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CSXT Locomotive Paint Scheme Legacy

March 1, 2002

CSXT has introduced a new locomotive paint design. It will be referred to in the Bull Sheet roster features as "YN3." The company said in a press release that the new scheme is "a visual symbol of the 'new' CSXT." The design will save money, be more durable and fade-resistant to help the locomotives maintain a fresher appearance longer. All new and rebuilt units will be painted with a solid, deep blue body with gold nose, tail and trim. The first locomotive to be painted with the new design is SD50 unit 8503.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. The new paint design that CSX introduced in early 2002 adds yet another chapter to the legacy that was the very raison d'etre for this publication's creation two decades earlier. Then, still in pre-CSX days, our small cadre of Baltimore-based railfans needed a forum to focus upon a mere six different paint schemes that garnished the rails with freshly-painted Chessie System engines and their three component predecessors. Specifically, we needed to keep our records current on the status of our beloved Western Maryland, Baltimore & Ohio, and Chesapeake & Ohio units, apart from those painted Chessie (which we really didn't care for), lest we found ourselves unable to identify in advance what we could expect if, say, we had a choice of approaching trains with particular engines but could not remember their most recently painted identities.

The Bull Sheet (then produced by hand on note paper) fulfilled the need to identify all that was extant upon the roster, and its readers were accordingly able to create their own archives (now they'd call it a database) to achieve the intended function. The Bull Sheet later evolved into its newsletter format, but it never lost track of that original purpose. Those semi-annual roster printouts carry on this most cherished tradition, somewhat defiant of any thought that the entire locomotive roster could someday be that of a single paint design. Ha!

When CSX came into being, there were about a dozen indigenous locomotive paint schemes it inherited. The company was formed in 1980, but it took about six years to implement plans for a unified roster, and just as long to establish its own design. In the interim, Chessie and Seaboard engine designs predominated, along with examples from each of their predecessors.

A numbering scheme was developed which comprehended use of increasingly higher number series (from 2000 to 8999) in relation to horsepower. Engine numbers beginning with an odd numeral were manufactured by GE, and numbers beginning with an even numeral were manufactured by EMD. Units 2000 to 6999 had four axles, and 7000 to 8999 had six axles. Units with three digits or in the 1000-series had below 1800 horsepower, and yard engines were in the 9000-series. This coincided with the Seaboard numbering plan much more so than that of Chessie, consequently many more Chessie engines had to be renumbered than were Seaboard to get them all in sync.

According to Robert Michaels of Howell, Michigan, a renowned expert on locomotive paint designs, CSX began painting its own scheme in the spring of 1986 at its shops in Waycross, Huntington and South Louisville respectively. The first units to be completed at Waycross were 5508 and 5511 - class B30-7 from Seaboard - on May 6. They were gray with blue lettering and trim, and blue on the upper portion of the cab. The letters CSX appeared on the sides with the word Transportation appearing in smaller letters (between stripes) to the right of the initials. Three days later, Huntington renumbered a B&O GP40-2 unit from 4446 to 6344 and painted it on May 9. In the meantime, South Louisville was painting GP40-2 unit 6382 (precise date unknown). The Huntington and South Louisville units had a similar scheme to the ones painted in Waycross, except that the color gray appeared considerably lighter - almost white. It is likely that the company was simply experimenting with this lighter shade of gray for the purpose of comparison with the other two units. In any event, the lighter shade was not repeated in later paintings, and the engines with the lighter shade got a new paint job. Waycross painted U30C unit 7241 on June 1 and F-units 116 and 117 on August 26, while Huntington painted its second unit (6638) on August 27. In all, at least 17 units got painted with the new scheme in 1986 - 13 at Waycross, three at Huntington, and one at South Louisville - and by the end of the year (probably October) it had been decided to eliminate the word Transportation from the sides. For the record, the 17 units known to be painted into the CSX scheme in 1986 were: 116, 117, 118, 119, 1894, 1933, 1936, 2046, 3103, 5508, 5511, 5725, 5767, 6344, 6382, 6638 and 7241 (possibly a few others), according to Bob Michaels.

