City of Birmingham Tramways Company

Summary
The City of Birmingham Tramways Company, which purchased the erstwhile Birmingham Central Tramways Company in 1896, is probably unique amongst English tramway systems in operating horse, steam, cable and overhead electric services simultaneously, at least for a short period.

Although photographs of staff working the horse tram services are relatively rare, it is clear that drivers wore informal but smart attire, comprising trousers, jackets and waistcoats, along with white shirts, ties, and bowler hats. Conductors appear to have worn informal jackets, along with kepi-style caps with steeply inclined glossy peaks (presumably company issued); these caps almost certainly bore a one-piece 'CBT' initials cap badge. Some time in the early-Edwardian era, probably following the BETCo takeover of 1902, a switch was made to single-breasted jackets with five buttons, two breast pockets (with button closures) and upright collars; the latter probably bore individual 'C B T' initials on the right-hand side, and either the same or an employee number on the left-hand side. All surviving photos dating from late in the tramway's life show conductors wearing flat caps, suggesting that uniform policy on the declining horse tram system may have been somewhat lacks.

In common with the majority of UK steam-operated tramways, steam tram drivers wore very similar attire to their railway counterparts, namely, heavy cotton trousers and jackets, often light in colour, along with greaseproof caps and flat caps. No badges or insignia were worn on either the jackets or the caps. Conductors on the other hand appear to have worn a variety of smart jackets, suggesting that they were self-purchased rather than company issued; like their horse tram counterparts, the company did however see fit to issue tall kepi-style caps with steeply inclined glossy peaks and prominent, one-piece 'CBT' block initials cap badges. In later years, again possibly following the BETCo take-over of 1902, it would appear that conductors were issued with single-breasted jackets with upright collars; it is unclear if the latter carried badges, though in all probability they did. Caps were now in the military style with a tensioned crown (top) and bore a badge of some description, very probably a script-lettering grade badge - 'Conductor'.

Drivers and conductors working the cable-hauled services appear to have initially worn very similar attire to the steam and horse service conductors, i.e. informal but smart jackets, along with a company-issued kepi-style cap with its one-piece 'CBT' cap badge. It is likely however, though currently unproven, that staff working these services were later issued (circa 1902) with the same style of uniforms as those issued to conductors working the steam services, namely, single-breasted jackets with upright collars and military-style caps. Following the creation of the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee (see below), tramwaymen working the cable services were issued with the same style of uniform as those working the electric services (see below).

Motormen and conductors working the first electric cars (introduced in 1901) were issued single-breasted jackets with five buttons, two breast pockets (with button closures) and upright collars; the latter bore badges of some description, though these cannot be made out on surviving photographs. Caps were in a military style with a tensioned crown,probably carrying a standard, off-the-shelf, script-lettering grade badge. Several photos clearly show staff wearing flat caps, suggesting that it took some time to issue proper uniform caps.

From the 1st July 1904, shares in all the BETCo's Black Country and Birmingham companies were transferred to the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Co Ltd, all systems subsequently being operated by a newly formed body called the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee (B&MTJC). At some point thereafter, it is unclear exactly when, a standard uniform policy was imposed across all the member companies, including the CofBTCo. Motormen and conductors were issued with double-breasted jackets with two rows of four buttons (almost certainly the standard BETCo 'Magnet and Wheel' pattern - see link) and high, fold-over collars; the latter carried individual metal initials - 'B & M T' - on the right-hand side and an employee number on the left-hand side, almost certainly in brass. Surviving examples suggest that the first collar badges may have had diagonal striations giving a rope effect (see below). Caps were initially in the kepi style, and carried a prominent oval brass cap badge that consisted of intertwined 'BMT' initials beneath the 'Magnet and Wheel' device, all within a wreath (see below). This policy was certainly implemented on the cable and electric services, but seems not to have been extended to staff working horse and steam services.

Conductors on all services wore round municipal licences, very probably of the pattern depicted below. Photographs indicate that drivers operating the horse, cable and electric trams also wore licences.

Photographs of inspectors taken prior to the BETCo take-over of 1902 are unfortunately scarce, however, what has survived suggests that they wore single-breasted jackets with lapels, with a soft-topped cap. Details of insignia remain unknown. During the period following the transfer of the CofBTCo to the B&MTJC (1904 to 1907), inspectors wore typical senior staff tramway jackets, single-breasted with hidden buttons (or a hook and eye affair), edged in a finer material than the main jacket, and with upright collars; the latter carried the grade - 'Inspector' - in embroidered script lettering. Caps were in the kepi style and carried the grade - 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering, above which was the same BMT cap badge worn by tramcar staff.

Images

Horse tram drivers and conductors
City of Birmingham Tramways horse tram at the first of Albert Street
A Nechells horse tram arriving at the foot of Albert St - photo undated, but probably taken in the early Edwardian era. Author's Collection.


City of Birmingham Tramways horse tram conductor and driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and conductor; the former is clearly wearing a licence, whilst the latter has a kepi-style cap which bears a cap badge of some description, almost certainly 'CBT' initials (see below).


