Newport Corporation Tramways

Summary
Newport became a horse tramway owner as early as 1894, but only operated the services itself from 1901 through to their withdrawal in 1903, some 27 months in total. During this latter period, staff working the horse cars wore informal attire (see link), the sole official insignia being a corporation licence; the corporation therefore simply continued the policy of the previous owners and lessees.

Somewhat surprisingly, staff working the new electric services were not issued with uniforms either, this being justified, at least in retrospect, by the manager's concerns opposite staff turnover! Waterproof overcoats and caps were however provided from 1902, the former being single-breasted with collars of a darker colour than the main coat, and the latter taking the form of kepis. The kepi-style caps carried a script-lettering badge, almost certainly a grade badge, though these cannot be made out on surviving photographs; above this, a small round badge of unknown pattern was worn, probably some kind of municipal device.

Uniforms proper were not issued until 1904. They comprised single-breasted jackets with a row of five buttons (presumably of brass and bearing the system title and device - see link) and upright collars; the latter carried system initials - 'N C T' - on the bearer's right-hand side (in individual brass letters) and an employee number (in individual brass numerals) on the left-hand side. Caps were military in style with a tensioned crown (top), and carried a script-lettering grade badge - either 'Motorman' or 'Conductor', above which was a municipal badge was worn which took the form of the borough shield with a wreath. The uniform was apparently grey with red piping.

In 1912, the uniform was changed to blue with red piping, and to a 'lancer-style' of tunic with two rows of buttons (narrowing from top to bottom), piped epaulettes and high fold-over collars; the latter continued to bear the same insignia as the earlier jackets. The cap badges were also changed to a large oval cloth design comprising embroidered system initials initials ('N.C.T.') above the bearer's grade - 'CONDUCTOR' or 'MOTORMAN' - in block letters. The new cap badges appear not to have been universally welcomed, or at least not universally imposed, as several photographs exist which show individuals wearing the old cap badges as late as 1922.

The uniform was changed one last time in late 1922 to a much more modern-looking, single-breasted cut, with five plated buttons, two hip-level and two breast pockets (both with button closures), epaulettes and lapels; the upper part of the latter (the collars) bore embroidered system initials. The epaulettes and the jacket cuffs were piped, as were the trousers. The caps and cap insignia remained unchanged.

Tramcar staff were also issued with double-breasted great coats with two rows of five buttons and high, fold-over collars; the latter probably bore embroidered system initials - 'N. C. T. - on both sides, though this cannot be stated with certainty.

Photographs depicting senior staff from the first 15 years of the system's life appear not to have survived, so it is currently impossible to say what uniform inspectors wore. However, a very clear photograph of senior staff has survived from 1920, and this shows that inspectors, somewhat unusually, wore the same double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics as tramcar staff, though heavily embellished with elaborate chevrons (light in colour) on both sleeve cuffs, and with the system initials (on the collars) in elaborate script-lettering rather than block letters. Caps were in the same military style issued to tramcar crews, and with the same large oval cloth badge, but with the grade, 'INSPECTOR'. A photograph taken on the last day (see below) shows two senior uniformed staff, either inspectors or a more senior grade. This suggests that by this time they wore the same basic style of uniform that tramcar staff wore from 1922 onwards, but with the cap heavily braided on the peak.

In common with the vast majority of UK tramway operators, Newport employed the services of female staff to replace male servants lost to the armed services. The first ladies were appointed in July 1916 as conductresses - apparently always referred to as 'Women Conductors' in Newport - and from 1917, a small number of motorwomen too. Unlike most operators however, Newport continued to employ women tramcar staff well after the war had finished, only releasing the last of them in August 1921. These ladies were issued with stylish uniforms comprising: a long piped skirt, tailored single-breasted jacket with five buttons, waist belt (with two buttons), lapels and epaulettes (with button closures); the belt and the epaulettes were both piped, whilst the collars bore embroided system initials: 'N.C.T'. Headgear intially appears to have taken the form of a dark felt bonnet, which bore a hat band with embroidered system initials, this time with an extra full stop: 'N.C.T.'. At some point, the hat was changed to a military-style cap with a large and distinctive crown (top); the cap was heavily piped and bore the same large oval cloth cap badge that was issued to male staff, containing system initials ('N.C.T.') above the bearer's grade ('CONDUCTOR').

