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Doing some research for the first time on the 1970's. When the Conrail transaction took place in 1976 is it accurate to say over the next few years all the road names that were formed into Conrail would have been roaming the rails at the same time in their original paint within the same Conrail system?

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In addition to its own units still wearing the schemes of the component roads, Conrail leased a great deal of power from other companies during the early period. These included Bangor and Aroostook, Precision National, Missouri Pacific, Canadian National, Southern Railway, Burlington Northern, Grand Trunk, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, Chicago and North Western, General Electric and Morrison-Knudsen. It was a very colorful period indeed.

Bob 

I recall one afternoon in October of ‘76. I was at X Tower in Olean, NY where the old Erie Jersey City to Chicago and PRR Buffalo to Harrisburg lines crossed at grade. Every train we put through the plant that trick had a solid consist of Canadian National power. You wouldn’t have known you were working on the Conrail system. If I recall correctly, there were as many as 100 CN units on Conrail at any given time during this period.

Bob

I saw stenciled former PC locos in service on the NY&LB into the early 1980's.  GP38s I believe.  Bob knows much better than I do as he was photo documenting this era, while I was more of a teenage spectator as I never managed to have my camera when I saw a freight on the NY&LB. 

One great resource for Conrail roads in predecessor paint schemes was early issues of Railpace Magazine.  My dad started collecting that magazine with the first issue in 1982 and is still a subscriber.  In the early issues they would print photos of CR inherited locomotives in their former paint.  One that stuck out was CNJ SD40 3067 photographed in Chicago.  CNJ 3067 was the only SD40 that got the "Red Baron" or "Coast Guard" paint scheme.  In the photo, it had a new number and miss liberty was painted over.  This was probably 1983???

Conrail also continued to operate some commuter routes into the late 70's so there were some interesting paint schemes there are well.  The most notable one off the top of my head was the PC / MTA blue and yellow scheme on the FL9s.  On the NY&LB it translated to CR stenciled former CNJ passenger geeps and stenciled former PC E7/E8s. 

Jonathan, good to see you. It’s been awhile. Indeed, there were several E8s with Conrail stencils on the NY&LB: the 4014 (ex-EL 825), the 4039 and 4063 (both former Penn Central of the same number). The 4256 also had simplified “CR” lettering but was in Conrail blue. This was the unit hand painted with a roller after it was transferred down from Boston.

My time at X Tower resulted in me witnessing some pretty remarkable experiences as far as equipment sightings were concerned. I usually had a camera with me and would take a picture if it was something of interest when I went downstairs to give them a highball. I’ve included a sample photo below. This was NE-74 in October of ‘76. The train is powered by two Burlington Northern RS-3s still in Spokane, Portland and Seattle paint with new BN numbers. The third unit is a Penn Central U23B. He had worked the interchange and was getting underway again. The eastbound home signal can be seen above the train in the background.

I have more pictures of interesting stuff like this so I’ll have to dig more of them out. I was using an old Instamatic 126 and print film at the time. It’s hard to believe these prints will be approaching fifty years old soon. Ouch!

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Bob

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Here we have an image of another colorful consist from my days at X Tower. The train is eastbound as it approaches the diamond. The lead unit is former Penn Central GP38-2 8044 now with Conrail stencils. Behind the 8044 are a Southern Pacific GP35, Union Pacific GP9B and a U36C still in Erie Lackawanna colors. The photo was taken in February of ‘77 so we were almost a full year into the Conrail era at this point.

Bob

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In general, it seems like locomotives get a much higher priority to get repainted than freight cars when a merger happens. For example, the BN merger happened in 1970, and I think all the engines in the earlier paint schemes had either been repainted or retired by about 1976. However, it was pretty common to see NP, Burlington, or GN cars well into the 1980s - even the early 1990s. I'm sure it was the same with Conrail, cars from the railroads that were blended into Conrail probably lasted for quite a while.

Early on, Conrail was not in a position to place a priority on locomotive repaints.  When operations started up, the combined roster was a veritable hodgepodge of models from multiple builders. Compounding the challenge was the fact that the majority of inherited motive power came from the Penn Central with much of it being in poor condition due to deferred maintenance caused by the PC’s precarious financial position.

During this period, basically anything which would run was kept on the road. This severe power shortage was the primary reason for so many leased units being on the property. Conrail was literally desperate for reliable power. That’s why so many units were hastily re-lettered and renumbered with some running untouched for a few years.   Locomotives in full Conrail paint were quite a novelty for awhile. Cabooses, on the other hand, were repainted into the blue scheme at a much more rapid pace.

Bob

Speaking of ALCos, here’s ex-PC C425 2456 which was a former New Haven unit. It still had its Hancock air whistle in place. This day, the 2456 was assigned to SA-2 which was a way freight operating between Salamanca and Wellsville. The unit is seen here pulling out of the westbound yard back onto the main. The picture was taken during the Winter of ‘77 which was one of the snowiest in the area on record.

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Having been worked in or otherwise been associated with railroad management from 1959 to 1984, I'd like to say something about how repainting actually works.

I've heard of few, if any, cases of equipment being taken out of service for repainting.  That was part of shop programs.  A group of locomotives went to the back shop for major repairs.  If the paint was in bad condition, part of the shop program was painting.  Same for cars.  Few railroads wasted money on painting simply because there was a new paint scheme.  That would not be good management.

This doesn't apply to changing reporting marks.  That could be done on any rip track with access to a paint spry gun and a template.

Here’s another interesting consist from Conrail’s first year. This is a westbound on the old Erie side. The power is a Reading GP35 leading a Penn Central F7 with a leased Southern Railway GP35 trailing. The F7s were based out of Collinwood and spent most of their time around Cleveland. They were not commonly seen in our area.

Bob

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