Cruden Bay Hotel Tramway

Summary
Although a railway enterprise - owned by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company - the Cruden Bay Hotel operated right at the top end of the market, with clientele to match. In order to transport hotel guests from the nearby station, some two-thirds of a mile away, the company constructed what was probably not only the UK's shortest electric tramway, but also the plushest.

Despite being a holiday destination for the wealthy, photographs are unfortunately very sparse indeed. Those that have survived strongly suggest that for the vast majority of the tramway's existence, motormen wore informal attire, robust jackets, trousers and flat caps. In all likelihood they were maintenance staff or groundsmen (the hotel had a renowned golf course), as there were only ever four trains day on the branch line from 1906, so it was hardly a full time job. Indeed, a film made around the time of the Great War shows a driver wearing what appears to be a caddy's attire, and in the 1930s, by which time the tramway only carried laundry, one of the men who drove the tram (Bill Slessor) was actually a waiter at the hotel. Hotel wage records do however show that a driver was employed in the first year (1899), though probably not thereafter; he could well have been issued with a uniform, though we shall probably never know whether this was indeed the case, nor what form it took.

Hotel guests apparently travelled 'gratis', though other passengers - such as golfers - were charged; it is unclear whether a conductor was employed or whether fares would merely have been paid to the motorman. Although the first photograph below clearly shows a uniformed figure on the rear platform of a tram, the nature of his attire suggests that he is in fact a hotel employee, such as a porter, there to help with luggage etc. This photograph also shows a very smart, and proprietorial-looking individual, very probably the Head Porter or some other hotel official, who would have overseen events, especially when a particularly important and potentially high-tipping guest was expected.

My thanks go to Mike Mitchell for much of the background information given above.

Images

Motormen and conductors/guards
Cruden Bay Hotel tram and staff
An undated photo of one of the Cruden Bay Hotel tramcars outside the hotel, though probably taken around the turn of the century given the pristine condition of the vehicle.


Cruden Bay Hotel Head Porter and Tram driver
A blow up of the above photo showing the figures at the leading end of the tram. The man in the foreground is almost certainly the Head Porter or some other reasonably senior member of the hotel's uniformed staff - his cap has a hat band on which is embroidered 'CRUDEN BAY HOTEL'. The motorman is clearly wearing informal attire.


Cruden Bay Hotel tram porter
A blow-up of the figure at the rear of the tram, who appears to be some other uniformed member of the hotel staff, probably a porter to help with the passengers luggage.


Cruden Bay Hotel tram and staff
An evocative group photo posed before one of the Cruden Bay Hotel trams - photo undated, but again probably turn of the century. The shot is thought to depict the boiler room and maintenance staff.


Cruden Bay Hotel tram staff
A blow-up of the above photo, showing three of the men, all of whom are wearing workmanlike and somewhat grubby attire, suggesting that they were not customer facing! However, a reminiscence published in the GNSR Association magazine by the hotel night porter, Willie Philip, mentions that there were three boiler fireman/drivers, so perhaps they did indeed drive the trams (thanks to Mike Mitchell for this information).