Rochdale Corporation Tramways
Rochdale Corporation was a steam tramway operator for a little over 12 months, spanning 1904/5, and photographs which can be securely dated to this period clearly show that the corporation continued the latter-day policy of its immediate predecessor, the Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways Company (see link). Steam tram drivers therefore wore railway footplate-like attire comprising cotton jackets and trousers, invariably worn along with a cotton or flat cap; neither jackets nor caps bore insignia of any kind. Conductors wore informal, but reasonably smart attire comprising jackets, trousers, shirts and ties, along with the fashionable headgear of the day, by this time the flat cap. Once again, no badges or insignia of any kind were worn, including licences.
For the inauguration of electric services in 1902, staff were issued with double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (bearing the full system title and Rochdale's arms - see link) - narrowing from top to bottom - and upright collars; the latter bore individual 'R C T' initials on the right-hand side and an employee number on the left-hand side, presumably in brass to match the buttons. Caps were unusually squat with a soft top, and bore standard, 'off-the-shelf' script-lettering grade badges, either 'Driver' or 'Conductor', again almost certainly in brass. The occasional early photo does however show that some conductors were issued with kepi-style caps, though these appear to have been quickly phased out in favour of the soft-topped caps. The kepi caps certainly bore a small municipal shield badge above the grade badge (see below) and though this cannot be easily discerned in surviving photos of staff wearing the soft-topped caps, it seems fairly likely that these caps also bore the same badge.
By 1905, and possibly earlier, the soft-topped caps had been replaced by a smarter, military-style pattern with a tensioned crown (top) - these continued to bear the script-lettering grade and municipal shield badges, though 'Driver' had by this time been replaced by 'Motorman'. Staff were also issued with double-breasted overcoats with two rows of five buttons, high fold-over collars and epaulettes; it is unclear whether these bore any insignia, though photos would suggest not.
Photographs of staff taken between the end of the Great War and the demise of the tramway in 1932 are surprisingly rare, so it is not possible to state with any certainty what uniforms were worn during this period. A photograph of several bus crews taken shortly after closure of the tramway does however show them in single-breasted jackets with lapels and epaulettes (see below), and it is possible that tramwaymen wore a similar uniform during the latter years of operation.
Inspectors wore single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or a hook and eye affair), edged in a finer material of a different colour to the jacket itself; these had upright collars which carried insiginia, possibly 'R C T', though this cannot be made out with certainty. Caps were in a military style with a tensioned crown, and posisbly bore the grade - 'Inspector' - in embroidered script lettering, though this cannot be made out on surviving photographs.
During the Great War, and in common with the vast majority of UK tramway systems, women were employed to replace male staff lost to the armed services. Photographs of these ladies are however very scarce, but those that do survive suggest that they wore tailored single-breasted jackets with long skirts, and wide-brimmed bonnets. It is currently unclear what insignia were carried.
Steam tram drivers and conductors
The crew of a very battered looking Wilkinson patent steam tram (a Beyer Peacock product) pose for the camera in Entwisle Rd, Rochdale with their Rochdale-Littleborough service - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during municipal ownership, i.e. 1904/5. Photo courtesy of the Richard Rosa Collection.
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and conductor, the former in typical grimy footplate attire with a flat cap and the latter in informal attire, again with a flat cap. Neither man is wearing a badge or licence of any kind.
Steam tramway staff pose at Entwisle Road depot with the last steam tram from Rochdale - although the photographer has artifically added a date of 8th May 1905, official records indicate that the last tram actually ran on the 11th May. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.
Motormen and conductors
Driver, trolley or points boy (?) and conductor pose for the cameraman with a brand new Tramcar No 1 on Rochdale's first electrified route along Bury Rd; photo undated, but certainly taken within the first year of operation, and very probably in May or June 1902. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.
Blow-up of the above photo revealing ' R C T' initials on the right-hand collars and an employee number on the left-hand side.
Another blow-up of the above photo, clearly showing that the motorman is wearing a script-lettering cap badge - 'Driver'.
General pattern script-lettering cap badges of the type used by Rochdale Corporation Tramways - brass. The 'Driver' badge was relatively quickly superseded by a 'Motorman' pattern, probably within the first one or two years of opening.
A number of individuals pose with Tramcar No 3 at the Dog and Partridge terminus on Bury Rd; photo dated 1902, though in all probability it was taken in 1903 given that the extension from Cemetery Gates to the Dog and Partridge was only opened then. Whilst the motorman is clearly wearing the same uniform and cap as in the previous photo, the conductor appears to be wearing a kepi-style cap with a script-lettering cap badge and small badge above, almost certainly the Rochdale municipal shield (see below). The latter was probably used on the soft-topped caps as well, but is obscured on most photos by the wide crown of the rather squat cap. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.
Rochdale Corporation Tramways municipal shield cap badge - brass. Author's collection.
Motorman and conductor with Tramcar No 8 at Summit - photo undated, but probably taken in 1905. The Motorman is wearing a 'Motorman' script-lettering cap badge. Author's collection.
General pattern script-lettering 'Motorman' cap badge, used by Rochdale Corporation Tramways from about 1905 onwards - brass.
Conductor and driver in Bury Rd near the Dog and Partridge with Tramcar No 33 - photo undated, but probably Edwardian. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.
RCT conductor - photo undated, but probably taken before the Great War. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the collar and cap insignia.
Tramcar No 19 and crew with the Board of Trade inspection in Whitworth on 14th June 1910. Both men are wearing white rain covers on their caps. With thanks to Duncan Holden.
Conductor, inspector and motorman pose for the camera with Tramcar No 26 in Shawforth, probably in July 1911 when the route opened. The motorman is wearing a double-breasted overcoat, seemingly devoid of insignia. With thanks to Duncan Holden.
Greatcoated conductor and motorman pose for the camera alongside bogie car No 51 - photo undated, but judging by the good condition of the tram, probably late Edwardian. With thanks to Stephen Howarth.
Tramcars No 33 and 35 at Bacup Depot - photo undated, but probably taken not long after opening in 1911. With thanks to Duncan Holden.
Blow-up of the above photo showing the crew of Tramcar No 35 - Conductor 107 and Motorman 137. The Rochdale municipal shield badge is worn high on the cap, above the script-lettering grade badges, and almost under the crown.
A group of Rochdale Corporation Transport bus men pose alongside a line of tramcars awaiting scrapping - photo taken on 25th March 1933, some four months after closure of the tramway. The uniforms are possibly similar to those worn in the latter days of tramway operations, though photographic evidence for this is currently lacking. Author's Collection.
Rochdale Corporation Transport cap badge - chrome. There is currently no evidence that this style of badge was ever worn by tramways staff. Author's Collection.
Blow-up of the Entwistle steam tramway staff photo above showing an inspector - 11th May 1905. With thanks to Duncan Holden.
A blow-up of the 1911 Shawforth view above, showing the inspector - his cap appears to bear no insignia, though it may well be in shadow. With thanks to Duncan Holden.
Inspector poses for the camera with the crew of Tramcar No 68 - photo undated, but probably taken shortly after the Great War given that no 68 was new in 1912. With thanks to Duncan Holden.
A rare shot of a conductress aboard Tramcar No 9 with a service to Norden, taken at Whitsuntide 1916. The lady in question is wearing a white blouse and straw bonnet, with no jacket. With thanks to Duncan Holden.