PENNSYRR.COM by Jerry Britton



Buff from c. 1916 until 1960, then light green (except N8's were Buff and Cream until 1960 -- then light green).


FEBRUARY 20, 1914

"Date" on tracing for the new all-steel N5 cabins. "Issued" one month later (3/20/1914), "Made Standard" (12/30/1915). Although not present on tracing (may have been changed) original color may have been bright red (this assumption is made because of the following item added to tracing 7/9/1915).


JULY 9, 1915

"All of the car to be painted Freight Car Color." Although the truck color is not specified on tracing it is assumed that they were painted Black. However, it is safe to assume that sometimes the trucks were painted Freight Car Color, as appears to be the case from some photos.

LATE 1940's

Roofs of cars (especially N5's) painted Black. Actually, they were not painted, but tarred because of leaks! Some cars are not modified (no leaks!) and others have just the roofs treated (not the cupolas) and, finally, some car roofs are all Black (including cupolas). Confusion resolved in 1955 (see below).

JANUARY 3, 1949

Handholds on car side and vertical corner grabs on end posts to be painted Chrome Yellow (which of the grabs actually get painted varies from shop to shop).

DECEMBER 8, 1955

"Shadow Keystone" tracing issued (see below for lettering). Cars again painted Freight Car Color, which is much "redder" than the 1920's-1940's Freight Car Color (see PRRT&HS color drift card for this color, which is accurate for this era). Roof (including cupola) and trucks painted Black (all cars). Safety appliances painted as noted above.

NOVEMBER 1, 1961

Marking of cupola side sheets added for pool cars (cupola sides painted Chrome Yellow for cars permanently assigned to pool service, yellow donut [2" i.d., 5" o.d.] applied to cupola side sheets for cars temporarily assigned to pool service). Sets record for short lived scheme (see next entry!!!).

DECEMBER 1, 1961

"Outline Keystone" (see below) tracing issued. Cars still painted as above, except cupolas on pool cars were entirely Chrome Yellow (including cupola roofs). Same yellow donut for cars temporarily assigned to pool service.

Bowser N8 Plain Red Yellow
Bowser HO Scale N8 in PRR Plain Keystone Scheme -- Red Body, Yellow Cupola

JULY 1963

Cupolas on cars assigned to pool service in electrified territory (east of Harrisburg) painted MW Grey.

JUNE 1965

Cabin car color changed to Focal Orange (also known as Safety Orange). Roofs black, cupolas orange (cupola roofs are painted black on cars except those with "streamlined" cupolas [N5c's, N5e's & N8's], which are overall orange). Safety appliances painted white.

Bowser 37793
Bowser HO Scale N5C in PRR New Style -- Orange [Post 6/1965]

 Bowser N8 Plain Focal
Bowser HO Scale N8 in PRR Plain Keystone Scheme -- Focal Orange Body


NOTE: All the lettering on the car side is centered on the car body, not the cupola!!! So it appears off-centered on N5's, due to the car's off-center cupola!!!


Original "One Stripe" lettering scheme on N5's. 7" high "PENNSYLVANIA" 10'7" long, 7-1/2" below bottom of side belt rail. 1" wide stripe 2-1/4" below road name and 7" high road number 5" below stripe (20" above side sill). Class, build date and owner in lower left hand corner (2'10" from end, and 6" above side sill), "United States Safety Appliances Standard" in lower right hand corner (2'10" from end, 6" above side sill) with repack date below that. 2" high "P.R.R." and road number stenciled above end door. "COTS" stencil on brake reservoir, as appropriate.

NOVEMBER 12, 1918

Stencil for passenger service cabins added, "ASSIGNED TO PASSENGER SERVICE AMERICAN RAILWAY EXPRESS" between windows (2" above top of belt rail). Cars for this service were renumbered.

Bowser HO Scale N5 "Assigned to Passenger Service - American Railway Express"

MAY 24, 1920

"P.R.R." above door changed to "PENN".

JUNE 2, 1920

"PENN" above door changed back to "P.R.R." (Ties the record for a short-lived scheme!!!)


