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Fantasy Paint Schemes: My former Milwaukee Road

February 11, 2010

What if? How many model railroads, or armchair railroads for that matter, are predicated on that question?

Several years ago, as I was looking for something to get excited about modeling, a friend made a pasig comment “I wonder what the Milwaukee Road locomotives would look like today?” Bang, hooked! I have family ties to the MILW, with my grandfather having worked for the line as an electrician, and my dad having worked in the Chicago passenger car shops through college. I’ve always been a fan of the MILW, but I also am a fan of the big modern power, SD90MAC-H’s, SD70MAC,s C44-9W’s, and so on. What started out with just a passing comment turned into something I truly loved and still do today.

It seems every railroad is interested these days in looking to their history, or the history of a railroad that was once merged into their lines, to develop a paint scheme or group of heratidge locomotives. So it was to the history of the Milwaukee Road that the new paint scheme had to come from.

Take a look here:

That is a Milwuakee Road F3, one of the first pieces of diesel power ordered for the MILW. You can see that the oragne that the line was known for is there, and the lightning stripe is there. The orange carried on through most other iterations of the MILW paint scheme and the lightning stripe was present here at the beginning, and then at the end. Those two elements, applied in a more modern fashon and combined with the Milwaukee Road billboard lettering, result in this:


Applied to an SD40-2, this looks fantastic. Then it was tried on some wide-nose power.


Not so much. It’s ok,but there are elements that just don’t look right.

As things are progressing and my roster is building, several other ideas occoured. First, in order to survivie, the MILW would need to grow. How? Well, in a fantasy world you can change history, so in my world the MILW nd not CN gobbled up the Illinois Central. This acqusition would give me the reason to again look at the paint scheme and tweak it, ala BNSF and their multiple versions of a Heratidge paint.

Milwaukee Road purists will tell you that the coming of the billboard lettering really marks the final turn toward oblivion that the road took. So, as the story progressed and my MILW survived and thrived after taking over IC, why not return to the “glory” days and remove the billboard lettering? This is what that looked like:




One more decision was made and that was to have the MILW “take back” passenger service on their lines from Amtrak. Here’s the MILW P42DC #2007 with some MILW superliners

MILW Passenger Train

This railroad and the idea, still exist. Having decided to exit N scale for my own trains in 2009, the locomotives and rolling stock were sold off. The new owner liked the scheme so much that he has continued to grow the fleet.

What railroad are you modeling? Have you ever thought of a “what if” scenario for it? What would it look like?

Keys to a good fantasy/freelance paint scheme:
* Know your inspiration. If you’re inspired by Southern Pacific, you may want a variation of the bloody nose or black widdow or kodachrome scheme.
* The best fantasy schemes are based in reality. You have to look at what other railroads, the real ones, are doing with their paint in your era.
* Be logical. Railroads paint their equipment certain ways for reasons. Figure out your reasons and stick with them.
* Have fun. That is the best advice I can give. If you like the paint scheme that you devise, go with it. It’s your railroad.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Karl permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:22 am

    I really like the paint schemes, I’m a sucker for resurrecting fallen flags…
    I was wondering why North American trains (esp. in the steam era) were so much drabber than those in Britain. North American engines (outside of the Southern) were pretty much monochromatic, and even the passenger cars (before the streamliners) seemed to be just dark greens or maroons. Was it really just about not showing the dirt? I really like the British approach…

  2. daddooo permalink
    February 12, 2010 2:08 am

    Hi Karl,
    I’m not sure I agree that American trains are “drabber”. I would point at, in the steam era, things like the SP Daylight, the Milwaukee Road Hiawatha and Olympian, and into the diesel era, many lines had colorful liveries on their passenger equipment at least. I think it’s a function of what we see. We look more at the freight equipment and the equipment that is dirty because it is interesting, but the colorful equipment on American lines was equally as vibrant as the European trains. Look at things like the IC Green Diamond trains or the UP with their yellow equipment.

  3. February 17, 2010 1:15 pm

    And Amtrak’s current Acela, NEC and Cascades sets are on par, paint wise with their European conuterparts. I like these looks, FWIW – they are a nice interpretation of how a railroad might have evolved thier look. Well done.

  4. Morgan Davis permalink
    April 9, 2010 3:07 am

    I like the MILWs, especially the P42s. I’ve wondered about Amtrak Heritage schemes, for the grins of it. Me? I’ve condensed a freelance to expand on a stillexisting shortline and have toyed with replacing CSX with Chessie (not hard) and possibly ressurectign the Monon (but what to do with the INRD 9000 class engines I’m in love with?)

    Does the guy who’s expanding them have a website per chance?

  5. June 25, 2010 10:55 pm

    Love the fantasy locomotives. I think the passenger equipment came out very nice.

    I have played in this sand box, too. Mine is a CSX scheme for their executive fleet (or as real passenger power if Amtrak were to die.) Did both E-units and F40s.

    Again, good job

  6. January 26, 2014 2:34 pm

    That is kinda like me. In my version of history, a three railroad partnership called the triparte railroad company provides a web of services from chicago to new york to quebeck. And, they have 4-8-0 locomotives for new york-long island service. mabye i can paint one of my units in that paint and use it as a leaser!

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