Reading Tramways Company

Summary
Photographs depicting staff of the Reading Tramways Company are surprisingly common, so it is possible to describe with some degree of accuracy, the attire that was worn over the course of the company's 22-year existence. Photos from the early days of operation show staff wearing informal but smart attire (jackets, shirts and ties), along with the fashionable headgear of the day: flat caps, bowler hats, and even top hats. This was very much the 'norm' for late Victorian horse tramways, with only a few operators choosing to issue uniforms.

Around the turn of the century, the company may possibly have issued its tramwaymen with uniforms, though dating difficulties preclude stating this with any certainty. Although several photos exist that show uniformed staff with horsecars bearing the tramway company's device (this contained the vehicle number), a note of caution should be sounded as it undoubtedly took the corporation some considerable time to repaint the entire fleet following their takeover. In fact, photos exist which show staff in identical uniforms, both with company-liveried and corporation-liveried horsecars. As precise dates for these photos are not available, it is currently impossible to say whether these uniforms were issued by the company - late in its existence - and subsequently used following the corporation take-over, or whether they were issued by the corporation.

The uniforms comprised single-breasted jackets (odd photos show double-breasted jackets) with lapels, the upper part of which carried some sort of embroidered insignia, though this cannot unfortunately be made out. Headgear was a squat, kepi-style cap, which certainly bore a large oval-shaped badge - possibly cloth - the precise form of which remains unclear.

In later years, drivers wore a large oval licence consisting of white letters (and numerals) on a dark background, almost certainly enamel.

Images

Reading Tramways Company horse car No 4
Reading Tramways Company Horsecar No 4, photographed in the vicinity of the Barracks - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1880s, given that this tram was replaced by a new double-deck vehicle in 1890. Both driver and conductor are wearing informal but robust attire, and neither has a municipal licence. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Reading Tramways Company No6
Driver and conductor pose for the camera with Horsecar No 6 in Oxford Rd in 1893. Both men are smartly but informally attired. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Reading Tramways Company car No 5
Two very young crewmen pose with Horsecar No 5 - photo undated, but probably taken around the time of the corporation take-over. Although the horsecar clearly bears the device of the Tramway Company, this does not necessarily mean that the photo pre-dates the corporation take-over. Both men are wearing squat, kepi-style caps, whilst the driver sports a large oval licence comprising white letters (and a numeral) on a dark background. The driver's jacket also appears to have some kind of embroidered badge on the upper lapels. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.