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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Hats

Date: 10/12/20 08:00
Author: eminence_grise

Today, baseball hats are very common, and advertise just about anything you can think of. Some are still given away by businesses as promotional material. In the 1960's and 70's "gimme caps" were a new thing, rumored to have been started by NAPA (National Auto Parts).

Soon enough, some of the railroads picked up on the concept and by the late 1970's, I had a growing collection. However, I was not a dedicated collector, and decided to wear some of them to work on the railway.  Few paid attention to what hats I wore, and I'm sure that some thought they were not railway related. The railway I worked for had not yet climbed on the hat bandwagon.

Finally, I wore a hat from the nearest competing railway. As hats proliferated, some railways had hats which advertised operating divisions within the corporation. I obtained the hat simply by asking at a crew office of the competing railway and an officer there was more than willing to give me one.I think it said something like "We are the best" on the badge, plus the corporate logo..

That caught the attention of the bosses where I worked. By that time, my employer had caught on to the baseball hat concept, but sold them rather than gave them away. I think you had to buy a windbreaker to get the matching hat. Probably, it was a deal but at the time it didn't catch on.
They quizzed me as to why I would wear a hat from the competition.

My answer was simple and true. The other railway gave it to me for free, and as far as I knew, they gave it away to their employees too. The other railway had many employee give aways over the years ranging from hats to cigarette lighters, playing cards and pocket knives.

I continued to wear the hat, and occasionally I would see managers pointing at it and talking amongst themselves.

Finally, at a bi-annual safety meeting and rules update, we were all given hats with the corporate logo as a safety award. The hat give aways continued for awhile.

Meanwhile, the hat from the other railway blew off my head when in the operating cab of a locomotive going fifty miles an hour and was lost forever. Other hats replaced it, some railway related but none bought the attention that my "Mountain Region" hat did.


Date: 10/12/20 10:02
Re: Hats
Author: spider1319

Neat story.we had something similar happen here.The herder wore the competing cap in a similar fashion and it seemed soon after our division hats stared showing up.Hats ,caps, t-shirts, sweat shirts and jackets and later if they were really happy with us, watches.Bill Webb

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/12/20 10:03 by spider1319.

Date: 10/12/20 16:37
Re: Hats
Author: 3rdswitch

Yea, Santa Fe, Los Angeles Division, later California Division, gave away hats more than once a year. Here is one I still have and wish I had not worn. As Bill knows well, a couple of guys in San Bernardino, started a clothing line called Zephyr Products selling hats, shirts, sweat shirts and jackets which did quite well.

Date: 10/13/20 09:17
Re: Hats
Author: spider1319

At least you saved yours Joe.Mine is long gone.Bill Webb

Date: 10/13/20 10:17
Re: Hats
Author: RRTom

My favorite was a blue corduroy hat commemorating the cutover of Amtrak's Shore tower to CETC in 1991.

Date: 10/13/20 13:27
Re: Hats
Author: Alco251

There are some that scream "been there, done that, got the hat." And they seem to survive when my wife goes on her sporadic anti-hat crusade in one of the closets.

Date: 10/13/20 16:20
Re: Hats
Author: trainjunkie

This is a cool topic that I can really identify with. I used to have a ton of official RR hats. Back in the 80s the ones made for the railroad companies by K-Products in Orange City, Iowa were the most coveted. My all-time favorite hat of that era was one from the Santa Fe Albuquerque Division that I still have it somewhere in storage. But it's in pretty dilapidated shape. I also have a gray Santa Fe California Division cap somewhere but it is unstructured and I don't really like unstructured caps, so I rarely wear it.

The problem with the K-Products caps is that while they were structured (which I prefer) the structure was provided by thin sheets of urethane foam sewn into the front panels. These eventually degrade and crumble so not only does your head get covered with foam dust (insert foamer joke here) but the cap collapses. Still, I have a bunch of them from back in the day when I used to wear caps a lot and sought official railroad-issued caps out frequently. 

Even though I don't wear caps very much these days, and while most of my vintage caps are in storage, I still have a bunch of more recent acquisitions in my home office. Mostly BNSF (my current employer) and Alaska Railroad (my previous employer). I also have a Pacific Harbor Line cap somewhere that the Superintendent there at the time gave to me for some work I did for them. One of my favorite caps is a plain black "Peak Season" BNSF cap from 2016, which is just a plain black cap with a BNSF logo on the front, UPS logo on the side and "2016 Peak Season" on the back. I didn't even work for BNSF in 2016, I was still in Alaska. But when I hired out here and took my first conductor promotion exam I aced the exam and the rules examiner gave it to me in appreciation for not only being the only one in my class to ace the test, but also for finishing first. I also have the 2018 and 2019 Peak Season caps that I got as thanks for working my tail off and staying marked up through the holidays those years.

