A Colorado not-for-profit corporation

Vivid Imaginations and Facile Pens Needed By Designers of Early Emblems

Profile studio portrait of Major Shadrach Kemp Hooper, general passenger agent for Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.

Colonel Shadrach K. Hopper! Now there's a name long to be remembered for publicizing the early day of Rio Grande.  Within six months after this gentlemen entered service as the general passenger and ticket agent in June 1884 his vivid imagination, active mind and facile pen had coined slogans and devised emblems to make his railroad well rounded throughout the nation.

Hooper was a dedicated employee of the Denver & Rio Grande Railway, having joined the Company on June 1, 1884. “Major” Hooper, as he was known, served the Denver & Rio Grande as the General Passenger & Ticket Agent; and, in this position he recognized that the railway had no trademark, as did many of the other railroads throughout the country. Not long after being employed by the Denver & Rio Grande, Major Hooper made it one of his goals to devise an readily recognizable trademark (or brand) for the railway. He set out the requirements for the new D&RG emblem, and then solicited artistic submissions. Numerous designs soon arrived in Hooper’s office. By autumn 1884 Hooper selected a design that would soon advertise the D&RGRR throughout the country. At the same time Major Hooper was choosing a logo design he was also busy preparing advertising publications. In 1885, the pamphlets "The Beautiful Denver and Rio Grande: Scenic Line of the World," "The Story of Manitou," and "Tourists’ Hand Book of Colorado, New Mexico and Utah" were just the beginning of a lengthy canon of words and pictures Major Hooper published to construct the image the D&RG Railway wanted to portray to the traveling public.

Shadrick Hooper continued revising and modifying the D&RG’s advertising campaign throughout the decades of his employment. And the number of publications grew to include: "Rhymes of the Rockies;" "Around the Circle," "A Thousand Miles through the Rocky Mountains; Sight, Places and Resorts in the Rockies;" "The Gold Fields of Colorado;" along with many others. The D&RG’s resulting increase in passenger travel was so noticeable to the Company that Alexander Jackson, General Agent at Pueblo, believed Major Hooper deserved his own visible recognition.

In December 1884, Rio Grande train schedules published in the Official Guide of Railways proclaimed the rip Grande "The Scenic Route Across the Continent" on the first page, and on the next, "The Transcontinental Route."  All this embellished in Victorian script... and the little narrow gauge line between Denver and Ogden

1887 to 1922

It has been suggested the Rio Grande holds the record for changing its emblem the most times of any railroad. The first D & R G emblem was in use by June 1887 and with slight variation was used to identify the Rio Grande until 1939. Major Shadrach K. Hooper, the railroad's general passenger and ticket agent, is credited with designing the famous Curecanti Needle herald, which continued in use until mid-1926. He also coined the renowned slogan "The Scenic Line of the World." The herald pictured the Curecanti Needle against the rising sun in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison  River. Supposedly this was the scene that would appear from the window of an eastbound train on the original narrow gauge main line. The words "Scenic line of the World", which appeared to be on a tasseled banner hung from underneath the "badge," had already become the slogan of the rai !road. Since 1884, Rio Grande schedules published in the Official Guide of Railways proclaimed the Rio Grande "The Scenic Route Across the Continent. " The original emblem, with the words "Denver & Rio Grande" in a semicircle over the Curecanti Needle, was shown with some variation as, sometimes the letters "R. R." were used, sometimes omitted. Major Sadrach K. Hooper, general passenger, and ticket agent is credited with the creation of this first emblem and the slogan. Those who look for symbolism in the designs of emblems have suggested that the shape of this herald resembled the smokebox-end of a loco[1]motive. The herald was only used in advertising and correspondence. It was not applied to equipment or buildings, quite possibly because the design was too complicated and therefore too costly and complicated to do so.

It appears it came from the Rio Grande Marketing and Advertising Department as per the following statement:

“…. Running along the bottom of the canyon, the line passed directly across the narrow river from the Curecant Needle, between the towns of Spinero and Cimmarron. The granite formation (Curecanti Needle) quickly became a popular landmark along the route, grabbing the attention of passengers who stopped and marveled at the striking and unique spire. Skilled at marketing the beautiful and impressive areas through which their lines ran, such as the Royal Gorge and Moffat Tunnel (which was years away from being built,) the D&RGW eventually adopted the Needle as a symbol of their Royal George Route, and confidently referred to it as “The Scenic Line of the World”….”

The line from Salida via Marshal Pass to Gunnison thru the Black Canyon to Montrose and up to Grand Junction served for as the D&RG main line between Denver and Salt Lake City, before the Tennessee Pass route was completed in 1890.

