Union Pacific Diesel Painting Guide

Provided by Don Strack

Also see Don's web site,

Union Pacific's first diesel fleet paint scheme was on the M-series
streamliners, which were painted in Armour Yellow and Leaf Brown. M-10000
and M-10001 came in 1934, M-10002 to M-10006 came in 1936, and the City of
Los Angeles and City of San Francisco E2 sets came in 1937.

The EMD E6A units delivered in 1940 were the first units in Armour Yellow
and Harbor Mist Gray. The new yellow and gray scheme continued in 1941, with
the delivery of the new E6s for the new "City of...." Streamliners.

The first switchers were delivered in an all-black scheme with striping and
11 inch yellow lettering. The lettering on the cab sides was for "Serves All
The West" on the left (fireman's) side and "Road of the Streamliners" on the
right (engineer's) side, with the word Streamliners in red (UP 1000
initially had multi-colored Overland shields on both cab sides). All switch
locomotives delivered between 1940 and 1947, when the yellow and gray scheme
became standard, were delivered in the black switcher paint scheme. Included
were the EMD NW2s 1000-1075, Alco S-2 1036-1054 (later renumbered to
1100-1118) and 1119-1153, Baldwin VO-1000s 1055-1060 (later renumbered to
1200-1205), Fairbanks Morse H10-44 1300, and GE 44 ton 1399. Locomotives
were lettered with "D.S." prefixes on their numbers, denoting "Diesel
Switch", similar to the "M" character in the road numbers of the road's
Streamliner passenger motive power, which denoted "Motor".

With the inauguration of daily service for the Streamliners in 1947 (City of
Portland in February, City of Los Angeles in May, and City of San Francisco
in September), the all-black switcher scheme was changed to yellow and gray
"Streamliner" colors to promote the new daily service. The previous 11 inch
lettering was retained, changed from yellow to red, with a 1/4 inch black
edging added. The cab side Road Of The Streamliners slogan in red lettering
with 1/8 inch black edging was retained (drawing dated 8/16/47). The last
switch units delivered in the black scheme were the 25 NW2s, numbered
1051-1075, delivered in February to June 1947. Fairbanks Morse H10-44s
1301-1304 were delivered in February 1947 in the black scheme.

The first switch units delivered in the new yellow and gray scheme were the
20 NW2s from EMD in March to September 1948, numbered as 1076-1095. The five
new DS-4-4-10s from Baldwin, numbered 1206-1210, were delivered in September
1948 in yellow and gray.

Union Pacific's first road switcher freight units were delivered in the new
yellow and gray scheme: two units from Alco, RSC-2 1190 and RS-2 1191, both
delivered in February 1947. The 11 Fairbanks Morse H20-44 road switcher
units in the 1360-1370 number series were delivered beginning in August
1947, in the new Streamliner colors, and were immediately placed in helper
service in Southern California.

The yellow and gray scheme was already in use on the road's passenger power,
since 1940. The scheme was continued on UP's first combination freight and
passenger units, the Erie builts from Fairbanks Morse in 1945. All of the 85
car body units delivered during 1947 came in the new Streamliner colors.
These included: EMD F3As and F3Bs in May; Alco FAs and FBs in June; Alco PAs
and PBs in September; and the A-B-B-A set of FM Erie-builts in November.

November 1951
All passenger cars to be painted in yellow and gray Streamliner colors,
replacing both two-tone gray and olive green on non-Streamliner cars.

February 1953
"D.S." prefix on road numbers for switching power removed. 78 units assigned
to South-Central District were completed between February and July 1953; 13
in February, 62 in March, and one each in April, May and July.

Changed from gray trucks to silver trucks. First used on the new 300-class

Changed from "Road of the Streamliners/Serves All The West" on cab sides to
"Dependable Transportation." First used on the new SD24s.

