More Than Meets the Eye: A Conductor's Uniform

Amtrak Cascades Conductor

A uniform says a lot about a brand. In the 1980s Air France picked Christian Dior to design its uniforms. Recently cosmetic chain Sephora had its designer duds showcased at FashionWeek, and even the U.S. Postal Service has made an appearance on the fashionista favorite Project Runway.

Amtrak has a long history of tradition behind its uniforms, and its colors and styles even convey different roles and rankings among its 6,000 uniformed employees across the country.

For more than 100 years, traditional railroad conductor uniforms have been navy blue, and when Amtrak was established in 1971 the company honored the tradition by drawing on the same color scheme as the railroads before it.

For our conductors on the trains, the hat is a key component. Next time you travel with us, check it out. Whether it’s a wide-crowned pershing hat or the current, compact pill-box style hat, it always has a special metal badge on the front identifying the person as a conductor.

The iconic vests and gold pocket watches of past railroads are long gone. Today’s conductor uniforms are the ultimate travel gear and include pockets for iPhones, which they use to check-in customers and report problems.

In 2000, we added color-coded epaulets to reflect specific job functions. An epaulet is a small strip of fabric on the shoulder (imagine military uniforms). Today, assistant conductors wear a navy blue epaulet. Once promoted to a conductor, the epaulets change to navy blue with teal stripes.

For the trivia junkies out there, there was a time when Amtrak used gray uniforms instead of the classic navy blue. During the introduction of Acela Express service in the Northeast, conductors wore dove gray. But after a few years they all were changed to navy blue for consistency across the system.

Special thanks to passenger William A. who snapped this shot in Albany, Ore. Want to share your own pics from your trip? Upload them using our Facebook app and you may see them appear on our blog!