Category Archives: Photographic-grey

Photographic Grey prototypes in Marklin Z

Marklin 88091: KPEV Class P10 (Insider Model 2003)

Marklin has released a number of locos in “photographic grey” paint scheme not limited to steam locos, but for this post only a few of the steam examples will be depicted. Historically “photographic grey” also known as “works grey” was an application of paint to a newly built and designed locomotive which would be photographed for the purpose of archiving as well as publicity. Why grey? Depicting a new loco in sharpest detail before the advent of color photography, 19th century locomotive builders relied on photographers who produced black and white photographs from large format negatives. The range of tones produced in black and white photography range from black with no detail on one end and white with no detail on the other with grey in the middle. This mid range gray is referred to as 18% gray which means its reflectance for photographic purposes is 18%. Photographs that are predominantly in this tonal range do not have strong shadows or highlights. Photographers realized many more details could be recorded if the subject in this case steam locomotives of the 19th and 20th century were painted in this mid range gray. Locomotive builders painted the early example of a new design in this gray tone, and they also attached all locomotive plaques before the photograph was made. After the photograph was made the builder removed the plaques and treated the gray paint scheme as a primer coat thus applying engine black and other paint colors as the final coat. Lighting was also an important consideration, an overcast sky with low contrast supported a better outcome by reducing distracting shadows. And then there were the retouchers who could masterfully remove distracting backgrounds including engine house, people and anything else that detracted from the locomotive in all its glory. Eastman Kodak probably provided the film which would have been perfectly flat silver nitrate coated glass as well as the retoucher’s pigments which would have included Kodak’s “Opaque Black” one of many specialist items devised by Kodak. Marklin gave me the opportunity to experiment with these observations with their historically accurate modelling so I have come up with several examples depicting a locomotive with “engine black” paint scheme, a locomotive depicted with rail yard buildings, and simulated overcast lighting.

Two locomotives with “photo-grey” paint scheme depicted with buildings in a rail yard: 88832 + 88040.                                                                                                                                                               

One locomotive with “engine black” paint scheme. Note loss of detail in 88092:

Locomotives depicted isolated from distracting background, bright overcast lighting, and “photo-grey” paint scheme.