Reading Corporation Tramways

Summary
Photographs of tramwaymen taken during the corporation horse tram era, i.e. between the take-over of the Reading Tramways Company in November 1901, through to the end of horsedrawn operations in July 1903, show them wearing single-breasted jackets with five buttons and lapels, and more often than not, long-double-breasted overcoats, also with two rows of five buttons and lapels. The lapels on the jacket appear to have carried some form of embroidered insignia, whilst the overcoat lapels were apparently plain. Headgear consisted of a rather squat kepi-style cap, which bore a prominent oval cap badge; the badge seems to have been of metal fretwork, though photographs are not of sufficient quality to state this with certainty.

Photos from the horsecar era indicate that drivers and conductors wore a round enamel licence (drivers, blue lettering on a white background; conductors, red lettering on a white enamel background), almost certainly that shown below. The licences continued to be worn in the electric era, but increasingly sporadically as the years wore on.

Following electrification, staff were issued with double-breasted, cross-over style tunics with two rows of five buttons (bearing the municipal shield - see link) and upright collars; the latter carried individual 'R C T' metal initials on both sides, almost certainly in brass. Caps were of the upright military type with a glossy peak, and bore script-lettering cap badges (very probably brass) - either 'Motorman' or 'Conductor' - sometimes worn alone, but usually above an employee number in individual metal numerals, again almost certainly brass. Motormen and conductors were also issued with long double-breasted overcoats with two rows of five buttons, high, fold-over collars and epaulettes; once again, the overcoats appear to have been devoid of insignia.

At some point prior to the First World War, the cap badges were changed to a simple municipal shield, and were worn without script-lettering cap badges. Instead of the latter, a small round brass badge with a nickel letter mounted in the centre - 'C' for Conductor or 'M' for Motorman - was worn on the upper left-hand sleeve of crewmen's jackets. Some photos show staff wearing metal stars beneath this badge - these were apparently issued for 'good conduct'. The jackets were also now provided with epaulettes, which bore 'R C T' initials and an employee number, with the collars left plain.

Reading also employed Parcels Boys (and girls too apparently); they were issued with uniforms that were essentially identical to those issued to tramcar staff, but with a 'P' on their grade badge (worn on the left upper arm). They were also issued with sturdy belts which bore a message pouch (see below).

Very late in the tramway's life, at least some staff appear to have been issued with more modern double-breasted jackets with lapels. Lightweight dust coats also appear to have been worn in the latter years, presumably during summer.

In the first two decades of operation, and possibly throughout the tramway's life, inspectors wore single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or possibly a hook and eye affair), edged in a finer material than the main jacket, with upright collars, and later on epaulettes. The collars carried 'R C T' initials on both sides, but with the introduction of epaulettes, these were replaced by municipal shield badges, with the system initials moving to the epaulettes. Caps were in an upright military style identical to tramcar staff, but carried a much larger badge, broadly oval in form, and almost certainly an elaborate rendering of the municipal arms.

In common with many tramway operators, Reading Corporation Tramways employed female staff during the First World War to replace male tramwaymen lost to the armed services, in the case of Reading, primarily as conductresses. These ladies were issued with tailored, single-breasted jackets with five buttons, lapels, epaulettes and a waistbelt (also with buttons); a long matching skirt was also worn. Headgear appears to have been identical to that worn by male staff, which at this time consisted of an upright military style cap with the municipal shield badge. Ladies were also issued with overcoats which appear to have been identical in every respect to those issued to their male colleagues. Although never trained as drivers, two ladies (at least) were elevated to the rank of Inspector, and were issued with tailored jackets and skirts that were markedly different than those worn by conductresses; a shirt and tie was also worn, along with the standard cap and the larger cap badge worn by male inspectors.

My thanks go to John Whitehead and Derek Lucas for providing several excellent photos, as well as giving freely of their extensive knowledge.

