Chatham and District Light Railway

Summary
Photos of the earliest days of the tramway are rare, but those few that have survived appear to show staff wearing single-breasted jackets with lapels, white shirts and ‘pill box’ style caps; it is unclear what badges, if any, these uniforms carried. They were however, relatively quickly superseded by single-breasted jackets with five buttons, presumably bearing the C&DLR monogram (see link), two breast pockets, upright collars, and epaulettes (plain with button closures). The upright collars bore individual system initials - ‘C & D L R’ (or possibly 'C & D L R Co') - on the bearer's left-hand side, and script-lettering grade badges - either 'Motorman' or 'Conductor' - on the right-hand side. The latter appear to have been the standard, 'off-the-shelf' type of grade badges that were used throughout the length and breadth of the land as cap badges, but uniquely in Chatham as collar insignia. The badges and buttons were almost certainly brass. The kepi-style caps were superseded by military-style caps with a tensioned crown (top); these carried a brass cap badge which consisted of the system inititals - 'C&DLRCo' - within a lozenge-shaped surround.

At some point, probably after the Great War, the grade badges were dispensed with, so that the collars were simply left plain.

Tramcar crews were also issued with double-breasted greatcoats with high, fold-over collars and plain epaulettes (with button closures); the collars bore system initials - 'C & D L R' or 'C & D L R Co' - in embroidered script-lettering.

Except for a very early shot, and that taken at a distance, photos of inspectors appear not to have survived, so other than the fact that they wore kepi-style caps with a pom pom on top, nothing is known.

In common with the vast majority of tramway operators, the C&DLR employed female staff during the Great War - as conductresses - to replace male staff lost to the armed services. The ladies do not appear to have been issued with uniforms, instead wearing a vairety of informal coats and hats, along with whatever men's caps and greatcoats could be spared. It does however seem that a concession was eventually made to sartorial elegance with the issue of female caps, which were soft-topped with a glossy peak. The caps carried the same cap badges as male staff, but were frequently adorned with regimental badges, a common practice across the country during the Great War, to show solidarity for loved ones who were away on military service. Several photos also show female staff wearing a shield-shaped badge on either their caps or coats, the purpose of which is unclear.

For a history of the Chatham and District Light Railway, see: 'The Tramways of Kent - Volume 1, West Kent' by Invicta; The Light Railway Transport League (1971).

Images

Motormen and conductors
Chatham and District Light Railway Tram No 24 at the Borstal terminus
Tramcar No 24 stands with crew and some decidedly 'un-Borstal-like' children at the Borstal terminus - photo undated, but probably mid-to-late Edwardian. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Chatham and District Light Railway tram No 24 and crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and motorman, both of whom are wearing single-breasted jackets and military-style caps.


Chatham and District Light Railway Tram No 3 and crew
A C&DLR motorman (at the controls) and a conductress (standing behind the stanchion), along with what is probably another male/female crew - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War or shortly afterwards. Photo courtesy of the Richard Rosa collection.


Chatham and District Light Railway motorman tram driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman. His left-hand collar bears individual system initials ('C & D L R' or possibly 'C & D L R Co') whilst his right-hand collar bears a grade badge ('Motorman). The cap also bears a one-piece system initials badge - 'C&DLRCo' - with the initials contained within a lozenze-shaped surround.


Chatham and Dover Light Railway tram driver
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing the individual in the greatcoat, who is more than likely also a motorman. The greatcoat collars appear to bear embroidered system initials - 'C & D L R' or 'C & D L R Co' - whilst his cap bears a small shield-shaped badge which is not seen in other photos, and is in all probability, a regimental or volunteer training corps badge.


Chatham and District Light Railway tram collar badges
Standard ‘off the shelf’ script-lettering grade badges of the type probably used by the C&DLR, though uniquely amongst UK tramway companies, as collar rather than cap badges - brass.


Chatham and District Light Railway Tram No 39 at Luton Depot
Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 29 at the depot at Luton - photo undated, but possibly taken around or shortly after the Great War. Neither man appears to be wearing a grade badge on his left-hand collar, suggesting that they had been dispensed with by this time. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Chatham and District Light Railway Tram No 8
Conductor (turning the trolley pole on the top deck) and motorman aboard Tramcar No 8 outside the Cemetery terminus - photo undated, but probably taken in the mid 1920s. Photo believed to be by H A Whitcombe, courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.



Chatham and District Light Railway licence
Possible early motorman's licence (stamped) - brass. So far, no photographic evidence has come to hand to suggest that tramwaymen ever wore municipal licences, so the above licence may only ever have been issued to bus drivers.


Female staff
Chatham and District Light Railway Great War tram conductress
A blow-up of the shot of Tramcar No 3 above showing the conductress. Although she is wearing a company cap and cap badge, the rest of her uniform would appear to be makeshift.


Chatham and District Light Railway Great War tram conductress
Another blow-up from the same photograph as the previous image, showing the other lady employee, who is probably also a conductress. Once again, whilst the cap would appear to be a standard male issue with cap badge, the coat is almost certainly informal.


Chatham and District Railway Great War tram conductress
A studio portrait of a C&DLT Great War conductress. She is wearing a standard, male-issue cap and what would appear to be a standard male-issue greatcoat. Photo courtesy of the Richard Rosa collection.


Chatham and District Light railway Great War tram conductress
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the uniform. The purpose of the shield-shaped badge is unclear, though several of the ladies in the next photograph are also wearing it..


Chatham and District Light Railway Great War conductresses
A group of C&DLR female employees lined up at the depot - photo undated, but presumably taken during the Great War. Apart from some of the caps, the rest of the uniforms appear to a greater or lesser extent to be makeshift: male greatcoats, male caps, informal coats, informal hats and a variety of badges.The significance of the two vaguely religious-looking ladies at the centre of the front row is unknown, though it is possible that they were volunteer conductresses, as the tramway is known to have employed two curates as part-time drivers in 1917!


Chatham and District Light Railway Great War tram conductresses
A blow-up of the above photograph showing five of the ladies in more detail. The lady on the back right is clearly the same lady depicted in the studio portrait above, though she would now seem to have a female cap rather than the standard male issue. Three of the other ladies alaso appear to have company-issued soft-topped caps, though only three have the standard cap badges.


Chatham and District Light Railway Great War tram conductress
Another blow-up showing the lady standing at the centre back. Although she has a female-issue soft-topped cap, it clearly has a script-lettering grade badge - 'Conductor' - rather than the normal system initials lozenge badge. She is also wearing, as are several others of those present, an unidentified shield-shaped badge.


Chatham and District Light Railway Great War tram conductress
Another studio portrait of a C&DLR Great War tram conductress, this time in a gabardine-style raincoat. With thanks to Mrs K Trice.