Maine Two Footers - Colour Schemes


by Gary Kohler

Colours of the Maine 2-footers: certainly a subject that will continue to evoke discussion for years to come. It has already created much controversy among enthusiasts, but it is now time to put some of the opinion to rest. The following is based on several years of research including physical records, first-person accounts and a bit of detective work piecing it all together. If anyone has actual proof that the information I’m presenting here is not correct, then by all means send a copy of the records you have and we can set the record straight once and for all.


Most, if not all, early locomotives had what we know as Russia Iron boiler jackets. This was a pickling that protected the jacketing from rust and corrosion.

Locomotives were typically painted gloss black, while cab interiors, roofs and window sashes would be painted in different colours. A typical locomotive would have the Russia Iron boiler jacket, perhaps a black cab, Red Lead cab roof and gold or silver lettering. Information on early locomotives is sketchy, but the specs for KC #1 specified green cab and tank. Specs for P&R #3 stated Olive Green with Aluminum Leaf lettering.

A typical SR&RL locomotive of the late teens would be painted gloss black, red window sash, Red Lead cab roof, Sea Mist Green cab interior, dark flat gray smokebox and trim and Gold Leaf lettering.

The only change to this scheme that I can find is that the Gold Leaf was later replaced by Indian Yellow Lacquer with an over coat of clear lacquer.

Specific colours from the Billings-Chapen Company ordered on April 26, 1926 state: Rustnaught Gray, Liberty Red, High Gloss Black and Sea Mist Green. They also ordered Extra-Extra Deep Green lending credibility to the theory that cabs and tanks were painted to match the passenger cars - even if for a short period of time.

All paints purchased during the 1920s were all specified to be Marine Paint which would give them a finish with some longevity considering the harsh winter conditions experienced in that part of the state.

Locomotives were the most expensive capital investment a railroad would make so it also stands to reason that this investment would be protected by the company. It needs to be mentioned that great care and pride were exhibited by train crews which reflected the status and position railroad employees enjoyed during that era.

A close examination of photos from the early 1930s reveals that maintenance was still being done, cars repaired and painted, locomotives being serviced in rotation and even stored equipment being given regular coats of primer to keep them protected.

SR&RL Freight cars

There has been much guess work, speculation and just plain lack of intelligent research in this area. First, let's discuss what the colour was not. Box Car Red comes to mind, I have no idea who started this rumor, but it is about as far from close as you can get. Tuscan Red, purple, brown and various combinations are also inaccurate.

The SR&RL requisition sheets state, Freight Car Red. Nothing is more accurate than the real thing and since I've found a good piece of existing paint, unweathered, I have been able to come up with a formula that I feel, as well as others who have seen it, is 98% accurate.

You will need the following paints: Floquil Polly S Metal Primer, Floquil Polly S Roof Red and Model Masters (Acrylic Enamel) Desert Sand. The formula is as follows: Three parts Metal Primer, two parts (heavy) Roof Red and a touch of Desert Sand. This will get you an almost perfect colour match. For a slightly weathered colour, add a touch of Model Masters Flat White.

SR&RL freight cars were lettered with White Lead.

SR&RL Passenger cars

More research needs to be done on passenger car's colours. Several different shades of green were used by the different roads.

The SR&RL apparently used a Dark Pullman -- not Brunswick Green as first thought.

The KC used Nelson Pullman Green -- whatever that was.

However, Red Lead roofs were typical of all.

While many used Gold Leaf lettering. Several WW&F cars used Aluminum Leaf lettering, but I am sure this changed. Towards the end, none of the cars were lettered!

(Actual paint names are shown in italics)

Your assistance in determining passenger car colours would be appreciated. If you can help with positive proof or colour formulae, please e-mail me at:

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Colour data by courtesy of the Maine 2-Foot Quarterly Magazine


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