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19th Century-Early 20th Boiler Color Paint?

Discussion of specific prototype locomotives and other equipment of all gauges.

19th Century-Early 20th Boiler Color Paint?

Postby Tweetsiedude » Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:33 am

My Books "Along the ET&WNC" series describe the BLW design and practice in great detail. It mentions that in the 19th century through most of the early 20th century, that there were no paints strong enough to withstand the boiler heat, thus the boilers were left unpainted, and the iron was of the normal planished, american, and russian iron types. My question is, is this true? I've read around on how some railroads did manage to paint their boilers, mainly the UK and Europe. I also wonder if there were railroads in america to which locomotive boilers were painted before 1920. I always enjoy learning new information, so any light on the subject will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
Rock On!
~Dusten
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Re: 19th Century-Early 20th Boiler Color Paint?

Postby Randy Hees » Sun Aug 21, 2016 8:40 am

1900 Detroit White Lead Loco enamal.jpg
Collection of Randy Hees
Jacket painting is a changing process in the late 19th Century… In 1870 virtually all locomotive jackets were some form of planished iron (Russia iron, American iron, planished iron) . There are some efforts being made to paint jackets in the 1880’s. As best I can tell “Jacket enamel” was first offered in 1892.

In the late 1890’s there is an ongoing discussion in trade literature, particularly in the Master Painter’s Association proceedings, but also in the Master Mechanic’s Association minutes about painting locomotive jackets. Those discussions mostly talk about how to paint hot surfaces in a way that the paint will hold up. Generally they believe that the answer is to make sure the paint is completely dry before it is exposed to heat. Of course we are talking about locomotive jackets, which are over the lagging over the boiler... the boiler being about 350 degrees due the presence of water on the other side, so the jackets are not that hot, unlike fire box and smoke box areas which are exposed to much higher temperatures and are generally not lagged.

The problem was that the paints of the time were linseed oil based, with pigments added (normally by the end user) and took a very long time to fully dry and cure. The solution was adding dryers to the paint. Dryers are resins which accelerate the absorption of oxygen by the paint making it dry more quickly. The common material was called “japan” or “japan dryer”… it is still available in art stores, on the shelves near oil paints. Japan was used carefully by most master car painters when dealing with some pigments which would retard drying, or in humid conditions or at low temperatures, both of which also retarded drying. The issue was that japan dryers made the paint matrix harder (possibly good) but also more brittle resulting in finishes that cracked, which was particularly an issue on wood, which by nature can expand and contract.

At the same time the varnish industry was developing a variety of varnishes. They had body varnish, finish varnish, gear varnish (gear being the wheels and trucks of a wagon or carriage) and such, varying by how hard they were, and how thick a coat was laid down. Varnishes at the time were basically boiled linseed oil, with resins added to control how hard they became. The difference was the resins in varnish were added in a factory, and cooked in. Because they were being added in a factory, and cooked in, varnishes could use a greater variety of resins.

The initial solution was to use varnish in place of some of the linseed oil when grinding the pigment into the linseed oil. This resulted in a product known as “varnish paint” and would eventually be offered by some paint manufacturers. In 1892 we see the first ads for “Locomotive Jacket Enamel”, (under the brand name "Rogers") a paint specifically formulated for higher temperatures found on locomotive jackets. Being a locomotive paint it had to have a good smooth glossy finish, as appropriate for a significant piece of equipment. The solution of course was hardners, added in a factory environment and cooked in. Of course, iron jackets and cast iron domes are a more friendly substraight for a more brittle paint (than wooden cars or wood cabs). By the way, “enamel” is best defined as a hard finish, not as the chemical system used to make paint.

The transition to painted jackets is not only a technical problem. It is part of a greater movement towards cost management and cost reduction, with rising labor costs, which call for fewer workers when possible, reducing crews of “wipers” to care for locomotives, and changing styles towards more subdued locomotive paint and decoration, with less brass and striping. We see things like use of planished boiler bands (on planished iron boiler jackets) in place of brass. Painters are expected to get a locomotive out on the road quicker, so have less time to wait for paints to dry. This in turn leads to development of the “4 coat” paint system in place of as many as 14 coats used previously.

I have attached a scan of a page from the Master Painter’s Association souvenir catalog, for their 1900 convention, in Detroit, by the Detroit White Lead Paint Company. One of its brands was “Rogers” including Rogers Jacket Enamel. I note that they also offer traditional paints for railroad cars and other parts of steam locomotives, as well as for depots, bridges, and signals...

