Deck colours

16th September 2005, 11:56
Greetings everyone.
I have been a ship modelmaker for some years now and often have trouble with colour schemes. The main colours such as hull, funnel & accommodation is usually quite easy to find, but not so the steel decks.

I am interested in deck colours & composition (wood or steel) of all companies ships both British & foreign. It is not always clear from the plans whether the cargo decks were wood sheathed and information such as this is also welcome. Usually in older ships, any accommodation had to have wood sheathing over it, but when air conditioning came in, it was no longer required

Bob Wilson (M.N. 1961 -1992)

Jan Hendrik
16th September 2005, 12:18
I can only make a reference to steel decks of later years.
Most companies have their "house " colour and 99 percent of all ships today basically have 4 colours to choose from and they are as follows with my estimate in percentage:
red oxide: 40 percent
dark green: 25 percent
battleshipgrey: 25 percent, light grey 5 percent
black: less than 5 percent

Hope this helps.

16th September 2005, 13:47
Thanks, I am more interested in steel deck prior to 1965. There is nothing worse than completing a model to have someone say that the decks are the wrong colour. I am in the process of building up a list of ships deck composition & colouring. Concerning my first ship, the RHODESIA STAR I remember the steel decks as black, a shipmate who sailed in her at the same time as I did insists they were red, whilst someone else remembers them as green!


Jan Hendrik
16th September 2005, 14:36
Owners also changed colours from time to time and quite often what also happened and still happens is that in case Owner "A" buys another ship and although his house colour is green, then he leaves the colour red oxide as used by Owner "B", hence you see vessels of the same Owner with different colours on the deck.
Some are determined to change it. Others don't as a change cost money....especially if they find another 1000 li deckpaint in the paint locker.
So quite difficult to make a judgement in your particular case as then you have to go back into the history of the vessel.

Tony Crompton
16th September 2005, 15:13
Brocklebank Steam Ships were black. The decks were "painted" on the homeward voyage with a mixture of all the old thick oil and grease and
any other "Muck" the cassab had managed to save, mixed with some paint,and all applied with large wads. Cannot remember what they were called but the same stuff you used to soogie with. Who will ever know if the cassabs sold some of the paint and eeked it out with the old oil?
Tony C

16th September 2005, 16:12
Thanks. I will add the note to my Brocklebanks notes. When I was in the ore carrier SAGAMORE, the mate had the foredeck painted with fuel oil because it was cheaper than paint at that time. Initially, it looked good, but was very sticky to walk on. I am beginning to think that decks changed colour depending on what was to hand and really, red or black is probably as accurate as anything.

Charles compass
16th September 2005, 17:43
B>H>P>Iron Boats used a mixture of Iron Ore fines and Fish oil on decks,great protector once it had finally dryed out.

Chas .C

16th September 2005, 17:54
On a union castle cargo ship, we had two inches of oil fuel on the decks, only because we forgot that we were transferring oil, chief not amused, was worried about his pension.

16th September 2005, 18:53
Onboard the GOOD HOPE CASTLE in Durban in about 1973, I was on the bridge and the captain was hanging about in the background, I asked him why the forecastle bulkhead had been painted black. He joined me and we both suddenly realised that it was black oil pouring down from the forceastle head, onto the foredck & into the harbour. What a panic - but we didn't get fined. That was the new GOOD HOPE CASTLE. I have no idea why oil came out of the forecastle head though.

16th September 2005, 20:39
The Lamport & Holt ships that I sailed on in the sixties were as far as I can remember as follows :-

Focsle Deck :- Grey

Main deck from break of focsle to after rail :- Black

Outboard Accommodation Passageways :- Red

Boatdeck - Bridgedeck and Monkey Island :- Wood sheathed.

Kind regards


Jan Hendrik
17th September 2005, 02:23
Up to the 50's they mainly used a black coating based on asphalt bitumen.
A very thin coat was used, some dryers added, and just slapped on and on and on.... the advantage being: cheap, no thorough surface prep needed, rust preventive (like all tars) and easy to apply by rollers or brooms.
Thicker coats could not be used as bitumen becomes very sticky in the heat and some of you who sailed during that period may well remember....

At the same time oil based paints based on linseed oils were formulated which included a variety of colours, also dryers were added but this paint was still slow drying.
From the 60's onwards a change to alkyd oil (synthetic) took place and which is still the main ingredient you use in your oil based house paints today.

Yet in the 70's and 80's up till today most paints on the exterior steel decks consist either of a rapid dry acrylic one component, however, in most cases a two pack epoxy mastic, the latter dries chemically and by uptake of oxygen.

There are few other solutions but you would not be interested in all such details.

17th September 2005, 07:03
Thanks for further replies, especially from Chris. That is the sort of thing I was looking for as I wish to add notes on deck colours to plans of specific ships which I have collected over the years.


neil marsden
8th October 2005, 00:31
Unless my memory has failed me altogether the main decks on Clan boats were painted red, I recall somebody suggesting the reason for this was to mask the marks left by certain crew spitting their chewed 'beetle nut' about. If it did as much damage to steel decks as to their teeth perhaps it was a wise precaution!!


michael james
10th October 2005, 22:31
Shipbuilder: Re:Thos & Jno. Brocklebank Ltd.

The steel decks of steam ships with steam winches were always painted black, as was the trunking covering the steam pipes. When steamships with electric winches came in late 40`s and thro 50`s deck colours were changed to red, then with the transition to the later motor ships Mahout Markhor (1963) they had green decks. I am unable to comment on the Swedish built ships of 68 and the later ex Cunard ships which followed on into the `70s and `80s as I had left the company by then.