Soo Line Locomotives
How did the Soo Line paint their locomotives over the years?
This has been the subject of much controversy, and I'm not going to attempt
to state that one theory or the other is true. Hopefully this section will
help modelers and those unfamiliar with Soo practices to understand the
system better. For photos to illustrate these paint schemes, visit the Photos
Steam Locomotives (after the early 1900s)
- All-black with graphited smokeboxes and fireboxes. As-delivered,
many appear to have had white tires on the wheels and accenting the rods.
This may, however, have been decorative or only in use for the builder's
photos (evidence strongly supports this).
- Soo Line "Dollar" Logo in white with black
background on tender, both sides. Standards called for it to be 48"
square, though would vary depending on available area. On early steam locomotives,
the Dollar Logo was in a stylized banner; the webmaster has determined
that the banner had "SOO" Line as per standard "Dollar Sign"
logo but with a red (not black) background, hanging like a banner. Dates
for usage are unknown, though it appears to have stopped by the 1910s.
- Engine number in Railroad Roman on the cab sides, centered.
Also in small letters and numbers the class (ie N-20), and W.C. initials
if the unit was a Wisconsin Central locomotive. Class was centered beneath
locomotive number if not a WC unit; to the left side if it was a WC unit.
These locomotives then had the small "W.C." to the right.
- Early yard (freight) diesels were black, with white striping
on the ends of the long hood. "SOO LINE" was on the side, in
Railroad Roman font, about 2' (24 inches) high. After World War II the
white stripes and roadname were changed to Dulux Gold. Handrails were black
with white or gold ends (color depending on the era and other striping
- Early road (passenger) diesels, including F-units, were
painted in Soo Line maroon (similar to Tuscan Red), with Dulux Gold "pine
tree" design on the nose or end of the long hood, depending on if
it was a cab unit (ex: FP7) or hood unit (ex: GP9). The Soo dollar logo
was centered on the nose, under the second headlight, in a maroon background
with gold lettering, though the reverse has also been seen. (The rationale
for this is unknown to the webmaster). Gold stripe continued along the
lower side (NOT the side sill) of the long hood, wrapping around the locomotive.
Roadname "SOO LINE" centered on the long hood in Dulux Gold letters
for GPs; immediately above the stripe on F-units, approximately 2' high.
W.C. units carried the WC initials on the ends of the long hood. F-units
had the engine number in the lower left corner of each side; GPs had it
on the cab side. Handrails were maroon with gold ends. Exceptions: F-units
had black on their rear (near the diaphragms), no wraparound stripe. Also,
GP9 2555 had the "pinetree" design on both hoods. GPs did not
carry the logo on the nose.
- Immediately preceding the merger, a few units received
a paint job of all-Soo Line maroon, with gold lettering as before. This
scheme was short-lived and the "new image" described below was
instead adopted by the Soo Line RR Co. for all new locomotives.
- After the 1960 merger, a new image, adopted c. 1964.
Body painted white (or a VERY light grey, depending on whom you ask), with
SOO on the sides in Venus Bold Extended, 48" high, black letters.
Engine number on the sides of the cab (or end of the long hood for cab
units), with red nose and end of the long hood (black end on cab units),
red side sill, and a red "swoop" over the cab to the side sill.
"SOO LINE" painted on the front (nose) of the locomotive, in
small white letters. Exception: GP9 550 first unit repainted, had SOO in
a large, serif font. Handrails were white.
- Later in the 1970s, the red "swoop" changed
to a slash ("hockey-stick"). GP38-2s 790-799 (later 4400-4409)
had the "SOO" in red not black letters as per the norm. Also,
some units repainted using the new "slant Soo" logo. These had
a white end of the long hood, logo centered on the long hood, no "SOO
LINE" on the nose, and locomotive numbers on the lower left corner
of each side (most later replaced to cab side).
- After the Milwaukee Road merger, those units Soo chose
to keep had all "Milwaukee Road" marks painted over in large
black patches, lending the nickname "black patch" or "bandit"
scheme. SOO and a road # were applied to the cab sides and "SOO LINE"
on the nose fronts as per all diesels. Handrails remained as-painted by
- Late 1980s, another new image. This time, locomotive
painted all Candy Apple red, with the slanted "SOO" on the sides,
but no border, probably 2.5'-3' high. Two speed stripes wrapped from one
side of the locomotive to the other, joining the logos. The same style
lettering applied to the nose (slanted Soo) with three thin white stripes
beneath. Black patch applied to the top of the nose,
as an anti-glare mechanism. Handrails red with white ends.