The first overnight streamliner after the war was the Great Northern Empire Builder, which started service on February 7, 1947. The train’s bright orange and green colors have come to be known as the Empire Builder color scheme, yet it was actually developed by General Motors for the Great Northern’s first Diesel freight locomotives, which the GN purchased in 1941.
Click to download a PDF of this postcard.
The goal was not to have an award-winning color scheme for passenger trains but to maximize safety and visibility. Orange happens to be the most visible color of the spectrum in a wide variety of weather conditions, which is why it played a prominent role in the streamlined colors of so many railroads: Milwaukee Road, Rio Grande, Southern Pacific Daylights, and Western Pacific, to name a few. For even more visibility, the green and orange stripes were separated by thin gold (later Scotchlite) bands, and the lowest stripe of each carbody was a thin, silvery-white band.