Peterborough Electric Tramways

Summary
The Peterborough Electric Traction Company was a subsidiary of the much larger British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BET), 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 Peterborough Electric Tramways staff wearing the familiar and largely regulation BET uniform. Although jackets appeared to vary somewhat between BET systems, as well as across the decades, the cap badges, collar designations and buttons invariably followed a standard pattern.

For the inauguration of services, staff wore informal attire as it would appear that the uniforms were late in arriving; it is currently unclear when they were eventually issued, but this was probably not long after services commenced. Although a photograph exists which shows a motorman in informal attire in 1904 (see second photo below), this is in all probability misdated, as it would imply that the company failed to issue uniforms for at least 12 months after opening, a highly unlikely scenario.

Other than the opening day, photos showing tramcar staff in the Edwardian era are few in number and of frustratingly poor quality. From what little evidence there is, it would appear that the first uniforms took the form of double-breasted jackets with two rows of buttons and lapels; by analogy with other BET systems, the upper lapels (collars) probably carried embroidered system initials, probably 'P. E. T' or 'P.E.T.Co'. Caps appear initially to have been in the kepi style with a glossy peak, and by analogy with other 'BET'-owned systems, these almost certainly carried the standard BET 'Magnet and Wheel' cap badge in brass, along with an employee number (in individual brass numerals, worn below the main badge).

At some point, possibly in the late Edwardian era, single-breasted tunics were issued to all tramcar staff; these had a single row of five buttons, two breast pockets (with button closures) and upright collars. Once again, by analogy with other BET systems, the latter probably carried system initials on the right-hand side (probably 'PET' or 'PETCo') in individual brass initials, and an employee number on the left-hand side, again in brass. Caps were also changed, probably around the same time, to an upright military style with a glossy peak; these continued to carry the standard brass BET ‘Magnet & Wheel’ badge and employee number, though the latter appears to have been gradually dispensed with.

In common with the vast majority of British Tramway systems, Peterborough employed ladies during the Great War - primarily as conductresses, but a few later as motormen - to replace male staff lost to the armed services These ladies were probably issued with jackets and long skirts, though it is impossible to confirm this as all surviving photos show them in long, double-breasted overcoats with two rows of five buttons, lapels and epaulettes. It is unclear if these overcoats carried any insignia. Headgear appears to have consisted of a wide-brimmed, waterproofed bonnet, which carried the standard BET 'Magnet and Wheel' cap badge, probably on a hat band. In stark contrast to most other tramway operators, Peterborough continued to employee female staff after the war, right up until closure of the system in 1930. Post-war photographs indicate that the Great War bonnets were superseded by large floppy peaked caps; these continued to bear the standard BET cap badge.

Inspectors wore standard BET uniforms, which comprised single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair) and upright collars; the jackets were edged in a finer material than the jacket itself, and the collars almost certainly bore 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. Headgear was essentailly similar to that issued to tramcar staff, but with 'Inspector' - in embroidered script lettering on a hat band - initially with the standard BET cap badge (above), but later alone.

For a general history of the system, see 'Peterborough Tramways' by G D Austin; Greater Peterborough Arts Council (1975).

Images

Peterborough Tramways Tramcar No 1 opening day
Motorman at the controls of Tramcar No 1 in Long Causeway on the opening day of operations, 24th January 1903. Uniforms were clearly a little late in arriving, hence the informal attire. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Peterborough Tramways Tramcar No 12 - 1904
Tramcar No 12 negotiates the corner from Lincoln Rd into Westgate - photo purportedly taken in 1904. There is some reason to doubt the dating of this photo, as if true, it would imply that uniforms had still not been issued over 12 months after services began, an extremely unlikely scenario. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Peterborough Trmways Tramcar no 12
Tramcar No 12 in Eastfield Rd on a Newark service - photo undated, but purportedly taken in 1905. Both men are wearing double-breasted jackets with lapels, and what appear to be kepi-style caps. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


British Electric Traction Company cap badge
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge - brass


Peterborough Tramways Tramcar No 14 - 1904
Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 15 at Newark Lane passing place on a service to the Market Place - photo purportedly taken in 1904, but very probably taken just prior to the First World War. The photo was probably mis-dated due to the car's livery, which was thought to be that of the Worcester Electric Traction Company, another BET-owned system for which the car was originally intended, and in whose colours it was supposedly delivered. A more likely scenario is that the photo dates from just prior to the First World War, when all Peterborough's trams, including this one, were repainted into a new green livery (a BET standard) that was very similar to that used at Worcester. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Peterborough Electric Tramways staff photo 1923
Staff photo taken in front of Lincoln Rd tram depot in 1923. Peterborough was very unusual in that it continued to employ female staff in significant numbers after the war, whereas the vast majority of operators rapidly released them in favour of the returning men. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Depot - 1MotormenCROP
Blow-up of the above photo showing three tramcar staff. Note that none are wearing the employee numbers previously worn on the caps.


Peterborough Tramways Tramcar No 14 1929
Motorman at the controls on Tramcar No 14 at the Newark Terminus in 1929, by now looking somewhat battered. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Peterborough Tramways inspectors and conductresses
Blow up of the staff photo above, showing three inspectors and three conductresses.


Peterborough Tramways conductress 1929
Conductress with Tramcar No 14 at the Newark Terminus in 1929 - taken from the same photo as that showing the motorman above.


Peterborough Tramways Tramcar No 12 last tram
Conductress G Coles aboard what was probably Peterborough's last operational tram, No 12. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.