Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways

History
Although Rawtenstall had two steam tramways operating within its boundary — the Accrington Corporation Steam Tramways Company, which opened its line from Haslingden in November 1887, and the Rossendale Valley Tramways Company, which opened the first portion of its route to Bacup in January 1889 — the corporation neither promoted the schemes, nor had any financial interest in them. This all changed on the 1st December 1908, when the corporation purchased the ACSTCo track within its municipal boundary, together with the engines and trailers necessary to work it. This was the final act in the dismemberment of the ASCTCo, which began on the 20th September 1907, when Accrington Corporation purchased the engines, trailers and assets necessary to work its lines, the operation of which had previously been leased to the company. The latter however, undertook to continue working the steam services on a contract basis, until the end of the year. Although Accrington's lines had now been fully converted to electric traction, conversion of those in Haslingden and Rawtenstall was as yet some way off. With the company steadfastly refusing to operate services beyond the end of the 1907, Haslingden and Rawtenstall agreed to purchase the remaining assets of the company (in proportion to the amount of track within their respective boundaries). Unlike Haslingden, Rawtenstall also had to purchase the track within its boundary, as this was owned by the company rather than the corporation.

From the 1st January 1908, the steam service between Baxenden and Rawtenstall was operated by Haslingden Corporation, though this was gradually cut back as Haslingden's tracks were converted to electric traction. It is unclear when the last Haslingden Corporation steam service ran; some sources mention the 5th of September 1908, though this may just have been the last steam working between Baxenden and Haslingden, whilst others state the 28th, and there is every possibility that it was as late as the 20th October. What is clear however, is that the first electric service from Baxenden to the Commercial Hotel in Haslingden ran on the 28th September 1908 — worked by the ACT under a lease agreement —and from there through to Lockgate on the Haslingden-Rawtenstall boundary on the 20th October 1908. At some point, Rawtenstall Corporation would have taken over the working of the Lockgate to Queens Square steam service, which was not converted to electric traction for another nine months; they certainly notified Haslingden of their intention to take over on the 1st October 1908, though whether they actually did so is currently unclear.

Meanwhile, on the 1st October 1908, Rawtenstall and Bacup purchased the assets of the RVTCo, and set about electrifying the system, Rawtenstall Corporation operating the steam trams (and later the electric trams) on behalf of Bacup. The first electric route to open, on the 15th May 1909, was the line northwards from Rawtenstall, through Crawshawbooth to Loveclough, which was followed by the main route from Lockgate in the west, through Queens Square, Rawtenstall, to Bacup in the east, which opened on the 23rd July 1909, the last steam service running the day before. Rawtenstall was thus the last municipal operator of a regular steam tramway service in Britain.

The system was completed on the 21st January 1911 when a new line was opened northwards from Waterfoot — on the Bacup line — to Water, taking the total route mileage to 11.75 miles, 2.36 miles of which were owned by Bacup Corporation.

Like its predecessor, the RVTCo, Rawtenstall Corporation's tracks never reached those of their northern neighbour Burnley Corporation Tramways, though they did of course connect to those of Haslingden at Lockgate, which was operated by Accrington Corporation Tramways. Through running agreements were eventually agreed which at various times saw ACT trams running through to Bacup, and those of the RCT running through to Accrington. Although Rawtenstall tracks met those of Rochdale Corporation Tramways in Bacup, the latter system was standard gauge, so no physical connection was ever made.

Motor bus competition began to makes itself felt in the early 1920s, and in 1924, Rawtenstall Corporation grasped the nettle and introduced its first bus service. By 1929 however, the corporation had decided to abandon the tramway, the first route to go being that from Rawtenstall to Accrington on the 30th April 1930, the last tram of all running on the line to Water on the 31st March 1932. The trams did run for one last time a week later, but this was a celebration to mark the passing of the old and advent of the new, so was not a regular service.

Uniforms
Upon its take-over of the Rossendale Valley Tramways Company on 1st October 1908, Rawtenstall Corporation became a steam tram operator, a situation which lasted barely 8 months, but one which saw it go down in history as the last operator of steam tramway services in England. Under corporation ownership, steam tram drivers continued to wear the railway footplate-like attire they had worn in company days, namely: heavy-duty cotton jackets and trousers, along with grease-top, cotton or flat caps, all of which were devoid of badges or markings. Conductors however, were issued with 'corporation' uniforms, which consisted of single-breasted tunics with five buttons, two breast pockets (with button fastenings), epaulettes (with piping) and upright collars; the latter carried individual ‘R C T’ letters on the right-hand collar and an employee number on the left. Caps were in a military style with a tensioned crown (top), and piped hat band, and carried a standard 'off the shelf' script-lettering cap badge - Conductor - probably in nickel.

