Monday, September 6, 2021

Switcher Paint Schemes

As I've been researching the DEY-3 (Alco S-1) and DEY-5 (S-2) locomotives, I started compiling the info on paint schemes for these locomotives. 

Since there have been a few questions over the last year about the evolution of the paint schemes, I decided to create a spreadsheet with all of the paint schemes I have verified and decided to expand it to cover the life of all NH diesel switchers. A lot of the info was found in the excellent article by Marc J. Frattasio and Bill Chapin on the DEY-3 and DEY-5 switchers in Shoreliner 35.1, plus Marc's extremely thorough book on the NH, The New Haven Railroad in the McGinnis Era along with photos and official NH documents.

DEY-3 (S-1) 0967 at New Britain, December 1, 1961. J. W. Swanberg.

Through 1945, all diesel switchers wore Pullman Green with Imitation Gold Duco (not Dulux) lettering. Starting in 1946, there are no fewer than 10 paint schemes, not including minor variations, applied over about a 15 year period until the final Alpert-era scheme was first applied c1961. Road switchers carried similar, if not identical, schemes during the same periods. 

Locomotives were repainted as needed, so no locomotive wore all 10 of these schemes. It appears that most wore two to three different schemes over their lifetime.

Where known it includes the date applied. If a photo has surfaced that is within the period that a given scheme was applied, it is noted as "by (date)."

For the 401 green scheme, I have painting info up to January, 1955. I've seen a photo of 0994 in that scheme from September 1, 1955. So it had to have received the scheme between January and September of 1955. For all other schemes, the range would be from the date of adoption and the date of the photo.

Light gray cells indicate a given locomotive never wore that scheme.

Light green cells indicate that the prior paint scheme has been verified through a given period, often until the end of the NH. In most cases, the latest scheme noted was the final scheme worn. The light green shading designates those I could verify. I've included disposition dates so you can see when a locomotive was no longer in use.

I haven't dug through all of the Shoreliners, books, and other resources I have, but I will continue to update the spreadsheet as I find more info/photos. Of course, I welcome input for updates from other documentation or dated photos.

Pullman Green with Imitation Gold Duct

DEY-3 (S-1) 0967 at Wethersfield in May, 1949. John Wallace.

This was the standard diesel switcher scheme starting with the delivery of 0900 in 1931 through 1945. The cab and hood are Pullman Green, the frame is black, and lettering Imitation Gold Deco.

There are several locomotives that appear to still be in this scheme through January, 1955, or until they were sold in the case of a few locomotives that were off the roster before that: 0607, 0613, 0803, 0804, 0805, 0806, 0808, 0941, and 0964.

Green (Pullman?) cab with Warm Orange Hood

January, 1946

Hunter Green cab with Warm Orange Hood

June 26, 1947

DERS-2b (RS-2) 0509 at Pittsfield. Sweetland.

This is the first Green and Orange scheme for switchers and road switchers. It consisted of a Hunter Green cab and 90 degree fillets at the base of the cab, with Warm Orange hoods and lettering. On the switchers, the back of the cab was also Warm Orange.

The initial scheme in 1946 does not specify the color green, but the June 26 drawing indicates the color was changed to Hunter Green. It's believed the initial color may have been Pullman Green. Only a few locomotives (0933, 0939, and 0947) have been identified to have been painted prior to the June 26 update.

In addition to the post-war DEY-3 class (0971-0995) (the first switchers delivered with the Warm Orange hoods) and the final two DEY-4 locomotives (0817-0818), the Hunter Green/Warm Orange scheme was the delivery scheme for the DERS-1b (RS-1) and DERS-2b (RS-2) locomotives as well.

Pullman Green cab with Warm Orange Hood

May 19, 1950

DEY-4 (44-tonner) 0813. Date and location unknown.

Three years later, the scheme was altered by replacing Hunter Green with Pullman Green. It is otherwise identical.

Pullman Green Cab, top of hood, and Warm Orange

June 5, 1951

DEY-4 (44-tonner) 0807. Date and location unknown.

About a year later the scheme was modified to match the delivery scheme of the second and third deliveries of the DERS-2c (RS-3) locomotives. In addition to the Pullman Green Cab, there is a band of Pullman green at the base of the hood, still with the 90 degree fillet, and the hood top is also Pullman Green. Note that there is no fillet at the top of the hood where it meets the cab. 

401 Green Hood, top of hood, and Warm Orange

May 6, 1954 (October, 1953)

DEY-5 (S-2) 0617 at Worcester engine house, May 21, 1956. Ed Ozog.

Also known as the "full balloon" or "hot dog" scheme, a 90 degree fillet is added to create a full 180 degree curve at the end of the Warm Orange in front of the cab. In addition, the green has changed to 401 Green. 

The surviving diagram of this scheme indicates that it is a correction as of May 6, 1954. Photographic evidence cross-referenced with NH documentation indicates it was first applied in October of 1953. I don't believe this scheme was ever applied to the DEY-4 (44-tonner) locomotives.


Onto the Matter-designed McGinnis and later schemes, well beyond my modeling era so I don't have nearly as much information for you. In particular I have far fewer photos of equipment in these schemes.

