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 Post subject: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 11:11 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
One of the more interesting questions I've always had related to how locomotive crews dressed during the age of steam. The popular image is that the engineer and fireman wore hicory stripe bib overalls. In reality, since being involved in preservation, for those crews that wear overalls, I tend to see a strong preference to denim-colored overalls. When I worked on the steam locomotive, I wore denim, as they didn't appear to show grease and dirt as easily.

The one bastion of hickory stripe overalls I've seen is at IRM, where a lot of the motormen (and women) on the inteurban trains wear them, whith white Kromer hats, as that was how those motormen would have dressed in service.

So, the question is, did steam locomotive crews really wear hickory striped overalls?

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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 11:17 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 3:37 pm
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Location: Pacific, MO
All I remember from "back in the day" is denim. That's what my Dad wore.


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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 11:30 am 

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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
That is certainly what the photographic evidence bears out, though trying to distinguish between the two on black and white photographs can be difficult.

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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 11:53 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:10 pm
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Having recently seen two photos of my wife's grandfather, a PRR engineman from 1916-1958 on the Middle Division, both images showed him in a gray boiler suit, wearing a necktie and with some sort of scarf tucked around his neck, a blue and white Kromer cap, goggles and long gauntlets. Of course, he was running K-4s and T-1 engines in passenger service at high speed.

A photo of my father-in-law, a machinist at Harrisburg enginehouse, by contrast, showed him wearing denim bib overalls and a chambray short with a black Kromer.

I've seen photos of motormen on the old Lehigh Valley Transit, before the lightweight cars, wearing striped bib overalls and a dark suit coat, with a tall conductor-style cap with a brass "Motorman" badge.


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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 12:57 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 9:37 pm
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Location: Niles Canyon Railway, near Sunol, CA
See 2012 discussion on www.Trainorders.com: http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,2908292 Lots of good info there. Different RRs had different traditions. On the S.P., even adjacent divisions (Western Division (Oakland to Sacramento via Martinez, also via Niles Canyon) and Coast Division (San Francisco to San Luis Obispo) could have different traditions.

- Doug Debs


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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:01 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
I once sorted through a pile of photos that included crews coming in and going off on the Santa Fe in places like Kansas, Albuquerque, and Arizona. Everyone, that I could see, was in some form of denim, from new-and-still-stiff to well-abused. Overalls, jeans and jackets, work suits, etc. Not a Kromer cap to be seen--all denim caps, various stiffness/abuse. Various shades, and some of the legs looked boot-cut or what we would call "bell-bottom" to boot.

Granted, this was ONE railroad, 1930s to 1950s. And fashions or company specs could vary.


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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:07 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2004 2:46 pm
Posts: 1995
Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
Denims were huge in this country as work wear through the steam era. Even the US Army had blue denim work uniforms from around WW1 until just before WW2 (many of them were given to German and Italian POWs working in the US during WW2).
If you're adept at looking at b/w photos, I bet you'll find a lot more plain denim than blue/white striped stuff.
Coveralls were pretty common in all labor fields for genreations. It's one of the reasons you'll find old people today still wearing 'dress' coveralls. They just got so used to wearing stuff like that...
Sort of like how wide brimmed hats got associated with the mid 1800s and into the expansionist era, when period photos show that narrow brim hats were actually very poluar instead. I think the whole blue stripe overalls bit has become a stereotype as opposed to the most common thing used then.

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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:11 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:06 pm
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Location: Thomaston & White Plains
The New Haven men were partial to Thompson work clothes, made right in the namesake Connecticut city. The combination striped and denim hats and the striped jumpers (long work coat) with denim pocket trim were NYNH&H crew trademarks. Two RMNE historians reproduced the caps a few years ago, and have had some on-again, off-again plans to reproduce the jumpers.

Howard P.
denim overall and felt fedora wearer

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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:18 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:06 pm
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Location: Thomaston & White Plains
To really learn how to dress in proper period clothing, study the Jack Delano photographs, both color and B&W. They give a real sense of working men and women who have come through the Depression, and are now going all-out in the 40s, on busy railroads overloaded with war traffic. Look at the hats, the patched overalls, the gloves, the hairstyles.

Of all the set-up photo freights and night sessions that I've seen, done during the last 10 or so years, the most natural, most evocative and least contrived/ridiculous-looking were the images taken at SRI with 1225, especially the women in the lunchroom.

Put aside the "hay-burner" lanterns, cut the men's hair SHORT, NO beards (on the men), and NO white whitewalls on the too-shiny cars!!

Howard P.
Grumpy Old Man, Conn.

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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:27 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
Posts: 2528
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Howard,

People forget how dirty the past was.

These are excellent posts, and I appreciate the feedback. All of these responses highlight what happens when we try to attach broad trends or practices to a very regional industry. The Trainorders thread was very enlightening, as it appears hickory stripes were in wide use in both steam and electric operations, as well as plain ole denim, depending on your era, railroad, and even geographic division within the same railroad. Some other observations:

-I've noticed several photos over the years of PRR passenger engineers wearing denim coveralls over what appears to be a white shirt and tie.

-Kromer versus traditional "engineers" style appear to vary according to the type of railway and geographic placement.

