CC Fleet Information
An overview of what we know about the Colorado Central’s passenger car fleet.
At the head of each individual car page are generally five sets of numbers: CCRR, U.P. 1885, UPD&G 1890, C&S 1899 and C&S 1906.
The CCRR number is the original number of the car when it was added to the Colorado Central roster. The Colorado Central “Western (i.e., narrow-gauge) Division” appears to have numbered its “passenger” cars pretty much in the order it received them, except that it did so separately for passenger-carrying and non-passenger-carrying cars. Thus it began numbering coaches and combination cars at #1 (and went up to 20), and it began numbering baggage and baggage-mail cars also at #1 (and went up to 5).
The U.P. 1885 number is the number assigned 1 June 1885 by the Union Pacific Railroad, which had taken control of the Colorado Central and a number of other lines. There was much duplication of car numbers between lines, and to put this straight the U.P. renumbered all cars as of this date, publishing a guide book for employees in order to help them maintain proper records. This guide book is the first authoritative information we have on many of these cars, and is the basis for Ehernberger/UP. The U.P. appears to have numbered narrow gauge coaches upward from #50, combination coach-baggage cars upward from #700, excursion cars upward from #800, emigrant and excursion sleepers upward from #900, baggage cars upward from #1000, mail cars upward from #1100, express cars upward from #1200, baggage-mail-express cars upward from #1300, baggage-mail cars upward from #1375 and baggage-express cars upward from #1400. Within types of cars, cars of each of the acquired railroads were numbered together, apparently in blocks by builder.
The UPD&G 1890 number is the number assigned when the Colorado Central became part of the Union Pacific Denver & Gulf Railroad in 1890. The UPD&G apparently retained the U.P. numbers, so where a car has a different number here than in the U.P. 1885 column, it shows it had been rebuilt into another type of car.
Sometimes the UPD&G 1890 number will be rendered as UPD&G 1890/97, as in the case of B-M-X #3, #4 and #5. This indicates that the subject car(s) received the number before the slash in 1890, and the number after the slash in 1897.
The C&S 1899 number is the number assigned when the car/s was/were taken over by the Colorado & Southern in 1899. The C&S numbered its standard gauge passenger cars under #100 and the narrow gauge cars numbers over #100. In the narrow gauge cars, #101 and up were baggage cars, #110 and up were baggage-mail cars, #120 and up were coach-baggage cars, #141 and up were coaches, and #181 and up were excursion coaches.
The C&S 1906 number is the number the C&S assigned when it realized the mistake it made in its original numbering scheme. As time went by, the C&S had acquired more and more standard gauge passenger cars, and it soon approached the #99 limit. Instead of “leap-frogging” the block of numbers assigned the narrow gauge cars, it renumbered the narrow gauge cars under #100 and the standard gauge cars over #100. But beware lest you think it just dropped the 100 from the narrow gauge car number! That would be too easy. In the 1906 renumbering cars were numbered by type, and within type by length, from shortest to longest; except that coaches were only numbered this way through #62, 43'-0" long. A new group of 14 coaches—apparently the lines better ones—began at #70 and went to #83.
Until recently there was a significant gap in the authority for these car numbers.
We have good authority for the relationship between the U.P. 1885 and the original CCRR numbers. As noted above, it is based on the Union Pacific’s own printed guide book.
The relationship between the UPD&G 1890 and the U.P. 1885 numbers is based on the reasonable assumption that the Union Pacific Denver & Gulf was too poor to change anything it didn’t have to, and so kept the Union Pacific numbers. There appears to be no documentary evidence to either support or contradict this assumption.
The “gap” was between the C&S 1899 and the DL&G 1889 numbers, for which there seemed to be no documentary evidence. Between a fire destroying the Mechanical Engineer’s office in 1905 and a general housecleaning of “useless” old records in 1921, it seemed nothing had survived (if indeed it ever existed). But recently [January 2006] Hol Wagner shared with us information he had discovered at the Colorado Railroad Museum which bridges the gap. This information will no doubt be disclosed in full in an upcoming book, but in the meantime, it is being incorporated into our car histories as rapidly as we can update them.