1922 to 1926

1922 to 1926

The change in the company's name required another change in the wording on the herald in 1922. The emblem retained the shape of the previous emblem, except the tassels and the landscape scene in the center were dropped and the lettering was changed. The words "Denver & Rio Grande Western" now appeared in the semi-circle over the Curecanti Needle, replacing "Denver & Rio Grande."

According to the Colorado Railroad Museum's Iron Horse News Number 92, November 1976, "Then in the 1920s came the Pyle [head] lights at first reserved for the passenger engines. [The] lettering style of [the] spelled out road name came with the change to 'Western' and replaced the former style of huge numerals on tenders of freight engines." This herald was used for the shortest length of time- four years.

1926 to 1936

1926 to 1936

In the mid-twenties, the emblem's emphasis was shifted to the standard gauge main line (via the Royal Gorge and Tennessee Pass) and the design was simplified. The original outline of the herald was retained. The inside was simplified and modified to emphasize the standard-gauge route through the Royal Gorge. The railroad's Board of Directors ap[1]proved a new herald with white lettering new wording, a red border, and a blue center, July 1, 1926. This became known as the "Tricolor" herald or logo. In the center, replacing the Curecanti Needle and now on a blue background, were the words "Royal Gorge Route." In the semi-circle, on a white background, were the letters "D & R G W R R" replacing the words "Denver & Rio Grande." The panel at the bottom of the badge now had the words "Scenic Line" and the panel now appeared to be a part of (not hung from) the badge.

Jerry Day has an interesting letter/memo dated July 23, 1926. It appears to be initialed "JHY" (Joseph H. Young was the Receiver at the time) and notes that this herald is attached and " ... has been officially adopted as the official trade[1]mark for the D. & R. G.W. to take the place of any and all trademarks hereto[1]fore used, with restriction against any changes in the future , without formal approval." The memo is addressed to Arthur Ridgway [Assistant Chief Engineer], Standard Committee and William Wyer [Statistician to Receiver], Stationery Committee. The document continues:

Arrangements should be made immediately to have this trademark used on all freight equipment, where practicable, tanks of locomotives, bridges over public highways, freight, and passenger stations and on other structures where it will show up conspicuously and to advantage; also, on all stationery ( except that used in interdepartmental correspondence), advertising matter of both traffic departments [passenger and freight], tariffs, waybills, etc.

The trademark used should be uniform on the various classes of equipment and ap[1]plied at terminals when cars are empty. It is not intended that there be any empty haul of equipment to apply trademark, nor that cars under load be delayed for this purpose. When the present supply of stationery and advertising matter is exhausted, new trademarks should appear on the new supply.

The Standards Committee will undertake at once preparation of blueprints, indicating the size of trademark to be used on various classes of equipment, overhead structures, buildings, etc., and !he Stationery Committee will determine what forms should hereafter carry the standard trademark, which, of course, should be in sizes to fit the different forms. Before anything is actually done, I would like to be advised of the size of trademark to be used on equipment, structures, etc.

Copies were sent to Mr. [I.H.] Luke [ Assistant Chief Operating Officer], Mr. [George] Williams [General Freight Agent], Mr. [F.A.] Wadleigh [General Passenger Agent], and Mr. [E.R.] Dickenson [General Auditor].

The blueprint for this emblem (labeled "Trademark"), in the Office of the Mechanical Engineer's files, is dated August 27, 1926. The blueprint gives the measurements for 24-, 31- and 36-inch-wide heralds (no total height dimensions are given). October 18, 1926, the dimensions for a 20-inch herald were added and July 11 , 1930, dimensions for a 16-inch herald were added. There is no indication as to which sized herald was to be applied to what. The blueprint is marked "Void 8/27/36."

1936 to 1939

1936 to 1939

The completion of the Dotsero Cut[1]off, and inauguration of service through the Moffat Tunnel, on June 15, 1934, necessitated a change in the emblem. Between 1934 and 1936, public time[1]table covers carried the slogan "The James Peak Route" on one side and "Royal Gorge Route" on the other. In

1936, a revised herald came into use. That herald included both the Royal Gorge route and the new Moffat Tunnel route. It kept the basic insignia of the 1926 emblem. The words "Rio Grande" in large block letters were now in the semi-circle. In the center, on a white back[1]ground, were the words "Royal Gorge," a horizontal line, and the words "Moffat Tunnel" below the line. "Scenic Line of the World" was on the panel below. The blueprint for this emblem, labeled "Trademark" in the Office of Mechanical Engineer's files, is dated June 24, 1936. It includes the dimensions for 35 1/2, 29 1/2, 23 5/8, and 17 3/4-inch-wide heralds (no total height dimensions are given). There is no indication as to which size herald was to be applied to what It has been suggested that this emblem's white center symbolized the light at the end of the (Moffat) tunnel. This herald was not used after 1945.

