Colored Steam Locomotives

Santa Fe 1010

This page categorize steam locomotives using a method not commonly seen -- by their color.

Before the 1890s, most if not all freight and passenger locomotives were painted in colors. Some, like Jupiter (think the driving of the golden spike), were painted very brightly while others were more practical earthy tones like greens and browns. Black locomotives became common beginning in 1880, after coal burning engines made grime commonplace. Black was chosen because black locomotives didn't show all the dirt and grime that covered the locomotive during normal use. After 1900, when a railroad line wanted to show off their locomotive(s), perhaps when used exclusively for passenger service, they would use special paint schemes to make them look more "attractive" or fast. This, of course, necessitated more frequent maintenance and cleaning and therefore, was not a common practice.

This page is mainly focused on colored North American steam locomotives. However, because the British (and a number of other countries) put more effort into coloring (or in this case maybe I should say colouring) their steam locomotives, a number of non-North American steam locomotives are also mentioned here. The LNER Mallard and the LNER Flying Scotsman are two good examples of coloured British steam. Elegant Steam is a web site devoted to British steam with many coloured examples.

Red Steam Locomotives

Union Pacific 119, Promontory Summit, UT

The Central Pacific Jupiter and the Union Pacific 119 of the Golden Spike National Historic Site certainly have enough red in their paint schemes to qualify as red steam locomotives. These are the original paint schemes for these locomotives. These replicas were built back in 1980 by Chadwell O'Connor Engineering Laboratories of Costa Mesa, CA. The Jupiter is also one of the more attractive steam locomotives you will ever see.

More Red North American Steam Locomotives

Red non-North American Steam Locomotives

Orange Steam Locomotives

SP 4449 sporting its Daylight colors

The most well-known orange steam locomotives would the Southern Pacific Daylights. GS-4 Northern number 4449 has been in excursion service for many years. In my opinion, this is the most attractive streamlining ever applied to a steam locomotive. The colors used when 4449 was dressed up in the Freedom Train livery would also qualify this as a red, white or blue locomotive.

More Orange Steam Locomotives

Yellow Steam Locomotives

C&O 490, B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore, OH

In 1946 the C&O converted four 25 year old F-19 Pacifics into class L-1 Hudsons (490-493). They had stainless steel and orange shrouds. 490 was the only one to see service after 1950. Its orange cowl was repainted yellow. C&O crews called these locomotives Yellowbellies. 490 is now on display at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD.

In 1941, the Chicago and North Western Railway had two of their class ES (superheaded) Pacifics fitted with streamlined shrouds which were painted in yellow and green. They were streamlined to pull the "400" express passenger trains between Chicago and Minneapolis. However, the C&NW decided to use diesels instead. The two streamliners were demoted to pull the Minnesota 400 and then local passenger service.

More Yellow Steam Locomotives

  • C&NW 1617
  • Dantzler Lumber 0-4-0T+T #1147 (South of Zephyrhills, FL on highway 301 is a place called Festival Park. In the park sits this 0-4-0T+T. This 1907 Vulcan was built as Florida Phosphate 2, and in 1933 was sold to Dantzler Lumber (near Tampa) and renumbered 1147. After its career was over, it was placed on display in Lowery Park in Tampa. It was later moved to the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum in Parrish. My guess is that was recently moved to its present location. I don't know if the tender was really part of this locomotive or not (it already has a tank). Also, the smoke stack is not authentic. Perhaps both the tender and balloon smokestack were added by Dantzler Lumber and they fired it with wood instead of coal.)
  • Busch Gardens 4-4-0 9 (Tampa, FL)
  • Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge 2-8-0 at Gunnison, Colorado has been re-painted to its 1955 era yellow and silver "BumbleBee" paint scheme.
  • Adolf Meyer 0-4-0T (LaPorte County Historical Steam Society, Hesston, IN)

Green Steam Locomotives

Southern 1401 displayed at the Smithsonian

There are a couple well-known green steam locomotives in the USA. One is the beautiful Southern Railway class Ps-4 Pacific number 1401 on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. The other is the Southern Railway class Ms Mikado number 4501 at the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in Chattanooga, TN. However, green is not the original color of 4501. 4501 is a freight locomotive and therefore was originally painted black. It was painted green to match that of Southern's passenger locomotives when it was put into excursion service a number of years ago.

