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Heralds and Lettering style:

* The oval "Lines" herald prior to November 1935 had a black background and was replaced with the oval "System" herald in November 1935. Reporting marks and data were Roman style.  Periods in the reporting marks were no longer applied starting around 1929.  

Oval Sizes:

Effective Date:

 18" x 9" used on flat cars, containers and container cars

March 4, 1907

 18" x 12" used on flat cars, and special flat cars

May 11, 1905

 28-1/4" x 19-1/8" used on self clearing hoppers, gondolas, double deck stock cars

January 31, 1905

 36" x 24" used on single deck stock cars

November 12, 1904

 48-3/8" x 32-1/2" used on boxcars and auto boxcars

December 1904


* Roman style "System" herald used between November 1935 and August 1955. Between November 1935 and March 1944 - the roman "System" herald had a black background. The black background officially removed from the roman "System" herald starting March 2, 1944. Reporting marks and data were Roman style.  Reporting marks were 9" and car numbers were 7" on most cars. 

Oval Sizes:

Effective Date:

 18" x 9" used on flat cars, containers, container cars and special flat cars

November 25, 1935

 28-1/4" x 19-1/8" used on self clearing hoppers, gondolas and double deck stock cars

November 1935

 36-3/8" x 24" used on single and double deck stock cars with large letterboard

November 1935

 48-3/8" x 32-1/2" used on boxcars and auto boxcars

October 30, 1935


 * Gothic style "System" herald used between August 1955 and May 1959. The black herald background returned with the gothic "System" herald. (NOTE: The gothic "System" herald was also used prior to 1955 on Pacemaker boxcars and bay window cabooses. Reporting marks and data were Gothic style..  Reporting marks were 11" and car numbers were 9" on most cars.

Oval Sizes:

Effective Date:

 18-1/2" x 10-1/2" used on flat cars, composite and 65' gondolas, containers, container cars and special flat cars

October 14, 1955

 29" x 19-3/8" used on cabooses, gondolas, tank cars, self clearing hoppers, ballast cars, double and adjustable deck stock cars and auto racks

September 7, 1955

 31-5/8" x 19-1/4" used on steel bay window cabooses lots 782 and 778

September 16, 1949

 48-3/8" x 32-1/2" used on Pacemaker boxcars


 54-3/8" x 37-3/4" used on boxcars and auto boxcars and repainted Pacemaker cars after October 28, 1955

August 19, 1955

 36" x 24"" used on 70 ton welded triple hoppers

November 15, 1956


 * Blue and yellow Script herald of 1956 applied only to NYMX mechanical refrigerator cars ( A modified version of this herald was also applied to some locomotives during 1956 through 1959 ). This herald is approximately 45" x 30". Reporting marks and data were Gothic style.

 * Yellow Early Bird herald applied only to Lot 862-B 50' boxcars in 1957. ( This herald was also applied as a test on Lot 737-B 40' boxcar #174853 ). Reporting marks and data were Gothic style.

 * White Early Bird herald applied only to Lot 936 NYRX 40' insulated boxcars. Reporting marks and data were Gothic style.

script  * Experimental blue boxcar scheme applied to cars 92102 and 220539 in September 1958. Reporting marks and data were Gothic style.

 * Cigar band 'test' cars appeared in November 1958 ( drawing dated October 22, 1958 ) with the horizontal bar below the center line. Applied only to 12 cars: 176326, 176349, 176697, 176747, 176893, 176920, 176941, 176981, 177128, 177158, 177234 and 177287

 * Cigar band style herald officially adopted at 1959 Shareholders meeting and cars started to be repainted in the Century Green scheme June 1959. Originally, boxcars painted in the Century green had black roof and ends. During 1963 - cars started to appear with entire car body painted Century Green and smaller herald appeared on boxcars starting in 1964. Covered hoppers and flexi-van flats were painted gray with black lettering - despite what some model companies have produced - the NYC did not paint covered hoppers Century Green. A small number of covered hoppers were painted black ( usually assigned to company sand service), but never green. It appears that Flexi-van flats never received the cigar band herald. Lots 130G and 148G cars had no heralds.

