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Roof colours

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I remember years ago seeing the preserved CIE diner at Downpatrick for the first time. Still in black'n'tan, the DCDR guys had repainted the roof light grey, because (a) it just needed to be paint and (b) they had grey paint available. I remember thinking how odd it looked, and over the years I've seen many a model superbly built, but with the roof the wrong colour. When we stand on a platform beside a railway vehicle the roof is not so obvious, but on a layout we're looking down on it and it's a lot more obvious!


Just as Hornby and other RTR manufacturers tended to use a standard black for all wagon chassis, they also tended to use white, grey or black on vehicle roofs.


The point of this post is therefore to clarify what colour many roofs are, based on my own observations of layouts, proprietary model manufacturers, and the real thing.


Just off the top of my head....


For many British wagons, chassis and roofs may well have been black or grey, even white; but not in Ireland!


Most railway companies here painted wagon chassis the same colour as the body - particularly CIE. Only in very recent years, we see black bogies emerging under brown container flats from Limerick, but bogies, drawgear and couplings were always brown when the wagon was, or grey before that. Likewise with roofs. CIE vans in grey: same shade grey roof. Brown: same shade brown roof.


Locomotives: steam engines in green had black cab roofs, but for the vast majority, grey as all over body, boiler, smokebox, chimney, wheels etc was the thing. Diesels in BnT era were obviously black-roofed, and apart from the first few A class repainted in "supertrain", all CIE / IE diesels always had orange roofs, same as body colour. This, however, could get quite weathered, especially on the top of the central section on 141 / 181 / 071 classes, and on the cab roofs of 121s, as they were taller!


Carriages - in the CIE green eras of both darker and lighter green, almost all roofs were black. Some older wooden coaches have been seen with dark grey roofs. Ends of ordinary carriages were black without exception.


In the mercifully short-lived silver era, ends, bogies, chassis, couplings and roof were all silver too - while dirt allowed it!


Needless to say, in the BnT era, all black, with orange roofs standard for all post 1972 stock, except for those in the "international" orange, black and yellow livery, and the short lived Mk 2 AB stock bought from the scrap dealers in the UK. There were one or two other oddball exceptions, having black roofs.


The UTA used a grey colour for roofs usually, somewhat darker than the Whitehead RPSI livery, which is a lighter grey. The GNR used this too.


UTA "brown vans" were an exception to the general rule. Not only did they have black chassis, unlike most Irish wagons, as they ran in passenger trains they also had grey roofs. From memory, though I can't be 100% certain, when NIR repainted these vans maroon, they had black roofs.


Just a detail, but for many modellers details are of the essence!

Edited by jhb171achill
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I'd forgotten about that, UP6936.... that's one of the "oddball exceptions"!


Related - wagon ironwork. Often, old black and white photos lead us to believe it was picked out in black, or at any rate a darker colour. It wasn't - this is rust! I suspect this is the reason girl the zebra-like "black stripes" on Whitehead's "Ivan". Ironwork was body colour with GSR, CIE, GNR and UTA. There were very few exceptions, one being some Donegal stock (not all).


Blue painted CIE wagons like the sheet-sided bagged cement wahons, had blue chassis and drawgear. The ammonia tankers had a dark green lower body colour - bogies and drawgear were dark green too.

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