More Green North American Steam Locomotives

Green non-North American Steam Locomotives

  • The Renfe Serie 242f was the epitome of steam in Spain.
  • LNER Flying Scotsman
  • The British Railways used green for their passenger steam locomotives. Their Western Region painted most of their engines green following the tradition of their predecessor -- the old Great Western Railway.
  • The C38 class Pacifics of New South Wales, Australia were painted green. Some were also streamlined. Photo courtesy Nick van Domburg.
  • Number 1210 of New South Wales, Australia was painted green. Photo courtesy Nick van Domburg.
  • There is a green semi-streamlined class 500 4-8-4 in the Port Dock Museum, Adelaide, South Australia.
  • Hr-1 alias Ukko-Pekka, an engine used by Finnish State Railways mainly on long distance passenger trains to end of 60's.
  • Tasmanian (Australian) H & M class locomotives were painted an apple green on delivery from the U.K. and later painted dark green and bright red.
  • 18 201 German semi-streamliner built in the former German Democratic Republic. It was 'patchwork loco' with the main frame, taken from the 61 002 Streamliner, the trailing wheel, cylinders and cab from the H45 high pressure experimental loco, the tender from a 44 Class freight loco and a new boiler. It is still operational. Today, it is often used with two tenders, as there are very few places in Germany to take on either fuel oil or water. This is one fine looking steam locomotive. (Photo courtesy Dampflokomotiven - Gunters Eisenbahn Seiten)
  • In Belgium, for most of the last century (but certainly from the end of WWI), and up to the end of steam (1967), locomotives were painted green with red & black accents. See the photo of engine 29.013 (MLW 1945), photographed in Antwerp Central Station on an excursion trip a few years ago.
  • SNCF 241P16: boiler, cab and tender: green, wheels: black (Currently located at the Mulhouse French National Railroad Museum)
  • 141R: depending of their "home base", some were painted green, with either red or yellow accents.

Blue Steam Locomotives

Gulf, Mobile & Northern 4-6-2 #425, Hamburg, PA

The most famous blue steam locomotive in the USA is perhaps the Gulf, Mobile & Northern class P-1 Pacific number 425 that used to operate in excursion service on the Blue Mountain & Reading out of Hamburg, PA. Here is a shot of it under steam back in 1993.

Another very famous blue steam locomotive is the British Railways No 60022 'Mallard' (holder of the world steam speed record). This engine, with most of its class, was painted Garter Blue. During the war it was painted black and for a few years during British Railways days was in BR passenger livery of Brunswick Green. It is now preserved in its original Garter Blue by the National Railway Museum, York, England.

More Blue North American Steam Locomotives

  • North American Rayon 1 (Another not so well known blue steam locomotives is in Elizabethton, TN. It is a fireless steam locomotive from the North American Rayon plant located in Elizabethton. Apparently the plant had a large capacity steam generating system and they would fill this thing up every morning and it would go all day doing duty shuffling cars about. It is now located at the Visitor Center on US 19E two blocks from the town's famous Covered Bridge. I have heard in 2009 that this locomotive is now painted green.)
  • Several of the Texas and Pacific 700 class Pacifics were painted in MoPac blue with wide light gray stripe to match the Eagle passenger cars.
  • Texas State Railroad #200
  • The Central of New Jersey pacifics that pulled the Blue Comet were painted two-tone blue.
  • The Wabash Bluebirds (before the diesels took over the name) which were 700 series Hudsons that were rebuilt in the Decatur Illinois shops from Mikados in 1943 and 1944 were painted dark Wabash blue with a gray stripe and semi streamlined (running board shroud).
  • The AT&SF "Blue Goose" (number 3460) was the only streamlined steam locomotive that the AT&SF owned. It ran between Kansas and Denver in the 1930s. It was painted eggshell blue and silver.

