Why were Steam Engines painted "Black"

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November 21, 2013 10:38 PM

Along the way I was wondering why Steam engines where painted black!...?      Seems to me they should of been painted "white" since all that heat was being made  and all the "hot climates they ran in ...I'm sure the hot Texas  etc. etc. states had ... did any one ever ask this ? and had a answer...???

 
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November 21, 2013 10:40 PM

In Georgia a railroad had real pretty light purple engines, but the smoke turned it half black and made it ugly.  The CEO got tired of spending money and time cleaning them and hated to show the public an ugly locomotive so he ordered them pained black and wash them a lot less.

 
 
 
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November 21, 2013 10:47 PM

Well think about it,,,,,,,,since they burned coal or Bunker C for fuel, no matter WHAT color they got painted, it wouldn't have taken very long for them to be black anyway. Back in the early days, well prior to 1900, when lots of wood was used for fuel, the steam locomotives were painted all sorts of bright colors with LOTS of polished brass.

 
 
 
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November 21, 2013 10:53 PM

Besides, they would look pretty silly in Pink, Lionel had to find that one out the Hard way

 

Doug

 
 
 
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November 21, 2013 11:15 PM

Arthur P. Bloom TCA 86-23906 "I love the smell of smoke pellets in the morning!"

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November 21, 2013 11:25 PM

Both the Texas & Pacific and the Frisco had a few dark blue steamers.

 

Dan

 
 
 
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November 21, 2013 11:43 PM

Southern had some green steamers and the PRR's were Brunswick Green. Great Northern had the Glacier Park scheme on several engines. Rutland's Last new steam, the light Mountains were green and the enginemen referred to them as "the Green Hornets."

 

LIRR Steamer

 
 
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November 22, 2013 12:46 AM

Red was a common paint color like the little red caboose, or a little red school house, but that would never do in the railroad world, like oldiron side said the black paint match's the very nice color of the soot. 

 

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and of the McKeen Motor Car Company Historical Society,

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November 22, 2013 1:11 AM

I imagine it was a simple issue of economics. Back at the start of the 20th century you could get a Ford Model T in any color you wanted as long as it was black. Henry Ford found out that black paint dried the fastest so more cars could be built. I agree with other posters about soot and such but I would also think that in maintenance the black paint dried faster making down time less so the locomotive could be out earning revenue.

 

Jeff Meyer, aka Captaincog

 

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November 22, 2013 7:33 AM

Originally Posted by DanssuperO:

Along the way I was wondering why Steam engines where painted black!...?      Seems to me they should of been painted "white" since all that heat was being made  and all the "hot climates they ran in ...

for exactly the opposite reason, to raise the ambient water temperature by even a few degrees, the railroads would have been in favor of black and darker colors to save on fuel costs.

 

 

 
 
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November 22, 2013 7:58 AM

just remember what a great man of the industrial revolution in this country said, You can get it in any color you want as long as it is black

 

 

 

 
 
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November 22, 2013 8:41 AM

Originally Posted by challenger3980:

Besides, they would look pretty silly in Pink, Lionel had to find that one out the Hard way

Back in the day, as Hot Water alluded to, broad swaths of pink could be found on locomotives...

 

 

Steve

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November 22, 2013 8:45 AM

Originally Posted by Captaincog:

Back at the start of the 20th century you could get a Ford Model T in any color you wanted as long as it was black.

Actually, when the Model T first came out, black wasn't an option. It only came in grey, red, green and blue.

 

Steve

 
 
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November 22, 2013 8:49 AM

Originally Posted by smd4:
Originally Posted by Captaincog:

Back at the start of the 20th century you could get a Ford Model T in any color you wanted as long as it was black.

Actually, when the Model T first came out, black wasn't an option. It only came in grey, red, green and blue.

What reference do you have for that?

Ford used [You can get it in any color you want as long as it is black] in there 2003 centennial car & truck model advertisements.

 

 Charlie

South Jersey

 

 

 
 
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November 22, 2013 9:03 AM

Originally Posted by pennsyk4:
Originally Posted by smd4:
Originally Posted by Captaincog:

Back at the start of the 20th century you could get a Ford Model T in any color you wanted as long as it was black.

Actually, when the Model T first came out, black wasn't an option. It only came in grey, red, green and blue.

What reference do you have for that?

Ford used [You can get it in any color you want as long as it is black] in there 2003 centennial car & truck model advertisements.

McCalley, Bruce W. (1994). Model T Ford: The Car That Changed the World. Iola, WI, USA: Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87341-293-1.

 

Model T Colors

 

While Ford did eventually go to only black (and did say "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black"), from 1909 to 1913 black wasn't an option.

