Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways

Summary
Following the take-over of the Wolverhampton Tramways Company on 1st May 1900, the Corporation lost no time in branding its newly acquired enterprise by issuing smart uniforms to both conductors and drivers; staff had previously worn smart but informal attire (see link). The uniforms were in blue serge with orange piping, and initially consisted of single-breasted jackets with four or five buttons (probably in brass and depicting the municipal arms - see link) and lapels, and were worn together with white shirts and kepi-style caps (with glossy peaks). It is unclear whether the caps or jackets bore any insignia prior to electrification, though the second photo below suggests that a cap badge was indeed worn.

These uniforms appear to have been an interim measure, as all photographs taken during the early years of the electric era show staff wearing single-breasted tunics with five buttons and upright collars; the latter bore 'W C T' in individual metal letters on the right-hand side (very likely in brass), and probably on the left as well, though photographic evidence is currently lacking. Caps were in a kepi style and carried script-lettering badges - either Motorman or Conductor - above which a small municipal cap badge was worn; all the badges were almost certainly brass.

Some time before the Great War, a switch was made to more modern, military-style caps with tensioned crowns (tops), whilst jackets were altered to include epaulettes and breast pockets (with button closures); the epaulettes clearly carried some kind badge, very probably the small municipal badge worn on the cap, though it could well have been an employee number. From this time onwards, the use of script-lettering grade badges on the caps appears to have been phased out.

Staff were also issued with double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons and high, fold-over collars; the latter appear to have carried some kind of embroidered insignia, possibly 'W C T'. These garments initially had no epaulettes, but in common with the tunics, subsequently had them.

The uniforms and insignia worn by inspectors are currently unknown.

In common with many tramway systems, women were employed in considerable numbers during the Great War to replace male staff lost to the armed services. Female staff were issued with tailored, double-breasted jackets with two rows of three buttons and lapels, together with matching skirts; no insignia of any kind appears to have adorned the uniforms. Headgear consisted of a wide, baggy cap with a glossy peak; this carried a variety of badges (both the small municipal badge and/or grade badges are represented photographically), presumably dependent on available stock. The photo below indicates that ladies were also issued with long, tailored, single-breasted coats fastened with a belt (adorned with a button).

For more information on the tramways of Wolverhampton, see 'A History of Wolverhampton Transport, Volume I, 1833-1930; S Webb and P Addenbrooke (Birmingham Transport Historical Group).

Images

Horse tram drivers and conductors
Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways horse tram
Two corporation horsecar staff turn Car No 21's horses at the Newbridge Terminus - photo undated, but certainly taken between the corporation take-over (1st May 1900) and the last horsecar service over this terminal section (January 1902), as both men are wearing Corporation uniforms. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways horse tram
Corporation horsecar driver in Chapel Ash, seemingly so intent on his charges that he hasn't noticed the photographer - photo undated, but again clearly after May 1900 as he sports a uniform and kepi-style cap. His cap appears to carry a large cap badge, though this may just be a trick of the light. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Motormen and conductors
Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways staff
Conductor and motorman pose on the platform of Tramcar No 30 at Fighting Cocks - photo undated, but probably taken between 1904 and 1910. The 'W C T' collar badges are easily made out, as is the general shape of the small municipal cap badge. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways cap badge
Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways cap badge - brass. Author's Collection.


Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways badges
General pattern script-lettering grade cap badges (brass), as worn by Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways tramcar staff. Author's Collection.



Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 47 at Penn Fields - photo undated, but possibly taken after the Great War as the vehicle is top covered. Both men are wearing military-style caps, and their tunics bear epaulettes.


Female staff
Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways Great War tram conductress and driver
Great War conductress and motorman pose with Tramcar No 8 outside the corporation depot in Cleveland Rd. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.



A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductress and motorman. The conductress' cap badge is a bit of a mystery as other photos clearly show female staff wearing the standard municipal badge or a script-lettering cap badge. Note that the motorman is only wearing the small municipal cap badge, with no sign of the previously worn script-lettering grade badge.