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MILWAUKEE ROAD GP7S

I just purchased a Premier Milwaukee Road GP7, pictured left.  I have a Lionel GP9, pictured  right.   Why the orange color differences?  Are they prototypically correct or has
Lionel or MTH have the wrong color?

I've considered making the Lionel a dummy but they don't match.  Any info on this subject would be very much appreciated.

Mike

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  • MILWAUKEE ROAD GP7S
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Mike,

Color is a hot button topic amongst OGR forumites.

Unfortunately you're currently asking for more than our system can deliver.  Here's why, with apologies for the lengthy explanation:

In my opinion the two biggest questions we see on OGR online are:

  1.) What color is it supposed to be?

  2.) Why don't the colors match?

I'll try to tackle your question, but be prepared to see significant constructive criticism from other forumites to be applied to my analysis:

a.) Historical Sources for Color Standards -- Many of the liveries seen in our models come from the distant past.  As such there is little to no good documentation on the precise colors used in those liveries.  Most photos from back in the day are in black and white, and so help very little when trying to determine color accuracy.

b.) Means for Capturing Color Standards -- In at least some situations situations in the past railroads relied on color chips, or mixing recipes, as a record of the precise colors used on their equipment.  However through many mergers, acquisitions, divestures, and shutdowns over the years these chips and recipes are very hard or impossible to find today.  In some cases surviving railroads have been diligent in keeping track of their colors, using the chips or other means, in others not so much.  Several historical societies have inherited color chips, formulas, descriptions, or color photos from defunct railroads and are good sources for color information, but there aren't many.

c.) Additional Efforts to Capture Accurate Color Standards -- At least one book publisher has made a strong effort to save color information captured in color photos.  Almost all of these are post WWII, as color film technology became lest costly, and 99.9% of them are slides (Kodochrome).  As these age the colors fade, so this publisher has tried to capture copies in books, because printed color on paper is thought to be more stable than color on film.

d.) Manufacturing History -- In the early years of toy trains and model railroading there were few manufacturers.  Through the golden age of modeling (late pre-war through post-war era) most of these made large numbers of a small range of items, and thus had very tight control over the color consistency of their products, even over many years.

e.) No Central Repository -- On the other hand, because of (1) through (3) above, there has never been a "central repository of color information" for them to consult when mixing up their colors.  Therefore good color consistency within a manufacturer's product line was common, even over many years, but between manufacturers was not too common at all during this period.

f.) Leadership -- In the transition from late post-war to the early modern era Lionel's products, because it was seen as the market leader and it's production was consistent, were often used by other manufacturers as samples to which they could match their colors.  Consistency between manufacturers improved but was still  not perfect.

g.) Shifting Manufacturing, Patterns -- Nowadays (Modern Era to present) there are many manufacturers, and all of them do much smaller production runs for their items.  This is largely because consumers are increasingly interested in more esoteric railroads and liveries, are more picky about details, and are presented with several levels of historical accuracy in scale and those details.  More product lines, involving lower production volume in each, are now the norm.

h.) Shifting Manufacturing, Geography -- Added to that production of product has shifted from local and easily accessible to far, far away with  significant communications roadblocks frequently in the way.  Just like a coffee taster, or a sommelier for wine, there used to be a single expert with each company that was responsible for getting it right, at least for their company.   This works well when that expert can visit the production facility often in order to make sure that colors are consistent.  It doesn't work well when factories are thousands of miles away.  All forms of quality control are much harder over longer distances.

i.) Applying Technology -- On the other hand it's not impossible.  Color matching technology has and has emerged, and improved significantly, in the last 30 years.  However it's apparently too expensive for the manufacturers that supply our hobby.  Contrast this with your ability to go into a home center and have the paint department mix up a custom color from any item you can physically carry into its store.



Fixing this mess is doable.  It will take effort and money, but doesn't everything that's worthwhile?

Good luck with your color matching efforts.

M.H.M.

Mellow Hudson Mike,

What an amazing response.  Thank you for taking the time to share this information.  It seems strange to me that our hobby train manufacturers wouldn't come up with a standard color scheme that they all share.  On the other hand, the creative aspect to this subject and the competition to strive to achieve accurate historical representation probably plays into it as well.  In other words, maybe no one can agree on a standard.  Perhaps it is the same forces at work that has created separate command systems.

These real engines still exist in railroad museums.  Couldn't they color match based on walking up to these old relics and matching the paint?

Mike

While Mellow Hudson Mike provides a good analysis of the problem, there are some things he left out.  For example, even on the prototype, colors often varied significantly because of changes to paint formulation (when freshly painted), sun fading or weathering (followed by touch-ups).  That's why an SP "Daylight" passenger car painted last week parked next to one painted last year parked next to one painted two years ago may only look family-related instead of like triplets.  Heck, even looking at pictures of models made today can't honestly guarantee that the colors will match because photos can be affected by exposure time and available lighting.  Just ask the camera experts.

