Potteries Electric Traction Company

The Potteries Electric Traction Company was a subsidiary of the much larger British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BETCo), a concern which, over the course of its history, either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles. The photos below show Potteries Electric Traction Company staff wearing the familiar and largely regulation BETCo uniform. Although jackets appeared to vary somewhat between BETCo systems, as well as across the decades, the cap badges, collar designations and buttons invariably followed a standard pattern.

Despite the PETCo's rather extensive system (over 30 route miles in total), surviving photographs which include tramcar crews are of very poor quality, and almost always show them in greatcoats, which unfortunately obscure details of the uniforms worn underneath. One photograph does however reveal that both motormen and conductors were issued with single-breasted jackets with five buttons (of the standard BETCo pattern — see link), two breast pockets (with button closures), epaulettes and upright collars. Although details of the collar insignia cannot be made out on the surviving photographs, by analogy with other BETCo systems, they probably carried system initials on the bearer's right-hand side, in individual letters (probably 'P E T' or 'P E T Co'), and an employee number on the left-hand side, in individual numerals, all in brass. Caps were initially soft-topped with a glossy peak, and carried a cap badge, very probably the standard brass BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ issue. At some point fairly early in the system's life, these caps were replaced by military-style caps with a tensioned crown (top), which from then on bore the BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge, above an employee number in individual numerals, all in brass.

Tramcar crews were also issued with double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons, high fold-over collars and epaulettes; neither the collars nor the epaulettes appear to have carried badges.

Inspectors wore single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or a hook and eye affair) and upright collars; the jackets were edged in a finer material than the main body, and the collars bore 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. Photos from the early days of the system show that inspectors wore kepi-style caps topped by a pom pom; the cap bore a large oval cloth cap badge with the bearer's grade in block lettering — 'INSPECTOR' — above which were the system initials in script lettering — 'PET'. It seems highly likely that the caps — at least — would have been superseded by more modern military-style caps, though photograph evidence is yet to come to light.

Although the vast majority of British Tramway systems employed women during the Great War, to replace male staff lost to the armed services, the situation with the PETCo remains unclear, with no photographic evidence having survived.

For a detailed history of the system, see 'Tramways in the Potteries and North Staffordshire, Part 2 by Harry Dibdin, in The Tramway Review, Issue 27; Light Railway Transport League (1959). My thanks to John Perkin for providing me with a copy of this difficult to find article.


Motormen and conductors
Potteries Electric Traction Tram No 76 and crew
A poor-quality photograph, but one which does show a conductor and motorman in jackets rather than greatcoats — photo undated, but judging by the excellent condition of the tram, probably take not long after its delivery (1900). Both men are wearing single-breasted jackets with upright collars and epaulettes.

Potteries Electric Traction Company motorman
A blow-up of the above photograph showing the motorman, who is wearing a soft-topped cap, which probably bears a standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge (see below).

Potteries Electric Traction Company Tram No 100
The crew of Tramcar No 100 (an ex-Middleton Electric Tramways vehicle) pose for the camera — photo undated, but possibly taken not that long after its acquisition in 1907. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.

Potteries Electric Traction Company Tram No 5
A very battered Tramcar No 5, festooned with advertisements — photo undated, but almost certainly taken in the mid-to-late 1920s. Although the detail cannot be made out, the caps bear the standard BETCo 'Magnet and Wheel' cap badge, worn above an employee number. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.

British Electric Traction Company cap badge
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge — brass. Author's Collection.

Potteries Electric Traction Company Tram No 80 and crew
Tramcar No 80 and crewmen, both in double-breasted overcoats — photo undated, but probably taken in the 1920s. The conductor is wearing a flat cap rather than the usual military-style hat. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.

Senior staff
Potteries Electric Traction Company tramways inspector
Potteries Electric Traction Company inspector — photo undated, but probably late Victorian or Edwardian. The kepi-style cap bears a large, oval, cloth cap badge with the grade in block lettering ('INSPECTOR') and script system initials ('PET'). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.

Potteries Electric Traction Company inspector
A blow-up of an 1899 steam-era photo (see link) showing an assembly of North Staffordshire Tramways staff, along with an inspector who is almost certainly an employee of the PETCo (which operated the NST). He is wearing typical 'inspector' garb, with a kepi-style cap topped by a pom pom; his cap clearly bearing a large oval cap badge.