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Amtrak paint schemes

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Amtrak's livery has included a variety of designs, most based on a red, white, and blue color scheme. The lead locomotive here is in Phase II livery, while the trailing locomotive is still in Phase I.

Amtrak has used a variety of liveries on its rolling stock since taking over intercity passenger rail service in the United States in 1971. A series of six schemes termed Phases, first introduced in 1972, have seen the widest use. Phases primarily use geometric arrangements of red, white, and blue (the national colors of the United States) - part of Amtrak's patriotic visual identity.

Amtrak began operations in May 1971 with a mixture of equipment still painted in the distinct liveries of the freight railroads that relinquished their passenger service to Amtrak. Amtrak picked and chose equipment that it determined to be in the best condition, and elected not to keep the same rolling stock on the same routes. Since (prior to Amtrak's operation) one almost never found rolling stock from anywhere in the country on any train, let alone rolling stock from competing railroads mixed together on the same train, that period was later known as the Rainbow Era.

To build the brand of Amtrak as a unified passenger railroad, the rolling stock was gradually repainted into system-wide Phases starting around 1972 with Phase I. The Phases are sequentially numbered using Roman numerals. Phases were painted on all rolling stock, with locomotives and passenger cars often painted in different styles of the same Phase. Most current locomotives use the 2000-introduced Phase V, while passenger cars use the 2002-introduced Phase VI. A modified Phase III scheme was introduced for some equipment in 2013. Non-revenue equipment uses bright lime green or a variation of Phase V.

The three routes under the Amtrak California branch - the Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner, and San Joaquin - use equipment painted in several custom schemes, as do the Cascades and Piedmont. Amtrak has repainted equipment in unique livery for special uses, including its 40th anniversary in 2011 and to promote the Operation Lifesaver safety campaign. Equipment has also been wrapped for advertising promotions. When testing equipment from other railroads, Amtrak has mostly kept existing livery, though some longer-term tests used Phase schemes.

Rainbow Era[edit]

A "Rainbow Era" Amtrak trainset, 1971

When Amtrak took over intercity passenger rail service on May 1, 1971, it inherited a collection of rolling stock from twenty different railroads, each with its own distinct colors and logos.[1] Needing only to operate 184 of the 366 trains that had been run nationwide by the private railroads, Amtrak was able to pick the 1,200 best passenger cars to lease from the 3,000 that the private railroads had owned.[2] This equipment was haphazardly mixed to form consists, resulting in trains with the mismatched colors of several predecessor railroads. This "Rainbow Era" was short-lived; Amtrak began purchasing some of the leased equipment in mid-1971, setting the stage for wholesale repainting from 1972 to 1974.[3]

Phase paint schemes[edit]

Phase I[edit]

Introduced in 1972, Phase I was the first paint scheme to be implemented system-wide on Amtrak's trains.[4] Except for a small number of locomotives that had been painted into experimental and promotional paint schemes, it was the first new paint for most equipment under Amtrak.[4] The scheme was part of Amtrak's larger move to a visual identity featuring the national colors of red, white, and blue.[5]

Locomotives were painted a light gray ("Platinum Mist") with a black roof, the Amtrak "Pointless Arrow" chevron logo on the side, and a red nose (which led to a "Bloody Nose" nickname).[4][6] Passenger cars were silver (or left bare stainless steel), with a red and bright blue stripe (bracketed by thin white stripes) at window level and the chevron logo at one or both ends.[4] A number of variants were made for non-revenue locomotives, GG1 locomotives, Turbotrain and Turboliner trainsets, and self-propelled RDC and Metroliner railcars.[4]

Phase II[edit]

The Phase II paint scheme was introduced in late 1974 with the arrival of the new GE E60 locomotives.[7] The red nose and chevron logo on locomotives were replaced with stripes similar to passenger cars. Most passenger cars were essentially unchanged from Phase I, except for the removal of the chevron logo; new Sightseer lounges had a higher stripe with an angled transition on each end.[4]

Phase III[edit]

Phase III, introduced in 1976, is still used on some equipment. On both passenger cars and locomotives, the outer white pinstripes were removed while the inner stripe was widened, resulting in red, white, and blue stripes of equal width. Turboliners and the LRC test train were painted in white, with the stripes at the bottom of the train.[4] This scheme was introduced "for safety, graphic aid and saving money", as the white band was highly reflective and provided a place for car information, and the standard widths made better use of raw material.[8]