"Two Stripe" lettering scheme issued. Road name is same, but 1" stripe 3" above it, rooad number 8-1/2" below it, and second 1" stripe 3" below road number. Class, owner, build date and repack stencils moved to right lower corner (these were moved around a bit in some minor revisions not noted). Stencil above end door is unchanged, but reporting marks and road numbers added to one side of center sill, and center bolsters of trucks.

DECEMBER 21, 1926

Division assignment added 2" below lower stripe (2" high letters).

APRIL 11, 1929


OCTOBER 18, 1929

"RAILWAY EXPRESS AGENCY, INC." changed to "RAILWAY EXPRESS AGENCY" on passenger cabins.

Bowser 55036
Bowser HO Scale N5 "Assigned to Passenger Service - Railway Express Agency"

AUGUST 27, 1930

Reporting marks and road number on center sill, and road number above end doors, deleted.

DECEMBER 13, 1940

Division assignment changed to region assignment.

Bowser N5 Old Style
Bowser HO Scale N5 in PRR Old Style Scheme

Bowser N5c Old Style
Bowser HO Scale N5C in PRR Old Style Scheme


Special lettering scheme adopted for new N8 class based on freight car "Circle Keystone" scheme. "PENNSYLVANIA" between windows (12'11", which is longer than N5 version) with Circle Keystone below, then region assignment, then road numbers, then class, build date, etc. (all centered on side of car). No stripes.

Bowser 56302
Bowser HO Scale N8 in PRR Circle Keystone Scheme


"Shadow Keystone" tracing issued (N5 series steel cars only, not N8's). Shadow Keystone is 2'5-1/2" high, centered between side windows (original keystone extends down over side belt rail). "PENNSYLVANIA" increased to 13" high by 15'4" long, 6" below bottom of side belt rail. Road numbers now 9", placed 6" below road name & region assignment is 3-1/2" tall 6" below road numbers (or 4" above side sill). Build date, class and owner are not changed (lower right side). Center sill stencil and end road numbers reinstated!!! Truck wheel * spring info stenciled on end sills.

Bowser 37790
Bowser HO Scale N5C in PRR Shadow Keystone Scheme 

Bowser N8 Shadow Keystone
Bowser HO Scale N8 in PRR Shadow Keystone Scheme

JANUARY 9, 1956

Keystone size changed to 18-21/32" due to problems with stenciling it over the side belt rail as mentioned above. Car end reporting marks & numbers changed to 4" high.

APRIL 30, 1957

Size of keystone increased (back to original size) and some change to region assignment stencil.

NOTE: Based on photos, it appears that most N5's retained the second, small keystone stencil, however, N5c's, etc. generally had the large keystone stencil.

AUGUST 24, 1960

Road number size changed from 9" to 7" on side of car (7" below road name & 7" above region assignment).


"Outline Keystone" simplified scheme issued (siimilar tracing issued for N8's). Outline Keystone (approx. 25" tall - on some cars a smaller stencil was used) centered between side windows, 10" high road numbers 13" above side sill, region assignment 3" high, and 4" above side sill (no "PENNSYLVANIA" or reporting marks). Other stenciling basically the same but in Futura-like typeface (Gothic Sans Serif). This is the scheme used (with slight modification) until the demise of PRR. Some changes appear to have been made after 1961. The were: Region assignment was dropped (this appears to have happened when the Focal Orange paint scheme was adopted in 1965), PRR initials were added to some cars between the keystone and the road numbers on the sides, and the reporting marks and road number were moved from above the end door to above the right end window. Dates specifying these modifications have not been located.

Bowser N5 New Style
Bowser HO Scale N5 PRR New Style Scheme

 Bowser N8 Plain Red Yellow
Bowser HO Scale N8 in PRR Plain Keystone Scheme -- Red Body, Yellow Cupola

Bowser 37793
Bowser HO Scale N5C in PRR New Style -- Orange [Post 6/1965]

 Bowser N8 Plain Focal
Bowser HO Scale N8 in PRR Plain Keystone Scheme -- Focal Orange Body