Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway

The Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway Company began services in August 1888, subsequently extending the line in May 1895 through a lease arrangement with the rather exotic-sounding Blessington and Poulaphouca Steam Tramway Company. The tramway was always an impecunious affair, and despite being taken over by Dublin and Wicklow County Councils and Dublin Corporation on the 1st January 1927, they could do little to stave off the inevitable, the line closing some 6 years later on the last day of 1932.

The D&BST was one of those curious tramway/railway hybrids, of which they were just a handful in mainland Britain, and seemingly a whole host in Ireland. The D&BSTCo's steam trams and trailers were initially of a fairly standard tramway pattern, and whilst the trailers always remained so, later engines were essentially railway locomotives.

In common with most steam tram operations, drivers wore railway footplate-like attire comprising: cotton jacket, heavy trousers and a cloth cap (flat, cotton or perhaps grease-top); neither the caps nor the jackets carried insignia of any description, including licences. Like its close neighbour, the Dublin and Lucan Steam Tramway (see link), the D&B seems to have treated its steam tram engines as locomotives, always operating them with two men, a driver and a stoker/fireman; the latter essentially wore very similar attire to the drivers.

Good quality photographs of conductors are unfortunately rare, with just a small number of examples having survived, and all taken after the Great War. By this time, conductors were certainly wearing single-breasted jackets with lapels, along with a company-issued kepi-style cap. Although it is currently unclear whether the uniform jackets carried metal buttons, the caps were most certainly marked, bearing a prominent cap badge, with letters/numerals mounted on an open frame; an example is however yet to come to light, so the precise form and lettering remain unknown. Conductors were also issued with long, double-breasted greatcoats with lapels; these were devoid of insignia, but did bear metal buttons.

The D&BSTCo introduced petrol/petrol-electric railcars in the mid 1920s in a forlorn attempt to stave off bus competition. Drivers appear to have taken the opportunity that driving a much cleaner vehicle presented, to wear smart though still informal attire.

It is believed, though it is not absolutely certain, that the Dublin and Blessington did not use the services of travelling inspectors, instead following small railway company practice, relying on conductors and station masters. Like most if not all systems in Ireland, female staff do not appear to have been employed during the Great War.

Further reading
For a short history of this tramway, see: 'The Dublin and Blessington Tramway' by H Fayle and A T Newham (Locomotion Papers No 20); The Oakwood Press (1963). For an overview of the Irish tram scene, including the Dublin and Blessington, see 'Irish Trams' by James Kilroy; Colourpoint Books (1996).


Steam tram drivers and conductors
Dublin and Blessington STeam Tramway tram No 6 and crew
A superb photo of Dublin and Blessington Steam Tram No 6 (a Falcon product) in original condition (though without skirts), before it was completely rebuilt as a tank locomotive in 1914 — photo undated, but possibly taken in the late 1890s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Dublin and Blessington STeam Tramway tram No 6 driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the portly gentleman on the right, who is almost certainly the driver. Despite the grubby nature of the job, he is still quite smartly turned out in polished shoes, a waistcoat, light-coloured cotton jacket, and what looks to be a thick cotton cap (without a badge).

Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway tram No 6 and fireman
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing the younger man on the left, who is probably the stoker/fireman. His attire, including his close-fitting flat cap, is considerably grimier than his colleague's, probably reflecting the fact that he did all the dirty heavy work!

Dublin and Blessington Steam Tram No 6
No 6 again, but this time in post-1914 guise, complete with glazing, which must have been somewhat challenging to keep clean — photo undated, but probably taken during or shortly after the Great War. The individual with oil can in hand is probably the stoker/fireman, with the driver second from right, and a rather proprietorial-looking gentleman (first right) who is in all probability a station master. Photo courtesy of Jim Kilroy, tram archivist at the National Transport Museum (see link).

Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway conductor
A very rare photo of a D&BSTCo conductor which, judging by the look on the latter's face, and the fact that all the passengers appear not to have noticed the photographer, was probably a spur of the moment shot. The photo has perfectly captured a 'moment in time', believed to be at either Templeogue or Terenure, and judging from the fashions on display, probably taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Photo courtesy of Jim Kilroy, tram archivist at the National Transport Museum.

Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway tram conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the conductor's uniform. He is wearing a kepi-style cap that would have been considered quite old-fashioned by this time, and which clearly bears a large cap badge, which appears to consist of an open frame with letters/numbers mounted upon it. Unfortunately, an example is yet to come to light, so the lettering remains unknown.

Dublin and Blessington loco no.10 1932
A photo taken on 10th February 1932 (in the last year of operation) at what is probably the Embankment. The engine is No 10 (formerly No 2), a curious, double-ended Thomas Green product. Photo courtesy of David Gladwin, with thanks to Trevor Preece.

Dublin & Blessington tram conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the smartly dressed conductor, in single-breasted jacket with lapels and kepi-style cap. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he is the same individual depicted in the previous photograph.

Railcar drivers and conductors
Dublin and Blessington Drewry railcar (No 3) at Templelogue Depot
A photo taken towards the end of the D&B's life (late 1920s or early 1930s) at Templeogue depot, showing No 3, a petrol-powered Drewry product. Photo courtesy of Jim Kilroy, tram archivist at the National Transport Museum.

Dublin and Blessing Steam Tramway Drewry petrol railcar driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver, smartly dressed, though clearly in informal attire, topped off with a flat cap.