 

Steve

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November 22, 2013 9:21 AM

I back smd4:  Vintage car nuts know early "brass" Model T's were painted several

different colors and are correctly restored that way.  Black (actually a very dark blue...looks black to me) became a cost-saving standard after the first few years,

when you then heard the famous quotation cited above.

 

??Another one of THOSE!!??  What you want to sell is not what I want to buy!

 
 
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November 22, 2013 9:52 AM

I never knew that about the early Model T's - learned my one new thing for the day.

 

--Greg

 

Member of the Brotherhood of the Crappy Basement Layout

Pennsy Fan

 

 
 
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November 22, 2013 9:57 AM

I forgot to mention, that at the end of the Model T's production, in 1926 and 1927

not sure of the years or just when this change to color began, when Henry's son Edsel had been begging for an update to the Model T, the Model T was again offered in colors other than black.  So there were two periods when the car was available in

various colors, when introduced, and when phased out. During all the "black" years,

Chevrolet, Star, and a plethora of makes were available, in colors, just above the T's

pricepoint, and, with their three speed transmissions, (including some oddball shift patterns like the Dodge's)  enough to make car shoppers spring for a few more dollars until Chevrolet outsold Ford.  Henry finally gave in and produced the Model A.

 

??Another one of THOSE!!??  What you want to sell is not what I want to buy!

 
 
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November 22, 2013 10:02 AM

Another reason why steam locomotives were painted black was because for a long time, nobody could make paint that could stand up to the smokeboxes' hot temperatures. Eventualy somebody developed an aluminum-like color that could, but some railroads stuck with black or a very dark gray until the bitter end.

 
 
 
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November 22, 2013 10:09 AM

Originally Posted by Mister_Lee:

Another reason why steam locomotives were painted black was because for a long time, nobody could make paint that could stand up to the smokeboxes' hot temperatures. Eventualy somebody developed an aluminum-like color that could, but some railroads stuck with black or a very dark gray until the bitter end.

Actually, that "dark gray" on smoke boxes and firebox sides, was usually a mixture of valve oil or Linseed oil and powered graphite. On most railroads, neither the smoke box nor the firebox sides were insulated, so SOMETHING was needed to cover them that would NOT burn off quickly do to the direct heat.

 
 
 
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November 22, 2013 10:33 AM

Originally Posted by Mister_Lee:

Another reason why steam locomotives were painted black was because for a long time, nobody could make paint that could stand up to the smokeboxes' hot temperatures. Eventualy somebody developed an aluminum-like color that could, but some railroads stuck with black or a very dark gray until the bitter end.

Not really an explanation as to why the entire locomotive was painted black. Besides, hardly any locomotives used aluminum paint on the smokebox/forebox. Most used the boiled linseed oil and graphite that Hot references. This could vary from a light grey to a dark black.

 

As noted, locomotives in the beginning were quite colorful. The Victorian era saw locomotives painted in all shades, from blues, yellows, greens, and even pinks, as shown above. Brass was all over the place. Elaborate pinstripes adorned wheel spokes, cabs and domes. The UP 119 even features several detailed oil paintings on the sand dome and tender! In this era, locomotives were permanently assigned to an engineer, who often spent many dollars out of his own pocket to personalize his steed with extra bling (You see the same mindset at work today with long-haul truckers and their tractors). Engineers back in the day paid the ashcats to polish their engines every night with oily rags.

 

How about red drive wheels? Red was one of the most expensive colors of paint there was (and still is!), and if you wanted to show off, this is the color you used. The same reason firemen painted their fire engines this color--it was a source of pride!

 

After the death and devastation of the Civil War, locomotive decorating schemes became a little less flamboyant. You saw less brass, less striping, darker colors. Baldwin engines started using a dark olive color (which appears black in B&W photos). And, as the story goes, the pinchpenny New York Central eventually started painting the entire engine black, which did save enourmously in the cleaning department. Other railroads soon followed suit.

 

No, locomotives were't always black. And neither were Model Ts!

 

 

Steve

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November 22, 2013 10:59 AM

Originally Posted by Mister_Lee:

...nobody could make paint that could stand up to the smokeboxes' hot temperatures. Eventualy somebody developed an aluminum-like color that could, but some railroads stuck with black or a very dark gray until the bitter end.

As Hot Water said, smoke boxes were not painted. While there are high-tech paints today that would likely survive the high temps of the smoke box, they are far more expensive than a little linseed oil and some graphite.

 

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." applies here.

 

Rich Melvin, Publisher & CEO

O Gauge Railroading magazine

 
 
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