Monday, 9 January 2012

Chiswick Clothing Store

Railways are military style organisations. They quickly had to adopt a military approach to their operations because of their reliance on strict discipline for their staff.  They had a fixed schedule, they used expensive and unique equipment, they had staff spread along long lines of communication and they relied on rigid adherence to rules in order to maintain safety. The military model was ideal for railway operations.  By the early 1960s, when I started work, the model had been firmly entrenched for over 100 years.  For me, like thousands of railwaymen before me, it started when I arrived at London Transport's Chiswick Clothing Store.

The LT Clothing Store was located in Chiswick Works, the huge bus overhaul facility first opened in 1921 by the then London General Omnibus Company.  It was later expanded and new ranges of buses for London were designed there.  It was to remain as an overhaul works until it was finally closed in 1989.

New recruits arriving for uniform (there were about 30 of us) were ushered into a large hall, where there was a long counter.  On the other side of the counter were several severe-looking attendants backed by long deep lines of shelving containing all sorts of clothing.  We lined up to be issued with our uniforms.

There was a ritual.  I watched several recruits being dealt with until it was my turn. The attendant called, "Next" and I moved up to the counter.  He asked me what hat size I was.  I didn't know.  He thrust a hat at me and said, "Try this", and I did and it fitted, sort of.  He said, "That's OK". He turned to the shelving and handed me a couple of parcels containing jacket, waistcoat, trousers, a black tie and a rubberised raincoat.  I was also given a hat badge with a number.  In those days we didn't get shoes or shirts.  These we had to supply ourselves.

We were given string and paper.  We then had to change into our uniforms and tie our own clothing up into bundles to take home at the end of the day. My uniform issue fitted me fairly well.  I was lucky, being a sort of standard size.  Some of my new found colleagues were not so lucky and had to go back to the Obergruppenführer to change things, usually trousers.

We were then told to go into the canteen and get a "cup of tea".  Few people drank coffee in those days and other choices were very limited.  After a half hour, we were led to a bus parked close to the store.  It was the then standard RT type bus with L Plates, obviously used for the instruction of bus drivers. We were then driven to the Railway Training Centre at White City.  We were met there by our "New Entrants" instructor.


  1. Electrification never had much in the way of a uniform (ECRO's refused point blank) , but my Pea jacket (wool) was brilliant warm when thoroughly soaked(heavy) and came in a brown parcel some weeks after ordering.
    Much safer than those dangerous rubber raincoats (neck bangers) in a wet walk (2m) to S/stns and T.P.H.s
    John ECRO (Havant, Selhurst, Woking, Raynes Park)

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