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N&W’s Diesel Locomotive Paint Schemes

For modelers and those who are interested in N&W’s diesel locomotive paint schemes and their variations, this article should be of some use.

Road Locomotives:
For years, the Norfolk and Western Railway had a Steam Era scheme that they used on all freight locomotive equipment. It was the road name spelled out in a Roman-Serif style gold lettering on the long hood, on freight locomotives, with road numbers, and no logos. The locomotive color was black. They used this same scheme on their diesel locomotives as well. The first diesel units to receive this scheme were the N&W RS3s around 1955.

Then in 1958, they added the 24″ D Gothic logo, that had a curved “N” and “W” inside a circle, with an “&” symbol in between the letters. Some had “RY” inside, some not. Locomotives only had these logos applied on the ends and under the cab windows, with the road numbers placed below the logos. The road name was 10″ high, still spelled out on the long hoods of locomotives, but in a gothic block type font in yellow, and was a reflective Scotchlite type sticker, also for the numbers. The locomotive color was black.

In 1963, the N&W had the same paint scheme, only they now adopted a new logo at the time, that some call the “hamburger” or “half-moon” logo. This logo has straight letters “N&W” in between two circle halves, and the whole logo inside a circle border. The road name, logos, and numbers were the same reflective Scotchlite stickers, and locomotives were still black. The first new units delivered new with this scheme were the GP35s in the 200 series.

In 1966, they had the same paint scheme, only dark blue paint was applied to the engines to replace the black. In photos of newly-painted engines taken back then, it shows that GE and EMD had slightly different shades of this color. When the blue faded, it turned to a light blue/gray, due to the lead in these industrial paints back then. This color was applied because around this time the N&W and C&O were in serious talks of merging, due to the fact that they saw the Penn Central merger between the NYC and PRR was approaching fast. Some GP9s in the 500 series received this blue version first in 1965, before being the standard application in 1966 to freight locomotives, beginning with the new GP40s.

In 1970, the N&W kept the same paint scheme, but went back to the black car body color, at least applied to the newly-delivered U30Bs in the 8400-8500 series.

In early 1970, they tried an experimental scheme that was the same as before with the black body and half moon scheme, but a yellow Serif-style 24″ “N&W”, similar to what was applied to coal cars, was added to the middle section of the long hood of the locomotives, replacing the spelled-out road name from before. Only 50+ units had these “N&W” stickers applied. More than likely this was the N&W’s prerequisite of a new simplified scheme they were searching for, to blend in with most other railroads at the time, that were adopting a more conservative/simple paint scheme of just abbreviated letters and logos. The N&W continued to apply these logos even during the application of the next “NW” “zigzag” scheme to come next.

In 1971, they changed the road number fonts, and the logo was changed to a 42″ “zigzag” “NW” placed on the long hood side, and 12″ nose logos. This logo variation had both letters connected at the top. The cab numbers were a different style, about 10″ in size. It is possible they came up with this logo that was similar to Penn Central’s “C” inside the “P” logo. All lettering at this point was in white, and the car body was black. One of the first new locomotives to receive this paint were the 4100 series GP38ACs. The N&W also had this scheme with the body Tuscan red and gold lettering, for all special N&W official trains. SD40-2 6175 and C30-7s 8010, and 8076-8080 received the Tuscan version.  (Examples of some of these units still in this scheme during the early NS years can be found in the Railroad DVD category: Norfolk Southern 1980s, Ohio Lines Series (by 1-West Productions™ Featured Series).) 

During 1981, the N&W came up with the “skunk” scheme that was a variation of the Southern scheme, only in black and white. The wide center stripe was white, with the road name, cab numbers, nose 15″ zigzag logos in black. The 15″ road name was slightly larger, with the “AND” being 10″. Also the cab numbers were made slightly larger. Only four units- all GP38ACs, received this scheme: 4104, 4105, 4107, and 4129.  (An example can be found on Railroad DVD Norfolk Southern 1980s, Ohio Lines, Part 1 & 2 (1-West Productions™).)

Towards the end of 1981, the “Claytor” scheme was applied to N&W locomotives shortly after. This was the same paint scheme, only the whole body was black, and no stripe, and all lettering was in white. The road name was the same as used in the “skunk” scheme, but with 12″ nose logos and 15″ cab numbers.  (Many examples of the “Claytor” scheme can be found on several of these Railroad DVDs here: Norfolk Southern 1980s, Ohio Lines Series (by 1-West Productions™ Featured Series).)

In 1982, the Norfolk Southern merger happened between the N&W and SOU. Between that time and 1984, the N&W used the “Claytor” scheme and the SOU kept their original paint scheme during this time of green and an off-white, with gold-yellow lettering. Around 1984, the NS began to paint their locomotives in the new horse scheme that we see today, but they still had the reporting marks of “NW”, “SOU”, etc., under the road numbers on the cabs.  By 1990, they were painting the reporting marks as just “NS”.

Some shops had variations in paint schemes due to the access to lettering, or for whatever reasons. An example would be the N&W F7As. There were at least three variations: -gray roof with blue car body, yellow lettering in the half-moon scheme, -same variation but no road name applied, only logos and road numbers, -all blue body with full lettering, -all blue body with logos and road numbers applied only.

Switcher Locomotives:
N&W switcher locomotives basically had the same paint schemes as the road locomotives during the time-frame previously discussed, with a few variations. Some variations would have been the T6 ALCOs that received the spelled out road name in small-case lettering.

Passenger Locomotives:
In the beginning, the N&W painted some of their passenger diesel units just like their first freight diesels. The same for the gothic and half-moon logo schemes, only the car body was Tuscan red, and wore a 3″ thick yellow stripe on the side frames. Also some wore the half-moon scheme with the blue body and a yellow pin stripe along the side frames. The E8A’s wore a variation of the blue half-moon scheme, with a pin stripe on the nose and upper side of the car body, and along the lower sill of the car body, similar to the ex-Wabash scheme applied to these units previously.

In the early days, railroads had “busy” paint schemes, with a lot of stripes, and/or spelled out road names, with/without logos. But by the 1960s, they saw that painting their locomotives this way was expensive, so they omitted most of the stripes and spelled-out road names, and went simple. Although some loved the fancy paint schemes, the simplified schemes can be just as interesting or sharp.

More railroads began to use simplified and “connecting” type logos, with only letters or variations of the first letters of the road name, made into a shape, or connected, to make their image have a more modern look. Such examples would be CN’s 1964 “noodle logo”, CP Rail’s 1968 “Pacman”, PC’s 1968 “worm”, N&W’s 1971 “zigzag”, GT’s 1964 “noodle”, SOO’s large “SOO”, BN’s 1970 N inside a B, SP’s large SP letter logo, etc.

This should give a guide to what the N&W used through the years, and also a glance at what other railroads at the time were also doing during these various eras.  Several Railroad DVDs about the N&W and early NS showing these paint scheme examples can also be found in these Railroad DVD Categories:  1-West Production™ Featured Series, NS, N&W, and Keith’s Trains™ Series.


All information was provided from researching many books (such as the N&W 1st & 2nd Generation Diesel books, diagrams, various internet research sites, and talking to informative people, such as railroaders, ex-railroaders (Ed Durnwald to name just one), hobbyists, historians, etc.
PJ 3-2015
All content in this article © Copyright 2015 1-West Productions™/PJ.