Swansea's tramways were operated throughout their existence by the Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company (SI&TCo), which initially owned all the lines itself, but which later on operated several lines built by the local authorities. Services were horse-drawn for the first 22 years of the system's life, including a brief experimentation with steam, before conversion to electric traction commenced in 1900.
For such a busy industrial city, photographs of the horse and steam era are surprisingly rare. What few there are suggest that drivers and conductors wore informal attire, along with an arm band that presumably marked them as company officials. However, given that buttons bearing the city's unofficial arms and the full name of the company have survived (see link), there is a possibility that uniforms were issued at some point, though this may only have been to senior grades (e.g. inspectors) or to staff working the steam services on the Swansea and Mumbles Railway.
Electrification took place under auspices of the British Electric Traction Company Limited (BET), an entreprise which at its zenith either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles (see link). Staff working the Swansea trams wore 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. Photos of the early years are scarce, but those that have survived suggest that staff were initially issued with double-breasted jackets with two rows of four buttons (bearing the standard BET 'Magnet and Wheel' device - see link), and lapels; the latter carried some form of designation, almost certainly system initials, and in all likelihood embroidered. Caps were initiallly soft-topped, and bore the standard BET 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, above an employee number, all almost certainly in brass; these soft-topped caps appear however, to have been relatively quickly superseded by military-style caps with a tensioned crown (top). Although tramcar staff initially wore the arm bands that were used in the horse era, it would appear that these quickly fell out of use.
The style of the uniforms appears to have been changed in the mid-to-late Edwardian era to a single-breasted design with upright collars and lapels; by analogy with other BET systems, the collars probably carried brass system initials on one side and an employee number on the other. Uniform jackets were eventually changed back to a double-breasted design some time in the 1920s; this later design had two rows of five buttons (four on the body and one between the lapel and the collar). Photos also exist from the 1920s showing that script-lettering cap badges - 'Motorman' and 'Conductor' - were occasionally worn.
Brass licences (inlaid with red paint) have survived in significant numbers (see below); these were hung by a leather strap, usually from a jacket button, and were introduced shortly after the Great War.
Inspectors wore a single-breasted jacket with hidden buttons (or a hook and eye affair) and upright collars; the latter bore ‘Inspector’ in embrodiered script lettering. The standard ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge was worn on the cap, but with an embroidered script-lettering ‘Inspector’ badge in place of the usual employee number.
In common with many tramway systems, the SITCo employed female staff during the Great War to replace male employees lost to the armed services. These ladies were issued with tailored single-breasted jackets with four pockets (with button closures), a waist belt (with button fastening), lapels and epaulettes; both lapels and epaulettes would appear not to have carried any insignia. A long matching skirt was also worn. Headgear took the form of a waterproof bonnet which carried the standard BET 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, probably affixed to a hat band. Conductresses were also issued with municipal licences, which the one surviving photograph reveals to have been attached to the bearer's ticket punch strap.
Horse drivers and conductors
Horse Car No 16 - photo undated. The individual on the left is clearly wearing an arm band of some description, presumably either a licence or a means of official identification. It is unclear whether he is wearing a uniform, though in all likeihood it is merely informal attire. Photo courtesy of David Beynon.
A poor quality photograph of Horsecar No 38, possibly standing at Landore, but one which again shows that conductors at least (second from the right) wore some kind of arm band - photo undated. Photo courtesy of David Beynon.
Motormen and conductors
The crew of Brush single-deck Tramcar No 18 in High St - photo undated, but probably taken around 1900. Note the soft-topped caps and the arm band on the individual on the left. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
Tramcar No 25 at the Duke terminus on the Morriston route in 1900. Both the conductor (in informal attire) and the motorman, are wearing arm bands. Photo courtesy of David Beynon.
A blow-up of a larger photo of Swansea Tramways Choir - photo undated, but probably early Edwardian. The BET 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badges and employee numbers as clearly seen. The collar insignia appears to be embroidered. Photo courtesy of David Beynon.
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge, as worn by staff of the Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company in electric days - brass.
Tramcar No 12 in High St - photo undated, but probably mid Edwardian. The conductor is wearing a single-breasted tunic with a military-style cap. Photo courtesy of David Beynon.
Parcels Boy (?), conductor and motorman (in leather apron) with Tramcar No 31 on a service for High St - photo undated, but probably mid Edwardian given that it is in open-topped condition in this photo (it was top-covered in 1907/8). The conductor and motorman are wearing the standard BET 'Magnet and Wheel' cap badge above an employee number. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
Motorman and the controls of Tramcar No 33 - photo purportedly taken in 1909, but may actually be later than this. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice
Conductor and motorman with single-deck tram No 28 at Ynysforgan Midland Terrace - photo undated, but probably taken before the Great War. Photo courtesy of David Beynon.
Parcels boy (holding a trolley), motorman, conductor and inspector with Tramcar No 54 at the terminus at Port Tennant - photo undated, but given that this vehicle was only introduced in 1919 (replacing the original No 54), it was probably taken in that year or very shortly thereafter. Richard Rosa collection.
Blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman and conductor. Although blurred, the motorman is clearly wearing a round licence (almost certainly of the pattern depicted below), which is hanging from his breast pocket; the conductor has a chevron on his left sleeve, probably denoting good conduct or long service.
Conductor's licence - brass and red paint (originally this surrounded the number). These appear to have been introduced some time shortly after the Great War. Author's collection.
Driver's licence - brass. Author's collection.
Conductor and motorman with Tramcar No 38 at the Brynmill terminus between 1925 and 1929. The motorman (right) is wearing a script-lettering 'Motorman' cap badge along with a municipal licence (on his left breast). Photo courtesy of David Beynon.
Motorman with Works Car No 2 outside St Helen's depot - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1930s. Photo by H Nicol, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.
Blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman.
Conductor and motorman with Tramcar No 35 at the Brynmill terminus between 1930 and 1934. The motorman (left) is clearly wearing a round municipal licence (see below). Photo courtesy of David Beynon.
Motorman George Johns, who was the driver of the last tram to work the Morriston Section on the 6th March 1937- photo undated, but probably taken at or shortly before closure. Apart from the buttons and the standard 'Magnet and Wheel' cap badge, the uniform bears no other insignia. Photo courtesy of David Beynon.
Studio portrait of a Swansea Improvements and Tramways Co inspector - photo undated, but probably Edwardian. The rear of the card has 'J B Morgan' written on it, though whether this is the subject is unclear. Author's collection
A blow-up of the above photo showing the embroidered badges and BET 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge.
Blow-up of the post-Great War shot of Tramcar No 54 above, showing the inspector.
Swansea Tramways conductress - photo undated, but probably taken during or shortly after the Great War. Although it is unclear whether the subject is a tram or bus conductress, in all likelihood they wore the same uniform. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.
A blow-up of the above photo revealing the subject to be the bearer of Licence No 123.