California's Railroad to the U.S. 1861 - 1996

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Southern Pacific Diesel Locomotive Paint Schemes

Road-Switcher Tiger Stripe scheme

Road Switcher Tiger Stripe Paint 1949 - 1953 for 'heavy' road switchers

Road Switcher Tiger Stripe Paint 1949 - 1957 for 'light' road switchers

The first Road Switchers, the DRS6-4-1500, and DRS 6-6-1500 were originally painted in the Yard Switcher Tiger Stripe scheme.

In an effort to gain better visibility, the hood ends were painted aluminum. These first two models, not only had the orange tiger stripes still left on the hood end corners, but also kept the orange pinstripe at the top of the long hood. Although it is difficult to interpret from black and white photo's, hood lettering may have been changed to aluminum as well.

By the end of 1949, the Road Switcher Tiger Stripe paint had been finalized as all over black, with Daylight orange tiger stripes on the pilots, side sills and air tanks. The hood ends and lettering on black surfaces were aluminum, with lettering on aluminum surfaces being black.

All units delivered beginning 1950, were painted in this scheme at the factory, and older units were evidently repainted fairly quickly to match this new standard.

The first units to be delivered in this scheme, appear to be T&NO's DRS6-6-15's 189, 190.

Quite a few switchers that SP considered to be 'light road switchers' also appeared in a variation of this scheme.

Locos known to have appeared in this scheme:

  • SP DRS6-4-1500, DRS6-6-1500, DRS6-6-1500B, RSD5, 70 tonner, SW8, SW900, TR6A, TR6B, AS-616, SD7, NW2,
  • T&NO DRS6-6-15, SW8, SW9, RSD5, SW1200,
  • PE DRS6-6-1500


  • Any brand of Black.
  • Use decals for the Orange stripes.


Microscale sheet 60-71 and 87-71 caters for the stripes in this scheme, and lettering if a unit had orange lettering. For the aluminum lettering; this will either have to come from perhaps a ThinFilm steam set, or a Microscale sheet depending on which aluminum shade it was...


  • Early paint jobs kept the hood top orange pinstripe.
  • NW2 1413 seems to be a solitary variation.
  • Small switchers, eg. SW8, SW1200's also kept the hood top orange pinstripe, as well as orange lettering, instead of aluminum.
  • Some units may have stacked lettering instead of lettering all in a line, although I haven't seen a photo of one yet.

No SSW Locos known to have appeared in this scheme:

Contemporary SSW road switchers of the time were painted in the SSW black with orange bow wave scheme, or their version of the Black Widow scheme.

Rules of thumb:

  • I think it may be _almost_ safe to say, that if a switcher was MU capable, then it was a candidate for the road-switcher scheme. Except some 70 tonners, and no doubt others...
  • Strapac states in the 1981 SP Review "No roadswitcher with more than 1600hp ever carried tiger stripes -"
  • Alco, Baldwin and FM switchers with MU capability were delivered in the Tiger Stripe 'Switcher' paint scheme, while EMD and GE switchers with MU were delivered in the aluminum-end 'Road Switcher' scheme.
  • And to further complicate things, the twelve Alco S6's with MU were numbered in the 'Road Switcher' number series (#4634 thru 4645 [1270 - 1281 after 1965]), while the Baldwin and FM switchers with MU were numbered in the 'Switcher' number series.

Beginning with the Train Masters in 1953, Black Widow paint was specified for Hood units.

Relevant Magazine articles:

Other than the aluminum ends and lettering, these articles will cover the striping.

  • Model Railroader, July 1974, page 36. - Painting Diesel Switchers - Interim Tiger Stripe, Tiger Stripe and Blood Nose.
  • Railroad Model Craftsman May 1988, page 54. - Modeling a Tiger Striped S2.
  • Model Railroader - Aug. 1995, page 62. - Tiger Striping and detailing SP NW2 and SW1.

Loco Paint Index

Additional Information on this Page contributed by Rich Sievers.

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Sunday, November 11, 2001