Darlington's horse tramway passed through four separate owners over the course of its 23-year existence. Although the first owner - the Stockton and Darlington Steam Tramways Company (1880 to 1893) - operated steam trams in Stockton, it never did so in Darlington (which was physically unconnected to the Stockton lines), relying solely upon horse traction. Following the concern's financial demise in 1893, the tramways were taken over by the Stockton and District Tramways, before passing into the hands of the grandly titled Imperial Tramways Company Limited, a concern which owned several tramways throughout the British Isles, and whose express intention was to electrify the system. Their plans however came to nought, and the corporation took-over, leasing the operation to a Mr C J O'Dowd for the final 19 months of its life (January 1902 to August 1903).
The photographic record is reasonably rich for such a small town, and clearly shows that conductors and drivers wore heavy duty but informal attire - trousers, jackets, shirts and ties, along with heavy overcoats in colder weather. Headgear tended to follow the fashion of the day, probably the ubiquitous bowler hat in the early days, and later on the flat cap. No badges of any description appear to have been worn on either the jackets or the hats. The odd photo shows conductors wearing a circular object on their cashbag straps, which looks suspiciously like a licence, but which may be a ticket punch.
Photographs of inspectors have unfortunately not survived, so it is currently impossible to say if they wore company uniforms or insignia, or indeed, whether the company even employed them at all.
Horse Tram drivers and conductors
Tramcar No 12 and crew on a Kings Head to Cockerton service - photo undated, but definitely taken during Stockton and Darlington Steam Tramways Company days, probably in the mid-to-late 1880s. With thanks to David Voice.
A very youthful conductor and his barely older driver, with Horse Tram No 53 in North Road - photo undated, but definitely taken during 'Imperial Tramways Company' ownership, and more than likely around the turn of the century. Why the tram has such a high number for a small system is something of a mystery - there was also a No 54 - though it may be that this was actually a fleet number within the ITCL as a whole rather than Darlington itself. With thanks to David Voice.
Unidentified horse tram in Bondgate - photo undated, but almost certainly taken between January 1902 and August 1903, when the system was municipally owned. Several photographs exist showing the same gentleman in the identical light-coloured suit (see below); he is in all likelihood, Mr C J O'Dowd, who operated the horse tramways on behalf of Darlington Corporation for the last 19 months of its existence. Photo by W Richardson.
A blow-up of the above photograph showing the youthful conductor. He is clearly wearing informal attire, and what appears to be a round licence, though this could just be a ticket punch, it is difficult to say.
Mr C J O'Dowd again (probably) with a procession of three trams at the High Row terminus; photo undated, but possibly taken on the occasion of Edward VII's coronation (9th August 1902). Note the three extremely youthful conductors, one of whom may be wearing a licence. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Lockwood Collection.
Driver, conductor and proprietor (presumably Mr C J O'Dowd) at Woodland Rd Depot on the 18th August 1903, the last day of operation. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Lockwood Collection.