Oval Sizes:

Effective Date:

144" x 64" used on boxcars, auto boxcars, ACF cylindrical covered hoppers

June 19, 1959

 84" x 37" used on 125 pressure differential covered hoppers, cabooses and new built boxcars

December 26, 1962

 52" x 24" scotchcal decal used on boxcars and cabooses

May 6, 1961

 52" x 23-1/2" used on boxcars, auto boxcars, outside stake covered hoppers and gondolas

May 11, 1964

 33-1/8" x 15-5/8" scotchcal decal used on multi-level auto racks

May 6, 1961

 32-1/4" x 14-5/8" used on rebuilt 65ton and 70 ton 2 bay hoppers - all white with horizontal bars


 32-1/4" x 14-5/8" used on multi-level auto racks, transfer cabooses and coil cars

March 9, 1961

 32-1/4" x 14-5/8" used on 100ton gondola, lots 120G, 123G and 122F cars - all white with no horizontal bars

June 1967

 30" x 13-5/8" used on lot 959H cars only

May 1965


 * Variation of Cigar band style herald used by the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie.

 * Pacemaker cars painted starting in 1946 for service as cars were modified from regular boxcar service to high speed lightweight service. It took until 1953 before all 1000 lot 737-B cars were modified and painted for Pacemaker service. Paint was Sherwin-Williams flash-dri paint red over gray. Red door and side sill under door when door in closed position also red. Ladders, grab iron rungs, brake wheel, underframe and trucks were black. As originally painted - Gothic lettering and herald white - no black background to herald. Paint diagram shows roof as black F-1 car cement, though most cars had red overspray making the roof appear red from ground level. No dimensional data on cars when originally painted other than LD LMT and LT WT. After February 1951 - cars that were repainted had reporting marks, car number as well as LD LMT and LT WT data painted black. Three cars - #174146, #174654 and #174861 - had ALL lettering in black - including the PACEMAKER FREIGHT SERVICE logo - circa 1952. Lot 848-B cars delivered in Pacemaker paint including complete dimensional data in black - these were the only cars built new in the PACEMAKER scheme - delivered in 1954. In September/October 1955, the oval "System" herald had the black background return. Complete dimensional data added to cars that were not fully repainted - usually in white paint. Also, there were 200 temporary Pacemaker Service cars from lot 773-B - which DID NOT receive the full red/gray Pacemaker paint. Most did receive the PACEMAKER FREIGHT SERVICE logo over their regular paint job, while some cars only received a small rectangle with the word PACEMAKER inside ( starting around April 1950 ).. When cars removed from Pacemaker service (starting in late 1959) - cars either repainted in regular boxcar scheme of the day or simply had the '4' in the car number changed to '5'.


SHOP CODES: Can't figure out the letter codes for various car and loco shops around the NYC. Click here for a PDF file for codes in use in 1954

What does that triangle in the bottom corner of freight cars mean ??


Paint Code Triangle: Starting around December 1950 - NYC cars had a small 6-7/8" x 8-9/16" triangle applied to the bottom left corner of freight cars. 1" letters and numbers were used.  What exactly was it's purpose ?  It was a stencil that indicated the type of primer and paint used on the car and when the car was painted. The top line was a code for how the car was cleaned prior to painting. The second line was the primer manufacturer code and primer type code. The third line was the finish paint coat manufacturer followed by the finish paint type followed by the number of coats of paint. The bottom was was the paint shop code followed by month and year. In the example shown - the code reads:

Cleaning: W = Wire Brush

Primer: 14 = MFG: Frazer Paint B = Type: Zinc Chromate

Finish Coat: 12 = MFG: Rust-Oleum Corp E= Type: Cold Spraying Synthetic Enamel 1 = 1 coat.

Shop: WS = Indianapolis - West Side Date: 12-50 = December 1950.


Hoppers, flatcars and gondolas:

An issue that keeps coming up concerns the color used on NYC freight cars - primarily the open top cars ( hoppers, flat cars and gondolas ), since during different time periods, they were painted either freight car red/brown or black.  Railroad documents don't seem to match actual practice and various articles in issues of the NYCSHS Headlight contradict themselves and I have tried to figure out which version is correct.  If anyone has more documentation to clear this up - please come forward so I can update this information - particularly if you have documentation of builders paint specs on brand new cars prior to 1940.  Now, I've been looking closely at black and white photos of pre 1940s cars and most show a definite difference between the car body colour and the colour of the oval.  At first, you would think this would indicate positively at the car body was not the same as the background of the oval and therefore the cars must be freight car red/brown and not black.  This may be the case - however - I decided to see what happens when I take a colour photo of a 1940s car with NO black background to the oval. - and for whatever reason - the black and white image appears to show a darker background to the oval - see it here ( I did nothing to the image other than convert to grayscale from colour ).  So things get complicated when looking at old black and white photos and can't be used to definitively answer the question as to whether the cars were red or black.  I wish it was simple, but after converting the image of the hopper car from colour to black and white - there is no simple answer.

