Over the years, railroads have often painted equipment to honor special events and our country. While locomotives tend to draw the most attention, freight cars too have been customized for the cause.
During World War II, the Pennsylvania Railroad stenciled many of its boxcars and cabooses with “BUY WAR BONDS” and hoppers with “COAL GOES TO WAR” banners. The messages were repeated in their advertising as they reminded passengers and shippers of the role the railroad – and tens of thousands of its employees who were now on the front lines – were playing in the all-out effort. The “COAL GOES TO WAR” slogan could also be found on some hoppers of the Interstate Railroad.
The nation’s Bicentennial in 1976 saw locomotives on at least a dozen railroads painted in red, white and blue. At least three hopper cars also saw commemorative paint – one on the Norfolk and Western and two on the Cambria and Indiana – a short line in western Pennsylvania. Cabooses too were a popular choice for special paint.
In the 1980s, Conrail decorated a boxcar with a shower of red, white and blue stars and “BUY US SAVINGS BONDS” lettering. An SD40 was painted to match. The boxcar was eventually sold to Yorkrail, who painted over the Conrail markings but left the stars intact. The Bessemer and Lake Erie and Louisville and Nashville had Savings Bonds cars as well.
In more recent years, regional railroad Wisconsin Southern has been busy painting many cars for special causes, including cars for breast cancer awareness and all five branches of the armed services. It is great to see the tradition continue. After all, a few gallons of paint is a small price to pay to show appreciation for the sacrifices that we remember this weekend.
In addition to models of these prototypical cars, Lionel has produced many other patriotic cars and locomotives over the years. Look for that trend to continue in 2012 with our Made In The USA boxcars. (You’ll see more official word on that project soon.) So get out your red, white and blue locomotives and cars, show your colors and your thanks, and celebrate Memorial Day in style on your model railroad this weekend!