Kentucky diesel paint schemes

Ask Trains from the October 2015 issue
Louisville & Nashville adopted Alcos by the 1950s on lines in eastern Kentucky. The railroad first painted RS3s, FA2s, and FB2s in black, cream, and orange, but later opted for simpler schemes.
R.D. Sharpless, Louisville & Nashville Historical Society collection
Q My family moved from Texas to southeastern Kentucky in the mid-1950s, and I remember seeing trains pulled by red-and-yellow locomotives that looked like what I now see in pictures of Santa Fe locomotives. Can you offer me a few details on what locomotives I saw when I was a boy? – Roy Crawford, Whitesburg, Ky.

A The diesel locomotives that replaced steam on the Louisville & Nashville’s lines in eastern Kentucky were predominantly Alco units. The L&N owned a large fleet of RS3s, FA2s, and a few FB2s, so it’s a certainty that you saw the RS3s as they rolled by in southeastern Kentucky. As built, they were painted in an attractive black-and-cream livery, with orange trim, yellow-gold lettering, and safety stripes, and a variation of the company’s traditional herald on both noses in red, yellow-gold, and black. This scheme was designed by EMD’s styling section and first appeared on an order of 16 E6s in 1942 – the company’s first diesel-electric road units. Except for a quintet of all-black F3s acquired primarily for pusher service on the Eastern Kentucky Division in 1948, all subsequent road units were painted in this scheme until 1958 (although dark blue was the primary color for E units and black for everything else). Switchers were just black with yellow-gold lettering. In that year the L&N adopted an “austerity” scheme of all-black for freight, and all-blue for passenger. It was an era when many railroads began using simpler locomotive paint liveries to save money, shorten out-of-service time in the paint shop, and take advantage of more durable enamel paint versus the faster-drying, but fade-prone, lacquers for the complicated multi-color schemes. Around 1962 or 1963, the company adopted the first of several variations of the more familiar gray and yellow that lasted until the Family Lines scheme of 1977. – Ron Flanary, L&N historian, author
Leave a Comment
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Please keep your feedback on-topic and respectful. Trains staffers reserve the right to edit or delete any comments.
Big Boy

Big Boy

All about the world's biggest locomotive


Learn more about the stories and photos in this months issue

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy
Subscribe Up To 54% off the newsstand price!
Subscribe To Trains Mag Today