Conductors' uniforms continued unchanged into the electric era (July 1909), whereas motormen (a new position) were issued with double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (probably nickel and bearing the full system title and corporation device — see link), piped epaulettes and upright collars. As was the case with conductors, the latter carried individual ‘R C T’ letters on the bearer's right-hand collar and an employee number on the left. Motormen's caps were identical to conductors', save for the script-lettering Motorman cap badge.

Shortly after the inauguration of electric services, an elaborate municipal cap badge was introduced, which was worn above the script-lettering grade badge. This new badge comprised the arms, crest and motto of Rawtenstall, within a wreath, below which was a ribbon containing the full system title: 'Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways'. Around the same time, or perhaps shortly afterwards, the Motorman cap badges appear to have been displaced in favour of Driver. Tramcar staff were also issued with long single-breasted greatcoats with five buttons and lapels.

At some point after 1921, more modern, double-breasted jackets were introduced; these had five pairs of buttons (see below) and lapels. Some kind of designation, possibly a municipal coat of arms badge or employee number, appears to have been worn on the latter.

Inspectors wore single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or more likely a hook and eye affair), braiding and upright collars, all edged in material of a finer quality than the main garment; the collars probably carried the grade — Inspector — in embroidered script lettering, though this cannot be made out with certainty on surviving photographs. Inspectors wore the same style of cap as tramcar staff, but with the grade in embroidered script lettering. Inspectors also wore long, double-breasted overcoats with two rows of four buttons and lapels; the latter almost certainly carried the grade — Inspector — in embroidered script lettering.

As was the case for the vast majority of UK tramway operators, Rawtenstall employed female staff during the Great War to replace men lost to the armed services. These ladies were issued with smart, full-length, double-breasted 'lancer-style' coats, with seven pairs of buttons narrowing from top to bottom, and with fold-over collars. Both the collars and the cuffs were edged in material of a lighter colour than the main body of the garment. The collars bore an employee number on the bearer's left-hand side, and individual system initials on the right. This unusual garment was worn with gaiters.

Another photograph (see below) shows a conductress wearing a long, tailored, single-breasted coat with six buttons, a waist belt, piped epaulettes and high fold-over collars; the latter do not appear to have borne any insignia. It seems likely that this plainer garment may have preceded the smarter one. Two forms of headgear were issued: a pudding-basin style felt bonnet (presumably for summer wear) and a woollen, beanie-style hat (probably for winter wear); both styles were worn with the standard municipal tramways cap badge above a script-lettering grade badge.

My thanks got to Phil Calvey for help with the history of the system, particularly the dates, which often conflict in published material.

Further reading
For a brief overview of the undertaking, see: 'The Tramways of Accrington 1886-1932' by R W Rush; The Light Railway Transport League (1961).

Images

Steam tram drivers and conductors
Rawtenstall Steam Tram July 1909
One of a number of postcard views of Rawtenstall's steam trams, which had by the date of this photo — July 1909 — become the last vestige of this particular form of street traction in England. The conductor is wearing the standard Rawtenstall uniform, which was also issued to staff working the replacement electric services. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.


Rawtenstall Steam Tram July 1909
Another "Last of…" photo, purportedly taken in July 1909. Once again, the conductor is wearing the same style of single-breasted jacket and military cap that were used on the replacement electric services. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.


Motormen and conductors
Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways Tram No 2 1909
Two motormen and a conductor pose for the cameraman with what is evidently a brand-new No 2 — photo almost certainly taken in 1909. Both motormen are wearing 'lancer-style' tunics, whilst the conductor has a single-breasted military-style of jacket. With thanks to the Richard Rosa Collection.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways motorman 1909
A blow-up of the above photo showing one of the motormen. His right-hand collar bears individual 'R C T' system initials, and his piped cap a standard, 'off-the-shelf', script-lettering grade badge: Motorman.



Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways cap badges
Standard 'off-the-shelf', script-lettering grade badges of the type initially worn by RCT staff — nickel. Author's Collection.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways Tram No 3 and crew 1909
Motorman (Albert Incles) and his conductor posing with what is evidently a brand-new Tramcar No 3. The photo was taken at Lamb Row, Lockgate, very probably on the first day of electric operation (15th May 1909); there is clearly damage to the dash of the otherwise immaculate vehicle, and this tram — driven by Albert Incles — is known to have been involved in a collision with a greengrocer’s van in Rawtenstall on that day. The line to Bacup was not actually opened until some two months after this photo was taken, and in any case, the tram is facing the wrong way; the explanation for this is that the shot was more than likely specially posed at the request of the photographer, so that he would be well-placed to sell postcards when the Bacup line eventually opened! With thanks to Richard Hargreaves for the background information, and to Duncan Holden for the photograph.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways staff photo 1909
Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways staff photo — 1909. Both motormen and conductors are wearing script-lettering cap badges, either Motorman or Conductor. With thanks to Richard Hargreaves.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways motorman 1909
A blow-up of the above photo (showing Motorman No 4) revealing the individual ‘R C T’ metal letters on the right-hand collar and the employee number on the left-hand collar.


