South Shields Horse Tramways

Summary
Although South Shields' horse tramway system was built and owned by the corporation, it never actually operated the services itself, instead leasing the tramway to a succession of operating companies. The first of these was the South Shields Tramways Company (1883-1886), about which very little is known, with not even a single photograph having survived for posterity. It does however seem likely that the company followed the general practice of most horse-tramway companies in not issuing uniforms, so in probability, staff would simply have worn informal attire, such as heavy jackets and overcoats, along with the fashionable head gear of the day (during this period, almost certainly the bowler hat).

In contrast to the above, photos of the subsequent South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company era (1887-1889) have survived in significant numbers, and clearly show that staff wore a variety of informal attire such as jackets, shirts and ties, heavy overcoats (particularly drivers), along with top hats, bowlers hats and tight fitting flat caps. No insignia of any kind, badges or licences, were worn.

Following the British Electric Traction Company takeover of 1899, staff were issued with uniforms: conductors wore single-breasted jackets with five buttons and upright collars, whilst drivers appear to have worn double-breasted jackets with lapels. Neither style of jacket appears to have borne insignia of any kind. Caps were initially in a kepi style with a glossy peak, but did not at first carry a cap badge. At some point, it isn't exactly clear when, the kepis were superseded by soft-topped military-style caps with glossy peaks; these now bore a cap badge, probably an employee number, though there remains a possibility that it was the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' badge (see below). The latter is however unlikely given that the BETCo generally only introduced the 'Magnet & Wheel' device following system electrification, probably because of its obvious electrical associations (a magnet and electrical flashes). The only instance I am aware of where the BETCo issued a 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge to staff of a horse tramway, was the Brighton and Shoreham Tramway; this was however only to the system's sole inspector.

Drivers and conductors were also issued with double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons and high fold-over collars; the latter appear to have been left plain.

Numerous photographs of the SST&CCo have survived, but none show inspectors, and it could well be that the company did not see fit to employ them.

For a history of South Shields tramways, see: 'South Shields Transport' by J Carlson and N Mortson; The History Press (2007).

Images

Horse tram drivers and conductors
South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company horse tram No 6
A rather new-looking Horsecar No 6 at Bents Park - photo undated, but possibly taken around 1890 when these Ashburys-built vehicles were first put into service. The driver is wearing typical coaching gear, i.e. a coachman's coat and a top hat; the conductor on the other hand is wearing an informal single-breasted jacket and a tight-fitting flat cap. With thanks to Malcolm Fraser.


South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company Tram No 1
Horsecar No 1, another Ashburys-built single decker, and again captured at Bents Park - photo undated, but probably taken around 1890. Both men are wearing the tall bowlers typical of the period. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company horse tram No 10
Horsecar No 10 (a product of G F Milnes) stands at Tyne Dock - photo undated, but probably taken around 1894. Both the driver and conductor are wearing informal attire, the former in a bowler hat and the latter in a flat cap. The conductor is holding a Kayes Patent fare collection box in his right hand. With thanks to Malcolm Fraser.


South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company Horse tram No 5
Another shot taken at Tyne Dock, this time of Horsecar No 5 - photo undated, but probably taken in the mid-1890s. Both men are wearing informal attire and flat caps. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


South Shields Traamways and Carriage Company Victoria rd tram depot and staff 1890s
A superb shot taken in Victoria Rd depot with a toastrack horse car, showing fitters, farriers, stablehands and presumably, the odd driver and conductor - photo undated, but probably taken in the early-to-mid 1890s. No-one present is wearing a uniform. The SST&CCo had a number of toastracks, and you have to admire the optimism of the company given South Shields exposed position on the North Sea coast. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company horse tram No 12
Horsecar No 12, a toastrack, stands at Bents Park on the Pier to Laygate Lane route - photo undated, but probably taken in the mid 1890s. Both the driver and conductor are wearing informal attire, and there is no sign of insignia, either badges or licences. Photo by W Laws, with thanks to Malcolm Fraser.


South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company Tram No 11 Bents Lane
Another shot of a toastrack at Bents Lane, this time No 11, which though quite elaborate, could clearly do with a lick of paint, suggesting that the photograph was taken in the late 1890s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


South Shields Tramways horse tram crew and Kayes Patent far collection box
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and conductor, the latter with a Kayes Patent fare collection box.


South Shields Tramways Company Horse Tram No 9 Bents Park.
Horsecar No 9 captured at Bents Park - photo undated, but probably taken shortly after the British Electric Traction Company takeover of 1899. With thanks to Malcolm Fraser.


South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company horse tramconductor and driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and conductor, both of whom are wearing uniforms with kepi style caps. Neither the collars nor the caps would appear to carry insignia.


South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company horse tram No 8 Pier Parad
Horsecar No 8 standing in front of the Sea Water Baths at Pier Parade - photo undated, but possibly taken in 1905. With thanks to Malcolm Fraser.


South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company horse tram driver and conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and driver, both of whom are wearing greatcoats - photo undated, but possibly taken in 1905. Both men are wearing soft-topped, military style caps which carry a metal cap badge, probably an employee number, though it may be the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge.


South Shields Tramways and Carriage Company cap badge
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge - brass. It seems unlikely that staff were issued with this badge, as the BETCo generally only introduced them following electrification; it remains however, a possibility.


South Shields Tramways and Carriage COmpany toastrack tram
A poor quality photo of a South Shields toastrack, but one which does show a driver in double-breasted uniform jacket with lapels - photo undated, but certainly taken between 1899 and 1906. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.