. the GP7 diagram is date 4-11-1960. The GP7 diagram does show a chopped nose GP7.

That's what's on my mind at the moment.


The information on this page was created 2/1/14 and last updated 2/4/14

© 2014 by original authors