It is the reason behind the Chinese steamers having the red wheels, but
they also have white tyres as well.
Not every railway system used that concept. But it worked for those who
did use it.
Other systems used a white sodar ash mixture at specific points to
examine the wheels & frames.
David Nebenzahl wrote:
While I don't have a specific answer, I would think that it was for
safety reasons. As others have already indicated.
But it wasn't just German Engines and not just during WWII. Red
running gear/frame combination was used on many European railroads.
Soviet Union and Poland also used that paint scheme. And I think that
this practice started way before WWII and it continued on until demise
But the red paint got grungy quite fast, so many engines appeared to
have black running gear.
I think it goes back to the very early days of railways, when engines
were painted in very colourful liveries. The US lines adopted basic
black early on, as labour was relatively expensive in there. In Europe,
the colourful liveries on steam locos continued well into the 20th
century. As Peteski notes, the red running gear on steam locos pre-dates
WW2, in fact, and was not limited to German locos. So I think it was
done for aesthetic reasons. Somebody high enough up in the bureaucracy
just liked it, and ordained that it be done.
Now that bright paint and vinyl stick-ons are relatively cheap, and big
machines are painted in semi-automated paint booths, we're back to very
garish, um, I mentersay _colourful_ liveries on locomotives. And as in
the past, someone high up in the bureaucracy makes the final decision,
based on his dubious sense of colour, and despite whatever the marketing
gurus tell them. :-)
IIRC, it was Ford Family decision. They wanted to memorialise Edsel,
who died young.
The design was the styling department's product. They stuck with it even
though the marketing gurus pointed out that the Public thought the Edsel
looked like it was sucking a very sour lemon. Besides, in those days a
car's style had a four to six year life, with minor sheet metal and
chrome changes every year. By the time the Edsel was launched, that
style of barge on wheels was already, um, dead in the water. But the
Ford Family wanted Edsel's name on a big car, a prestige model, not some
cute li'l subcompact. Irony was, the guts of the Edsel were plain old
Ford. Go figure. -- I was a young man in those days, and followed
automotive news very, very closely. Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated
was my idol. :-) But I won't vouch for the details of my story.
Yes, that's the Aerotrain, of unlamented memory. the cars were widened
bus bodies running on a Talgo-like arrangement of single-axle trucks
IIRC. Was said to be a rough and noisy ride. I recall reading that GM
was venturing into this business because sales for their busses had slumped.
What's interesting is the "futuristic" styling, so characteristic of the
50s/60s. It seems stylists can't imagine a future that isn't an obvious
riff on the present, which dates their attempts very rapidly. Raymond
Loewy was an exception: his GG-1 restyle is IMO timeless.
There were a few more than Loewy. The GM F and E units all look right
up to date and modern even being 60 years old. The ALCO FA and PA units,
the Geeps and the Budd RDC cars all look right up to date and they were
all styled 50 years ago or more. These is in contrast to the autmobiles
of that era, which all look dated now.
Agreed, but it seems that the stylists of these locos were anonymous -
at least, I haven't found any information about them. For example, the
"styling department" of EMD was responsible for the E and F units, and
they also offered a handful of standard paint schemes in colour
combinations to suit their customers. Same for the hood units. I suspect
that these stylists weren't out to "make a statement," but simply to
make the loco look good. Information about the stylists would be welcome.
The first German loco with red painted wheels and underframes was "Der
Adler" of 1835. Most German steam locomotives since then had red painted
frames and wheels.
The purpose was to make metal fractures more obvious and to make working
parts more easily visible against that background.
While white would make fractures and moving parts even more visible, white
paint was generally more porous so would quickly end up darker than red.
You need to remember (or recognise in the first place, Mark) that paint
technology hasn't always been at it's present state of development and
different colours (colors US) were mostly made with various naturally
occuring pigments, eg red-oxide from iron ore oxide and heat resistant
paints from a lead base.
German locos generally had plate frames for the first century. These were
more prone to cracking than US style bar frames. They also tended to have
more "works" between the frames than US locos. Both those factors made a
colour lighter than matt black desirable.
While the early WWII locos (1939-42) had red frames the new ones nearer to
the end (1941-45) usually had frames painted black.
Of course you don't Mark.
If I said the world was round you'd join the flat earth society.
My experience? It's purely with preservation projects, first hand and second
Plate frames tend to crack from cut-outs such as around cylinder fixings,
axle slots and at the base of cantilevered overhangs such as the rear frame
behind the rear driving axle.
When, for example, one side frame parts company below and behind the firebox
and the tractive effort opens the crack under traction but allows it to
close at rest, visual and tactile inspection is more effective that tapping
with little hammers.
Still, you're the expert!
Agreed. However, red is still slightly better than matt black in that
I have only published opinion, but from people I consider to be knowledgable
on the subject.
Bellingrot for example.
Unfortunately it's not accessable to me at present as all my literature is
packed away for my forthcoming move north.
I really don't mind if you are well versed in the subject, that doesn't
damage MY ego.
If you are reasonably knowledgable then we have nothing there to disagree
Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.