Gateshead and District Tramways

Summary
The Gateshead and District Tramways Company was, for the first 14 years of its existence, an independent concern, operating over 12 miles of steam-hauled services. In the 1880s, crews wore informal but robust attire, comprising jackets, trousers and bowler hats; no badges of any kind appear to have been worn. The clothing worn by drivers gradually changed, such that by the 1890s, they were wearing very similar attire to their railway counterparts, namely, heavy cotton trousers and jackets, often light in colour, along with soft-topped caps or flat caps. However, unlike most of their counterparts on other steam tramways, at some point they were issued with a prominent cap badge - possibly oval - the details of which are currently unknown. By this time, conductors were wearing a uniform of sorts: a plain single-breasted jacket with lapels (possibly self-purchased), along with a shirt, tie and soft-topped kepi-style cap; the latter carried a large cap badge (possibly the same pattern as that issued to the drivers). A few photos exist showing staff in uniforms, but without the cap badge, which indicates that the badges were dispensed with at some point, possibly following the British Electric Traction Company (BETCo) take-over of 1897.

The BETCo was a large concern, which at its zenith either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles. The photos below show that following electrification (1901), Gateshead staff were issued with 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 earliest jackets issued to men working the newly electrified services were double-breasted with two rows of five buttons (of the standard BETCo pattern and presumably brass - see link) and lapels; the latter carried individual embroidered initials (possibly ’G D T’), on both the left-hand side and the right-hand side. Caps were military in style with a glossy peak, and carried the standard brass BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge (see below) above an employee number. These jackets appear however to have been relatively quickly superseded by double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom), upright collars and epaulettes (with button fastening at the neck end). The collars carried individual metal letters, ‘G & D T Co’ (or possibly 'G D T Co'), on the bearer's right-hand side and an employee number on the left-hand side, all presumably brass to match the buttons.

At some point, probably around the early 1930s, men's tunics were changed to a more modern double-breasted style with two rows of five buttons, waist pockets and lapels. The latter appear to have carried the designation ‘G&DTCo’ on the right-hand collar (in individual metal letters) and an employee number (in individual metal numerals) on the left-hand side. The practice of wearing employee numbers beneath the ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge appears to have been discontinued by this time.

In the early years, inspectors wore single-breasted jackets edged in material of a finer quality than the main jacket, with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair), two waist pockets, two breast pockets and upright collars, the latter carrying the designation ‘Inspector’ in embroidered script lettering. Caps were similar to those worn by tramcar staff, but bore an embroidered script-lettering ‘Inspector’ badge, which in the early years at least, was worn along with the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge. In the last decades of the tramway's existence, a more modern gabardine style coat appears to have been worn, though photographic evidence is scanty.

Female staff were employed in considerable numbers in both WWI and WWII, to replace men lost to the armed services. During the Great War, conductresses were issued with long single-breasted, tailored jackets with five buttons, hip pockets, lapels, and a belt with two buttons; no insignia of any kind appears to have been worn. The ladies were also issued with long double-breasted overcoats with lapels, again seemingly devoid of badges. Headgear consisted of a baggy cap with a stiff glossy peak; the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge was affixed, but was frequently replaced by a regimental sweetheart badge, common practice at this time. During the Second World War, female conductors were issued with smart single-breasted jackets with a single row of four buttons, two breast pockets (with button fastenings), lapels and epaulettes (again with button fastenings). The jackets do not appear to have borne insignia of any kind. The caps were an unusual design reminiscent of military forage caps, and carried the standard ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge.

For a detailed history of the Gateshead and District Tramways Company, see: 'The Tramways of Gateshead' by George S Hearse; published by the author (1965).

Images

Steam tram drivers and conductors
Gateshead and District Tramways Steam Tram No 11
Steam Tram No 11 and trailer in what is probably the depot yard - photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1890s.


Gateshead and District Tramways steam tram driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver, oil can in hand; he is wearing typical footplate attire along with a tight-fitting and oily peaked cap.


Gateshead and District Tramways steam tram conductor
Another blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor. He is wearing a plain, single-breasted jacket (possibly self-purchased) and a company-issued kepi-style cap; the latter bears a large metallic cap badge, an example of which has yet to come to light. He is carrying a Kayes 'Patent' Fare Box in his right hand.


Gateshead and District Tramways Company Steam Tram No 3
Steam Tram No 3 and crew outside the depot in Sunderland Road - photo undated, but probably taken in the mid 1890s. With thanks to Malcolm Fraser.