Most of the following from Peter Rusland  from 1st Quarter 1986 Headlight and compares to the Lans Vail Jr's article on the OVAL in the July 1974 Headlight but contradicts Charles Smith's article on USRA hopper cars ( 3rd Quarter 1980 Headlight ) :

Charles Smith's article on the USRA hopper cars  indicates that all hoppers were painted freight car red/brown until mid 1950s ( probably 1956 when new cars were being delivered ) and in the specific case of USRA hoppers - they were always freight car red/brown as they were retired by the time they switched to black..

Specification P-18, Painting Open Top and Flat Cars, first issued December 28, 1921 indicates the following for repainting of cars:  

* Shops equipped for handling F-1 black car cement, between April 1 and October 1 painted the cars BLACK. Shops NOT equipped for handling F-1 cement and ALL shops between October 1 and April 1 painted the cars freight car red/brown. In practice, it seems that locations with inside paint facilities used black F-1 cement year round and these locations accounted for the preponderance of cars repainted.   Question is - how long did this remain in effect ?

* From February 20, 1941 to June 6, 1956 they were painted freight car red/brown.  New cars built built in 1956 and later were painted black.

* From about 1960 to 1968 a black paint replaced the F-1 cement and was used year round on hoppers, gondolas and flatcars. Some special service gondolas received silver paint. Some P&LE gondolas and flatcars were painted Century Green between 1960 and late 1966.

* NOTE: Dates quoted are the official drawing dates and may not reflect actual dates of first / last usage as some shops may have used the old style longer than the date quoted and some shops may have started painting cars prior to the official drawings being produced. So, dates should only be used as a guideline and occurrences of new / old paint jobs may span a couple of months on either side of the official drawing date.

Other painting notes:

* Starting around 1921 and lasting until May 1933, many cars had a "S-" in front of the car number. From what we can determine, there was two meanings. First, it signified a "SYSTEM" car, or one which was "at home" on any of the NYC affiliated roads and secondly it denoted a maintenance group - which basically determined the limit of expenditure for repairs.  An "A" under the oval herald also denotes a specific maintenance repair program.

* A STAR under the oval herald indicates car used in grain service as per note #2 in drawing book J-56487 - section 2 - page 15.  

* A YELLOW CIRCLE with a black A denotes a car acceptable for clean lading only.

* Covered hoppers were painted gray with some being painted black.  I have yet to find a Century Green NYC painted covered hopper.

* Facing the "B" end of the car - the right side should have a 2" 'R' applied near the car door seal and on the left  side - a 2" 'L' applied near the car door seal.

* Automobile boxcars that had 10' door opening ( 6' main door and 4' auxiliary door ) followed regular boxcar lettering placement.  Cars with a 12' door opening ( 2 x 6' doors ) had the reporting marks applied to the RIGHT of the doors and the dimensions and oval herald applied to the LEFT of the door.

* 1" white stripe above reporting mark and below car number applied to revenue cars only and started around the same time as the change from Lines to System herald in late 1935 and remained until change to the Century green scheme in 1959 where there was only a 2" stripe in between the reporting mark and car number.  This 2" stripe was removed after September 18, 1961.  Boston & Albany steel gondolas and boxcars appear to have had the 1" stripe above the reporting mark and below the car number during their entire service life, though some cars had them removed when repainted later on in life. Some Michigan Central cars had the 1" stripe applied  below the car number only during the November 1935 - August 1936 period when the System herald was applied to repainted cars just prior to cars being reassigned NYC reporting marks and car numbers. CCC&StL cars had the 1" stripe applied above reporting mark and below car number in the November 1935 - August 1936 period when the System herald was applied to repainted cars just prior to cars being reassigned NYC reporting marks and car numbers.  P&E and P&LE cars followed the same rules as NYC cars.

* The roof of cars could be freight car red/brown as per the car sides or black.  Usually a car with a leaky roof would receive a coat of F-1 black car cement that would correct most leaks.  

* Lot # applied above oval starting in 1922 ( or near oval on flat cars and other cars where not enough room to be applied above oval ).

* Michigan Central assigned cars repainted after 1936 with NYC reporting marks had a 2" 'MC' on the bottom left corner of the car - such as NYC 85002.


Of course, with a Railroad the size of the NYC with a huge fleet of cars, there were some exceptions to these guidelines. Dates noted above are the official date on the NYC drawings and may not reflect the date of the first instance of the change as sometimes cars may have actually been painted prior to the official release of the drawing.