This is a subject worth more study. I need to look at Baldwin spec sheets for the earliest factory use of painted jackets.
Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News http://www.rypn.org
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...
http://randyhees.blogspot.com/
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Re: 19th Century-Early 20th Boiler Color Paint?

Postby Tweetsiedude » Sun Aug 21, 2016 2:08 pm

Thank you very much. I've also found an online book of locomotives from the 1850s. It shows some locomotives that used a large amount of brass for their boiler jacket too. This locomotive says it came from Breese, Kneeland from NY. I asked about the boiler paints to see if it was possible. I'm running though this book, and seeing the normal iron's used on the boilers. along with a good amount of brass.

Rock On!
~Dusten
Tweetsiedude
 
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End of the Age of Brass, was Boiler jacket paint?

Postby Randy Hees » Fri Aug 26, 2016 6:48 am

This article came from the National Car Builder, May 1879... It is a wonderful piece on the transition from highly decorated locomotives, towards basic black... Jackets are still planished or Russia iron, but without brass bands...

End of the Age of Brass.

Visiting the locomotive works of the Chicago &; Northwestern railway a few days ago we noticed in one department a pile about as large as a small hay-¬stack, composed of the brass casings of domes, sand boxes, steam chests, cylinders and pump chambers, boiler ornaments, etc., etc., which had been stripped from numerous engines as they came in for repairs or rebuilding. In the stalls of the round house stood numerous newly built or repaired engines with their boiler casings of lustrous Russia iron, unrelieved by a strip of shiny brass, and with all the various parts. which in the old time engine were ornamented with the dazzling sheen of the yellow metal, now painted a somber black, or covered with planished iron ¬plain, sober looking machines, but impressive by reason of their very plainness, looking as if they were intended for serious work, and not for playthings to dazzle the eye. It is a comparatively short time since the edict against brass ornamentation on this road went forth, but it is being rapidly enforced, and soon every one of the nearly four hundred splendid engines of this great company will show scarcely a bit of bright metal except the shining bell, sur¬mounted, perhaps, with its brazen eagle.

The same raid upon shiny ornaments is going on upon many, probably upon most of the roads of the country, and it evidences a reform in the interest of economy which we believe to be timely and excellent. With the first volume of this journal we commenced to raise the question whether the great expenditure of money necessary to decorate locomotives with glittering ornaments (a decoration, by the way, pecu¬liar to American engines) and to keep them" shined up" after they were built, was advisable. Some esti-mates were given of the cost of this display, and with the aid of correspondents who took a similar view to ours we may believe that we contributed our mite toward bringing about the exhibiting revolution against unnecessary show and in favor of the economy of plainness. At one time and another our columns had a good deal to say about the cost of polishing engines, and although some of our readers agreed that the expense was considerable, and was unneces¬sary, others thought that the saving suggested was trifling, and not worth notice. And yet it was no uncommon thing to expend from fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred dollars in superfluous ornaments, partly to please the eye of travelers and partly with Idea that the men who run the engines would take more pride in them and Care for them better if they were resplendent in decorations. But we believe that the roads that have abolished the brass trimmings find that their enginemen are no less attentive to their duty, and that their trains draw just as many passengers and pounds as they would if the engines were more dazzling, while there is no question of the great pecuniary saving. In addition to the very considerable economy of using iron instead of brass for finishing, the Chicago & Northwestern road has been able to dispense with about one half of its wipers, making a saving in this item at the West Chicago round house alone, of the wages of sixteen men, which. At $1.50 per day, is equivalent to between $8000 and $9000 per year, indicating an aggregate reduction of unnecessary expense for all its lines which certainly must be gratifying to its stockholder! The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific is another company that builds its engines for use, without much regard for show, and we notice that it is already painting over the brass work on the engines of its recently acquired Keokuk.& Des Moines line. It is admitted that there is something attractive and impressive about the beautiful finish and decoration of the engines of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy route, for instance, and yet there is also an appearance of seriousness and dignity, so to speak, about the plain, black machines of the Michigan Central, as they stand alongside, which is hardly less satisfactory. - Railway Age.
Randy Hees

Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City
Railway Preservation News http://www.rypn.org
Chasing old trains where ever I may find them...
http://randyhees.blogspot.com/
Randy Hees
 
Posts: 454
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:07 pm

Re: 19th Century-Early 20th Boiler Color Paint?

Postby Tweetsiedude » Sat May 13, 2017 12:06 pm

Do they still make Russian Iron or American Iron. It seems that most of the engines I've seen restored from the 19th century have Planished Iron boilers, and some locomotives have a fake paint to try and simulate Russian Iron. So is making Russian and American Iron a lost art?
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