RawtenstallCorporation Tramways Tram No 13
A conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 13 on a service bound for Accrington — photo undated, but given its excellent condition, probably taken not long after delivery of this car and instigation of through running (1st April 1910). Both men are wearing the new elaborate municipal cap badge (see below), with a script-lettering grade badge underneath. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways cap badge
Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways cap badge — nickel. Author's Collection.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways Tram No 22
The crew of Tramcar No 22 pose for the cameraman near the terminus at Water — photo undated, but probably taken shortly after the vehicle was delivered in 1912. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways Tram No 15 at Water
Another photograph taken near the terminus at Water, this time of Tramcar No 15 and crew — photo undated, but probably taken around the time of the Great War. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways Tram No 19 at Lumb Baptist
Conductor and motorman posing with Tramcar No 19, taken at Lumb Baptist on the Waterfoot to Water section — photo undated, but probably taken shortly before the Great War. This vehicle was one of a batch of six delivered in 1912, which were primarily intended to work the steeply graded route to Water. Author's Collection.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways Tram No 19 at Lumb Baptist
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and motorman. The motorman is wearing the new municipal cap badge, along with a Driver script-lettering grade badge, rather than the usual Motorman. The conductor is wearing a straw boater, and may just be the same individual seen wearing one in the previous photo.


RawtenstallCorporation Tramways Driver cap badge
Script-lettering Driver cap badge — nickel. These badges appear to have replaced their Motorman counterparts within a few years of opening. Author's Collection.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways Transport staff 1932
A line-up of Rawtenstall Corporation staff, some undoubtedly bus men, taken at the parade to mark the closure of the system on the 7th April 1932. The individual standing behind the two children is probably an inspector. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.



Driver and conductor posing with Tramcar No 11 — photo undated, but probably taken in Queens Square, Rawtenstall to mark the closure of the system in April 1932. Both men are wearing double-breasted jackets with lapels. With thanks to Richard Hargreaves.


Rawtenstall Corporation Trmaways Tramcar No 4, Sam Doran and Jack Wallwork
Driver Sam Doran and Conductor Jack Wallwork pose with Tramcar No 4 — photo undated, but probably taken in Queens Square, Rawtenstall to mark the closure of the system in April 1932. The photo was definitely taken no earlier than 1931 as there is a bus in the background (Fleet No 33; not shown), which was only delivered in that year. With thanks to Richard Hargreaves.


Senior staff
Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways inspector 1909
A blow-up of the 1909 staff photo above showing the inspector — the script-lettering grade badge is embroidered on a hat band.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways inspector 1932
An inspector stands before the steam tram used in the 'last day' parade at Rawtenstall. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways inspector 1932
Another 'last day' shot showing an inspector on Bacup Rd near Rawtenstall Town Hall, just outside the depot. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways inspector 1932
…and yet another taken at the closure parade. Stephen Howarth Collection.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways inspector 1932
A blow-up of the above photo showing the inspector, who is probably the same man depicted in the previous photograph


Female staff
Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways Great War Tram Conductress
A Great War Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways conductress and a soldier, more than likely her brother or fiancé. Photo courtesy of the Peter Fisher Collection.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways Great War Tram Conductress
A blow-up of the above photo revealing her to be Employee No 42. She is wearing a brand-new uniform and what would appear to be a woollen hat, not unlike a modern beanie; it bears the standard RCT cap badge and a script-lettering grade badge. This style of hat was also used by Manchester Corporation Tramways (amongst a few others) and was presumably for winter wear.


Rawtenstall Conductress Frances Dust (nee Holden) CROP
Great War RCT conductress Frances Dust (née Holden). Photo courtesy of Sharon Wood, her great grand-daughter, with thanks to Peter Fisher.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways conductress
A Great War Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways conductress. She is wearing a single-breasted greatcoat and a dark-coloured straw bonnet, presumably for summer wear. The rather ill-fitting greatcoat is probably one of the standard male-issue garments. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.


Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways conductress
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the bonnet, which carries a script-lettering Conductor grade badge and the standard 'Tramways' cap badge.