There is quite some discussion as to what constituted “chocolate” brown. During the era in question one didn’t just walk into a paint store and buy a bucket of quality-controlled ready-mixed paint. Car builders mixed their own paints from oils and pigments that were locally available. There was bound to be variation in even “standard” colors.
Jim Wilke has supplied several contemporary formulas for “chocolate” brown:
To give you some idea, while recognizing that computer monitors do not show colors consistently, and eyes do not see colors consistently anyway, to the right is a sample of what one modern supplier calls “Indian red.” It is an earth-tone pigment that appears to our eye, at least, to be a combination of red, purple and brown.
Several model builders have suggested combinations of available paint to approximate “chocolate” brown:
Richard Boulware reported having a wooden record box from the C&S dating to the early 1900s which was painted “a dark, rich and warm brown.” He described this box as being the color of Hershey’s regular milk chocolate.
Depending on the quality of the car, there would have been one to three coats of paint. The paint would have been flat when dry, and would have been rubbed smooth before lettering or other decoration was added. Generally two coats of varnish would then be added, one of rubbing varnish and one of coach varnish. The varnish would have deepened the color, as well as providing a smooth, glossy, watertight finish.
Since varnishes of the day were not UV resist, the varnish would tend to darken with age, and additional coats of varnish could darken the color considerably. How quickly the varnish turned yellow or discolored would depend on the quality of the varnish. Cheap varnish might turn after only a year, but even high quality varnish lasted only two or three years.
Paint shops became quite adept at sanding down or removing the varnish coat without damaging the paint. Then fresh varnish was applied. The process was much like waxing the finish on an automobile, but requiring quite a bit more skill. This method of “renewing” the finish without repainting saved time, money and effort.
But the lifespan of the paint wasn’t indefinite even if protected with several coats of varnish, renewed regularly. Probably six years was maximum. So most of the Colorado Central’s cars, built between 1878 and 1880, were in need of repainting sometime before the Union Pacific renumbering of 1885. And just as the U.P. had adopted a standard numbering scheme by then, so had it adopted standard colors and finishes for all its equipment.
The U.P.’s standard color for passenger equipment was an “olive green.” But as with “chocolate brown,” there was great variation. According to Jim Wilke, “Olive greens were made from lemon chrome or ochre (sometimes both) with Prussian blue and black in equal proportions.”
Ken Martin reports having a paint chip taken from C&S business car #911, which was built by the Denver South Park & Pacific shops in 1878 as that road’s pay car #051. In an e-mail to the DSP&P discussion group at Yahoo.com, he said —
Later, Ken adds, “On the paint chip analysis I have from 911 only the first two layers of green have varnish, the rest have none.”
It seems likely DSP&P pay car #051 was painted brown over a gray primer, with several coats of varnish over that. The varnish was probably replaced a few times, then removed altogether about 1885, when DSP&P pay car #051 was repainted the U.P.’s standard “olive green,” probably with several coats of varnish. This varnish may have been replaced a few times. But by the time it became necessary to repaint a second time—likely in the early 1890s—the road was in dire straits and the varnish was not removed before being painted again. This apparently happened a second time, with varnish not being removed. Subsequent paintings were without varnish perhaps because (a) the road wasn’t so particular about the finish on its cars, or (b) it couldn’t afford to be, or (c) the ability to refinish varnish coats had been lost, or (d) paint technology had progressed to the point the varnish coat wasn’t necessary to obtain a glossy finish.
More than likely, a similar scenario played out with regard to all the Colorado Central passenger cars as well, as they passed from that line by bankruptcy to the Union Pacific Denver & Gulf, and thence by bankruptcy again to the Colorado & Southern.
The paint-and-varnish treatment apparently was still being used as late as 1927, as we have seen an internal C&S communication indicating that "Combination 40 is realy [sic] in bad shape for outside paint and roof work" and "I do not know whether we should give the outside regular treatment or simply enamel it at this time. Mr. Mason had in mind paint and varnish as the car has to be burned off." Thus all exterior coating had to be heat-stripped ("burned off") and there was a choice between the "regular treatment" of paint-and-varnish or simply applying enamel.
Explanation of table headings —