Gateshead and District Tramways Company Steam Tram No 3
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and conductor, both of whom are wearing prominent cap badges. The conductor is again wearing a kepi-style cap and single-breasted jacket.


Gateshead and District Tramways Company Steam Tram No 11 and driver
The driver of Steam Tram No 11, oil can in hand, poses for the cameraman, wearing typical railway footplate-like attire - photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1890s. The driver does not appear to be wearing a cap badge, suggesting that this photo may post-date the BETCo take-over of 1897. With thanks to Malcolm Fraser.


Motormen and conductors
Gateshead and District Tramways Company Tram No 47 and crew 1902
Conductor W Dargard and Motorman H Malton pose aboard Tramcar No 47 in 1902. Both are wearing double-breasted jackets with lapels, the latter appear to carry embroidered 'G D T' system initials. Image kindly supplied by Beamish Museum Limited (see link), image copyright Beamish Museum Limited.


Gateshead and District Tramways cap badge
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge, as issued to staff working the G&DTCo electric services, i.e. from 1901 onwards - brass


Gateshead and District Tramways Company Tram No 4 1902 Driver Sam Wilson
Chief Inspector Adam Armstrong (middle) and Motorman Sam Wilson aboard Tramcar No 4 bound for Saltwell Park in 1902. Motorman Wilson is wearing a 'lancer-style' tunic rather than the jacket (with lapels) seen in the previous photo. Image kindly supplied by Beamish Museum Limited (see link), image copyright Beamish Museum Limited.


Gateshead and District Tramways Tram No 31 and Crew
The crew of Tramcar No 31 pose for the camera somewhere on the Low Fell route - photo undated, but certainly taken prior to the Great War. Author's collection.


Gateshead and District Tramways Tram No 31 and Crew
A blow-up of the above photo, revealing the conductor to be Employee No 132 and the motorman, Employee No 27. Their collar initials are probably 'G & D T Co' though they could be 'G D T Co'.


Gateshead and District Tramways No 51 and conductor
G&DTCo conductor with Tramcar No 51 at Teams - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1930s. Photo by Dr H Nicol, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Gateshead and District Tramways Company staff circa 1940
Tramway colleagues of a Mrs Weddle - circa 1940. Image kindly supplied by Beamish Museum Limited (see link), image copyright Beamish Museum Limited.


Gateshead and District Tramways second world war conductor
A blow-up of the above photograph showing Employee No 70. His right-hand lapel collar carries individual system initials: 'G&DTCo'.


Senior staff
Gateshead and District Tramways Inspector Mr C Day
Inspector C Day - taken from the 1902 photo of Tramcar No 47 shown above. Image kindly supplied by Beamish Museum Limited (see link), image copyright Beamish Museum Limited.


Female staff
Rose Vanner, Gateshead and District Tramways Company Great War conductress
Miss Rose Vanner holding the stanchion of Tramcar No 19 - photo undated, but certainly taken during the Great War. Miss Vanner was Gateshead’s first conductress, and later went on to become the company’s first lady inspector. In this photo she is almost certainly wearing a makeshift uniform; clearly no investment was made in this regard until the company were absolutely sure of the change! Image kindly supplied by Beamish Museum Limited (see link), image copyright Beamish Museum Limited.


Gateshead and District Tramways Company Great War conductresses
A group of Gateshead conductresses - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. Although the two ladies on the right are wearing standard BET ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badges, the four ladies in the middle are sporting a variety of non-standard cap badges; the latter are regimental badges, a common practice amongst tramway staff during Great War, either to signify service (men) or to show solidarity with loved ones away in the armed services (so-called sweetheart badges). With thanks to Malcolm Fraser.


Gateshead and District Tramways Company Great War conductresses
A blow-up of the above photo clearly showing that the lady on the right is wearing a standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, whilst the lady on the left is wearing a regimental sweetheart badge.


Gateshead and District Tramways Great War conductress
An evocative studio portrait of a Gateshead conductress - photo undated, but certainly taken during the Great War. The subject appears to be wearing a Royal Engineers cap badge, presumably as a 'sweetheart' badge (she has a ring on her wedding finger). Author's collection.


Gateshead and District Trmways Company Second World War conductresses
A group of Second World War conductresses, colleagues of a Mrs Weddle - photo taken circa 1940. Image kindly supplied by Beamish Museum Limited (see link), image copyright Beamish Museum Limited.


Gateshead and District Tramways Second World War conductress
A blow-up of the above photo showing the distinctive forage-style cap.