Cavehill and Whitewell Tramway

The tramway was built and operated by the Cavewell and Whitewell Tramway Company, and rather bucked the usual evolutionary trend, starting off with steam traction on the 1st July 1882, then gradually supplementing these services with horse traction (in 1892) before replacing them entirely (in 1895). An agreement was reached with the British Electric Traction Company Limited in 1902 for them to take a controlling interest; the BETCo's professed aim was to convert the system to electric traction, which it finally achieved on the 12th February 1906 (the first day of electric services), the last horse-drawn service having run the previous year. The system was taken over by Belfast Corporation Tramways on the 1st June 1911.

Photos of the system are very rare, but what has survived indicates that steam tram drivers wore very similar attire to their railway counterparts, namely: heavy cotton trousers and jackets (sometimes light in colour), along with soft-topped caps; no cap badge appears to have been worn. Conductors wore smart but informal attire: shirts, ties and jackets, along with soft-topped or kepi-style caps, which were presumably issued by the company; neither caps nor jackets appear to have borne insignia of any kind.

Staff working the horse-drawn services also wore informal attire, the sole official item of clothing being a kepi-style cap, which in the best-surviving photograph (see below) clearly bears a hat-band of a lighter colour; it is unclear whether the hat-band bore a badge, though if it did, it would have been embroidered rather than metallic, as nothing reflective is evident in the photo.

Perhaps surprisingly, photos of staff working the company's electric services — between 1906 and the take-over by Belfast Corporation in 1911 — are extremely rare, so it is not currently possible to state what style of uniform was worn. However, given that the Cavehill and Whitewell was a subsidiary of the much larger British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BETCo), a concern which over the course of its history either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramways across the British Isles, it is a foregone conclusion that staff would have worn 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. In all likelihood, jacket collars bore an employee number on one side (in individual brass numerals) and system initials on the other (in individual brass letters); buttons would have been of the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' pattern (see link). Caps would almost certainly have carried the standard BETCo 'Magnet and Wheel' cap badge (see below), along with an employee number.

Photographs of inspectors are yet to come to light, so it is currently impossible to state what uniforms were worn.

Further reading
For more information on this short line, see 'The Cavehill and Whitewell Tramway' by A T Newham, in the Tramway Review, Nos 61 (p118-123), 62 (p131-146) and 63 (174-177); Light Railway Transport League (1970).


Steam tram drivers and conductors
Cavehill and Whitewell Steam Tram No 1 1882
Cavehill and Whitewell Steam Tram No 1 (Kitson T49) and two trailers — photo undated, but probably taken during trial running in May or June 1882. Photo courtesy of David Gladwin, with thanks to Trevor Preece.

Cavehill and Whitewell steam tram driver and conductor
A blow up of the above photo showing the conductor (in informal jacket with a soft-top or kepi-style cap) and the driver (in typical railway footplate attire).

Cavehill and Whitewell Steam tram No T49 or 54
Cavehill and Whitewell Steam Tram No 1 or 2, with what is probably one of the later trailers — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1880s. Photo courtesy of David Gladwin, with thanks to Trevor Preece.

Horse tram drivers and conductors
Cavehill and Whitewell Tramways horse tram No 5 at Glengormley
Cavehill and Whitewell Horsecar No 5 stands with crew members outside the The Glen Hotel at Glengormley — photo undated, but given the rails in the foreground, possibly taken around the time of electrification (1905), i.e., under ownership of the British Electric Traction Company. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Cavehill and Whitewell Tramways horse tram driver and conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and conductor, both of whom are wearing informal jackets, but with kepi-style caps bearing a hat band of a lighter colour, the latter presumably issued by the company.

Motormen and conductors
Cavehill and Whitewell Tramway cap badge
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge, as worn by employees of the Cavehill and Whitewell Tramway during the electric era, and up until the take-over by Belfast Corporation in 1911 — brass. Author's Collection.