-I have a Jim Ozment photo of UP 4022 drifting eastbound under the signal bridge in Cheyenne, taken in August 1957 hanging on my office wall. The engineer appears to be in a striped hat with striped bibs. The person sitting behind him (road foreman?) appears to be dressed as a management type.


Bib overalls, like a lot of other quality, durable, traditional work clothing seems to be harder and harder to find. I used to wear Oshkosh, but quit when they quit making adult sizes and moved production overseas. I've tried a lot of other brands over the years, but haven't found anything quite as durable. I'm going to order some Pointer Brand overalls from L.C. King soon, as I've heard great things about them.

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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:47 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:06 pm
Posts: 2253
Location: Thomaston & White Plains
A north-of-the border perspective, in the first 60 seconds of this film:

http://www.nfb.ca/film/railroaders

The bib overalls (as seen throughout the film) are a particular Canadian brand that has a zip-up front. Excellent film in so many ways, almost a Nick Morant album put on film.

Howard P.

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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:54 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:35 pm
Posts: 374
As part of my world travels I have tried to gather up "culturally accepted" locomotive work clothes. I have come to find that regional culture plays a big part of this discussion. Even in the USA, as you look at different regional and geographic areas of our nation, the styles trends, history and even brand names change. For example, in some areas of the USA you see a lot of Dickies Brand while in other areas you see (saw) a lot of OshKosh. Same was true with denim pants.....Wranglers in some areas, Levis more pronounced in other areas.

I believe that we, in the modern day, have created the stigma (if you will) of hickory strips and certain "trade marks" of the industry. Go take down your copy of the O Winston Link Books and study the clothing worn in the photos. Also, Darwin's book on Cheyenne, WY. is awesome. You see work suits and work clothes, males and females in a variety of types styles and brands (even home made clothing common of the era.)

Even today, look at the commonly known steam hero's. Lynn M. has a distinct style and fashion, as does Kelly Anderson. Bob Yuil (did I spell that correctly?) has his own style as does Robert Franzen and Scott Lindsey and Gary Bensman. Have you ever seen Kelly Lynch? Unique. Steve Butler, Earl Knoob......John Bush......Steve Lee, the list goes on and on and in all of them you see unique personality mixed with some aspects of historical significance and some modern flares as well as culturally accepted items for the geographical area in which they reside.

I propose that we start posting photos relevant to the subject at hand....good archive information and it preserves an aspect of our industry that we too often overlook.

Good job on a great discussion, David.

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Wasatch Railroad Contractors


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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 3:43 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
We sell our visitors an experience. I've long been an advocate of dressing appropriately if you are in view of the public. This goes as much for the conductor as to the people in the cab. I've never been a fan of polo shirts, with black jeans and mesh hats for your passenger train crews or diesel engineers.

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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 3:45 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Here is the cover image to the O.Winston Link book "Night Trick"

http://www.photoeye.com/auctions/Enlargement.cfm?id=6803

Engineer has denim overalls and an unlined denim "chore coat" on, as well as a starched hickory stripe hat. He also appears to have a rolled collar cardigan sweater on underneath his bib overalls, so I assume this photo was taken during the cooler months.

Another observation picked up by others, clothing used to be a lot more regional. Proably every major city had a company that made denim work clothes, some of which are now long-forgotten brands. I know a gentleman who howns a heavily-patched circa 1940s pair of "Old Kentucky" brand bib overalls as an example. With brand homoginization and national distribution, this is a small aspect that is harder to replicate.

David M. Wilkins
Sanfordized, Utah

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 Post subject: Re: Hickory Stripe v. Denim-Image v. Reality?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:30 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:35 pm
Posts: 374
David,

Thank you for sending me the PM. My response is worth adding to the discussion (in my view anyway).

Question: What did UP trainmen wear back in the day? (paraphrased)

As far as I know, the UP did not have a set dress code. As far as I know, none of the major roads had ESTABLISHED dress codes. However, were there and did they have some dress STANDARDS? I believe that they did. I believe that the white shirt and tie on the East Coast roads was something similar to the white hats that some UP and (even more) SP Senior engineers wore. As far as I have been taught, safety and clothing was the responsibility of the employee, not the road. It has become more of an issue in our day as we are now required to include certain aspects of PPE into our dress. Speaking of; notice how many cab shots show men wearing normal shoes, not a work boot. I myself prefer steel toed work shoes to work boots. Again, I maintain and I could be wrong; what we see in dress standards was more of a cultural and geographical set of conditions more than it was a requirement. David, I have never seen anything in past photos that says...."Oh yes, that is how UP required it." Now, for passenger train crew members we have a different story. Even in passenger service there were certain aspects and styles that were left to personal discretion.

Modern Perception:

The riding public is buying service as much as they are buying or paying for and experience. The service level, in part, determines the experience. A conductor at Disneyland, properly dress, but acting rude, short and not personable has not created the experience, even though he "looked" the part. It is my own business minded view that crew training in the way the crew handles the public is far more important than a 100% accurate costume. Now, we walk a fine line when the crew is dirty, smells bad, has offensive breath or simply does not speak or communicate well. All the training in the world, a perfect uniform and crowd found at Disneyland will not fix this. I believe that crew members should be given a variety of "clothing standards" allowing each to conform on his or her own making sure that the other public appearance issues are strictly maintained. By doing this, you have created the experience that you speak of above, David.

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Wasatch Railroad Contractors


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