The Jupiter, one of the locomotives at the Wedding of the Rails nearly 125 years ago, was blue, according to an old newspaper article.
The replica at the Golden Spike National Historic Site may be painted blue for authenticity.The Central Pacific locomotive was never photographed in color before it was cut up in a scrap yard a century ago. When the National Park Service and historians designed the replica, they had only black-and-white photographs. Jupiter's boiler was painted black with red wheels, cowcatcher, cab and tender.
"A museum curator stumbled across a March 15, 1869, story in the Sacramento Bee where the reporter was on hand when they rolled Jupiter out of the shop," says Eric Doty, a Park Service engineer. "He wrote that the locomotive was ultramarine blue with crimson drivers and gold livery."
The discovery comes just in time for the Park Service, which has already dismantled Jupiter for a new paint job. Crews were planning to duplicate the black and red paint scheme, but now work is on hold until a panel of experts can agree that Jupiter was indeed blue.
"At first, we thought somebody was pulling our leg, but it seems to check out that it was really blue," Doty said. "When we get it painted up blue, it'll blast your eyes out."
Jupiter's companion, Union Pacific's No. 119, also is due for a color adjustment. The original coal-burner was painted a deep wine color instead of the current crimson. Historical consultants knew this when the No. 119 replica was built in 1979, but the brighter red was used for aesthetic appeal.
"We're going to paint it the wine color this winter," said Doty. "The authentic color was important when it came to trying to keep the engine clean. Dark red doesn't show dirt as bad."
The National Park Service wants the engines gleaming for their debut May 10, when the Golden Spike site 32 miles west of Brigham City will host the 125th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.