Anyone who has ridden the Auburn Valley Railroad, or the Wilmington & Western Railroad, can generally tell the engine crew from the train crew as engine crews often wear blue-and-white pinstripe hats with pinstripe bib overalls. The engineer’s cap has become iconic with its six-panel design. What year was the first engineer’s cap made? For extra credit, who came up with the cap’s iconic design?


In the late 1800s, baseball was becoming the nation’s premier sport. Baseball players wore colored caps with team logos above the brim representing the team for which they played. A steam locomotive fireman for the Chicago & North Western Railroad, George “Stormy” Kromer, played both semiprofessional as well as professional baseball. Stormy wore his baseball cap while railroading to keep the cinders from his eyes. He became annoyed at continually losing his cap to the wind generated by the fast moving train as he looked out the cab window to view the signal lights ahead.

Stormy, so nicknamed due to his volatile temper when he lost a cat, had an idea for a better way to keep the cap on his head in windy conditions as well as cover his ears in colder weather. Working with his wife, Ida, in 1903, they came up with a distinctive 6-panel design made of blue-and-white pinstripe pillow ticking that Ida had on hand. Wearing it to work, Stormy’s fellow railroad locomotive peers were soon offering to pay Ida to make them an identical cap. Kromer applied for a patent in May 1909 which was granted in September 1911. The patent was later forfeited, but Kromer applied for revised patent in April 1916, which was granted on July 11, 1916 (Patent 1,190,427).

The Kromers moved their operation from their Kaukauua, Wisconson, home to a bigger facility in Milwaukee, Wisconson, in 1919, where they would eventually employ nearly 30 workers making railroad caps. The Kromers sold the operation to Richard Grossman in 1965. At the start of the 21st century, Jacquart Fabric Products in Ironwood, Michigan, took over the manufacture of Kromer railroad caps. The caps were now offered in various materials with additional design features available.  Over a century later, the Kromer railroad cap is still “made in America” and worn by professional railroaders as well as railroad enthusiasts and hobbyists.