Several types of locomotives that were acquired later were given variations on Phase III. AEM-7 locomotives had the blue stripe expanded to cover the entire lower part of the body.[4] On Dash 8-32BWH locomotives, a deeper blue and red was used; the stripes had additional pinstripes and angled upward across the middle of the body.[4] The similarity to the Pepsi logo led to the units being nicknamed "Pepsi Cans".[9][10]:108 Genesis locomotives had a lighter roof and narrower white stripe; the stripes angled downward on the sloped nose, and faded towards the rear.[4] That variant was created by industrial designer Cesar Vergara, who also designed the angular bodies of the locomotives.[10]:111

In October 2013, Amtrak introduced a new variant of Phase III with the production of the new Viewliner II cars, the first of which entered service in 2015.[11] The Viewliner cars have some changes from previous Phase III passenger cars, including a red reflective stripe at the bottom and a newer ("Travelmark") logo.[4] In January 2016, Amtrak revealed a P32AC-DM that was repainted into Phase III, similar to that of the heritage units Nos. 145 and 822, but featuring modern logos and "Empire Service" emblems on the sides. All P32AC-DMs will eventually be repainted into this scheme, with costs shared between Amtrak and the state of New York.[12]

Phase IV[edit]

Beginning in 1993, Phase IV was introduced as a striking departure from the traditional red, white, and blue style seen previously. Brought into service with the delivery of the newer Superliner II cars, Phase IV has two thin red stripes and a thick dark blue stripe.[4] In 1997, Amtrak extended the scheme to locomotives, initially GE P42DC diesel locomotives on Northeast Corridor services.[13]

Phase V[edit]

Phase V was introduced with the arrival of the Acela Express high-speed train sets in 2000 and is used on most locomotives.[4] Locomotives are painted light gray, with a blue stripe (darker than Phases I-III, but lighter than IV) at the top and a thin red reflective stripe at the bottom. The blue stripe has a wavy bottom on Genesis locomotives and a flat bottom on other locomotives and ex-F40PH non-powered control units (NPCUs). The Amtrak "Travelmark" logo is painted near the front or rear of the unit.[4] SC-44 locomotives used on Midwest routes have a variant of Phase V with a blue front and a halftone transition into the grey side.[14] Non-passenger cars like Auto Train autoracks are all-gray except for the logo and red stripe; Express Box Cars had blue stripes on top and bottom.[4]

Acela Express trainsets have grey and stainless steel bodies with the lower red stripe, with the wavy blue roof and Acela logo on the power cars only. The Acela passenger cars have no blue stripe; colored blobs called "mobiles" are used to indicate the type of car (Business Class, Cafe Bistro, or First Class).[4] When the Acela Express was introduced, regional trains on the Northeast Corridor were briefly designated Acela Regional. Amfleet coaches for these trains received "Capstone" livery, which had a window stripe with various patterns of blue, light blue, and green to indicate the type of service.[4] Rebuilt Turboliners had a similar variant of the Capstone livery.[4][10]:153

Phase VI[edit]

Phase VI, commonly referred to as Phase IVb, introduced in 2002, is used on most passenger cars.[4] It retains the same stripe style as Phase IV: wide window stripes on single-level cars, and narrow stripes on Superliners. The red reflective sill stripe and mid-tone blue on Phase V are used. Single-level cars have white logos within the blue stripe, while Superliners have blue logos below the stripes.[4]

Route-specific paint schemes[edit]

Five state-funded corridor routes – the Cascades, Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner, Piedmont, and San Joaquin – are operated by Amtrak using equipment that is largely owned by the states in which they operate, and painted in custom schemes that deviate from the national Amtrak livery. Several other route-specific paint schemes have been used in the past.

Amtrak California[edit]

The three routes under the Amtrak California branch – the Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner, and San Joaquin – use equipment painted in several custom schemes. The Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin largely use California Cars and F59PHI locomotives painted in the state colors of blue and yellow. Locomotives are grey with a navy blue underside, yellow bottom stripe, black roof, and navy blue cab area; Caltrans and Amtrak California logos are prominent.[10]:116 The California Cars are stainless steel with a black upper window stripe, a navy blue lower window stripe with a yellow pinstripe, and orange triangles next to boarding doors.[4][10]:137 Newer Siemens SC-44 Charger locomotives have navy blue curved shapes on the front and rear with yellow accents, a black cab area, and Amtrak California logos on the front and sides.[15] Single-level Comet IB and Horizon cars used on the San Joaquin have a yellow bottom stripe and a navy blue window stripe with orange, turquoise, and light blue accents. Several NPCUs used for the service are grey with turquoise and light blue stripes and curve towards the top rear of the locomotive, red chevron stripes on the front (a nod to a 1985 Caltrain paint scheme), and yellow grab bars.[4][16]:68

