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Three great paint schemes on Class Ones today

By Chris Guss | September 14, 2022

| Last updated on September 29, 2022

Chris Guss explains his 'pick of the litter'

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Three great paint schemes

A paint scheme on a locomotive is the visual face of a railroad. It’s what the public sees, and field employees work on and around daily. Some schemes may appeal to some but not others. I’ll run down what I find appealing trackside within the Class I rosters today and explain why.

BNSF ‘Heritage One’

BNSF spent quite a bit of time in the 1990s getting their locomotive corporate image just right in their eyes. Former BN SD60M No. 9297 toured the railway with different paint schemes on each side for employees to review. The first H1 repaint was GP38-2 No. 2099, emerging in late 1996 with a variation of one side of No. 9297 and silver trucks and fuel tank underneath. Future H1 repaints swapped the silver fuel tanks and trucks with the dark green found on the carbody. This became my favorite, and while it was officially only used on the 960 class C44-9W order and standard cab repaints, SD60M No. 9277 was painted H1 by mistake in early 1999.

orange and gray painted locomotive
Three great paint schemes: Only two former Santa Fe SD45-2s received H1 paint on BNSF’s roster. BNSF 6460 was repainted in May 1998 and was between assignments at Northtown yard in the Twin Cities in October 1998. Chris Guss

KCS Belle

While I grew up in the gray KCS locomotive era, there’s no doubt the company’s Belle scheme is first class and my favorite. The railroad tastefully adapted colors first worn on a KCS diesel locomotive in 1939 into a modern-day design that’s like no other across the Class One’s. For a short time, KCS also ordered matching grain cars which made for a beautiful combination on the many grain trains KCS operates south of Kansas City.

red, yellow and other colors on a locomotive
Three great paint schemes: A pair of Belle painted KCS locomotives leads loaded grain cars in matching paint just north of Dequincy, Louisiana, on April 29, 2008. Chris Guss

CP Script

I’ve always been a fan of the Tuscan-red-and-gray design and when Canadian Pacific began rolling out 10 rebuilt SD70ACU’s in 2019 wearing this scheme, I was simply amazed. While CP already had its F unit fleet and a single GP38-2 wearing these colors, this was different. The long lines of the rebuilt EMDs reminded me of CP’s Alco C630s that wore these colors decades ago. While five have the script scheme applied to power in the 1960s, CP also painted five SD70ACU’s in the original design utilizing smaller block lettering. To me, the wider band and large, easier to read script lettering makes it the superior design of the two.

Unfortunately, the pending CP/KCS merger will almost certainly wipe out two of my beloved designs in one fell swoop. BNSF’s H1 scheme will no doubt be around for years to come with the company still rostering many former BN and Santa Fe locomotives still operating in their pre-merger colors yet to be repainted.

silver, orange and yellow locomotive
Three great paint schemes: Canadian Pacific’s regular use of solo consists and 1×1 or 1x1x1 distributed power consists system-wide affords many opportunities to catch one of their heritage painted locomotives leading such as this eastbound train passing Rondout tower in northern Illinois on August 26, 2020. Chris Guss

2 thoughts on “Three great paint schemes on Class Ones today

  1. As a group, I would also propose the Norfolk Southern heritage schemes on 20 locos as memorable, and still working.

    Roger Thomas

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