Hats Off to the Conductors!

I got an email the other day from someone—a woman— who was aware that Amtrak management has been giving their conductors a hard time. Of course it was a woman who would notice something like that.

Some years ago, I was on the Empire Builder having lunch in the diner when one of the conductors entered the car and passed through . . . “walking the train.”

I’d seen it before, of course, but this time, just as he entered the diner, I saw this conductor remove his hat. He walked past my table and, just before he pulled the door open at the end of the car, he reached up and put his hat back on his head. 

That started me wondering: Was removing his hat in the dining car part of the Official Conductor Protocol? Or was it essentially voluntary?

(My personal opinion is that men should remove their hats as soon as they come indoors. In fact, nothing irritates me more than seeing some bozo having a meal in a nice restaurant and he’s wearing a baseball cap . . . backwards! )

What I needed was a “horse’s mouth” and I found one: a Rail Passengers Association member who is, in fact, a veteran Amtrak conductor.

Here is his exact response to my query:  

“The old rules for trainmen and conductors required the hat only when ‘handling transportation’ (example” doing ticket work).  The new rules require wearing the hat at all times.” Then he added, “ I always remove my hat when passing through the diner or the dining section of the Amfleet diner/lounge.”

And so it would seem that official protocol says the conductor’s hat should be worn at all times and, presumably, that includes when a conductor passes through the dining car. But unwritten common sense rules appear to allow for some flexibility; ie: when relaxing on a break and/or when taking meals, hats can come off.