Added non-skid dark green paint to top of low nose units, beginning with the

October 1969
Wording in UP medallion (shield) changed from "Union Pacific Railroad" to
just "Union Pacific"

July 1972
Lettering changed by elimination of black edging (3/16 inch on the 5-inch
Dependable Transportation, and 6-inch front end letters and numbers, and 1/4
inch on 8-inch, 10-inch, 11-inch letters and numbers). The black edging was
also removed on the larger lettering (1/4 inch on 13-1/2 inch numbers [U50C
and DDA40X cab numbers], 3/8 inch on 24-inch [U50C], and 1/2 inch on 35 inch
letters [DDA40X]), but none are known to have actually been repainted
without black edging. First units completed at Salt Lake City included GP9Bs
302B and 323B, SD24 413, SW9 1841, and SD40 3032, all in July 1972.

September 1972
Cab side slogan changed from "Dependable Transportation" to "We Can Handle
It," without black edging on letters. First units to be completed were GP9s
202 and 206, done at Council Bluffs, Iowa, both in late October 1972.

GE 44 ton 903999, maintenance of way shop switcher in Pocatello, Idaho, was
completed at Omaha with "We Can Handle It" in mid February 1973.

March 1973
Lettering returned to black edging (3/16 inch for end 6-inch numbers, 1/4
inch for the 8-inch end letters, and 5/16 inch for the 20-inch side
letters). First new units to receive the new style were SD40-2s 3203-3242,
delivered without lettering in April through June 1973 (lettering was
applied by UP at Omaha upon delivery).

January 1975
Added non-skid dark green paint to roof top at rear of unit, extending four
feet from rear. Previously, only the top of the low nose of units so
equipped was painted with non-skid dark green paint, a practice that began
with the SD24s in 1959.

October 1975
"We Can Handle It" on cab sides replaced by 24 inch medallion (UP shield),
with 10 inch unit numbers (with 1/4 black edging) on air equipment door.

20 inch Union Pacific letters (with 5/16 black edging) on hood sides changed
from 11 inch (with 1/4 inch black edging), except on GP7s, GP9s, GP20s, and
SD7s, which retained the 11 inch letters due to lack of space on their hood
sides. (The 20 inch letters had first been used on the DD35s and DD35As in
1964-1965, but with 1/4 inch black edging.)

Lettering on cabooses possibly changed to 20 inch at the same time.

The first repainted unit with the new scheme was U30C 2867 in January 1976.
Second unit was SD24 446 when it was mated with slug S5, in March 1976.

The first new units to be delivered with the new scheme were U30Cs
2920-2959, received in July to October 1976, and new SD40-2s 8035-8064 in
July 1976.

June 1976
White paint adopted for handrail verticals and step edges on switching
locomotives, including all NW2s, SW7s, SW9s, and TR5s, and on those GP20s,
GP30s, GP35s, and SD24s that were assigned to switch service.

April 1979
On GE U28Cs, U30Cs, and C30-7s, removed 6 inch UP initials on low nose, and
centered 6 inch road number. This was done to accommodate the blanked-off
headlight opening on the new C30-7s. Used on new units from 2460 to 2539,
delivered in January to October 1980.

May 1980
10 inch road numbers removed from air equipment door below cab side. 24 inch
medallion retained on cab side. Only a few locomotives actually received
this combination (24 inch medallion, without cab side numbers), including
some of the ex Rock island GP40s and U28Bs in 1980. The last 40 C30-7s,
2500-2539, were delivered in August to October 1980 in this scheme.

Handrail verticals and step edges changed to yellow, to comply with an FRA
ruling that the vertical handholds on all locomotives used at any time in
switching service, and built after March 1977, must be painted with
contrasting color.

Fifteen different fuel conservation slogans were first used. These slogans,
mounted on 30 x 98-1/2 inch placards on the unit side handrails, were first
used on new SD40-2s. The first was on 8073 upon being renumbered to 3408 in
July 1980. Other than this sole unit, the slogans were only applied to the
then-newest 50 SD40-2s delivered as 3609-3658 in September to December 1979,
and the still newer 110 SD40-2s delivered as 3659-3768 in January to March
1980. To allow visibility of the hood side road number, the slogan placards
were at first located on the first three handrail stanchions immediately
behind the cab. Within six months, and with the road number having been
moved to the cab side, the location of the slogan was changed to being
centered on the length of the handrails. No more units are known to have
received the slogans.