1939 to 1948

1939 to 1948

In the fall of 1939, Trustees Wilson McCarthy and Henry Swan encouraged employees, through a contest, to come up with a streamlined adaptation of the company’s name in a contest in the "Green Light," the employee's publication. Miss M. Laura Bramkamp in the Purchasing Department submitted the winning design. It was the restyled words "Rio Grande." The extension to the left of the top of the "R" the horizontal part of the "G" and a horizontal line to the left from the top of the "d" that made the words appear to create the illusion of speed, the letters being slanted to the right. This design was introduced in 1940.  This streamlining or "speed lettering" of the railroad's name became known variously as the "streamlined," "leaning," or "flying" Rio Grande logo.

This streamlined monogram was not originally intended for use on such items as locomotives, freight, and passenger cars. Instead, it was developed for the headrest covers of passenger coach seats. In June 1939, the Rio Grande, along with the CB&Q and WP, started a new Chicago to San Francisco train (via the Moffat Tunnel) called the Exposition Flyer. This train was begun to serve the Golden Gate Exposition, the New York World’s Fair, and to capture a share of the UP's transcontinental passenger business. A number of Rio Grande coaches had been remodeled for the new train and their interiors were redecorated. The Rio Grande shield emblem, in use on head[1]rest covers at that time, did not fit in with the interior design of these cars. After much discussion, the new monogram was adopted and became one of the most widely recognized logos in the railroad industry. It was the "official" logo until 1948 but continued to be used long after.

Two other interesting sidelights in[1]volving this herald have to do with some of the steam locomotives. As soon as it was adopted, the new herald began to be applied to equipment. In some photographs, it appears to have been hand[1]painted, having been applied before stencils were made. Supposedly, one of the first applications of the new herald was to narrow gauge engine 499. As applied to steam locomotive tenders, the "Rio Grande" was supposed to "lean" towards the front of the engine. Thus, the right and left side stencils were different. Supposedly, the right-side stencil was dam[1]aged, misplaced, lost, or not available, in the early 1950s when a couple of engines were shopped and painted in Alamosa.

Consequently, the left side stencil was used on the right side of the tender, making the "Rio Grande" "fly" backwards on the right side of the tenders of these engines. Apparently, in the last years of the Rio Grande's operation of the Silverton Branch (during the late 1970s), the left[1]side stencil was not used. The right-side stencil was used on both sides of the 4 70s. There is also some photographic evidence that a few of the 2-8-0, Class 48, 1131-1199 locomotives had the wrong stencil applied to their tenders in the 1950s.

According to the blueprint for "Lettering, Streamlined 'Rio Grande"' in the Office of Mechanical Engineer's files, dated May 20, 1946, the letters "R," "G," and the "d," were to be the following heights:

7" on the front of diesel freight locomotives

IO" on wrecker 028

12" on diesel switch locomotives # 38-43 , standard gauge coaches, 22000 series flats, stock, and outfit cars and narrow-gauge freight [cars] ( except 62002-6700 flat) cabooses

14" on the sides of diesel freight locomotives

16" on diesel switch locomotives ( except #3 8-4 3), standard gauge engine locomotive tenders,  standard gauge freight ( except flat and stock) outfits and cabooses.

The remaining lower-case letters were to be the following heights:

4" on the front of diesel locomotives

6 13/16" on wrecker 028

8 1/8" on diesel switch locomotives

# 38-43, standard gauge coaches, 22000 series flats, stock, and outfit cars and narrow-gauge freight [cars] ( except 62002-67000 flat) cabooses

8 11/16" on the side of diesel freight locomotives

9 1/4" on diesel switch locomotives ( except #38-43), standard gauge engine locomotive tenders, standard gauge freight ( except flat and stock) outfits and cabooses.

The overall length of the words "Rio Grande" was to be:

5' 4 1/4" on the front of diesel freight locomotives

7' 7 5/8" on wrecker 028

9' 2 1/4" on diesel switch locomotives #38-43, standard gauge coaches, 22000 series flats, stock and outfit cars and narrow-gauge freight [cars] ( except 62002-67000flat) cabooses

10' 8 5/8" on the side of diesel freight locomotives

12' 3" on diesel switch locomotives ( except #3 8-4 3 ), standard gauge engine locomotive tenders, standard gauge freight ( except flat and stock) outfits and caboose

The horizontal part of the top of the "d" was to extend "back" (to the left) to the left edge of the "a," making it 17 1/ 16", 24 3/8", 29 1/4", 34 1/8", and 39" long for the respective categories of equipment listed above.

