Dartford Council Light Railways

Summary
Dartford Council Light Railways existed as an independently operated concern for barely 11 years before its entire tramcar stock was destroyed by fire (in 1917), after which time it was operated by Bexley UDC Tramways. High quality photographs of Dartford tramcar crews have so far proved impossible to find, so a description of the uniforms and insignia they wore, is per force superficial. Early photos suggest that both motormen and conductors wore double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom, and of unknown pattern), epaulettes and upright collars; the latter probably bore badges of some kind, very likely system initials and employee numbers. Caps were in a military style with a glossy peak and tensioned crown (top), and bore standard, 'off the shelf', script-lettering grade badges - probably 'Motorman' or 'Conductor' - though confirmation must await the discovery of new photographic evidence. It is currently unclear whether the buttons and badges were brass or nickel.

At some point prior to the Great War, a change appears to have been made to the style of conductors' uniforms, a switch being made to single-breasted jackets with five buttons, two breast pockets (with button closures), epaulettes and upright collars; the caps however, remained unchanged

Motormen and conductors always appeared in service wearing Metropolitan Public Service Vehicle badges (see link).

Photographs of inspectors are yet to come to light, so it is currently impossible to state with certainty what uniforms they wore; however, a single photograph does exist of a chief inspector, which strongly suggests that inspectors would have worn typical 'tramway inspector' garb. This would have taken the form of single-breasted jackets edged in material of a finer quality than the main jacket, with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair), and upright collars, the latter carrying the designation ‘Inspector’ in embroidered script lettering. Caps were probably military in style with a tensioned crown, and would have borne the grade - 'Inspector' - in embroidered script lettering.

Chief inspectors were issued with single-breasted jackets with upright collars bearing the grade - 'Chief Inspector' - in embroidered script lettering; further details of the uniform are however unknown, as they are obscured in the one surviving photograph by the subject's overcoat. The cap was military in style and bore the grade in embroidered script lettering. Chief inspectors (and probably inspectors too) were also issued with double-breasted overcoats with lapels; the latter carried the bearer's grade in embroidered script lettering.

In common with the majority of UK tramway systems, Dartford employed female staff during the Great War to replace men lost to the armed surfaces. Only a single photograph of one of these ladies is known, in which the individual appears to be wearing informal attire, possibly because uniforms had yet to arrive. Details of the actual uniforms, assuming that they were indeed issued, must await the discovery of new photographic evidence.

Images

Motormen and conductors
Dartford Council Tramways Tramcar No 5 and crew
Tramcar No 5 and crew - photo undated, but judging by the excellent condition of the tram, probably mid-to-late Edwardian. Both crew members are wearing double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunics, from which are hung Metropolitan Police PSV badges (see link). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways cap badges
Standard ‘off the shelf’ script-lettering cap badges of the type used by Dartford Council Light Railways - brass.


Dartford Council Tramways depot photo 1912
Dartford depot with Tramcars Nos 4, 1 and 12 - purportedly taken on the 4th January 1912. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.


Dartford Council Tramways conductors
Blow-up of the above photograph showing two of the staff, both probably conductors, though the individual on the right may possibly be an inspector.


Senior staff
Dartford Council Light Railways Chief Inspector Samuel Dack
Chief Inspector Samuel Dack, photo undated, but probably taken in 1916 as the postcard was intended for his brother who was killed in August of that year, so was never sent. Although we cannot be absolutely certain that he was an employee of the DCLR (Bexley is very near by), in view of the fact that he was living in Conley Road, Dartford, in 1911, and remained there all his life, it seems a reasonable assumption to make. Samuel eventually retired from the Operating Manager's Dept of Central Road Services on 26th July 1949 after 43 years service, strongly suggesting that he started with the DCLR in 1906. Photo with kind permission of Linda Reed, Samuel's Great Grand-daughter.


Dartford Council Light Railways Chief Inspector Samuel Dack
A blow-up of the above photo showing the collar and cap insignia.


Female staff
Dartford Council Light Railways Great War tram conductress
A photo which is unfortunately marred by reflections, but one which depicts a Dartford Great War conductress. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.


Dartford Council Tramways Great War conductress and motorman
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman and conductress, the former in baggy cap and the latter probably in informal attire, though it is difficult to say. The motorman is in a single-breasted jacket rather than the usual double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunic, suggesting that new uniforms may have been in short supply at this time.