The word Transportation to the right of the initials was quickly removed from the four showpiece F-units once as it was decided to change this part of the logo, but it remained on some of the other units for a while longer. One of the engines (7241) still had it when it was retired - sighted that way while stored in Waycross in October 1990. U36B unit 5767 is believed to be the first engine painted into the new scheme without the word Transportation, and this was on October 27, 1986.

The year 1987 marked the beginning of the mass painting of units into the new CSX scheme. With sightings from around the system, the Bull Sheet had accounted for 32 units in the May issue that year, 47 in the July issue, and 105 in the November issue. (There were others, to be sure, but not yet sighted for verification).

This CSX design was initially designated on the Bull Sheet roster simply as "CSX," but there was a second design with a rather subtle difference that eventually predominated over the first one. It had to do with its blue trim. In the first design, a four-inch blue stripe ran around the entire unit, and the fuel tanks and pilot were painted black. (This stripe was at the bottom of the long hood and continued around the entire unit; the frame below the running board was gray.) In the later design, the fuel tanks and pilot were painted blue. Bob Michaels refers to these schemes as CSX-blue stripe (the first scheme), and CSX-blue down (the second), with the first version later being noted in the rosters as CSX# and the second version as CSX. The first unit with the blue down (CSX) scheme was 8198 on October 2, 1987, at Huntington. The first to be done at Waycross was 1935 on October 15, 1987. This change was evidently the result of cost efficiency - the use of two colors instead of three - but a more noticeable change came about the following year...

It happened on November 2, 1988. Thus was born the not-much-admired Stealth scheme. All-gray with blue lettering, unit 5753 was outshopped at Waycross, and unit 6742 came out of Huntington nine days later. Moreover, a fleet of road slugs, rebuilt by a contractor (VMV) from the bodies of retired units, got the same treatment (except for one, 2200, which was released early - in the CSX scheme - for an appearance at a trade show). Engines wearing either of the first two CSX schemes were generally allowed to keep them, but anything due for repainting from predecessor designs, or new deliveries from manufacturers, got the Stealth treatment. This design became known in the Bull Sheet as CSX GRAY.

And WOW, did comments (and jokes) get generated by that scheme. The name "Stealth" was coined because of its lack of visibility. It was even said that a crew had been sent into a yard on a foggy day to get on an engine, but they returned because they could not find it! (A joke, I'm sure, but the point had its meaning.) Further ribbing came forth in a magazine that superimposed a photo of a stealth engine next to a stealth bomber. Ha! Remember that one?

The company had no doubt grown unhappy with the scheme as well, and on August 21, 1989, it came up with its first design using a yellow nose. The engine getting that honor was SD40-2 unit 8420, which had been rebuilt from an SD40. This design - the fourth since CSX began painting engines three years earlier - restored blue to the top portion of the cab, applied yellow to the nose with blue lettering, and had an extra thick yellow frame stripe. This was actually a one-of-a-kind design, as on November 7 of that year the scheme was reintroduced on SD40-2 unit 8123 wearing the same colors, but with a four-inch yellow frame stripe in place of the broadened stripe of 8420. This was the beginning of the scheme that eventually became known as YN1.

The first yellow nose scheme was short-lived, however, as yet another design was born on March 21, 1990, with the outshopping of B36-7 unit 5895 at Waycross, and SD40-2 units 8319 and 8352 on March 30 and 31 at Huntington. This was the fifth paint design by CSX (not counting experimental versions), and would become known as YN2. (The company coined it the "Bright Future" scheme.)

While YN2 remained the official scheme for quite some time, the company still had a rather extensive collection of its earlier CSX schemes that lacked yellow noses. Herein was born a series of interim designs - implemented by the sudden urge to apply yellow to the front of all locomotives to increase their visibility.

