In an earlier posting on this topic (see Category: HOW-TO ROLLING STOCK/ PERIOD FREIGHT CAR COLORS) I had decided to simplify the painting of freight car “reds and browns”, by standardizing on one color each for: oxide red, red brown, and brown (much the same way Pat Wider classified such colors by road in RP CYC 3 [page 37]). I can make slight variations of each with tinting.

But some roads had a distinct “box car red” color, like the AT&SF, PRR, & UP and I ought to spend a little more time to get a color that is closer.

For a current AT&SF box car build, I was looking at the road’s “mineral brown” color. I found the following Emery Gulash photo from the summer of 1945. I have decided to use this to get a reasonable mix.

Here’s another Delano picture from his 1943 odyssey…

To zero-in on a color mix, I first play around with the base paints by adding drops of each in a dimpled pallet (to get a rough ratio), mixing them with a brass rod, using the rod to “paint” it thickly onto a strip of styrene.

When I think I’m close, I confirm the mixture by airbrushing a styrene sheet sample, then apply Future gloss coat, sometimes add a decal, and lastly spray a flat varnish (usually Tamiya TS-80 Flat Clear lacquer spray). For me, going all the way provides the best understanding of how the color will look. If it is a critical color, I even do the preceding on an old model shell.

My camera seems to make photos that aren’t quite like how my models appear. For example, my NYO&W FT 601 is more bluer (like the prototype) than the somewhat grey-ish appearance in this photo…

Anyway, for whatever it’s worth, here are my “box car red” sample colors that I have investigated over the past months…

AK Interactive Real Colors (lacquer) – back row starting from the left:

  • RC066 Rotbraun – an “orangey” oxide red which I think I will use for PRR
  • RC067 Rotbraun – “redder” than RC067, an alternate oxide red for likely MILW, T&P, UP and others
  • RC068 Rotbraun – quite brown actually, which I think I will use for B&O, C&O, ERIE, GN, MP, PM and others
  • RC029 No. 5 Earth Brown – not good as a base color, but I can use for tinting
  • RC065 Braun – not good as a base color, but I can use for tinting
  • and front row on left: RC067 (3 parts) + RC068 (1 part) – my standard red brown for NYC, SP and others

Tamiya XF (acrylic) – back row starting from right:

  • XF-10 Flat Brown – a darker alternative to RC068 above
  • XF-68 NATO Brown
  • XF-9 Hull Red – I used this on my NYO&W caboose
  • front row right side, on right: XF-9 Hull Red (1 part) + XF-7 Red (1 part)
  • front row right side, on left: XF-9 Hull Red (1 part) + XF-7 Red (2 parts) – I will use this for AT&SF

Tamiya also offers XF-64 Red Brown, but that color is an odd brown to my eye and I didn’t find it useful. They also offer XF-90 Red Brown 2, but it looked like a weird light-ish olive of all things, so I did not pursue it after my initial pallet testing.

Sometimes finding a color that looks “right” may be the most difficult part of railroad modeling.

UPDATE: I have it wrong…my decision above for the color mixture for AT&SF mineral brown is not correct having applied it to a Bx-14 box car model…

…it is too red. I have trouble interpreting color from pictures. If anything a better choice was right under my nose: just use Tamiya Hull Red XF-9. Judging by the way my NYO&W caboose appears, it is much closer to the AT&SF color. I will try this on my next Santa Fe build.