Train Engineers wearing stripes?

So, my Girl Scouts and I were looking at clothes and what they told you about the people who were wearing them for a badge requirement. We observed that train engineers wore those blue and white striped hats and bib overalls or coveralls. But, we don’t know why. So, who has an idea, or even a fact with supporting citations? If not, any clever stories? I’m not picky.

The hats and bib overalls were mainly worn because an engineer in steam days would get pretty heavily coated with coal dust and cinders after several hours at the throttle. As for the stripes, however, I have no idea other than that just happened to be the pattern of the cotton fabic used. I do know that trainmen also wore plain blue denim in addition to the stripy stuff.

The bib overalls and hat thing pretty much ended with the onset of teh diesel era - 40 to 60 years ago. Railroaders today pretty much wear street clothes, for the most part.

I can’t give you a reason, but I CAN find newspaper ads for them in the 1890’s.

Here’s what I think would be the reason. Farmers and other workers used bib overalls when steam trains were around in the USA. I would think it an advantage for train crews to be able to easily pick out the engineer in a group of people wearing bib overalls.

My grandpa had a pinstriped pair for me, when I went to his farm at age three. Other people did wear the pin stripe pattern, but most wore the plain solid color, which wasn’t always blue.

I guess I should have worded better, I understand the practicality of overalls or coveralls, I don’t understand the stripes. Did we really need to tell them apart from other people at a glance? Were there lots of people masquarading as train engineers? Did the engineers think that stripes were thinning?

The point of any worker wearing a uniform is so that that public can easily spot them. If I am on an airplane, I am going to want to tell the flight attendants from the pilots from the passengers and I can do so by the different uniforms that different types of employees wear. This explains why train engineers wore distinct outfits but not why stripes became the distinction.

I was talking to an old engineer down at one of our local steam train engine 2629 Restoration, and he insisted that the stripes came from the fact that cotton and flax burn differently. flax tends to go out, and cotton tends to smolder. 100% flax was too expensive and not very strong/itchy, and cotton if you got a spark or cinder would burn a big hole or worse… So by weaving the cloth in stripes a spark or cinder could land and it would only burn a hole the width fo the stripe and go out.

He also said that oil fired engines they often just wore blue died fabric, because alot less cinder and spark than coal fired ones!

zombie or no

in was marketing on behalf of the rail roads.

if it was polka dots you would like the trains went in small circles, not useful for transport. stripes give the image of long railroad tracks a productive image.

I wonder if the brand of manufacturer isn’t the answer, the company’s pattern.

I think it was to recognize the fabric not the uniform. Hickory-striped (blue and white) cloth was heavy duty twill. I’m guessing, back in the day hickory striping was an advertisement for the strongest fabric. After that notion was ingrained it would be hard to move away from. Competing shirts or bibs of different colors would be perceived as being poorer quality.

This websiteclaims that the hat was made by the Kromer Cap company, founded by a guy named Stormy Kromer.

The Kromer Cap Co. does claim to have invented the style, but makes no mention of blue striped material.

I assume mattress ticking would have been sturdy cloth, so it may be possible this is the origin.

Here is an image purported to be Stormy Kromer wearing a Locomotive Engineer’s hat. (just below the red cap shown)

The term ‘street clothes’ covers a wide range of territory these days. Do the locomotive operators still adhere to a tradition of blue-collar work apparel like jeans and workshirts, or is it more like business casual? Is there a dress code, or do they wear whatever they want?

I see this engineer didn’t spend much time studying how fabric is woven.

They wear whatever they want. Mostly jeans and a casual or polo shirt in my experience.

Over here, train crew wear uniforms - Jacket and trousers/skirt/shorts in a plain material with a blue or white shirt. The guys who fly the high speed trains under the Channel look more like aeroplane pilots. Train drivers generally are pretty well paid.