Dundee City Tramways

Dundee Corporation took over the Dundee and District Tramway Company in 1899, and continued to run horse and steam tram services for almost two years, with the former ceasing in June 1901 and the latter on the 14th May 1902. Photographs taken during the two years the corporation worked these services suggest that conductors and drivers continued to wear the same unmarked style of uniforms that they had worn in company days (see link).

Staff working the electric services — which began in July 1900 — were issued with single-breasted jackets with five buttons, two breast pockets (with button closures) and lapels; photographs suggest that no badges of any kind were worn, which is something of a mystery given that this was an era when civic pride was very much to the fore. Caps were more 'railway' than 'tramway' in style, with a soft top rather than the usual tensioned variety, and probably carried script-lettering grade badges — Driver or Conductor — presumably in nickel to match the buttons. Many photographs exist however, in which crewmen are not wearing any cap badge at all, and even a series of formal staff photographs from 1905/6 (see below) show roughly half of those present falling into this category. Tramcar staff were also issued with heavy-duty, double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons and high, fold-over collars, all unmarked.

Around the time of the Great War, the style of the jackets was changed, and though still single-breasted, they now bore two breast pockets (with button closures) and upright collars; they continued to be devoid of insignia. Caps were also changed around the same time, to a military style with a tensioned crown (top); these often bore a small round cap badge, which was worn right through the 1920s, though once again far from ubiquitously, suggesting that they may have been the individual's choice, possibly a local regimental badge; this was a common practice on many tramway systems during the Great War and shortly afterwards.

Photographs suggest that a switch was made during the early 1930s to double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of buttons (narrowing from top to bottom), upright collars and epaulettes. This appears to have brought on a radical change in the corporation's badge policy, as the upright collars now bore an employee number on the bearer's left-hand side (in nickel numerals) and 'D C T' on the right-hand side (in individual nickel letters), as well as a small badge of unknown design on the lapels, though this could equally well have been an employee number (photographs are unclear).

By the 1950s, the style of the jacket — though very modern — was switched back to one with lapels, single-breasted with four buttons, two button-closure breast pockets and epaulettes; no badges appear to have been worn. Caps were also changed to an American police-cum-pilot style with a soft, baggy top; these bore a municipal coat of arms badge, almost certainly in chrome. The trousers were piped, though exactly what colour is unclear.

In the early years of the electric era, inspectors wore single-breasted jackets with five buttons and lapels, the latter bearing their grade — Inspector— in embroidered script lettering. Caps were soft-topped with a glossy peak and light-coloured hat band, which in common with the tramcar staff, bore no badge. Inspectors' uniforms would certainly have changed over the course of the system's life time, however, photographic evidence is lacking, so it is currently unclear what style of uniform was worn in later years.

In common with many UK tramway systems, female staff were employed during the Great War to replace male staff lost to the armed services, however, only ever as conductresses in Dundee, and then only very late in proceedings (1917), due mainly to the resistance of Peter Fisher, the General Manager. Mr Fisher did however eventually give in, as the Council decided early in February 1917 to employ women, giving them the same rates of pay as the men, but also expecting them to work the same (lengthy) shifts. A sub-committee of the Tramways Committee considered the subject of suitable uniforms, and inspected examples of uniforms worn by the women in Glasgow and Aberdeen, remarking: "that worn by the Glasgow women attracted great admiration. It comprised a dark green and blue tartan skirt, a green coat piped with red, and fashioned with belt, and patch pockets, and a soft green motor cap". Eventually, it was decided that the uniform should be of navy serge, the skirt to be comparatively short, lined, and edged with brush braid. The coat was to be similar in design to that worn in Glasgow, with four pockets, belt around the waist and little shoulder straps, and finished with brass buttons. The cuffs and piping were to be of wine red. A warm woollen jersey was to be provided for wearing under this coat for warmth, and a blue motor cap, similar to that worn by the women conductors on the Monifieth route (see link). Over 300 applications were received, and some 56 women were eventually employed, the first starting in March 1917.

Photographic evidence (see below) suggests that this uniform was indeed adopted. Whilst the documentary evidence above indicates that a cap was worn, surviving photographs show a dark-coloured straw bonnet with hat band, though these may in fact have been 'summer' issue only. The hat band was usually worn without a badge of any kind, as were the uniform jackets, though by the end of the great war, photos indicate that a small round cap badge was often worn, presumably the same pattern that the men were wearing at this time, possibly a local regimental badge.

Female staff were also employed during the Second World War. Details of the uniforms worn are sketchy, though what is clear is that they wore the same baggy cap as their male colleagues, along with the standard municipal cap badge.

Further reading
My thanks go to Alan Brotchie for providing the excellent quality photographs and the background information. For a history of Dundee's tramways, see: 'Tramways of the Tay Valley' by A W Brotchie'; Dundee Museum and Art Gallery (1965).


Horse tram drivers and conductors
Dundee City Tramways horse tram No 24
Horsecar No 24 stands at the terminus at West Park Road — photo undated, but very probably taken in corporation days.

Dundee City Tramways horse tram No 24
A blow-up of the above photo, showing the conductor and driver, both of whom appear to be wearing very similar uniforms to their company predecessors, without badges of any kind.

Steam tram drivers and conductors
Dundee City Tramways steam tram airlie and crew
Driver and conductor pose with Steam Tram No 4 — 'Airlie' — in Meadowside; photo undated, but definitely taken in the corporation era. The conductor may possibly be wearing a cap badge, though this is far from certain.

