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Monday, July 05, 2010

I Have Seen the Golden Yellow!

I have finally seen San Diego Electric Railway "Mission Yellow" in person!

Over the Fathers Day weekend, the Southern California Traction Club (of which I am a member) set up the modular layout at the Orange Empire Railway Museum.
I have always known that an old San Diego car that was rebuilt into a cabin at some point in its history is stored there. I saw it years ago. Its covered in shingles and is painted a blue/gray color. Not much to see really.

But a fellow I met at the museum there mentioned that the car is an old Exposition car. That really piqued my interest so I made my way over to the car barn that its stored in to take a second look at it.

In a dark back corner of the carbarn there it stands. Still covered in blue/gray shingles, covered in dust, patiently waiting for someone to take an interest in it. I looked closer. I could make out the curved top of the windows. The rounded front end. Its definitely a SDERy Class 2 Pay-As-You-Enter car.

I also noticed that some of its original yellow paint was showing through here and there. But its faded and grimy. I wondered what the chances were of finding the yellow in its original saturated condition. Somewhere where it would have been out of the UV rays of the sun. Somewhere where it would have been out of the rain. Somewhere where it wouldn't get dirty or dusty. Somewhere like... the stairwell!!! Yes! Up underneath a stair! I scraped away some of the house paint (and spider webs) and sure enough, nice, relatively saturated, relatively clean, golden yellow. I ran back and grabbed my Birney car and, with much difficulty, snapped this picture:

Well... I'm within the ballpark. Hard to tell. Still have to make some educated guesses about what that paint looked like when it was shiny. Was it brighter? Or does my car need to be darker? The digital camera is also changing the color. Next time I'm at the OERM, I'm going to have to bring a color matching chart. I am determined to nail this color. Yes sir! I'm determined to nail SDERy Yellow!!!



  1. Hi Dan,

    Your color looks really good and you are finding that you ended up with a lighter shade than the prototype. This is pretty typical: scale models tend to look better when painted lighter shades than the prototype. The plastic model guys have actually tried to quantify the effect as a function of scale reduction factor and you can find a pretty good discussion at

    The scale effect for 1/72 is probably about right for HO. I personally do not get quite that ultra precise (15% white).

  2. Remember the real car is in that dark car barn, but the sun is always shining on your layout! I think you're pretty much dead-on.

  3. Thanks for that Dan. Scale Effect is definitely an element that needs to be taken into consideration. That article was interesting in that he mentions that scale effect might be best achieved by mixing neutral gray to the colors rather than white. He hits the nail on the head here. White fades a color whereas gray desaturates a color. Both effects might be desirable in some situations (such as brightly painted refrigerator cars). Lately I have been preferring to apply scale effect to my models with weathering chalks after the model has been painted. I like the unevenness of fading and weathering that chalks achieve. I'll blog about that sometime. But before I can consider scale effect, I need to nail the exact hue of SDERy yellow first.

    Nicks point is valid as well, thank you Nick. I think I'm not only within the ball park with the yellow, I might actually be in the in-field with it. I'm getting there. I should nail it by the time my entire fleet is painted!


  4. what a nerd! Who brings their toys to field trip? Your teacher should have confiscated it! :-) That is actually pretty awesome dude! What luck!

  5. Keep in mind that both even the best contemporary Yellow and Red pigments tend to be somewhat "fugative" (that is, lose 'intensity', or 'desaturate') over time with exposure to sunlight.

    The pigments in use in the first half part of the 20th Century are less stable than those in use today, so would have shown quite a lot of shift over time.

    In matching to the colour patch on the car you will not be matching to the original hue, but rather to a hue that has 'weathered' by a difficult-to-determine amount of over what is probably an indeterminable amount of time.

    It's your call.... but you are clearly well and truly in the ball park with the colour on your H0 Birney (and having seen it in the flesh, it certainly 'appears' to be the sort of colour I'd expect a SDERy car to be).

    Dan S's comments on scale reduction are also very apposite!


    Bill B.