Erith Council Tramways

Erith Council began electric services in 1905, and ran them for just under 28 years, before the system was absorbed into the newly formed London Passenger Transport Board in 1933.

In the early years of the tramway, conductors and motormen wore single-breasted jackets with five buttons, two breast pockets, epaulettes and upright collars; by analogy with later photographs, the bearer's left-hand side probably bore an employee number (in individual metal numerals), with the right-hand side bearing system initials — 'E C T' — all more than likely in nickel. Caps were military in style with a tensioned crown (top) and bore script-lettering grade badges - Motorman or Conductor - above which a small badge of unknown pattern was worn, more than likely bearing a municipal device of some description.

By the time of the Great War, a switch had been made to double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of buttons (narrowing from top to bottom), epaulettes and upright collars; the latter carried an employee number on the left-hand side and 'E C T' initials on the right-hand side. It seems a reasonable possibility that motormen had in fact worn this style of tunic from the opening of the system in 1905, though photographic evidence which would either prove or disprove this remains elusive. A further change in the style of the jacket was made after the war, probably in the early 1920s, and though still double-breasted with epaulettes, it now had lapels and high fold-over collars that could either be worn open or buttoned up; the collars continued to carry the same badges as the tunics they replaced.

Conductors and motormen were also issued with double-breasted greatcoats with high fold-over collars and epaulettes; it is currently unclear what insignia, if any, these carried.

Motormen and conductors always appeared in service wearing enamel Public Carriage Office licences, which were issued by the Metropolitan Police (see link).

During the first two decades, inspectors wore single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or more likely a hook and eye affair) and upright collars; the latter carried Inspector in embroidered script lettering on each side. Inspectors’ caps had a braided peak and an elaborate black hat band that almost certainly bore the grade — Inspector — in embroidered script lettering. Some time in the early 1920s, inspectors' jackets were changed to a more modern double-breasted style with two rows of four buttons and lapels, the upper part of which carried Inspector, once again in embroidered script lettering.

In common with the vast majority of UK tramways, Erith employed female staff during the Great War to replace tramwaymen lost to the armed services. These ladies were employed from April 1916 onwards, and were issued with distinctive, short, tailored tunics with two rows of six buttons (narrowing from top to bottom) and high, fold-over collars. The latter certainly carried insignia, probably an employee number (on the left-hand side) and 'E C T' initials (on the right-hand side). Headgear consisted of a large baggy peaked cap which bore a script-lettering grade badge, though not apparently the small badge that the men wore above their grade badges.

For a history of Erith's tramways, see: 'Tramways of Woolwich and South-East London' by Southeastern; Light Railway Transport League (1963).


Motormen and conductors
Erith Council Tramways Tram No 9
A conductor and motorman with Tramcar No 9 — photo undated, but probably taken in the mid-Edwardian era. Author's Collection.

Erith Council Tramways Tram No 9 and crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the crew; the conductor is clearly wearing a small badge above his script-lettering grade badge. Both men are also wearing PCO licences issued by the Metropolitan Police (see link).

Erith Council Tramways cap badges
Standard 'off-the-shelf' script-lettering cap badges of the type worn by Erith Council Tramways staff — nickel. Author's Collection.

Erith Council Tramways No 11 and crew
The crew of ECT Tramcar Number 11 — photo undated, but probably mid-Edwardian judging by the condition of the tram. Although the round cap badge seen in other photos is not in evidence, this is probably because it has been obscured by the rain covers that both men are wearing on their caps. With thanks to Richard Rosa.

Erith Council Tramways staff Walnut Tree Road depot
Erith tramway staff photo — undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War, given the large number of female employees. The car in the background would appear to be No 19, an ex-Hull City Tramways vehicle purchased in 1916. With thanks to Richard Rosa.

Erith Council Tramways conductors and motormen
A blow up of the above photo showing two motormen and a conductor (back row), all of whom are wearing a small round badge above their grade badges, in contrast to the ladies below them. With thanks to Richard Rosa.

Erith Council Tramways Walnut Tree Road Depot staff photo 1923
A staff photo taken at Walnut Tree Road Depot in 1923 by 'Thomas' of Belvedere. Author's Collection.

Erith Council Tramways conductors and drivers tram
A blow-up of the above photo showing several motormen and conductors in a new style of jacket issued in the early 1920s, which although still double-breasted, could now be worn open necked to reveal the shirt and tie, or buttoned up.

Erith Council Tramways staff
A group of Erith conductors and motormen pose at Walnut Tree Road tram depot — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.

Senior staff
Erith Council Tramways inspectors Great War
A blow-up of the Great War staff photo above showing three inspectors. All have embroidered Inspector designations on their collars, though the situation with the caps is less clear.

Erith Council Tramways tram Inspectors 1923
A blow up of the 1923 depot photo above showing two inspectors in double-breasted jackets and military-style caps, with embroidered Inspector insignia on both collars and caps. Author's Collection.

Female staff
A blow-up of the Great War staff photo above showing three conductresses in their distinctive tailored tunics.