According to Robert R. Harmen, the painting diagram from EMD for GP40-2s 3094-3128 (which numbers are on the diagram) indicates the small flying Rio Grande on the sides of the older engines (3094-3105 , built 4/1972) and the "stacked" Rio Grande on the sides of the newer engines (3106-3127, built 9/1974 and 3128, which was paid for by an insurance claim on 3063, built 11/1974), were to be 5 feet high and 25 feet long. The "stacked" Rio Grande on the noses of the GP models was to be one foot high and five feet long. The height and stroke of the numerals below the cab windows was to be one foot high. The number boards were to have 8-inch-high numerals and the "F" on the sill was to be 3 inches high.

1948 to 1967

1948 to 1967

With the emergence of the Rio Grande as a competitor in the high-speed movement of transcontinental freight Carlton Stills, D & R G W Publicity Manager, and his staff, designed an entirely new herald in 1947. It was adopted in 1948 and was designed to depict the idea of the "Main Line Through the Rockies." The new emblem consisted of two circles, one inside the other, bisected by a narrow rectangular black "box" containing the words "Rio Grande" in the flying style of the 1939 emblem. the smaller circle and above the "Rio Grande" was the silhouette of five mountains, the two highest being snowcapped. In the semi-circle above the words "Rio Grande," were the words "Main Line." In the semi-circle below the words, was "Thru The Rockies." Those who look for some sort of symbolism in the emblems have suggested that this one is reminiscent of a wheel on an outside-framed locomotive. It was used officially until 1967.

1967 -

1967 - 1988

Emphasis on "Action" was the key when the last herald was adopted in 1965. The parallelogram shaped emblem, with an orange background and black letters, had a small "Rio" on the horizontal ex[1]tension of the "G" in a large "Grande." This was over the words "the ACTION railroad." The slogan was later modified to "The Action Road," to include the Rio Grande's trucking company Rio Grande Motorway.

The Colorado Railroad Museum's Iron Horse News Number 45, January 1967, reported that the "Rio Grande is adopting [a] new style of lettering. Drawn up and approved in November [1966] and is to be used on the new diesels on order. Cars too." The example shown of this "new style of lettering" was the small "Rio" on the horizontal extension of the "G." No reference to "The Action Road." In issue Number 71, April 1972, the Iron Horse News reported that "The D&RGW has a new variation of their Action Road herald on cabooses being overhauled, the herald being enclosed in a parallelogram."

In conclusion, we should emphasize that each new design was not always promptly applied, and the older designs could often be seen many years after they had been "officially" replaced.

This article is not meant to be a definitive account of the D&RG's heralds and slogans. Its purpose is to inform and assist those who share a common interest in the D&RG, whether in the road' history or in a particular modeling period. Additionally, heralds and logos are useful in approximating the dates of promotional material using them, but not giving their actual issuing or printing date. It is the author's hope that this article will encourage others to contribute information that they may have on the subject. They are encouraged to do so by sending it to the editor of "The Prospector. " Through such collaboration, the RGM&HS can further document the history of the Rio Grande and "Keep the Story Alive," as the Society's prospectus encourages potential members. Perhaps enough additional material will be forth[1]coming to produce a more comprehensive account. The author would like to extend special thanks and recognition to Jerry Day, Robert R. Harmen, Keith Williams, and the late Walker Edwards for the materials and information they shared and the contributions they made to this endeavor.


A Century Of Passenger Trains. , .and Then Some, Jackson C. Thode

Blue Prints:

"D&RGRR Insignia or Trademark", 42 1/2"x 33 1/2" blueprint of the 1887-1922 Curecanti Needle Emblem, with "Denver& Rio Grande RR" over the Curecanti Needle. Does not show the entire banner.

"Lettering Streamlined 'Rio Grande'", D&RGW Office Of the Mechanical Engineer, Denver, Colo. May 20, 1946, Card 20823, File M-290.

"Trade Mark", D&RGWRR Office of the Mechanical Engineer, Denver, Colo. June 24, 1936, Card 16492, File C-273.

"Trademark, RR" Scale 3"=1'-0"', D&RGW Office of the Mechanical Engineer, August 27,1926, Card 11569, File C-273.

Colorado Railroad Museum's Iron Horse News

George L. Beam and the Denver & Rio Grande. II, Jackson C. Thode

Railroad-Aysnug, Hubbard

Railroad History, Bulletin 153, Railway and Locomotive Historical Society

Rio Grande Green Light, Summer, 1959

Rio Grande Glory Days, Lathrop

Rio-Grande-Narrow-Gauge-Recollections, Norwood (Also has information on two Rio Grande Western heralds)

Rocky Mountain Railroad Club's Rocky Mountain Rail Report, July 1980.

All Rights Reserved, Rio Grande Modeling & Historical Society

Did you forget something?

We noticed you left something behind in the cart... No need to worry - enter your e-mail address and we can save the items in your cart so you can easily complete your purchase.