An Uninspiring Paint Scheme

The streamlined North Coast Limited’s boring interior was matched by an uninspiring exterior paint scheme. While the Milwaukee Hiawatha trains were flamboyantly decorated in maroon and orange, and the Empire Builder was Pullman green and orange, the Northern Pacific elected to paint its new streamliner two tones of fairly dark green relieved only by thin yellow pinstripes.

Click image to download a PDF of the front and back of this postcard.

The NP paint scheme was derived from the colors used on the first NP FT Diesels. General Motors painted the Diesels black with yellow stripes, in what became known as the “pine-tree” scheme because of the shape of the stripes on the nose.

Click image to download a PDF of the front and back of this postcard.

NP’s passenger locomotives were similar, except the yellow stripes ended at the back of the locomotive cab. In their place was a green stripe, separated from the rest by yellow pinstripes, that ended behind the cab in a butterknife shape.

Click image to download a PDF of the front and back of this postcard.

The train itself was painted dark green–though not as dark as Pullman green–and continued the medium-green strip and yellow pinstripes through its length. The Northern Pacific would repaint its trains in much more memorable colors in 1954.

Click image to download a PDF of the front and back of this postcard.

Here’s a postcard that is slightly different from the second one above, and it contains a message on the back that would warm the heart of any rail marketing agent. “In my wildest imaginings,” says the card, “I could never have believed that there could be such comfort on a train.”

The fact that the postcard comes from a nun to her sisters at a Seattle convent makes the card even more appealing. North Coast Limited fans, however, will be disappointed to learn that Sister Veronica was not riding that train, but the Northern Pacific’s train from Seattle to Portland, which connected with the Southern Pacific’s overnight Cascade to San Francisco, where the card was postmarked. Starting in 1950, the two railroads had a connecting sleeper between these trains, and even though Sister Veronica only had tickets on a sleeping car from Portland to Oakland, the “kind conductor” (who also gave her this postcard) allowed her to occupy her compartment in Seattle.

The sister, who noted that the card was “written in Chehalis and mailed in San Francisco,” said, “Guess what – we had our compartment in Seattle, not in Portland. We didn’t have to change in Portland. Perfect comfort! So cool too. May God be praised.” God and a Northern Pacific Railway conductor.


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