What color is SP Dark Olive and how do I get it?

Floquil Days are Here to Stay?  NOPE!

This has long been a problem for me... What is the right color for SP's huge numbers of heavyweight cars before 1954's Two-Tone Gray "Standardization" of heavyweight cars?

About 1995, I was using Floquil's Pullman Green on everything I was painting.  I guess back in the day of incandescent interior lighting the bluish hues looked ok when warmed up with more yellows.
but still.

Taken outside in sunlight.  Bottom Floquil Pullman Green, Top StarBrand SP Dark Olive Green.  (SP did pioneer the Double Stack!)
When I started running my passenger cars at the club layout in about 1998 or so, there was a HUGE problem.  My cars were a sickly lighter shade, missing all of the warm brown and darker green hues that the custom painted cars the club was using had.  Those cars were all properly researched and one of the custom painters in Southern California had made a special mix of paint just for the cars.

Heavily weathered SP 6490... can you still tell the brown's gone out of it?
On the cars that I could, I weathered to hide the effects of this major color mismatch.

I darkened the 6190's paint some with weathering, but didn't repaint it yet.

The headend cars I was able to do this to as they didn't see the wash-rack very often while they're in the Annex getting unloaded and reloaded, while the other passenger cars were being washed and serviced.

Wait - Not everything should be Pullman Green either!

The Pullman Standard Company was put out of the Pullman Pool operating business on Dec 31, 1948 as a ruling of the Anti-Trust lawsuit that was filed on behalf of Budd and AC&F who were also building sleeping cars that Pullman Standard was getting revenue from operating for the US railroads!

Pullman Green (Walthers) on a STD 12-1 sleeper.
SP specified a different color than Pullman did for their cars (Head-end cars, Diners, Coaches, Chair cars, etc).  Pullman Green actually tended to be darker with a little less warm brown look to it, compared to the SP's Dark Olive Green (DOG).  So, after January 1, 1949, SP painted all their sleeping cars in SP Dark Olive Green, not Pullman Green.

I tried custom mixing some colors, but never really found a color that I was happy with.

So in about 2012 I learned that StarBrand and Tru-Color were making more accurate colors for SP Dark Olive.

On one of my visits to Scott Inman's house in Sacramento one day, he had some of the TruColor Dark Olive paint.  I'd just picked up a bottle of the StarBrand's Dark Olive as well, so we painted two of my Walthers Pullman 12-1s that I had prepped for painting as an experiment.  Both cars came out very nice, and I decalled them for Southern Pacific service after 1948.

SP 6047, Painted with StarBrand Dark Olive Green, again - in sunlight.
Both colors looked good and I've settled on StarBrand paint for all the SP passenger cars I work on.  For Pullman Green I mix in extra black, to darken the paint.  I usually do this by feel, and not to an exact standard.  Usually I have another car in the shop that's already been painted my version of Pullman Green so, it's within a few shades of whatever that one was.

This works well because over time these dark colors did fade somewhat and even weathering effects would change how some cars looked that were painted at other Pullman shops.

The Modeler's Paint Shop!

Here we see a before and after.
SP 1051 looks like it's been through a dust storm to hide the lighter Floquil Pullman Green.

Freshly shopped, SP 1050 (my old SP 1051 repainted) with StarBrand Dark Olive Green emerges.
I've been slowly shopping and repainting my "finished" cars that were in Floquil Pullman Green.  Even finding one of my cars that was still in the old Floquil color this week was a challenge.  I did manage to find my old SP 2906 lounge model still in it's old colors so I could do the comparison between it and the SP 5130.

The SP 2906 here has Floquil Pullman Green paint and MicroScale SP Passenger Decals, which should have the "SOUTHERN PACIFIC" name spelled out with more space between each letter.  The 5130 has StarBrand paint and ThinFilm 160 Decals.  While the ThinFilm decals are hard to find... and you need to be sure you're not getting any from the "Bad Batch" of orange ones they had a few years ago, they are by far the better and based on correct artwork.

An example of the condensed "SOUTHERN PACIFIC" sans the "LINES" section at the end just fitting between the doors.

I actually enjoy the fact that some cars I see in photos actually kept the pre-1946 lettering style and did just drop the "LINES" part off the end of the letterboard.  However that was a minority, and usually limited to cars where the new letter spacing wouldn't fit nicely.

In Closing

SP "Los Angeles", a Pullman STD 12-1 sleeper
We've all heard it in the hobby for so long... "If you don't like it, tear it out and do it the way you want it now!"  That seems to go over well with track work, mountains, lakes, scenery, buildings... but how often do we say, "NO, I hate that color that lovely passenger car is... It's got to go!" and then actually do something about it?

I think more often that not we view our rolling stock as something that once it's done, it's done... even if it's not to our current standard, here 20 years since we completed the model.

