I encountered Chase Bond on the streets this week and had to ask “What are you wearing?” Chase is a rail worker, and I should have known right away by the purposeful and utilitarian look of his old-style outfit. He shared some of his knowledge of vintage and antique rail worker accessories and enlightened me on some of the more esoteric elements of a railroader uniform.
Chase works on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad as a firefighter in summer and does coach maintenance in winter. He enjoys wearing the vintage railroader style for work and is interested in raising the level of authenticity of the D&SNG experience.
The D&SNG issues traditionally-styled uniforms to their workers: Key brand overalls (which began in Kansas in 1908), chambray shirts and their choice of either hickory engineer or Pay Day hat. Wearing mood-killing modern baseball hats while working on the train is (thankfully) forbidden.
Chase explained rail worker hats to me. The so-called “hickory” blue and white pinstripe traditional engineers cap, with its pleated sides and fuller top, were less aerodynamic, more prone to fly off and were worn on slower trains. The other style, that Chase is wearing, is a vintage 1940s Penney’s Pay Day “balloon” hat. Its bubble-topped ball-shape holds air, is streamlined and the downward brim protects eyes from wind and sparks. It is a perfect design where form followed function. This aerodynamic hat was better used on faster trains. Black or dark blue are the preferred colors so as not to show soot. This style was also designed and made by George Kromer (also responsible for the classic wool plaid earflap hunters hat), and the shape was so useful that this style morphed into common use as the modern welders cap and also road-bicycling cap.
Chase volunteers for the Winter Photographers Night Shoot hosted by the D&SNG and brings antique props like an oil can or kerosene torch and wears his most traditional uniform to up the historic ambiance for the photographers.
He also likes to wear vintage clothing when he is off the clock, and is currently looking for a vintage wide-brim 1940s fedora and a 1940s-style suit.
Thank you, Chase Bond, for speaking with me and sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm on the history and finer points of railroad-wear.
Heather Narwid owns Sideshow Emporium, a vintage clothing shop soon to be moving (again) from downtown to a permanent location at 32nd St. and County Road 250. She heard you have a truck and wants you to know that you look particularly nice today.