Norwich Electric Tramways Company

History
Norwich's 3ft 6ins-gauge electric tramway, which was owned and operated by the Norwich Electric Tramways Company Limited, opened on the 30th July 1900. The NETCo was a subsidiary of the New General Traction Company Limited, which also owned tramways in Coventry (opened in 1895) and in Douglas on the Isle of Man (opened in 1896); as was the case in Norwich, the NGTCo operated both these tramways via subsidiaries, namely, the Coventry Electric Tramways Company Limited and the Douglas Southern Electric Tramways Limited.

The company had acquired the powers to construct the tramway in July 1897, and also agreed a series of road improvements with Norwich City Council (sharing the cost), the latter having the right to purchase the tramway after 35 years, i.e., in 1932.

New lines were opened throughout 1900, the last one, in December — the Unthank Rd line — taking the system to its final form (bar minor modifications); although extensions were contemplated prior to the Great War, the conflict put paid to them, and they were not revived afterwards. The system was in fact surprisingly complex for such a small city, with no fewer than eleven lines radiating from the centre, as well as three additional lines connecting six of the radial lines.

At its maximum, the Norwich system extended to 15.16 miles, comprising lines running: westwards along Newmarket Rd to its junction with Unthank Rd; northwards from Orford Place then northwestwards along Earlham Rd to Cemetery Gates, with a branch southwestwards from St Giles Gate along Unthank Rd to its junction with Mile End Rd, as well as a connecting line southwards from St Giles Gate along Chapel Field Rd to the Newmarket Rd line; northwestwards along Dereham Rd to its junction with Merton Rd, with a connecting line southwards along Heigham Rd to the Earlham Rd line; northwards from Dereham Rd past City Station and along Aylsham Rd to its junction with Vicarage Rd; northeastwards along Magdalen Rd and Denmark Rd to Silver Rd, with a connecting line westwards at Magdalen Gates along Magpie Rd to the Aylsham Rd line; southeastwards along Prince of Wales Rd and Thorpe Rd to the Redan Public House, with a branch leading northeastwards along Riverside Rd and Gurney Rd to Mousehold Heath; southwards along King St to Trowse Station; southeastwards from St Stephen's Gate along Queens Rd to meet the Trowse line, with a branch running southwards along City Rd to its junction with Sunny Hill.

Many of the tramway services and routes ran across the city, i.e., they ran from the terminus of one line through the city and out to the terminus of another line.

The company was unusual in having permission to use trailers (of which it had ten), though like elsewhere, they did not last long, the Board of Trade regulations requiring a brakesman and a conductor on each trailer, thus nullifying any economies.

Like many tramways, Norwich's suffered during the Great War from a shortage of men, minimal maintenance and an inability to buy spares or new equipment (track and vehicles). The line along King St was in fact taken up in mid-1918 to be used to build a light railway into an aerodrome and armaments factory at Mousehold. This left Trowse without a service until the autumn of 1919, when a connection was laid via Bracondale.

The early 1920s were to prove a difficult time for the tramway, although still carrying large numbers of passengers, costs were greatly increased (post-war inflation) and there was the looming spectre of significant track renewal. The company nevertheless found the money to carry out track replacement and improvement, as well as to refurbish some of the tram fleet. However, as the city expanded outwards in the 1920s, the company chose to introduce new bus services to connect the growing suburbs to the centre, rather than build new tramlines. It had in fact first introduced a bus service in 1915, though it only lasted until 1918.

The first casualty of the bus expansion was the Aylsham Rd line, which was closed on the 19th April 1925, a bus service commencing the following day. New bus services were introduced throughout the late 1920s and into the 1930s, by which time the company, the council and the public all seemed to view the trams as an anachronism which needed to be replaced by comfortable, modern buses. Indeed, Norwich City Council sought to purchase the tramway in 1932, but was prevented from doing so by a concerted campaign by ratepayers (amongst others) who strongly objected to picking up the bill for tramway conversion.