Jason Hill



  1. Jason
    I have had problems with Star Dark Olive going flat and grainy. Did you have the same problem?


    1. Usually the only time that happens is if the paint dries before or just as it's hitting the model. The "grainy" comment is the tipoff here. Usually I add more thinner or another drop or two of retarder.

      As long as the paint hits the model wet, it will dry nice and glossy. The 6047 and 1050 when repainted didn't need any gloss coat before decaling and I needed only minimal MicroSet to get the film to disappear.

      Also try to put the paint on in as light a coat as you can get. Layer the coats 3-4 light coats. Sometimes it's hard to get the airbrush to shoot a thin coat. Once you find the right spot, it goes down very nicely. Also be sure the tip of your brush isn't fouled, that can have very detrimental effects on painting.

      I usually have a scrap of sheet plastic or something around to test shoot against. That way I can see if it's too thin and wants to run, or splatters the grainy dried chunks. Also I use this to check that I'm shooting a light coat. You want to have a light coat that stays just wet enough and long enough that the newest paint coming from the brush doesn't leave splatter marks, but not build up so much paint during that time you have runs or too thick of a coat.

      Also, you're using StarBrand thinner right? I once tried a bit of ACE Hardware lacquer thinner and it didn't go over well with the StarBrand paint. Now I only clean some things with normal thinner, like when I'm done for the day, broken down and cleaning up the brush parts, and I've already run it clean with the StarBrand thinner.


  2. Jason, great series of articles on these kitbashes - we definitely share a common interest (http://www.southernpacificmodelerssociety.org/finished-72-suburban-commute-coach-kitbash-from-ihc-coach-t4982.html).
    I'm up in Canada, and getting a hold of StarBrand and TruScale is extremely difficult due to the restrictions on shipping volatile contents. The TruScale SP Dark Olive definitely looked a lot lighter and a lot more brown than Branchline's Pullman color when I used it on the suburban coach. How did the TruScale compare to the StarBrand when you tried it? GENE

    1. A friend and I shot StarBrand and TruScale on two Walthers 12-1s that I was working on. I think they ended up within one shade or two. Really sun and weathering would easily account for that. I ended up staying with StarBrand just because for me it's easy to get and most of the hobby shops I visit don't have either in regular stock. -- Not that there are very many hobby shops within "easy" LHS range of me in NV anymore!

  3. After reading your blog on the Subs, the new Walthers Truck number is 920-2124. Walthers keeps renumbering their stuff. Also StarBrand tends to dry quite glossy for me, which is usually good enough for decalling. Sometimes I have to overcoat it with Testors Wet Look Clear (Which is about 4 times smoother than "Gloss Coat" and also doesn't attack the paint! Very nice work, the cutting down of the side sheets REALLY changes the look of the IHC coach.

  4. When I was a kid I remember that C and O's George Washington sometimes had old pre-war pullman units and the same was the case for N and W going through Cincinnati (Pocahontas?)the colors you have are pretty close to those. The only thing I remember was that they would lighten up due to oxidation. When I was painting models then the Floquil never looked right particularly if you took the model out into the direct sun. Good job.

  5. Jason
    Tru-Color not Tru-Scale

    1. Oops! Good catch there Eugene. I've not used Tru-Color in my stock of modeling paints, so figures I'd get the brand wrong.

  6. While placing a Testors Paint order for a new hobby store opening, I came across Testors Model Master paint colors and there is an Italian Olive Green (Testors 2112) that wow seems close to SP Dark Olive. I don't have a drift panel to compare but I am curious if anyone has seen this and thoughts. Another color close or closer, IMHO, is Testors Russian Topside Green - Flat (Testors 2122100).

    I realize there are some other brands out there that are spot on, but a relatively very close color from Model Master might be desirable and easier to come by. I know we cannot compare colors on computer monitors but this might be a mainstream enamel from what I am seeing. I am curious as I have a dozen or so SP cars to paint soon in SP Lines for someone.

    Chris Coscia
    Valley Trains & Models
    11518 E. Sprague Ave
    Spokane Valley, WA 99206
    (509) 474-0274

  7. I have problems painting with Star Brand (and by extension, Tru-Color due to same chemistry) related to the acetone used and my local humidity. Tony Thompson mentions FS 33070 as being very close to his drift card for SP Olive (https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-problems-of-dark-olive-green.html). This is a tough FS paint to find, but is available in the Mission Models Paint line (MMP-026). Has anyone tried this color?

    Lifecolor is the only other model paint manufacturer I can find with this color, but I haven't found a US retailer. Both paints are acrylics geared for military modelers (and label the color as Arm Olive Drab).

  8. FYI: Any modern auto body paint supplier should be able to match any color on the spectrum. Just bring a good sample that they can scan into their computer and they can produce it in a quart or gallon. All their paints are created to be shot with air sprayers so there won't be a need to delute acyrlic or laquer. Tom


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