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Of hats and scrambled egg

Blog number 2 is mainly about hats and we should probably warn you at the start that if you are looking for tips on magnificent millinery then this may not be the blog for you. If however you are interested in finding out about the many hats worn here at South Tynedale Railway then read on…

Billycocks and Bowlers

A billycock or bowler hat is a hard, felt hat originally created by hat makers Thomas and William Bowler in 1939, reputedly for Edward Coke, the younger brother of the second Earl of Leicester. Legend has it that Mr Coke tested the sturdiness of the hat by stamping on it before handing over the ticket price of 12 shillings!

Famous bowler hat wearers include Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Bond villain Oddjob and our very own volunteer STR signaller Mike.

Mike says he likes to look the part when he is in the signal box and as you can see he isn’t averse to lighting the fire on chilly days. The signal box where Mike and our other volunteer signallers hang their hats is actually the redundant signal box from Ainderby station, on the former North Eastern Railway branch line to Redmire in North Yorkshire.  It was brought here in the 1990s and re-erected on a new brick base. This superb signal box is a very interesting place and signal box tours are available at the discretion of the signaller on duty; so if you’re planning a visit and you would like to have a look at this mechanical, pre-electronic marvel please get in touch.

Hats and more hats

Whilst some of our volunteer crew members favour bowlers, and here’s Alan sporting a fine example, others prefer grease-top caps. The traditional hat of a British Railways steam locomotive driver, these caps are tough, hard-wearing and water resistant. As Richard will testify they’re just the thing for either the dirty cab of a steam loco or the changeable weather of the North Pennines.

Hats are definitely de rigueur here at STR, whether woolly, cloth, cotton, worn with ear defenders, worn with extra ears, or bizarrely worn by a visiting storm trooper last Christmas…

Most of the people featured in these photographs are volunteers. We operate our fantastic railway with a handful of paid staff and a much larger team of volunteers who get involved with all aspects of the railway and wear many hats (literally). We also welcome younger people into Shed 52C, our junior club for those aged 9 – 14, and for those slightly older 15 – 18 year olds, Strivers is a brilliant place to start a journey to become trained steam crew. Find out more by visiting the Youth Development page of our website.


The more observant among you will have noticed that we have only included 1 photograph featuring a woman and sadly this reflects the ratio of female to male volunteers here at STR the moment. We’ll be announcing our new initiative, Dads, Lads, Ladies and Lasses (DL3) very soon, so if you have a secret love of trains or would like to find out more about our railway and all the things volunteers do, choose your favourite hat and pencil 7th July into your diaries. More information on this open day coming soon, places will be limited so don’t delay when booking opens. You can of course join us at any time of the year, so please do get in touch to find out more.

And finally…scrambled egg

Scrambled egg, as well as being rather delicious and available on the breakfast menu of the Crossing Cafe, is also the slang term used for the gold braiding on peaked caps worn by military officers. The more scrambled egg, the more important you are of course and here is Paul demonstrating the importance of the train guard with a very fetching hat indeed.

Hats and bears with hats available in our shop!