Blue non-North American Steam Locomotives

  • Thomas the Tank Engine
  • The S class Pacifics of the Victoria Railways (Australia) were painted royal blue with yellow striping. Alas, all were scrapped.
  • Chinese SL-7 (former Manchurian, now at Sujiatun Steam Locomotive Museum)
  • London Northeastern 4468 Mallard (set worlds speed record of 126 mph on July 3, 1938)
  • SNCF 232U1: blue with yellow accents, wheels: black (Currently located at the Mulhouse French National Railroad Museum)

Gray Steam Locomotives

NYC 5453

Ten of the J3 Hudsons (5445-5454) were built streamlined (in 1938). The design was developed by Henry Dreyfuss. Half of these locomotives had boxpok drivers. The other half had Scullin double-disc drivers. These locomotives were used primarily for New York - Chicago service. Shrouding over the main air reservoirs was removed in 1941. All streamlining was removed from these locomotives in 1945.

More Gray North American Steam Locomotives

Gray non-North American Steam Locomotives

  • French PO RR Pacific: "artillerie" (gunnery) gray. One, 231 ALCO built restored in original colors (Currently located at the Mulhouse French National Railroad Museum)

Gold Steam Locomotives

CB&Q 5632

In 1964 CB&Q 5632 was painted with temporary (water-based) gold paint to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of CB&Q's suburban service. Chicago - Aurora runs were made on May 20, 1964 (a mid-week trip - on the actual day) and on May 23rd. The May 23rd trip consisted of a record number of passengers (about 3500) for a CB&Q fan trip (22 coaches were used). By June, 5632 was once again painted black. However, 5632 was again painted gold to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Kansas City Union Station with a trip to St. Joseph on October 31, 1964 and a trip to Bevier, Missouri on November 1. The trip on November 1, 1964 proved to be 5632's final (CB&Q excursion) trip for when she returned to Galesburg, she was stored unserviceable with no further extension on flue removal.

Silver Steam Locomotives

CB&Q 4000 "Aeolus"

In 1937, West Burlington installed a stainless steel shroud and roller bearings on CB&Q 3002 in order to use it as substitute power on the Zephyrs. It was renumbered 4000 and named Aeolus (Greek God of the Winds). Crews were quick to refer to this locomotive as "Big Alice the Goon", after a character in the Popeye comic strip. 4000 saw regular duty heading the Chicago to Denver Aristocrat and Exposition Flyer. In 1941 West Burlington built a similarly shrouded Hudson 4001 also named Aeolus. 4000's shrouding was removed in 1941 but the nickname stuck. 4000 is now on display in a park in LaCrosse, WI without its shrouding.

Brown Steam Locomotives

UP 7002. Photo courtesy Allen Dale.

The Union Pacific's Omaha Shops shrouded two locomotives in 1937. The 7002 locomotive was built to pull heavy passenger trains over the Rocky Mountains, with massive 6-foot wheels driven by 4,000 horsepower. The 2906 was one of 10 P-13 Pacifics built for the UP by Baldwin in 1920. They both were shrouded primarily to serve as relief power for the dieselized Cities streamliners between Omaha and Ogden or Denver. Pacific 2906 and Mountain 7002 served between 1939 and 1941 on the Forty-Niner, a heavyweight, all-Pullman streamliner departing five times a month from Chicago to the site of the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco. The locos bore UP's prewar streamliner colors of Armour Yellow, Leaf Brown, and Scarlet. The 7002 ended its spectacular 32-year career as a rescuer engine for stalled locomotives.

More Brown North American Steam Locomotives

Brown non-North American Steam Locomotives

  • Some Australian Queensland Rail C17 4-8-0s were painted brown and green.
  • French NORD RR: all compound express locomotives. Nicknamed the "Chocolat". One, 231 restored in original colors. (Currently located at the Mulhouse French National Railroad Museum)
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Wes Barris