Many times, you need to hold what you have next to what you want to see how well the colors "match," if at all.  Accept some level of variation and you will be a happy railroader.  And forget about matching to railroad museums; many of those items have been painted to the most approximate color available today, not to what was back then.

Chuck

Last edited by PRR1950
@IRON HORSE posted:

Mellow Hudson Mike,

What an amazing response.  Thank you for taking the time to share this information.  It seems strange to me that our hobby train manufacturers wouldn't come up with a standard color scheme that they all share.  On the other hand, the creative aspect to this subject and the competition to strive to achieve accurate historical representation probably plays into it as well.  In other words, maybe no one can agree on a standard.  Perhaps it is the same forces at work that has created separate command systems.

These real engines still exist in railroad museums.  Couldn't they color match based on walking up to these old relics and matching the paint?

Mike

IRM 1284 [21)

Pretty sure IRM has the correct DuPont codes...  But when, conditions and even how the paint gun was set up also affect the color.

Plus, the 760 was painted several years before the F7.

Rusty

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  • IRM 1284 (21)
Last edited by Rusty Traque

These models were made by different people at different companies at different factories at different times. Paint fades; colors are approximated; paint formulas differ; lighting varies. (This can apply to real locos, too.) And, they are models.

I would have been flabbergasted if the MTH and Lionel pieces had "matched".

Last edited by D500
@D500 posted:

These models were made by different people at different companies at different factories at different times. Paint fades; colors are approximated; paint formulas differ; lighting varies. (This can apply to real locos, too.) And, they are models.

I would have been flabbergasted if the MTH and Lionel pieces had "matched".

D500,

Thanks for your input.  I agree with you, but I'm amazed how much Lionel and MTH's colors differ.  Not even close.  Comparably speaking, they look like red versus pink.

@PRR1950 posted:

While Mellow Hudson Mike provides a good analysis of the problem, there are some things he left out.  For example, even on the prototype, colors often varied significantly because of changes to paint formulation (when freshly painted), sun fading or weathering (followed by touch-ups).  That's why an SP "Daylight" passenger car painted last week parked next to one painted last year parked next to one painted two years ago may only look family-related instead of like triplets.  Heck, even looking at pictures of models made today can't honestly guarantee that the colors will match because photos can be affected by exposure time and available lighting.  Just ask the camera experts.

Many times, you need to hold what you have next to what you want to see how well the colors "match," if at all.  Accept some level of variation and you will be a happy railroader.  And forget about matching to railroad museums; many of those items have been painted to the most approximate color available today, not to what was back then.

Chuck

Well said.

Mike

The MTH engine appears washed out. I've seen a lot of Milwaukee engines, and the MTH looks to be too light a shade of orange. Just IMHO, of course. Below is a Milwaukee engine shown previously on the Forum by noted modeler Santiago, very representative of the right color. (Note the lighting that he used in his shot is brighter than in Iron Horse's picture, so it might appear just a little lighter.) It's also based on an Atlas O model (Atlas O is noted for their color accuracy). Regardless of all the arguments about how lighting affects colors (and it certainly does), orange colors this different show it's really no contest as to whether the MTH is too light a shade. But you can decided if the MTH or Lionel is closer.

DSC03006

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  • 2021-09-28 007
Last edited by breezinup
@CBQer posted:

I have seen BNSF SD70MAC locos that the color has so badly faded it's crazy. Floquil vs Scalecoat in BN colors does not match, not even close.

Dick

THIS.

Have you guys watched a real train pass by? No two locomotives have the same shade of paint on them. Some are faded, some were painted at a different time or location. It's perfectly accurate to have locomotives or cars not match exactly. Why people get so obsessed about models matching when real trains don't is beyond me.

Heck even auto manufactures don't get paint exactly the same in a year run of cars. There can be 4 or 5 color card variations for the paint code your car is painted in.

Last edited by Lou1985

Some folks offer fading and weathering as excuses for different shades of paint (particularly lighter shades, of course) on these models. However, these engines aren't made to be models of weathered engines - they're made to be models of what brand new engines would look like.  If people want to run engines with different shades of paint and pretend some of them are weathered, that's fine, but that's not an excuse for manufactures using wrong colors to begin with.

MTH isn't the only offender with respect to Milwaukee engines. Lionel has been painting some of their Milwaukee engines in too light a shade of orange lately as well (part of Lionel's well documented problem with colors over the past few years). Buyers know - I've noticed that many of these Milwaukee engines (GP9s for example) remained available well after other liveries of the same offering sold out.

