Been looking at YouTube vids of layouts, there seems to be a lot more colour in the freight car stock than I remember in the 1970s - I only remember 'freight brown' cars, heavily stained with brake dust.
Is colour a new thing? I thought most railroads used standard brown livery for enclosed cars, with some exceptions for special cars.
Reason for asking is I am starting an N Gauge 1950s short line/terminal layout and was thinking I should repaint some of the Model Power freight cars I have (I need a lot of 40 foot cars, they are getting MTL trucks/couplers fitted)
Google is your friend, especially if you're willing to try different search phrases, eg "freight car gallery", "CPR freight car paint schemes", etc. But it's not easy. The top hits tend to be sites selling you models, not sites providing data. Also, most photos are of engines (are you surprised?), not freight cars. Try these sites as a starting point:
There is indeed a lot more colour now than there used to be, and you're out by about 10 years in your memory of freight car brown trains. The trend to colour was well underway when in 1968 Canadian Pacific introduced its MultiMark livery, with bright red, bright green, bright yellow and of course shiny black, silver, and grey cars. Lots of short lines bought cars and rented them out or let the demurrage roll in. They used lots of different colours, too. Mechanical refrigerator cars expanded the yellow and orange palette of the older brine-cooled reefers. Railbox cars were bright yellow. And so on.
Of course what's available from some manufacturers doesn't represent the relative proportions of different colours in the freight car fleet, but by about 1970 most freight cars were not freight car brown any more.
Now in the 1950s most cars were some variation of the freight car red theme, with reefers mostly orange or yellow, tank cars almost uniformly black, and the brightest colours usually found at the end of the train, unless a spiffy new diesel was on the point. Then you could admire one og GMD's "custom" variations on their elegant theme, if the road hadn't specified a home-gromw paint job.
Colors other than boxcar, Tuscan or oxide red have been in use for a number of decades, though it has become more widespread in recent decades admittedly. Reefers have always been very colorful, mostly bright yellow or orange. Santa Fe was painting some boxcars a bright red in the late '50s, similar to their cabooses. In the '60s you had NYC boxcars painted jade green, GN boxcars in their orange and green "pumpkin" scheme, and CNW with some boxcars in green and yellow, as just a few examples. By the '70s GN had switched to their Big Sky Blue paint scheme, and we were beginning to see some of the rental fleets like Railbox in more colorful paint schemes. But boxcar, Tuscan or oxide red still dominated. It's up to you to decide how much of a mix you want in your own fleet.
Honestly Wolf, in the later 1970s and early 1980s in LA and San Jose I did see a lot of box cars in the standard red/brown livery and very few in more colourful schemes. The Ruler of the Roost was keen for me to stop building 'implements of destruction' on the dining table and encouraged a shift to railway modelling, so I was paying attention. In the event we moved to the UK so I modelled a British 'light railway', loosely based on a thing called the Garstang and Knott End Railway, which was eccentric even by British Light Railway standards. That gave me a taste for eccentric short lines.
By the mid-70s there were a lot of colorful cars - especially boxcars. The "railbox" boom spawned a lot of cars blue, yellow, green red, etc. exterior post 50' boxcars not seen before. If my corner of the world (Midwest US) was an indication, the explosion happened very quickly after the first Railbox car appeared.
Now granted, I grew up near a major paper mill city (Green Bay) so the demand for new cars was probably higher than some other places... but the "freight car rainbow" was well in place by '76 or '77 based on all the equipment I saw at that time.
Thanks I'll do some more digging. The plan (ish) is 1950s shortline/terminal line, but there is a shop nearby with some lovely Atlas rolling stock at very reasonable prices, so I might just stock up then see what era I have the stock for. First loco arrived, Bachman Proto, so far rather impressed with the running, waiting for magnets to arrive to play around with couplings.
engines the line has bought 'second hand' from other outfits. First purchase was an RS-2 (lovely looking thing it is), and I have a couple more 2/hand engines with Arnold couplers, one being a Bachmann GP40, which may get traded in.
I think the magnets should be okay if I fit them on sliders so they can be moved clear of the track via a rod to the edge of the baseboard when something is just running through.
A big part of the attraction of US outline was the magnetic uncoupling and delayed action, allowing accurate spotting. In the past I have tried a few systems but the only one I got on with was the MBM magnetic type, a simple and robust hook and bar system with magnets on the track for uncoupling. That has no delayed operation though.