On or shortly before the 1st December 1933, the NETCo was taken over by the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company, and with a bus company now in charge, the writing was most definitely on the wall. The process of line closure was accelerated, and on the 6th June 1935, the company acquired powers to abandon the tramway, having already closed several lines without formal approval. Even as late as 1934, the trams were still carrying 50% more passengers than the buses, but it proved to be their swan song, the last tram of all running on the 10th December 1935.

Uniforms
Photographs taken in the early years of operation show that conductors and motormen wore double-breasted jackets with four pairs of buttons (nickel; see link) — the top pair buttoning between the lapels and the collars — two waist pockets and lapels; the latter were devoid of insignia. Caps were in a tall kepi style with a steeply inclined glossy peak and a narrow hat band (presumably of a contrasting colour); the caps were adorned with a prominent oval cap badge consisting of an employee number on a leather in-lay, surrounded by the full company name, topped off by a lion, all in nickel.

Motormen and conductors were also issued with double-breasted greatcoats with five pairs of buttons, two waist pockets, a breast pocket, and high, fold-over collars; these garments were completely devoid of insignia. Several photos show motormen with material chevrons (two and three are known) on their left upper sleeve, reminiscent of corporal/sergeant stripes; the precise meaning of these is unclear, though they probably denoted seniority or good conduct.

Staff initially had to purchase their own uniforms.

At some point prior to the Great War, possibly as early as the mid-Edwardian era, the caps were changed to a more contemporary military style with a tensioned crown (top) and glossy peak; the badge however, remained the same. The jackets remained double-breasted with lapels throughout the life of the tramway, though a more modern cut was used in later years.

Conductors and motormen also wore light-coloured alloy licences; these bore a number, with the words 'Norwich' above, and either 'Conductor' or 'Driver' below, and were usually worn on the bearer's left front at breast level.

Inspectors were initially issued with waistcoats and single-breasted jackets with seven buttons, slit pockets and upright collars; the latter were left plain. Caps were in the same kepi-style as tramcar staff, but bore a wide piped hat band; this seems to have born a cap badge that was very similar in form to the cap badge worn by motormen and conductors, though one individual on the early staff photo below clearly has script-lettering on his cap (and no cap badge), which probably stated his grade, Inspector. The chief inspector appears to have worn an identical uniform, but without a cap badge, instead having a wide, heavily embroidered hatband. This style of uniform appears to have been fairly quickly replaced, probably as early as 1901, by fairly standard tramway inspector garb, namely: single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or more likely a hook and eye affair), all edged in material of a finer quality than the main jacket, and with upright collars; the latter probably bore the grade — Inspector or Chief Inspector— in embroidered script lettering. The kepi-style caps remained unchanged, but now all bore a cap badge that was identical in form to those worn by tramcar staff; inspectors cap badges were nickel and bore the grade — Inspector — rather than an employee number, the chief inspector's being gold coloured (probably gilt) and with his grade — Chief Inspector — on a red or green background.

At some point, the kepi-style caps were superseded by military caps with tensioned crowns (tops), though exactly when this took place is unknown. By the closing years of the system, the chief inspector (and probably inspectors too) wore smart double-breasted overcoat with lapels and braided epaulettes, all devoid of insignia. In the 'last day' photo below, the chief inspector is wearing a shirt and tie, indicating that the jacket worn underneath must have had lapels rather than upright collars.

In common with many tramway systems, women were employed as conductresses during the Great War to replace men lost to the armed services. Female staff wore long, tailored, single-breasted, light-weight coats with a waist belt (with buttons), two waist-level pockets and lapels; the buttons were plain, as were the lapels (i.e., no badges were carried). A long matching skirt was also worn. Two main styles of hat were used, probably reflecting summer and winter wear: a dark-coloured, wide-brimmed straw bonnet with a hat band, and a baggy, peaked cap; the usual cap badge was worn with both styles of hat. A photo below shows a lady wearing a waterproof bonnet; this may however have been the employee's own rather than a company-issued hat, as she is not wearing a uniform,

Further reading
For a history of the system see: 'The Tramways of East Anglia — Chapter 6' by R C Anderson; The Light Railway Transport League (1969). For a pictorial history see: 'Norwich Tramways' by David Mackley; Middleton Press (2000).

