Taunton Electric Tramways

The Taunton Electric Tramways Co Ltd, as well as its predecessor, the Taunton and West Somerset Electric Railways and Tramways Co Ltd, was a subsidiary of the much larger British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BETCo), a concern which at its zenith either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles. The photos below clearly show Taunton 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.

The tunics issued to Taunton staff were initially double-breasted, with two rows of four buttons, three pockets at waist level, and lapels; the latter carried individual letters on both sides (’T E T’ - almost certainly embroidered), the overall effect being almost naval in appearance. Caps were initially in a flatter railway style, being soft-topped with a glossy peak; they carried a standard brass BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge (see below) beneath an employee number in metal numerals, the latter being worn very high up on the front of the cap. The position of the latter was highly unusual, as all other BETCo subsidiaries - for which I have evidence - wore the cap badge above the employee number.

At some point before 1909, the uniforms were changed to single-breasted jackets with five buttons, a single breast pocket with button closure (changed to two pockets after WWI) and upright collars. The latter now carried an individual employee number (in metal numerals) on the left-hand side and individual metal initials ('T E T') on the right-hand side; this was standard BETCo practice. At the same time, the caps were changed to a military style with a tensioned crown (top), with the badge either worn without an employee number, or in the few cases when an employee number was worn, this was displayed below the 'Magnet & Wheel' badge in line with standard BETCo practice.

Female staff were employed during the Great War - both as conductresses and motorwomen - and were issued with tailored single-breasted jackets with five buttons and a waist belt (with button fastening), along with a long matching skirt. Bagy caps were worn; these had a glossy peak and carried the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge.

In the early days, the single inspector wore a similar uniform to motormen and conductors, but with a material band (of different colour to the uniform) around the cuffs and the caps. The uniform appears not to have carried a designation, once again at odds with the standard BETCo practice. The inspector's uniform was however subsequently changed to follow standard BETCo practice, i.e., a single-breasted jacket with hidden buttons and upright collars, the latter carrying the designation 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. The cap was also changed to a regulation issue with hat band carrying 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering.

With many thanks to John Perkin for the numerous high quality photos below.

For a history of the system, see: 'Exeter and Taunton Tramways' by J. B. Perkin; Middleton Press (1994).


Motormen and conductors

A staff photo, taken inside the depot at East Reach, to commemorate the start of operations in 1901. The sole inspector is seated, right. With thanks to John Perkin.

A blow-up of the above photo showing Employee No 2, Robert Croker, who was the foreman and who remained with the company throughout its entire existence. Although several BET systems commenced operations with these naval style jackets, what makes the TET somewhat unusual is the policy of wearing the BET 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge beneath the employee number, a reversal of BET practice elsewhere.

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

A staff photo, taken inside East Reach Depot around 1905. The uniforms and insignia are unchanged from those worn at the start of operations. Robert Croker is seated second from the left. With thanks to John Perkin.

A staff photo, taken outside East Reach Depot around 1909. The uniforms had by this time been altered to a single-breasted design with a military-style cap; the latter adorned by the standard BET 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, but without the employee number. With thanks to John Perkin.

Taunton Electric Tramways conductor
Conductor No 4 aboard Tramcar No 10 - photo undated. The collar designations are easily made out. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Conductor Bill Yard, aged 17 years, with his motorman at East Reach in 1917. Conductor Yard is clearly wearing an employee number on his cap. With thanks to John Perkin.

A staff photo taken in 1921 at East Reach, just prior to closure. The poster on the left urges the public to "Ride now before it is too late"! The uniforms appear to be recently issued, indicating that the BETCo did not attempt to cut corners, in spite of the dire financial performance of this particular subsidiary. With thanks to John Perkin.

A blow-up of the above photo, clearly showing the collar designations and the absence of an employee number on the cap.

Senior staff

Two photographs of inspectors - taken from the above photos - showing the contrast in uniform style from 1901 to 1921. The latter was very much standard BET issue for inspectors. It is entirely possible that these two photos show the same individual.

Female staff

A staff photo, once again taken outside East Reach Depot - photo undated, but certainly taken during or very shortly after Great War. The majority of staff are either very young or female, undoubtedly the result of many of the men volunteering for military service. With thanks to John Perkin.

A motorwoman and her young conductor pose aboard their tramcar - photo undated, but almost certainly taken in the second half of the First World War. With thanks to John Perkin.