CP SW1200RS Project: Interior Colour

This is a story about the value of sharing the progress of your work with a community of modellers.  On June 21, I posted a couple of shots of my progress on these models, which prompted Dan Dell’Unto to offer this feedback:

Sharp units! You may want to look into the interior cab colour though – when repainted into action red, CP was repainting the cabs with a beige interior colour (often seen in many of the interior shots of FP7/9′s posted on the interwebs).

As well, the datasheets for the GM SW units (DS8, 9,12) show the as-delivered (maroon & grey) interior colour as being “Suede grey enamel” rather than green that many 1st generation units had.

A short while later, Dan sent me this image of the interior of a CP RS18u.

CP RS18u interior.  Dan Dell'Unto

CP RS18u interior. Dan Dell’Unto

This was good information for me because I was guessing about the interior colour of these switchers, but there was still a gap in my knowledge.  While Dan’s photo clearly shows the interior of a CP unit, it’s not an SW1200RS, and it’s an MLW product, not GMD.  Furthermore, this is probably not the builder’s paint because the locomotive was extensively rebuilt by CP.  Regradless, Dan’s information was very helpful in pointing out an area where I could improve the accuracy of my model.

A plea to some friends at the WRMRC for interior shots of an SW1200RS prompted my friend Justin to offer a link to this photo:

CP SW1200RS interior, taken on the GRR by Carson Weibe, date unknown.  From Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society website http://www.solrswat.ca/1%20Action/Action%20Past.htm

CP SW1200RS interior, taken on the GRR by Carson Wiebe, date unknown. From Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society website http://www.solrswat.ca/1%20Action/Action%20Past.htm

The shot was one a series of images taken by Carson Wiebe, presumably during a cab ride on the Grand River Railway.  The locomotive is confirmed to be an SW1200RS by the road number stencilled on the ceiling above the engineer’s head.  Also, having read George W. Roth’s book, I knew that these locomotives were staples on the GRR.

I was initially disappointed because someone had shifted the tint on the image, and it didn’t look like I was going to be able to definitively conclude whether the colour was grey or green.  I know very little about digital photo processing, but I naively assumed that if someone shifted the tint on the image, I could go into iPhoto and shift it back.  Here’s the result of my dumb luck:

My beautiful picture

I don’t know how close this is to the original tint, but the engineer’s skin tone looks about right.  Before I changed the tint on the original photo, I would have guessed that the engineer’s shirt was white.   I was surprised to see it come up as yellow.   I’m also not sure of the colour balance on my iMac computer screen, but in my processed version of the photo, compare the colour of the throttle stand with the colour of the wall ahead and to the right of the engineer.  Proximity and lighting can significantly change the shade of the grey I’m trying to match.

I’m not going to get too worked up about finer points.  I’m just pointing it out because lighting always affects our perception of colour.   Armed with this new information, I’m going back to the models to repaint their interiors with a colour that looks good to my eyes.  Stay tuned for some new photos of the models with an interior colour that probably represents a more accurate colour match, thanks to the collaborative efforts a number of different people.


10 thoughts on “CP SW1200RS Project: Interior Colour

  1. To my eye, it looks like that industrial light jade green that was popular back then. It’s certainly not beige, needless to say, but it does look a little more greenish than neutral grey. I painted a couple model cab interiors from the 70s with that light green colour. There could still be some colour shift, so it’s hard to say for sure that the green is real, but the skin tone looks dead on, so maybe the colour is right.

  2. I agree, Jurgen, the skin tone looks pretty good, or maybe a bit too far toward red (which would make all the colours a bit more red/brown). I spent some time matching the colour from that photo (as seen on my iMac screen) in a room with indirect natural sunlight. I came up with 1 part GN Glacier Green to 14 parts Reefer White (Polly Scale colours).

    Mixing colours by eye against a colour on a computer screen is very subjective, but this is an interior colour, after all. It will only be seen through the glazing of the model’s windows. Still, I think Dan was correct, and the original colour I used was off. I’m satisfied with the results; I’ll post a photo soon.

  3. Food for thought: while that cab photo may be sort of a grey colour, without the paint scheme the rest of the unit is in or even the date taken it’s a bit of a red herring for painting action red units. The grey (or grey-green) in that photo can be the as-delivered paint from GMD (probably the grey the SW8/9 paint stencils say), thus that would be the maroon & grey scheme interior.

    When repainting units into the action red scheme, CP repainted the interiors a beige-white colour, and likely they all got the same shade of paint inside along with outside, whether it be MLW FA2’s, GMD FP9’s, SW’s, etc. Have a look at the cab portions of these two photos to see it:

    Action red SW1200RS (note beige interior in closeup)

    Interior of an action red S2 (albeit paint aged ~30 years):

    The colour, discounting lighting conditions and aging, seems close to the RS18u interior, which on that unit was repainted by CP in the early 80’s when rebuilt. They used the same red colour of paint for the exterior, and I can’t imagine they’d change the beige colour they’d been using for the interiors.

      • Dan, I’m entirely convinced that CP was using some kind of beige to repaint interiors of locomotives. I’m still not completely convinced that every first generation unit that got repainted into action red also got an interior repaint into some kind of beige colour. I’d love to get this right, so I appreciate your input on this.