During June 1980, 15 SD40-2s were leased to future merger partner, Western
Pacific. Units leased were lettered on the cab side, below the cab window,
with "Leased To Western Pacific" in 3 inch black letters. Included were UP
3352, 3360, 3419, 3421, 3424, 3475, 3478, 3504, 3519, 3528, 3536, 3542,
3546, 3565. Eleven of the units were returned to UP in October 1981. Merger
completed in December 1982.

November 1980
The 20 inch road numbers were moved from hood side to cab side, and changed
to black. The 24 inch medallion was moved from the cab side to the front of
the unit, centered on the low nose (replacing 8-inch Union Pacific and
6-inch UP initials, with 6-inch road number). On the rear, the UP initials
and number remained as 6-inch red letters and numbers, with 3/16 inch black

The new black numbers and number placement was required due to difficulty by
TV scanners at yard locations to see the numbers on the hood side. At first,
the new placement used 20 inch red numbers with 1/2 inch edging (replacing
the previous 5/16 inch black edging). The thicker edging did not solve the
TV scanner visibility problem, so the numbers were changed to 20 inch black

The first new units known to receive the new 20 inch red numbers include the
36 SD40-2s delivered in October and November 1980, numbered as 3769-3804,
along with the four Super Series SD40-2s, 3805-3808. The actual first unit
may have been 3779, completed in mid November 1980.

The SW10s used 16 inch Union Pacific lettering and 16 inch black cab side
numbers. White handrail verticals.

Units with black numbers
The UP drawing for black 20 inch numbers is dated 13 May 1980. The UP
drawing showing the general arrangement of typical units, SD40-2 and C30-7
with 20 inch black numbers, and SW10 with 16 inch black numbers, is dated 26
November 1980.

No SD40-2s or C30-7s are known to have black numbers. Most of the units
known to have received cab side black numbers were switchers, or units
assigned to switching service.

Units repainted during January to April 1981 received black numbers on their
cab sides. A partial list includes: SD45s 1, 19, 46; SD45M 60; GP9 180; SD24
425; SW10s 1214, 1215, 1216, 1217, 1218.

October 1981
Black 20 inch numbers changed back to red, with 7/8 inch black edging. A
10-1/2 inch medallion was added to the air equipment door, below the cab
side number. UP 3763 was the first unit completed.

July 1982
Cab interiors changed from light gray to beige.

December 1982
Union Pacific merged with Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific. The first WP
locomotive to be painted in UP yellow and gray was GP40 3532, lettered as
Western Pacific in UP's gothic style red lettering, with black edging. WP
3532 was renumbered and relettered to UP 680 in December 1983. The first ex
WP unit to receive full UP paint and lettering as GP40 3509, completed as UP
658 in November 1983. Several others were completed during December. The
last ex WP unit, wrecked GP35 3020, was completed as UP 798 in February

February 1983
Yellow handrail verticals and step edges changed to white

February 1984
MP's version of UP's yellow and gray was introduced. Between May 1984 and
November 1985, there were 395 locomotives painted in MP yellow (including
120 new units), all with the unique North Little Rock style lettering. Most
were lettered for Missouri Pacific, but a few were lettered for Union
Pacific, at least temporarily.

Silver trucks changed to gray trucks.

Short hood anti-glare panel and area around rear sand fill changed from
anti-skid green to anti-skid gray.

Operating departments of MP and UP consolidated. All MP locomotives to be
repainted to full UP yellow and gray, with UP lettering, in UP's Gothic
style lettering. The last was completed in 1992.

late 1986
Rear number boards painted over, and rear numbers changed from red, with
black edging, to solid white Scotchlite, with thin black edging.

August 1988
Union Pacific merged with Missouri Kansas Texas. The first MKT locomotive to
be repainted yellow and gray, with UP lettering was GP38-2 315, completed as
UP 2346 on 11 November 1988. The last ex MKT unit to be repainted to UP was
SW1500 53, completed as UP 1325 on 25 November 1993