While I don't wear caps very often these days, my kids like them. One more than the other, but they both like wearing "train hats". So now they have an ever-expanding collection of both Alaska Railroad and BNSF caps. Here they are with our pups with a couple of the BNSF caps I recently got for them.

I'll try to take some pic of some the ones I have here in my office and add them to this thread in a day or two.

Date: 10/13/20 16:21
Re: Hats
Author: bbackus

This one was pretty popular around SLC in the 80's.

Bruce Backus

Date: 10/13/20 19:55
Re: Hats
Author: Drknow

bbackus Wrote:
> This one was pretty popular around SLC in the
> 80's.
> Bruce Backus

That hat told of the future for sure.

Posted from iPhone

Date: 10/14/20 15:06
Re: Hats
Author: Beowawe

Hat disintegrated.  Patch lives on.

Date: 10/14/20 15:08
Re: Hats
Author: tehachcond

   I worked for the SP in Los Angeles, and we had a Teminal Superintendent whose initials were GDD.  I'm sure you SP old heads will recognize these initials.  He was also known for having quite a temper.  I would get him going by wearing a UP jacket or hat, or something like that.  This was way before the UP buying out the SP was even thought of.
   He would see me, and yell, "G-DD-MMIT, you work for the Southern Pacific!", and he'd give me an SP hat, or some other SP trinket.  He never seemed to catch on to what I was doing, and I developed quite a collection.
   We could start a whole thread with GDD stories.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO 

Date: 10/14/20 15:37
Re: Hats
Author: trainjunkie

Following up on my post above, here are some of my newer hats.

First pic: Top row - the coveted 2016 Peak Season cap that I earned by being the only one in my class to ace the 242 exam. Bottom row, a couple other BNSF caps I recently acquired.

Second pic: The 2019 and 2018 BNSF Peak Season caps.

Date: 10/14/20 15:40
Re: Hats
Author: trainjunkie

Last two. First pic is of some of the Alaska Railroad caps I have.

Second one (top) is not a railroad-issued cap but it is licensed to the 557 Steam Restoration Group. It has the ARR 1914 logo on the back and the railroad sells it in their store. Below that, the PHL "Gateway to the World" cap I got from the Super there a few years ago.


Date: 10/14/20 15:42
Re: Hats
Author: trainjunkie

Beowawe Wrote:
> Hat disintegrated.  Patch lives on.

Nice. I always wanted one of those WP Safety Award patches on a orange, structured cap. 

Date: 10/17/20 07:59
Re: Hats
Author: Txtrainman60

Anyone remember these Santa Fe caps from the late 70s and 80s?

Date: 10/17/20 09:19
Re: Hats
Author: KskidinTx

I think I have the Northern Division one and several others.  The question is "Where".   "What box?"

Date: 10/17/20 10:04
Re: Hats
Author: OldPorter

KskidinTx Wrote:
> The question is "Where". 
>  "What box?"
Agree about that- many of us have these vintage ball caps that reside in dusty boxes, in our storage areas.
I've got some great "LA Division" SPRR caps, that were already old, by 1981. Will post pics of them- when I find 'em.

Date: 10/18/20 02:32
Re: Hats
Author: Jim700

spider1319 Wrote:
> Neat story.we had something similar happen here.  The herder wore the competing cap in a
> similar fashion and it seemed soon after our division hats stared showing up.  Hats, caps,
> t-shirts, sweat shirts and jackets and later if they were really happy with us, watches.  Bill Webb

Yes, indeed!  IIRC it was in 1988 or 1989 that Amtrak PDX gave out watches as an employee safety award.  I didn't realize until I took the picture for this discussion thread how scruffy looking the crystal on my watch is becoming.  Looking at it now, one would never guess that it started out life as a 24-hour-dial watch.  The much smaller numbers 13 to 24 were printed in red and located just opposite the luminescent squares from the numbers 1 to 12.  It's now on its second movement and I will be renewing it once more as the day and date function has begun misbehaving.

The red numbers had faded into oblivion over ten years ago and the now-fading red part of the "pointless arrow" was just as bright as the second hand until the fading became noticeable three or four years ago.

As for the hats, while obviously not a Class 1 railroad, I really miss the closed Mt. Rainier Railroad & Logging Museum.  I enjoyed three great years there and many more on its predecessor Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad.

Date: 10/19/20 05:40
Re: Hats
Author: HardYellow

Any of you LA Division guys remember the story about the EMD hats that the road foreman office was "supposedly" passing out in the early 1980's?

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