        Photos of 8152 and 8159 taken in the 1970s would be ideal for settling the issue. Failing that (for now) here’s a shot of 8152 taken in 1987, showing the unit in its second action red paint scheme. The shot is taken from quite a distance. I think it looks like the interior is the as-delivered grey-green colour. What do you think?

      • No doubt there were probably were paint exceptions in CP’s fleet, there usually is on railroads with a large number of locos.

        Looking at the photo of 8152 you linked to at Bathurst St., parts of the cab interior you can see into are in shade, making them look a different colour. For instance, the portion in the lower windows appears a different colour than the shaded portion in the upper windows. But look through the open door at the end of the cab the sun appears to be shining into, you can see part of the control stand, it appears beige.

        In addition, there’s this photo of 8152 leading a TH&B train in the early 80’s, shot by James Adeney. You can see some beige cab components in the window (the cabs on the trailing units appear to be in-shade, although there are hints of beige there, and the seat cushions appear to be green): http://www.railpictures.ca/?attachment_id=7889

        Another early 80’s shot, albeit in the later variation: http://www.images.technomuses.ca/searchpf.php?id=226050&lang=en

  4. You know, I’m inclined to agree with Hunter; it’s hard to believe that a frugal operation like CP would repaint the interior of a unit if it was still serviceable. They were too cheap to paint the rerailers half the time; I have seen tons of Action Red units with yellow rerailers instead of white ones.

    Regarding the 8109, it seems to me it’s a low/weak sun shot in the winter, and sunset would tend to weaken the blue of a jade green interior, making it look more yellow. I seem to see a perceptible greenish cast on the speedometer housing. I’m not saying none of the interiors were ever repainted yellow in the 70s, but I think we need more conclusive evidence. I’m big on getting it right, but also try to avoid jumping to conclusions.


  5. Jurgen, after combing through dozens of CP internal paint diagrams, here’s what I found:

    CP’s paint diagrams, for every single unit in maroon & grey paint I could find a diagram for, whether it be an MLW S3, GMD SW8/9/1200, CLC H-liner, GMD SD40, GP30/35, Baldwin DRS, MLW M630, RS10, RS3, etc, each and every one of those diagrams has the interior colour listed as “suede grey enamel”. What exactly that is could be a beige or grey-blue-green mix as a friend who got cab rides in the 60’s and 70’s told me (who also mentioned the repainted beige cabs), and it could have varied depending on the manufacturer and where they bought/matched/mixed the paint, but CP specified it as the same interior colour on all units of all manufacturers.

    CP began using internal paint codes in the 1970’s, but not all diagrams have those listed. By 1989, all references in the different diagrams list the exterior colour as CP paint colour #202 (“Red”), and the interior colour as CP paint colour #99 (“Beige”). I found few action red diagrams for the 70’s: an RS18 diagram from 1969 states the interior colour still as “suede grey enamel”. The FP7/9 diagram and C424 diagram of 1976 state the exterior as CP colour #202 (red), interior as CP colour #99 (listed as a “green enamel” though). BUT, this is the same CP paint code number as the beige, so it’s either a typo or an incorrectly labeled colour as looking at all the interior action red FP7 shots in the move “Silver Streak”, that definitely ‘aint a green, it is more of a beige white.

    Now, I’m not exactly sure on the shade of the earlier “suede grey enamel” CP spec’ed, but the beige in the rebuilt RS18u image above is CP colour #99 (beige) that all the repaints in the 80’s and 90’s got, and the C424 and FP7 paint diagrams of the 70’s state CP colour #99 was the interior repaint colour (albeit as “green enamel”).

  6. That information from the paint diagrams is very informative. However, the question which remains is how strictly the paint shops followed that diagram. If they had lots of the grey-green, they might have kept using it, or perhaps the paint crews didn’t know what it meant and kept getting the old colour mixed. It’s not like the paint was shipped from some central supplier; they just went to a local source with a paint chip and said, “I’d like 100 gallons of this colour.”

    The beige from the RS18 was part of the major rebuild program, and would have been undertaken at St Luc; they would have been as close to the official scheme as possible. I think the SD40-2s would have come from London with the beige, so once those units needed the interiors painted, they would have had a good idea of what they were supposed to be painted, but before that, “what they always did,” was paint them grey-green. There was probably some inertia and habit involved here. The early Action Red repaints were done during a time of transition and when there were still lots of smaller shops doing repaints, so almost anything could have happened.

    I know most of what I’m saying is speculation, but what I am trying to illustrate is that what is official and what really happened can sometimes be very different. I think there is evidence that the interiors could have been either beige or green during our time frame, so either can be correct–the only issue is whether the the colour is correct on a particular locomotive, and that would be impossible to say in many cases at this point. Maybe Hunter should do one with beige and one in green!


    PS: Looking again at the Grand River engine interior shot… the three Grand River 1200s did not last long in Script after Action Red came in, unless you count the removable snow boards sometimes mounted behind the front handrails; I think one set of those was still painted with yellow and maroon stripes for a while after the rest of the unit was red. I just wanted to point out that those sun glasses have a very 70s look to them.

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