City of Birmingham Tramways Horse Tram No 7 and crew
Horsecar No 7 on the Nechells Rd route in 1906. By this time conductors were wearing single-breasted uniforms, though seemingly without formal caps having been issued. Photo purportedly by A Twigg, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


City of Birmingham Tramways horse tram, Nechells route
Conductor and driver of the last Birmingham horse tram (No 2), on the Nechells Rd route - photo taken on 30th September 1906 (not the last day of working). Both men are wearing round licences, possibly of the type depicted below. Photo by A Twigg, courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.


Birmingham tram drivers licence
Birmingham municipal driver's licence (No 122), almost certainly the same pattern issued to drivers working the City of Birmingham Tramways horse, cable and electric services. Author's collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways conductor licence
Birmingham municipal conductor's licence - probably the type issued during the horse, steam and early electric eras.


Steam tram drivers and conductors
City of Birmingham Trmaways Steam Tram No 79 and crew
Conductor and driver with Kitson Steam Tram No 79 and Falcon Steam Trailer Car No 23 (possibly) in the depot yard at Kings Heath - photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1890s or early 1900s given that No 79 was new in 1893 and it is looking distinctly worse for wear here. The only uniform item on show appears to be the conductor's kepi-style cap. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


City of Birmingham Tramways Company Steam Tram No 40
A depot shot of a driver, stoker and fitter (probably) with Falcon Steam Tram No 40 - photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1890s or early 1900s. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


City of Birmingham Tramways Steam Tram No 41
The driver of Falcon Steam Engine No 41 poses for the camera with a service for Moseley - photo undated, but given that No 41 was built in 1885 (for the Birmingham Central Tramways Company) and is looking somewhat battered in this shot, it was probably taken in the late 1890s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


City of Birmingham Tramways conductor
Taken from the same photo as the previous shot, the conductor poses in front of Steam Trailer No 56, which still bears the device of its former owners, the Birmingham Central Tramways Company, suggesting that the photo was taken not long after 1896. Although the overcoat may not have been a company issue, the kepi-style cap and cap badge clearly are; the latter probably took the form of 'CBT' block initials.


City of Birmingham Tramways Company Steam Tram No 86 and crew
Conductor and driver on a Saltley service with Kitson Tram No 86 (built 1898) - photo undated, but given that the conductor is wearing a military-style cap and single-breasted uniform jacket, this may well have been taken in the last days of steam operation (1906) in B&MTJC days. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


City of Birmingham Tramways Company cap badge brass
Script-lettering grade badge - 'Conductor' - of the type probably issued to staff working the CofBTCo's steam, cable and electric services, from circa 1902 to 1904. Brass. Author's collection.


City of Birmingham Tramways Company Steam Tram No 89 and crew
Two conductors and an engine driver with Kitson Steam Tram No 89 on the Saltley route, once again, probably taken in the last years of steam operation under B&MTJC jurisdiction. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Cable tram drivers and conductors
City of Birmingham Tramways cable tram No 150 and crew
Conductor and two (?) drivers pose for the camera with Cable Tram No 150 - photo undated, but definitely taken between 1900, when No 150 was built, and 1905 when it was rebuilt as an electric tramcar. Note that all individuals in the photo are wearing municipal licences. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


City of Birmingham Tramways cable tram conductor
Blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor; the cap badge appears to comprise block letter 'CBT' initials.


City of Birmingham Tramways Cable Tram No 118 and crew
Cable Tram No 118 with conductor and driver - photo undated, but certainly taken after 1904 as both men are wearing the large B&MJTC cap badge (see below). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


City of Birmingham cable tram No 96 in Handsworth
Cable Tram No 96 stands with crew in Thornhill Rd, Handsworth - photo undated, but thought to have been taken around 1909. Author's Collection.


City of Birmingham Tramways cable tram driver and conductor 1909
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and conductor, both of whom are wearing licences and kepi-style caps bearing the standard B&MTJC cap badge (see below).



Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee cap badge - brass. This was introduced some time after 1904, when the City of Birmingham Tramways Company became part of the B&MTJC. Note the use of the British Electric Traction Company 'Magnet and Wheel' symbol; the BETCo controlled the B&MTJC and all its constituent tramway companies, including the CBTCo.


Motormen and conductors
City of Birmingham Tramways tram No 242
The crew of Tramcar No 242 pose for the camera with a Birmingham-bound service - photo undated, but definitely taken no earlier than 1904, when No 242 was put into service. Both men appear to be wearing flat caps with their uniforms. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


City of Birmingham Tramways tram No 202
The crew of Tramcar No 202 pose for the camera - photo undated, but definitely taken after 1904, as that was when No 202 was built. Note that the driver is wearing a flat cap, whilst the conductor appears to be wearing a military style cap. With thanks to Judith and David Smith.


City of Birmingham Tramways Company Tram No 229 and crew
Conductor and motorman on the platform of Tramcar No 229 - photo undated, but definitely taken during B&MTJC days, and probably around 1906/7. The collar badges are individual system initials: 'B&MT'. Author's collection.


Birmingham and Midlands Tramways collar badge
Probable Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee early 'rope effect' collar initials and collar number. Author's Collection.


Senior staff
City of Birmingham Tramways Inspector
A CofBTCo inspector poses for the camera in front of 1900-built Steam Trailer Car No 131 - photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1900s, certainly before the company became part of the B&MTJC. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


City of Birmingham Tramways Company inspector
An inspector in B&MTJC days (1904-1907), taken from the same photo as that of the crew of No 229 above. Author's collection.