Thursday, 3 May 2018

Throwback Thursday - Remembering Expo 86

CN 557417 shows off a slightly faded version of its Expo 86 paint scheme on March 11, 1993.  It is situated at the team track in downtown London, Ontario.  Judging from the missing side ladder, it is good that the RIP track is located nearby.
By Peter Mumby

The theme of the 1986 World's Fair in Vancouver, British Columbia was "Man in Motion."  As such, both of Canada's transcontinental railways decided it would be in their best interest to lend the festivities a little promotional push.  CP decorated six SD40-2 units in an attractive scheme featuring the standard action red body with a diagonal white panel replacing the multimark.  Expo 86 lettering and symbols appeared on this panel.  Units thus decorated included 5610, 5614, 5647, 5698, 5748, and 5775.  No lottery at work here - these just happened to be the units that were in for overhaul at the time.

CN decorated a single SD40-2, number 5334, as part of its promotional package.  No change to the cab, but the long hood was painted white from the walkway to the grills.  Superimposed on this panel were a series of coloured diagonal bars following the same general geometry as the original black and grey stripes.  A rather garish combination of yellow, green, blue, and magenta was chosen, with the Expo lettering on the white portion at the end of the long hood.

Much more visually successful, at least to my mind, were the two groups of international service fifty foot boxcars that CN chose to decorate.  These were National Steel Car products, with single door cars coming from the 417xxx series, and combination door cars from the 557xxx series.  The cars were painted black with a horizontal white band.  On this band in the central area of the car appeared a series of four diagonal stripes tastefully finished in related colours.  The white section at the left end held the data, while the Expo lettering appeared at the right end.  Pictures from my print collection include CN 417093 with stripes in shades of green and 417225 in shades of orange, as well as the 557417 which appears in this post.  This car's bands originally were in a series of progressively darker blues, but by the time of this photo (March 11/93) most of the lighter hues had faded to grey.

The car's data panel includes the line " CN  3.84," which presumably is the repaint date.  Most of my photos were taken in the early 1990s, although my final shot of 417225 was dated July 11, 2000.  I suspect most of the others had been returned to boxcar red long before this.

If you are interested in a different decalling project, Highball Graphics produced at least two sets for these cars.  F-240 features stripes in the blue range, while F-241 covers the green option.


  1. Didn't one of the railroads also paint cars with rainbow stripes (a grain car) and with a large apple on the side (a boxcar)? I think I have Micro Trains cars of them somewhere.

    1. Hi, D and H;
      In your recent comment you referred to a couple of CN's promotional freight cars. These date to the very early 1970s, a time when CN was acquiring a lot of new rolling stock and decided to promote this fact and possibly appeal to new shippers at the same time. Four cars were specially decorated to reflect their intended service. This decoration appeared on one side of the car, with the standard paint work on the other side. This small display train stopped in various locations and was viewed by onlookers and potential shippers alike. Photos in my collection were taken in Belleville, Ontario on July 03, 1971.

      The striped hopper you referenced was CN 370708, a 3800 c.f. car designed for shipping products such as potash. CN 401527 was a newsprint boxcar, and its white side was decorated with a group of masthead banners from newspapers such as the Sunday Sun, Globe and Mail, and La Presse. These were printed in black and placed diagonally across the car side. CN 235091 was a mechanical reefer, with its side displaying a multi-hued side of beef. The other car you specifically mentioned would have been CN 283032, an insulated boxcar whose white side was decorated in the red apple/green leaves motif. I personally photographed this car on July 25, 1993, and it was still wearing a faded version of the Apple scheme.

      As you implied, a number of models have been produced wearing these paint schemes, albeit on cars that are not necessarily faithful to the prototype. The recent release from Rapido Trains included the cylindrical hopper in the striped scheme, which proved to be a very accurate reproduction.