The first of these hybrid schemes appeared on CSX (blue down) and CSX# (blue stripe) units, partially repainted with yellow noses and yellow frame stripes. This gave them the appearance, in theory, of a YN1 design (in fact, that is what the Bull Sheet first called it) but to the purist, it was even separate from that. Bob Michaels wrote of the new version as follows: "It was obvious when sighting one of these - besides not being a complete paint job - that when adding the yellow noses, the shop applied the yellow all the way to the top in lieu of leaving a two-inch overlap of blue on the nose. In my record keeping, despite being 'close' to the original YN1 scheme, I can tell you - in regards to YN1 units remaining - how many are original and how many are 'partials' from former blue stripes and blue downs."

Now we come to the term, "Quickies," which refers to the lack of a yellow frame stripe that had appeared on YN1 versions. In the due course of time, these (quickie) versions were indicated on the Bull Sheet roster as YN1p. The letter 'p' was intended to refer to these units as "partials," but they were actually less of a repaint than the "original" partials which had the yellow frame stripe added as well. In hindsight, these might have been more appropriately designated YN1q (for quickie) instead of YN1p, but this distinction might only have been appreciated by the purist. CSX and CSX# engines getting the yellow nose treatment along with the yellow frame stripe were considered YN1, even though they lacked the two-inch blue overlap.

As for the Stealth units, CSX was still reeling from the fallout over their reputed lack of visibility. While not admitting it publicly, there was a push to bring these into conformity, lest litigious folks might claim that an accident might have been avoided if they had been better able to see an approaching train - if at all - and yellow noses began being applied to those units beginning in 1992. At first, yellow frame stripes were added as well, but later on this feature was omitted. For roster purposes, Stealth units with yellow noses were referred to as CSX GRAY/YN (if they had the yellow frame stripe), and CSX GRAY/YNp (if they did not).

In the meantime, there were still a handful of predecessor schemes (Seaboard, Family Lines, B&O, etc.) still being worn by engines that had never gotten their turn in the paint shop. These, too, were getting their noses painted yellow. At one point this effort was in such full swing that I wrote Bob Michaels with a "news alert," joking that a "mad, yellow paint brush painter had escaped from his padded cell, and [was] at large on the system, painting everything in sight!" Indeed, some of the nose paintings even appeared to have been simply slapped on with a brush. And - get this! - at least one of the Chessie System units, which already HAD a yellow nose, got the (sloppy) treatment too!

Yet another CSX scheme got applied to the roster, this time in the spring of 1995. That is when the company came up with an orange engine with black lettering for use in maintenance of way service. With no hesitation whatsoever, this design became universally known as PUMPKIN. Six engines were known to be in this design in May 1995, all renumbered and repainted from older units, to live out their final days in work train service. By October of that year, the total had climbed to 42. The company reported that the program was improving locomotive utilization by allowing more reliable units to serve revenue-producing trains. Eventually 69 locomotives became Pumpkins - including the "Trains All American Diesel" - but their numbers have declined in recent years due to retirements. No Pumpkins have been added since early 2000, and the fleet, at last count, was down to a mere seven units. Presumably, the company can now supply its work trains with dedicated units without the need to paint them with a separate scheme.

Getting back to the YN2 scheme, a variation of the design was introduced in September 1996 with two-tone lettering on the sides of CW60AC units. Three of these units were delivered initially, and the fleet has now grown to 117. All have this particular variation.

Yet another variation - not associated with any particular paint design, but noteworthy nevertheless - is the white insulation being applied to the roofs of locomotives. Most units will have white roofs eventually. Some appear as bright white; some appear more as silver.

Let's return once again to those wonderful pre-CSX days when our group of Baltimore railfans began tracking engine designs through the input provided by the Bull Sheet. One of the schemes we followed back then was what could still be found on some C&O locomotives. They were blue with a yellow nose. We called that design "C&O BLUE/YN." Golly, one of them even survives today (although a yellow nose was not originally on that particular engine - but that's a different story). Anyway, that scheme, which we admired at the time, is virtually identical to the one introduced by CSX last month [February 2002]..

Once again, the more things change, the more they remain the same!

-- Allen Brougham