Gravesend and Northfleet Electric Tramways
The Gravesend and Northfleet Electric Tramways Limited were a subsidiary of the much larger British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BETCo), a concern which at its zenith either owned, part-owned or leased around 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles. The photos below show Gravesend staff wearing the familiar and largely regulation BETCo uniform. Although jackets appeared to vary somewhat between BETCo systems, as well as across the decades, the cap badges, collar designations and buttons invariably followed a standard pattern.
The tunics initially issued to Gravesend staff were double-breasted, with two rows of four buttons (of the standard BETCo pattern - see link) and lapels, giving a vaguely naval appearance; the upper lapels (collars) carried embroidered system initials on both sides (’G & N. E. T’). Caps were military in style with a soft top and glossy peak, and carried a standard brass BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ badge (see below), worn above an employee number (in individual brass numerals). The naval-style jackets seem only to have lasted a short time before being superseded. Motormen were subsequently issued with double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom) and upright collars; the latter carried individual initials on the right-hand side, probably either ’G & N E T’ or ‘G & N T’ and an employee number on the left, all presumably brass. Although photographs exist which show conductors wearing the same style of tunics as those issued to motormen, others clearly show them in single-breasted jackets with five buttons, a single breast pocket, and upright collars, suggesting that styles changed over time.
Tramcar crews were also issued with double-breasted overcoats with three waist/hip-level pockets, lapels and epaulettes; they do not appear to have borne any insignia.
Inspectors wore single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair) and upright collars, almost certainly bearing ‘Inspector’ in embroidered script lettering. The standard ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge was worn, but with a script-lettering ‘Inspector’ badge in place of the usual employee number.
In common with the majority of UK tramway systems, Gravesend employed women during the Great War - both as conductresses and motorwomen - to replace male staff lost to the armed forces. Unfortunately, photographs appear not to have survived, so it is currently impossible to say what uniforms, if any, were issued to these ladies.
For a history of Gravesend's Tramways, see: 'The Tramways of Kent- Volume 1, West Kent' by Invicta; The Light Railway Transport League (1971).
Motormen and conductors
An excellent studio portrait of Gravesend and Northfleet Electric Tramways Employee No 30 - photo undated, but probably taken around the time of opening (1901). Photo with kind permission of Linda Reed.
A blow-up of the above photo showing the collar insignia - embroidered 'G & N. E. T' initials - and the standard British Electric Traction Company 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge. Wearing the employee numbers either side of the cap badge was certainly not standard BET practice (they were normally worn below the main badge), an affectation that clearly not have worked for the first nine employees! This photo therefore probably reflects the personal preference of the individual depicted.
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge - brass, as worn by Gravesend tramway crews.
A view of Gravesend’s famous ’shrimp’ car (Tramcar No 1) - photo undated, but probably taken just before the advent of the Great War. The tramcar advertised Russell’s ‘Shrimp Brand’ Brewery, being extensively adorned with promotional material (inside and out), including a large shrimp on the dash! The view shows an inspector (second left), conductor (third left) and motorman (fourth left). With thanks to Richard Rosa.
Blow up of the above photo showing details of the crew's uniforms. Both men are wearing the standard British Electric Traction Company 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge above employee numbers. The collar badges appear to be a mixture of 'G&NT' and G&NET’.
Motorman and conductor pose with Tramcar No 16 - photo undated, but certainly taken before the 1924/5 when this car was fitted with a top cover. With thanks to Richard Rosa.
Blow up of the above photo, showing the conductor, who appears to be wearing a regimental cap badge (common practice during and after the Great War) flanked by the digits of his employee number (possibly 44).
A G&NET motorman poses with decorated tramcar No 2 on the occasion of Gravesend Carnival, 1927. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
A blow-up of the 'Shrimp Car' photograph above, showing the inspector. He is wearing a 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge above an embroidered, script-lettering grade badge - 'Inspector'.