Images

Motormen and conductors
Norwich Elecric Tramways staff photo depot 1900
A staff photo, probably posed outside the Silver Rd depot — photo undated, but probably taken in 1900. Photo courtesy of the David Mackley Collection.


Norwich Elecric Tramways staff photo depot 1900
A blow-up of the above photo showing some of the men. Although most are wearing double-breasted jackets with lapels (32 in total), a significant number (8 in the full photo) are wearing waistcoats and single-breasted tunics with upright collars. The latter are also wearing wide, piped hatbands, so they are probably senior staff (inspectors and the chief inspector).


Norwich Elecric Tramways staff photo Orford Place
A staff photo taken at Orford Place, probably about 1901. There are around 52 uniformed motormen and conductors, and 6 senior uniformed staff (inspectors and the chief inspector). Photo courtesy of the David Mackley Collection.


Norwich Elecric Tramways staff photo Orford Place
A blow-up of the above photo showing some of the uniformed staff. Most are wearing double-breasted greatcoats and tall-kepi-style caps, though one man is without a greatcoat, revealing the double-breasted jacket worn underneath.


Norwich Tramways Company Tram No 32 1900
A senior member of staff (possibly the chief inspector), and the crew of a brand-new No 32, pose for the cameraman, possibly at Trowse, in 1900. The car has a 'King Street' window route board, and an indicator (mounted on the canopy) set for 'Trowse'. Author's Collection.


Norwich Tramways Company Tram No 32 and crew 1900
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and motorman. The large oval cap badges are clearly seen.


Norwich Electric Tramways cap badge 155
Cap badge — nickel with leather inlay. This badge formerly belonged to Thomas Turner, who started with the NETCo shortly after the Great War, serving as a conductor and a motorman, then assisting in the control centre at Orford Place for 12 years; he subsequently drove and conducted buses. Thanks to his grandson, Mike Turner, for this information. Note that the lion is often missing from surviving badges. Author's Collection.


Norwich Electric Tramways tram No 33 1902/3
A rather unusual photo of Tramcar No 33 descending Guildhall Hill around 1902/3, with both the conductor and the motorman apparently wearing pith helmets. Photo courtesy of the David Mackley Collection.


Norwich Electric Tramways Company tram conductor 1902/1903
A blow-up of the above photograph showing the conductor, who is clearly wearing a white pith helmet with a standard NETCo cap badge. As this is the only photograph with staff wearing these helmets, and there are many from this era, it was more than likely a special occasion such as a carnival or festival.


Norwich Tramways Company Tram No 33 and crew 1900
Tramcar No 33 standing at what is probably the Dereham Rd terminus (with Merton Rd off to the left) — photo undated, but probably taken around 1905/6 given that it it has a lifeguard and decency boarding. The conductor's kepi appears to bear a waterproof cover, which is obscuring his cap badge, though the motorman, who had a more exposed position, doesn't have one. The motorman's greatcoat sleeve bears chevrons, the precise meaning of which is unknown, however, on many tramways they were used to indicate good conduct, longevity of service or seniority. Source unknown.


Norwich Electric Tramways crew Tram No 46
Conductor and motorman pictured aboard Tramcar No 46 — photo undated, but definitely taken no earlier than 1906 when this former trailer car was converted to powered operation. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.


Norwich Electric Tramways crew Tram No 46
A blow-up of the above photo showing the 'corporal'-like stripes on the left-hand arm of the motorman.