The Pacific Surfliner uses F59PHI locomotives and Surfliner cars in a deep blue and gray paint scheme. The upper half of the passenger cars are deep blue with a white pinstriping, plus a white pinstripe on the bottom of the cars. The stripes continue onto locomotives, with the blue stripe narrowing and curving under the black-painted cab area. Lettering is white and placed in the blue stripe.[4][10]:114, 138 The newer Charger locomotives are painted in the same shape as the Northern California units but using the Pacific Surfliner color scheme.[17] Amtrak wrapped F59PHI No. 457 in a special scheme to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Pacific Surfliner and the train's ridership surpassing 25 million. The locomotive's new scheme was released on May 8, 2010 for National Train Day.[18]

Amtrak Cascades[edit]

The Cascades service uses seven Talgo trainsets, F59PHI and SC-44 Charger locomotives, and ex-F40PH NPCUs painted in a brown, light tan, and dark green scheme - the only revenue equipment not painted in a blue-and-gray-based palette. The five older Talgo VII trainsets have the passenger cars split evenly between tan on top, brown in middle, and dark green on bottom. The transition baggage cars at the end have the green curve above the other colors, where it matches with a green curve on the older locomotives and NPCUs.[4][10]:118, 140 The scheme was created by industrial designer Cesar Vergara, who also styled the GE Genesis locomotive.[19]

On the newer SC-44 Charger locomotives, the green stripe is narrower and runs along the top and over the cab.[20] One trainset was originally painted in blue, silver, and white for a Los Angeles-Las Vegas service that was never implemented.[21] In 2016, one NPCU, #90250, was wrapped in Seattle Seahawks livery for several months.[22] The newer Series 8 trainsets are painted similarly to the older sets. One end has a cab car, where the brown and green stripes come to a point, with the top of the cab also painted green.[23]

Other routes[edit]

Special paint schemes[edit]

Promotional A-day livery[edit]

EMD E8 No. 4316 in August 1971

EMD E8 No. 4316 and coach 1589 were painted for display in New York when Amtrak began service in May 1971; they saw later use on the Broadway Limited. The locomotive was painted black; the Chevron "pointless arrow" logo on each side wrapped around the front with blue and white safety stripes.[27]

Operation Lifesaver livery[edit]

In late 2008, Amtrak wrapped F59PHI No. 455 in an Operation Lifesaver paint scheme to promote a Caltrans safety campaign. The wrap featured a surfer with a surfboard standing in the middle of railroad tracks during a sunset. The words "Stay off, stay away, stay alive" were printed on both sides.[28][29] The locomotive was restored to its original livery in 2010. Other locomotives painted for Operation Lifesaver have included F59PHI No. 2007 in a yellow paint scheme with several printed slogans and No. 457 in a blue scheme with a pattern of handprints and the words "BE TRACK SMART".[30][31]

40th anniversary livery[edit]

For Amtrak's 40th anniversary in 2011, four P42DC locomotives received a special version of Phase I through Phase IV paint schemes. From January through April 2011, Amtrak's Beech Grove Shops outside Indianapolis repainted the units and sent them north on the Hoosier State to Chicago, where they were cycled into regular service on other routes. The Anniversary locomotives were selected from units scheduled for repainting or recent wreck rebuilds. The first repainted locomotive was No. 145 in Phase III paint, which led the Capitol Limited on January 30, 2011. Three other locomotives followed: Nos. 156 in Phase I, 66 in Phase II, and 184 in Phase IV.[32] P42DC No. 130 was painted in the Phase II livery after No. 66 was damaged beyond repair.[33]

The 40th Anniversary Exhibit Train consisted of P40DC locomotive No. 822, NPCU No. 406, modified Budd 10-6 heritage sleeper/Crew Dorm No. 10020 Pacific Bend, three heritage baggage cars used as exhibit cars, and reconfigured Amfleet cafe car No. 85999.[34] The whole train was painted in Phase III.[35]

ACS-64 promotional livery[edit]

The first three ACS-64 units released from Siemens in 2013 received a special variation to the regular Phase V paint scheme. Locomotive Nos. 600 and 601 received a large American flag on the sides as well as smaller logos for Siemens & Amtrak.[36] Locomotive No. 602 had a special "Reliability - Efficiency - Mobility" infographic on the sides.[37] All three were later repainted with a conventional Phase V scheme before entering service.[38]

Veterans units[edit]

ACS-64 No. 642 in the Veterans scheme in 2016

In June 2013, P42DC #42 was painted in a red, white, black, and dark blue scheme with a large logo on the side saying "America's Railroad Salutes our Veterans". A blue band near the wheelbase contains 50 white stars.[39] ACS-64 Nos. 642 and NPCUs Nos. 90208 and 90221 received similar paint schemes in 2015 and 2016.[40][41][42][43]