I'm surprised nobody's pointed out the black comes down too far on the Lionel model...

MILW 0975 [6) BSP

Rusty

Well, first of all, unlike what the MTH engine is supposed to be, the Lionel engine isn't a scale engine. It's a so-called traditional engine, No.18565, made way back in 1997, one of the first engines equipped with TMCC and RailSounds (photo below). Secondly, most folks probably aren't going to notice that the orange line stops slightly below the windows rather than about even with them. (Obviously, no one else pointed it out! )

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Last edited by breezinup
@breezinup posted:

Well, first of all, the Lionel engine isn't a scale engine. It's a so-called traditional engine, No.18565, made way back in 1997, one of the first engines equipped with TMCC and RailSounds (photo below). Secondly, most folks probably aren't going to notice that the orange line stops slightly below the windows rather than about even with them. (Obviously, no one else pointed it out! )

I recognized the heritage of the Lionel locomotive but chose not to mention it.  The depth of the black was pretty obvious to me at first glance, but seeing everyone is fixated on the orange...  The comparison is compromised by comparing a "traditional" locomotive vs a "scale" one.

Rusty

mth lionel

A lot of great points made here by everyone.  Rusty, your photo looks like the Lionel and MTH engines I am comparing.  It's a pretty compelling photo showing that the real life variance in colors exist.  Even though the Lionel version isn't considered scale, when you put it next to my MTH Premier version it sure looks like a scale match in size.  Even Railking has some scale engines, specifically with their switchers.  Sometimes they are labeled "Railking Scale"; but sometimes not.

I picked up the same MTH GP7 (GP9) in dummy form from several years earlier.  I'm waiting for it to be shipped.  It'll be interesting to see what color shows up.

The longer I hang out on the forum with scale modelers, the more I appreciate real life comparisons.  And the more I want the trains on my layout to match.  Not sure if that is a blessing or a curse

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Last edited by IRON HORSE

I recognized the heritage of the Lionel locomotive but chose not to mention it.  The depth of the black was pretty obvious to me at first glance, but seeing everyone is fixated on the orange...  The comparison is compromised by comparing a "traditional" locomotive vs a "scale" one.

Rusty

I agree. And I would add that nearly 100 percent of Milwaukee Road fans who operate toy trains are fully aware of the excessive depth of the black paint on that traditional model.

As for the orange coloring, I have seen shade differences in every scale for Milwaukee Road models. I used to watch many a Milwaukee Road train roll by in Winona, Minnesota, while I was in college and even I can’t tell you which orange is “correct” anymore.

@IRON HORSE posted:


Even though the Lionel version isn't considered scale, when you put it next to my MTH Premier version it sure looks like a scale match in size. 

Just for your information, in the case of Lionel "traditional" GP engines, by the terminology "not considered scale," it means that they don't have some additional detail parts added on, or more realistic handrails, some things like that. However, the Lionel traditional GP engines are scale in physical size, so they match up size-wise just fine with "scale" GP engines.

@breezinup posted:

Just for your information, in the case of Lionel "traditional" GP engines, by the terminology "not considered scale," it means that they don't have some additional detail parts added on, or more realistic handrails, some things like that. However, the Lionel traditional GP engines are scale in physical size, so they match up size-wise just fine with "scale" GP engines.

Good info.  Thanks for pointing that out.  So I guess there is "scale" and then there is "scale size".  Are there argument points, then, in what is "scale", based on the amount of detail?  Or is that defined by each manufacturer?  Aren't all Premier engines, for example, considered "scale" engines in both size and detail?  And then what Lionel line is always "scale", Legacy -- or not always?

@breezinup posted:

Just for your information, in the case of Lionel "traditional" GP engines, by the terminology "not considered scale," it means that they don't have some additional detail parts added on, or more realistic handrails, some things like that. However, the Lionel traditional GP engines are scale in physical size, so they match up size-wise just fine with "scale" GP engines.

@IRON HORSE posted:

Good info.  Thanks for pointing that out.  So I guess there is "scale" and then there is "scale size".  Are there argument points, then, in what is "scale", based on the amount of detail?  Or is that defined by each manufacturer?  Aren't all Premier engines, for example, considered "scale" engines in both size and detail?  And then what Lionel line is always "scale", Legacy -- or not always?

I believe under examination that one will find the detail on the Lionel GP, which is based on Postwar tooling, is not as refined as the MTH GP.

The cab, for one example on the Lionel GP, is too long to allow the old P/W AC motors to fit.

Interestingly enough, back in the 80's there was a fella who offered a new cast aluminum underframe designed to use the Atlas F9 drive mechanism to "scalify" the Lionel Postwar/MPC GP.  Attaching the pilots, couplers, wire handrails and further detailing was left to the individual modeler.

Rusty

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