Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways

The Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways Co Ltd was a subsidiary of the much larger British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BETCo), a concern which at its zenith either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles.

Early photos reveal that motormen wore double-breasted jackets with two rows of five buttons (presumably of the standard BETCo pattern - see link), three pockets and lapels; the latter probably bore embroidered ’O A & H E T’ initials, though these cannot be made out with absolute certainty on the surviving photographs. Conductors wore single-breasted jackets with five buttons and upright collars; the later appear to have carried the same embroidered lettering as the motormen's jackets. The earliest caps were in the kepi-style with a stiff, horizontal glossy peak, and appear to have carried embroidered ’O A & H E T’ initials, probably on a hat band. This practice reflects that applied on other early BETCo tramways, and stands in stark contrast to subsequent policy, where the standard BETCo 'Magnet and Wheel' cap badge and employee number became the 'regulation' cap insignia, with the notable exception of the Birmingham and Midland Joint Tramways Committee, which had its own badge - see link. The buttons and badges were almost certainly brass.

From the early Edwardian era onwards, photos clearly show staff wearing the familiar and largely regulation BETCo uniform. Although this varied somewhat between BETCo systems, as well as across the decades, the cap badges, collar designations and buttons invariably followed a standard pattern. Tramcar staff (both motormen and conductors) were issued with double-breasted jackets, with two rows of five buttons and lapels; the latter carried individual embroidered initials (again probably ’O A & H E T’) on the bearer's left- and right-hand side. Caps were changed to a soft-topped, military style with a glossy peak, and they now carried the standard brass BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ badge, above an employee number (see below), i.e., the standard ‘BETCo’ cap insignia.

Around the time of the Great War, the double-breasted style of jacket was superseded - for conductors - by a single-breasted design with five buttons and upright collars, the latter carrying individual letters on the left-hand side (‘O A & H E T’) and an employee number on the right-hand side, both presumably brass. At the same time, motormen appear to have been issued with double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom' and upright collars; the latter almost certainly carried the same insignia as the conductors' jackets.

Tramcar crews were also issued with doubel-breasted greatcoats bearing two rows of five buttons and high, fold-over collars; the latter bore insignia of some description, though this cannot be made out with any degree of certainty on surviving p[hotographs.

In common with many tramway systems, female staff were employed during the Great War to replace men lost to military service. These ladies were issued with long skirts and single-breasted tailored jackets with five buttons, a waist belt (with button fastening) and lapels; the latter do not appear to have borne any designations. Wide-brimmed bonnets were also issued - these had a hat band which bore the standard BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge.

Inspectors wore a standard BETCo inspector's jacket, single-breasted with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair), edged in a finer material then the main body of the garment, and with upright collars; the latter would almost certainly have carried the designation 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. In the early years, and possibly right through to 1921, headgear took the form of a kepi-style cap with a steeply inclined glossy peak; this certainly bore a standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, and possibly, though not certainly, the bearer's grade - ‘Inspector’ - in embroidered script lettering (photographic evidence for this is however currently lacking).

For a history of the OA&HET, see: 'History of Public Transport in Ashton-under-Lyne' by W G S Hyde; Manchester Trasnport Museum Society (1980).


Motormen and conductors
Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramway crew
Conductor and motorman pose with a pristine Tramcar No 7 - photo undated, but very probably taken in 1899 or 1900. Both men are wearing kepi-style caps, but there is no sign of the standard BETCo 'Magnet and Wheel' cap badge. The large round objects on their lapels appear to be rosettes, so presumably the photo was taken to mark some now long-forgotten special occasion. Photo courtesy of Tameside Local Studies & Archives (see link).

Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways employee
Blow-up of a ‘Carte de Visite’ of Employee No 107. The card was produced by ’S Searle, Market Street, Hyde, Cheshire’, and although undated, was probably taken in the early Edwardian era. The embroidered collar initials can just about be made out, with the standard BETCo 'Magnet and Wheel' cap badge and employee number clearly seen. Author's Collection.

Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways cap badge
Standard British Electric Traction Company Limited ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge.

Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways Tram No 13
Tramcar No 13 stands in the depot yard at Denton Rd, Audenshaw - photo undated, but as the car still has trailer couplings, the photo must have been taken before these were removed (circa 1903). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways staff
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and motorman, neither of whom appears to be wearing an employee number on his cap. Curiously, both men are wearing rosettes similar to those seen in the first photo above.

Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways Tram and crew
An unidentified single-decker with crew - photo undated, but probably early Edwardian. Source unknown.

Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways Tram No 39
Tramcar No 39, ex-Leeds stands inside the depot on a special occasion - photo undated, but as No 39 was only rebuilt into this form in mid-1902, probably taken not long afterwards. Source unknown.

Female staff
Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways staff Great War
A motorman and conductress pose with an unidentified tramcar - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. With thanks to John Holme of the Manchester Transport Museum Society.

Senior staff
Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways Tram inspector
A blow-up of the depot shot of Tramcar No 39 above showing an inspector (second from the right). He is wearing typical tramway inspector garb, along with a kepi-style cap; the latter appears to bear a standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' badge.