Images

Horse tram drivers and conductors
Reading Corporation Tramways horse tram No 5
Driver and conductor with Horsecar No 5 at the Oxford Rd terminus - photo undated, but certainly taken during the corporation years (November 1901 to July 1903). Note that both men have small, round licences, almost certainly that depicted below, whilst the driver is wearing a kepi-style cap with a prominent cap badge. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Reading Corporation Tramways licence
Reading 'driver' licence - blue and white enamel. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Reading Corporation Tramways Horse tram No 6 and crew
Driver and conductor of Horsecar No 6 stand with their charge in Wokingham Rd - photo undated, but certainly taken during the corporation years. Once again, both men are wearing squat kepi-style caps and white licences. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Reading Corporation Tramways Horse tram No 8
A rather poor quality image, but one that shows a corporation driver and conductor in greatcoats with Horsecar No 8, possibly in the vicinity of the London Rd terminus - photo undated, but definitely taken during the corporation era. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Motormen and conductors
reading Corporation Tramways motormen
Studio portrait of two Reading motormen - photo undated, but probably taken at or shortly after, the official opening. Both men are wearing script-lettering 'Motorman' cap badges, and 'R C T' initials on their collars. Although there is no sign of employee numbers, it is possible that they were yet to be issued. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.


Reading Corporation Tramways crew 25
Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 28 on a service to Erleigh Rd - photo undated, but certainly taken in the first few years of operation given the exterior side destination board (these were quickly replaced with interior roller blinds). The motorman's script-lettering cap badge, worn above an employee number, has a very pronounced curve to it; it is not unclear if this was 'as issued', or if it was bent thus by the bearer. Author's collection.


Reading Corporation Tramways cap badges
Standard ‘off the shelf’ script-lettering cap badges of the type used by Reading Corporation Tramways - brass.


Reading Corporation Tramways crew
Conductor and motorman pose with their Whitley-bound tramcar, possibly No 23 - photo undated, but probably taken shortly before the First World War. Note that the earller cap badges had, by this time, been replaced by a small municipal shield badge. The small round badges on each of their respective left jacket sleeves were grade designations. Author's collection.


Reading Corporation Tramways conductor's grade badge
Reading Corporation Tramways conductor's grade badge, worn on the bearer's left sleeve - nickel letter on brass. Author's collection.


Reading Corporation Tramways motorman's grade badge
Reading Corporation Tramways motorman's grade badge, worn on the bearer's left sleeve - nickel letter on brass. Author's collection.


ReadingCorporation Tramways conductor
Studio portrait of a Reading conductor - photo undated, but probably taken around the time of the Great War. The conductor grade badge, bearing a 'C', is clearly seen on the subject's left arm. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.


Reading Corporation Tramways cap badge
Reading Borough cap badge - brass, almost certainly that worn by staff of Reading Corporation Tramways.


Reading Corporation Tramways Parcels Boy, Mr F Cecil Harrison
Another studio portrait, this time of Reading Corporation Tramways 'Parcels Boy', F. Cecil Harrison - photo taken between 1916 and 1918. Note the 'P' on the grade badge, as well as the message belt and pouch. Photo courtesy of Derek Lucas.


Reading Corporation Tramways staff at Church Parade
Reading Corporation Tramways staff at the Church Parade - photo undated, but probably taken shortly after the Great War. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.


ReadingChurchParade_SHCROP
Blow-up of the above photo, revealing the epaulette badges to be 'R C T' initials accompanied by an employee number. Note that all present appear to be wearing stars beneath the grade designation on their left arms, apparently denoting good conduct.


Reading Corporation Tramways motorman
Motorman on the platform of Tramcar No 8 at the Oxford Rd terminus on 30th September 1937. Photo by W A Camwell, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Senior staff
Reading Corporation Tramways staff 1908
A photograph taken to commemorate those staff attending the Church Parade on the 13th September 1908. Photo courtesy of John Whitehead.


Reading Corporation Tramways inspectors 1908
Blow-up of the above photo, shoing two of the inspectors; note the cap badge, which is much larger and more elaborate than those worn by motormen and conductors. Photo courtesy of John Whitehead.


Reading Corporation Tramways staff photo 1918
Staff photo taken in the yard at Mill Lane Depot in 1918. Photo courtesy of John Whitehead.


Reading Corporation Tramways inspectors
Blow-up of the above photo showing, on the second row, 3 male inspectors and two female inspectors - both sexes are wearing the larger cap badge.

Female staff

Reading Corporation Tramways Conductress
Reading Corporation Tramways conductress - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth collection.


Reading Corporation Tramways Conductress
Blow-up of the above photo showing details of the licence and the cap badge.


Reading Corporation Tramways conductress
Reading conductress - photo undated, but certainly taken during or shortly after the Great War. Photo courtesy of John Whitehead


Reading Corporation Tramways conductresses
A group of Reading Great War tram conductresses pose for the camera, along with a lady who is almost certainly a female inspector (fourth from the left). Photo courtesy of John Whitehead.