Motormen and conductors
Dundee City Tramways Tram No 38
The crew of Number 38 pose for the cameraman with a service on the Maryfield route — photo undated, but probably taken in 1901. Both men appear to be wearing script-lettering grade badges. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Dundee City Tramways Tram No 25 and motorman
A motorman at the controls of Tramcar No 25 in Nethergate, at the top of Union St — photo undated, but probably taken in 1905/6.

Dundee City Tramways staff at Maryfield Depot 1905 or 1906
One of a series of staff photos taken at Maryfield Depot, this one outside the Parcels Office, probably in 1905 or 1906.

Dundee City Tramways staff at Maryfield Depot 1905 or 1906
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the uniforms, which apart from the standard, 'off the shelf' script-lettering cap badges, Driver and Conductor, are totally devoid of insignia. Even these badges are not being worn by half of those present.

Dundee City tramways script-lettering cap badges
Script-lettering cap badges of the pattern worn by Dundee City Tramways staff from the start of electric services (in 1900) through to the time of the Great War — nickel. Author's Collection.

Dundee City Tramways staff at Maryfield Depot 1905 or 1906
A group of six motormen and conductors pose for the camera in one of the car shed entrance doorways at Maryfield Depot, again probably in 1905 or 1906. Image cropped from a larger photograph.

undee City Tramways No 84 Downfield and crew
A motorman and conductor with Tramcar No 84 at Downfield on either 4th or 5th May 1920 (from the cinema ads). The motorman sports goggles (probably not standard issue), whilst the conductor has a small round cap badge of unknown pattern.

Dundee City Tramways Tram No 25 and crew
A conductor and motorman with Tramcar No 25 at Ninewells — photo undated, but probably taken in the mid 1920s. Whilst the conductor is without a cap badge, the motorman is wearing the same, small round cap badge seen in other photos from this era.

Dundee City Tramways crew 1920s
The crew of an unidentified tram on the Maryfield route — photo undated, but probably taken in the mid 1920s. Both men are wearing single-breasted tunics with the small round cap badge worn in this era.

Dundee Tramcar No 44 and crew at Blackness
A conductor and motorman pose in front of Tramcar No 44 at Blackness in the 1930s. Once again, both men are wearing the small round cap badge. The conductor is wearing a 'lancer-style' tunic with upright collars, bearing individual 'D C T' system initials on the right-hand side.

Willie Clark Dundee City Tramways conductor 1928
A photograph taken from an article in the Dundee Evening Telegraph marking the death (in a motorcycle accident in 1928) of Conductor Willie Clark, who was evidently a well-known figure. Although of poor quality, it clearly shows the size and shape of the cap badge that was worn at this time. Thanks to Alan Brotchie for alerting me to this.

Dundee City Tramways Tramcar No 31 and crew
A conductor and motorman on the footstep of Tramcar No 31 in Balgay Rd on 4th September 1954. Photo by M J O'Connor, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Dundee City Tramways crew
The motorman and conductor of Tramcar No 8 pose for the camera of M J O'Connor who, thankfully for posterity, had a particular passion for interior shots like this — photo taken on 6th September 1954 in Downfield. The shot shows the baggy nature of the cap in these years, as well as the Dundee municipal arms cap badge. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Dundee City Tramways cap badge
Dundee City Tramways cap badge — chrome. This was probably issued from the 1930s onwards, but was certainly in use by the 1950s. Author's Collection.

Dundee City Tramways conductor 1955
A DCT conductor poses for the camera in the interior of Tramcar No 16 on 18th August 1955. He is wearing a Scottish Sub-Area PSV badge on his left breast, indicating that he also worked on the buses. Photo by M J O'Connor, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

LL 30263 PSV Conductor badge
PSV 'Conductor' badge as used by Dundee; issued by the Scottish Sub-area based in Aberdeen. Author's Collection.

Dundee City Tramways cash bag ticket machione buckle
Dundee City Tramways ticket machine or cash bag buckle — nickel; the number may have been that of the cash bag.

Senior staff
Dundee inspectors c1902
A wonderfully evocative studio portrait of five Dundee City Tramways inspectors circa 1902.

Dundee City Tramways inspecotr James Fisher 1902
A blow-up of the above photo showing James Fisher, brother of the General Manager Peter Fisher. The embroidered collar badges and plain buttons are clear to see, as is the complete absence of a cap badge.

Dundee City Tramways Inspectors c190
A couple of DCT inspectors, from a larger staff photo taken circa 1906.

Female staff
Dundee City Tramways Great War conductress
A Dundee City Tramways conductress — photo undated, but certainly taken during the Great War. Although it is unclear whether the tall straw bonnet with cockade is official headgear, the style is not as unusual as it may at first seem, several other tramways adopting similar headgear.

Dundee City Tramways conductress and motorman Ninewell 1918
A conductress and motorman at Ninewells with an unidentified tram in 1918.

Dundee City Tramways motorman and conductress 1919
Dundee City Tramways motorman and conductress pose for the camera at the Monifieth terminus. The photo can be precisely dated by the poster on the dash, which is for the 'Blindness of Divorce' at the La Scala, which on-line records reveal was showing on the 4th/5th/6th August 1919 (thanks to Alan Brotchie for this information). Both subjects are wearing small unidentified small round badges seen in other photos from the Great War; whether these were tramway specific of regimental badges, is unclear. Author's Collection.

Dundee City Tramways motorman and conductress 1919 at Blackness
Another motorman and conductress photo, this time of Tramcar No 11 at the Blackness terminus — although the photo is undated, the cinema advertisement is for the 18th-20th August 1919, so it would almost certainly have been taken during the week leading up to these dates. Both the motorman and the conductress are wearing cap badges — one round and the other with a cross and crown — which are almost certainly regimental in origin.