Norwich Electric Tramways Tram No 29
Motorman at the controls of Tramcar No 29 on an Earlham Rd to Thorpe Rd service — photo undated, but certainly taken prior to the Great War. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Norwich Electric Tramways conductor
An excellent study of an NETCo conductor posing with his tramcar outside the 'Prince of Denmark' pub on Magdelen Rd — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Norwich Electric Tramways Conductor
A blow-up of the above photo, clearly revealing the conductor to be Employee No 230, holder of Norwich Licence No 95.


Norwich Electric Tramways licence No 178
Norwich 'Driver' licence No 178 — light alloy. Author's Collection.


Norwich Electric Tramways Tram No 8
An unusual side profile of a motorman at the controls of Tramcar No 8 at the Dereham Rd terminus — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1920s or 1930s . Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Norwich Electric Tramways No 28
Tramcar No 28 stands at the Thorpe Rd terminus on 16th April 1935. Photo by Dr H Nicol, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Norwich Electric Tramways No 28
A blow-up of the above photo showing the NETCo conductor in conversation with a member of the public on the platform.


Norwich Electric Tramways Last tram No 10 1935
The driver of Norwich's last tram (No 10), George Hill, shakes the hand of the company's youngest conductor, Bernard Fisher — photo taken inside Silver Road depot on the 10th December 1935. The man behind them is Chief Inspector Hunter. Photo courtesy of the David Mackley Collection.


Norwich Electric Tramways Dan Carlton
NETCo Employee No 11, Dan Carlton of Lakenheath (born 22nd March 1919, died 17th May 1973). Although undated, he started with the NETCo as a 14-year-old, so the photo was probably taken in the mid-1930s, and as such, probably reflects the style of uniform worn at the end of tramway operation. Photo courtesy of the David Mackley Collection.


Senior staff
Norwich Corporation Tramways Company inspectors 1900
A blow-up of the 1900 depot staff photo above showing three individuals who are presumably senior staff. Whilst all are wearing single-breasted waistcoats and jackets, the latter with upright collars, they all have slightly different insignia on their kepi-style caps. One has what looks to be a standard cap badge, another has a script-lettering grade badge (presumably embroidered), and the last man, who may possibly be the chief inspector (on the right) has no badge at all. In contrast to the tramcar staff, all three men have wide, piped hatbands.


Norwich Corporation Tramways Company chief inspector 1900
A blow-up of the 1900 shot of No 32 above showing an individual who may well be the chief inspector. His uniform and cap are completely devoid of insignia, though his hatband is heavily embellished.


Norwich Corporation Tramways Company inspector c1901
A blow-up of the c1901 Orford Place staff photo above showing one of the inspectors. His collars probably carry his grade in embroidered script lettering.


Norwich Electric Tramways Last day Chief Inspector Hunt
A blow-up of the last day photo above showing Chief Inspector Hunt. His badge had a gold finish (probably gilt) and carried his grade — Chief Inspector — on a red or green background.


Female staff
Norwich Electric Tramways Great War conductress
A lovely studio portrait of a Great War NETCo tram conductress purportedly taken in 1918, though the absence of a uniforms suggests that it may have been taken before they were issued. Photo courtesy of the David Mackley Collection.


Norwich Electric Tramways Great War conductress
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of hat and coat. Her coat would appear to be informal, rather than a company-issued garment. The bonnet seems to be a waterproof issue, and it clearly bears a standard cap badge, possibly Employee No 169.


Norwich Electric Tramways Great War conductress
Another studio portrait of an NETCo conductress. In contrast to the lady above, she is wearing a company-issued uniform, though completely unmarked save for the cap badge. Even the buttons are plain. Photo courtesy of the David Mackley Collection.


Norwich Electric Tramways Great War conductress
The conductress pictured here is clearly wearing a uniform, though once again, it is devoid of insignia or the usual marked buttons the men's jackets bore. Photo courtesy of the David Mackley Collection.