Non-revenue equipment[edit]

An Amtrak catenary maintenance vehicle in 2004-introduced lime paint

Beginning in 1976, Amtrak work train equipment was painted safety orange with black undersides. Light grey livery with a red bottom stripe, similar to Phase V non-passenger cars, was introduced for work train cars in 2004.[4] Safety yellow livery was introduced for maintenance of way equipment and roadway vehicles in 2001; it was replaced with a pale lime around 2004, and a brighter lime around 2013.[4] Non-revenue locomotives typically use variations of the Phase paint schemes to make them visually distinct from revenue locomotives while maintaining consistent styles.[4]

In 1997, Amtrak bought 50 rebuilt 50-foot (15 m) boxcars to supplement its newly-built 60-foot (18 m) Express Box Car fleet. The rebuilt cars arrived in their original Southern Pacific Olive Green paint scheme, rather than the Phase V scheme of the newer cars, though some were later repainted.[44][45]


The Century Express at Union Station in Washington, D.C. in 1999.

Since the late 1990s, Amtrak has occasionally rented advertising space on the exterior of its passenger equipment. The ads sometimes take the form of wraps rather than true paint schemes. Customers have included fast food restaurants, auto manufacturers, television networks, and politicians.[46][47] In some cases, the advertisements were on equipment rented for private use, rather than on equipment in normal revenue service. Notable temporary advertisements have included:

  • In 1999 and 2000, a four-car train including P42DC locomotive No. 100, a baggage car, a 1926 railway post office car, a business car, and an exhibit car was used for the United States Postal Service's "Celebrate the Century Express Educational Train Tour". The scheme consisted of a very elaborate collection of enlarged stamps and postmarks from 1900 to the 1990s.[48]
  • In October 2003, P42DC No. 203 and five Amfleet cars were wrapped in a scheme featuring Monopoly game pieces and money. The train was used as the "Reading Railroad", a special train from Chicago to Atlantic City, New Jersey upon which the first rounds of the 2003 U.S. National Championship were held.[49][50]
  • In August 2004, presidential candidate John Kerry traveled on the "Kerry-Edwards Special", which used P42DC No. 138 wrapped with a "BELIEVE IN AMERICA TOUR" as the lead unit.[51]
  • In November and December 2007, a full Acela Express trainset was wrapped to promote The History Channel's show "1968 With Tom Brokaw".[52] The wrap was criticized by passengers for impeding the view from inside the train. A similar wrap was used in 2010 to promote the TLC show Cake Boss.[53]

Test train schemes[edit]

A Bombardier LRC in experimental Phase III livery.

Amtrak has tested a number of types of off-the-shelf equipment on the Northeast Corridor and short corridors. Some of these have been painted fully in Amtrak livery:

  • Bombardier LRC cars received a variation of the Phase III scheme very similar to the RTL Turboliners.[10]:154
  • The Swedish Rc4 (numbered X995) and the French CC 21000 (X996), used for testing during the design of the AEM-7 locomotives in the late 1970s, used a Phase II scheme similar to the E60 locomotives the AEM-7 would replace.[54]
The Talgo 200 in Northwest Talgo service in 1994

Other equipment largely retained their paint schemes from usage elsewhere:

  • A Siemens ICE 1 trainset and a Kalmar Verkstad X2000 trainset were tested on the Northeast Corridor and several other routes in 1992 and 1993. The X2000 retained its Statens Järnvägar livery of silver with blue stripes, although it did receive Amtrak lettering; it was pulled by Amtrak diesels on non-electrified routes.[55][16]:16 The ICE 1 retained its Deutsche Bahn livery of white with a two-tone red stripe, again with Amtrak lettering.[56] On non-electrified routes, it was pulled by two Siemens F69PHAC diesel locomotives painted in the same red-on-white scheme.[16]:16
  • After non-revenue testing on the Northeast Corridor in 1988, a Talgo 200 trainset was tested in revenue service between Portland and Seattle in 1994 as the Northwest Talgo.[57] The AVE paint scheme of white with a thick blue window stripe was modified with a thin Phase II red, white, and blue stripe below the windows.[58]
  • In 1996, two Adtranz IC3 "Flexliner" trainsets were tested on several Amtrak routes in California, as well as the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line.[59][16] They retained their Israel Railways livery of white with red, black, and blue sections, with some Amtrak lettering added.[60]


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External links[edit]

Media related to Amtrak paint schemes at Wikimedia Commons