For a history of the Newport's tramways, see: 'Trams and Buses of Newport - 1845 to 1981' by D B Thomas and E A Thomas; The Starling Press Limited (1982)

Images

Motormen and conductors
Newport Corporation Tramways Tram No 18 1903
Slightly out of focus, but a shot which was taken in 1903 prior to the issue of uniforms. The vehicle (Tramcar No 18) is pictured in the upper part of High St. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Newport Corporation Tramways Tram No 20 and crew
Conductor and motorman with Tramcar No 20 (a Milnes product) - photo undated, but probably taken in the mid-Edwardian era given that the distinctive dash numbers were changed towards the end of Edward's reign. Author's collection.


Newport Corporation Tramways tram conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor. His right-hand collar bears systems initials - 'N C T' - whilst his left-hand collar bears an employee number, '72'. His cap carries a script-lettering grade badge, above which is a municipal cap badge comprising the borough shield within a wreath. For some reason, the motorman's cap (not shown), only bears a script-lettering grade badge.


Newport Corporation Tramways cap badges
Standard script-lettering cap badges of the pattern used by Newport Corporation Tramways - brass.


Newport Corporation Tramways Tram No 32 and driver
Tramcar No 32) pictured in Friars Rd, St Woolas around 1907. The motorman is clearly wearing a single-breasted jacket and military-style cap. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice


Newport Corporation Trmaways Tram No 18 Caerleon Rd
The crew of Tramcar No 18 pictured at Carelon Rd - photo undated, but almost certainly taken in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


18 - 4CROP
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor (J Ferris) and motorman (A Watts).


Newport Corporation Tramways Tram No 31 Risca Rd 1934
Conductor I Williams and Motorman S Peebles stand with Tramcar No 31 at the Risca Rd terminus in 1934. Photo possibly by Dr H A Whitcombe, courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Senior staff
Last Newport Tram 5th September 1937
A scene taken on the last evening of operation - 5th September 1937 - when No 51 departed Westgate Square, bound for the depot, at 11.00pm. Photo courtesy of Ann Griffiths.


Newport Corporation Tramways inspectors
A blow-up of the above photo showing two of the senior staff, possibly inspectors, or even a more senior grade such as Chief Inspector. Both men have naval-style braiding on their caps.


Female staff
Newport Corporation Tramways Great War tram conductress
A studio portrait of a Newport Corporation Tramways conductress - photo undated, but more than likely around the time conductresses were first appointed (1916). Author's collection.


Newport Corporation Tramways Great War tram conductress
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the uniform insignia. The hat takes the form of a bonnet, which bears a hat band with embroidered system initials: 'N. C. T.'.


Newport Corporation Tramways Great War tram conductress
A studio portrait of an unidentified Newport Corporation Tramways conductress with ticket punch and cash bag - photo undated, but more than likely taken during the Great War when a switch appears to have been made to the style of cap badge worn by male staff. The subject is wearing a heavily-piped, military-style cap with a large crown (top), rather than the bonnet seen in the previous photo. Author's collection.


Newport Corporation Tramways Great War tram conductress
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the uniform. The collars bear embroidered 'N C T' initials, whilst the cap bears the same oval cap badge worn by the men, containing the system initials and the grade.


Newport Corporation Tramways Great War tam conductresses
A group of 19 conductresses and two boys (possibly points boys or parcels boys) - photo undated, but certainly taken between 1916 and 1921. Author's collection.


Newport Corporation Trmways Great War tram conductresses
A blow-up of the above photo showing three of the conductresses in their stylish uniforms, with piped belt, epaulettes and cap. The lady in the middle clearly had aspirations outside the world of municipal transport!