Matter/McGinnis with White Sill

DEY-1, June 15, 1955

DEY-7, January, 1956

DEY-3, May 24, 1957

DEY-3 (S-1) 0993 and 0995 at Charles St., Providence, September 14, 1957. David Sweetland.
This shows both the Red Sill and White Sill Matter/McGinnis variations.

This scheme was first used on the DEY-1 classes and was also the delivery scheme for the DEY-7 locomotives. On May 24, 1957 the diagram for the DEY-3 switchers was updated to this scheme.

It has a Red Orange cab, hood end and top, and railings, with white side sills and a white "NH" centered on the hood. The cab roof and hood were black.

Matter/McGinnis Red Orange Sill

DEY-3, -5, February 1, 1956

This design, the original one applied to DEY-3 and -5 classes, had a black hood with no Red Orange top, seen on the DEY-5 (S-2) in the photo above, It also had Red Orange cab ends, hood end, side sills, and hand rails with a large white "NH" next to the radiator shutters. 

Matter/McGinnis with Black Sill

DEY-1, -3, August 2, 1957

DEY-1b (HH660) at Boston Freight Terminal. Date and photographer unknown.

Other than the black side sills, this variation is identical to the White Sill scheme and was also only used on the DEY-1/1b/3 switchers. For the DEY-1 classes it appears that many originally had the white sills, which were then painted over with black.

Note that in the photo of 0924 above, the Red Orange is a much "redder" shade. This appears to be the case on the majority of the photos of the black sill variation. This may not have been noted on the painting & lettering diagrams because c1956/7 there was a switch the paint formulation, but both were called "Red Orange" although I don't know if the No. 406 Orange Red was used on any switchers.

New Haven Color Guide (available from NHRHTA) has a number of Red Orange color chips:

  • No. 428 Red Orange. (1955-1956) Often called "Socony Red" by modelers.
  • No. 409 Red Orange (1956-1964) Used on 1956 road switchers and locomotive repaints.
  • No. 406 Orange Red (early) (1957-c1960) Used on first 30 FL-9s and locomotive repaints.

1956 Road Switcher Scheme

March 24, 1958

DEY-4 (44-tonner) 0818. Date, location, and photographer unknown.

This is a classic scheme that is often referred to as The McGinnis scheme, It has a Red Orange cab, with everything else black, and a Red Orange "N" over a white "H" centered on the hood. Although I've never been a fan of the Matter/McGinnis schemes, this one is very clean. I like it. Although not so much on the 44-tonner. I think maybe it's because the hoods are so short. 

Apparently the handful of switchers that received the scheme was because some of these locomotives were used on local freights.

I have seen a number of models in this scheme with a black cab roof, but haven't located a prototype photo that verifies that was a variation.

Alpert Scheme

Date Adopted Unknown (c1961)

DEY-3 (S-1) 0988, date location and photographer unknown.

Sort of a reverse of the "Road Switcher" scheme, and a variation on the old green and orange schemes. It has a Red Orange hood and black cab, frame, and railings. A white "NH" is on the side of the cab instead of the hood. This would be the final scheme developed, but used on few switchers.

Hybrid/Variant Schemes

Various dates

This column indicates that a given locomotive was known to wear a minor variation of an existing scheme, or a hybrid scheme. 

Variant Schemes

A variant scheme is one that has minor differences from the standard scheme of the era. For example, two locomotives were painted with variations of the original Matter/McGinnis scheme. 0963 had black side-sills, and a Red Orange cab. 0964 was painted the same way, but with 3/4 size "NH" with the "N" in Red Orange and the "H" in white.

DEY-3 locomotives 0935, 0966, and 0967 had small "NH" logos lettered on the front of the hood in one or more of their paint schemes. DEY-4 0811 had an unusual variation of the Road Switcher Scheme where the large "NH" was on both sides of one of the hoods, which meant it was to the right of the cab on one side, and the left of the cab on the other, just like the end-cab switchers or road switchers. 

Hybrid Schemes

Hybrid schemes came about because a number of locomotives were condemned but not scrapped and used for parts. In addition, at least two locomotives have been documented (0607 and 0975) were only partially repainted during the Alpert era.

There's an interesting thread on the NHRHTA Forum that initially looks at S-1s, but there are other locomotives pictured as well, mostly in hybrid schemes.

These practices had the effect of creating a few unusual schemes that were hybrids of a cab from one era and hood from another. 0603 had an early McGinnis black hood with a Red Orange end, along with a black cab. Likewise, 0993 had an early McGinnis hood, but a Green cab with the script herald. There may have been others.

Heavy Weathering and Paint Failure

In addition, if you're modeling the '60s, the weathering was substantial on switchers that had not been repainted in years. Photos are your best bet for this era, because the paint was wearing thin, often revealing older schemes beneath the current coat, or even wearing to the gray primer. Lettering, even including road numbers on the front of the hood, sometimes wore away. I didn't note heavily weathered locomotives in this column, even with old paint schemes showing through, as they are not hybrid or variant paint schemes. But the light green shading indicates a locomotive that was still wearing the last noted scheme in a given era. Those that are older will be more heavily weathered and you should search out photos.

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