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 horsecar conductors and drivers; staff had previously worn smart but informal attire (see link). The uniforms were in blue serge with orange piping, and initially comprised single-breasted jackets with four or five buttons (probably in brass and depicting the municipal arms — see link) and lapels, 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 confirmatory 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; the insignia was almost certainly brass.

Some time before the Great War, a switch was made to more modern, military-style caps with tensioned crowns (tops); they continued to carry a grade badge and a small municipal arms badge. The style of the uniforms appears to have been changed around the same time, but with different styles of jacket for conductors and motormen. Conductor's jackets were single-breasted with five buttons, two breast pockets (with button closures), upright collars and epaulettes; the collars carried system initials — W C T — on both sides, whilst the epaulettes had a button fastening and bore the same municipal arms badge that was used on the caps. Motorman on the other hand were issued with double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunics with five pairs of buttons (narrowing from top to bottom), upright collars and epaulettes; both the collars and the epaulettes carried the same insignia as used on the conductors' jackets.

At some point, the use of script-lettering grade badges on the caps appears to have been phased out, leaving just the municipal arms badge as the sole cap adornment. Towards the end of tram operation (1928), it is possible that tramcar crews were issued with new, more modern uniforms, though these may have been restricted to motorbus and trolleybus men. If they did indeed get the new jackets — photographic evidence is unfortunately inconclusive — then these would have been double-breasted with four pairs of buttons, lapels and button-closed epaulettes; the latter bore the standard municipal arms badge, whilst the collars bore W.C.T. in embroidered script lettering. Caps were still military in style with the standard municipal cap badge, but the crown was now of woven straw (presumably with some kind of waterproofing).

Staff were also issued with double-breasted greatcoats with five pairs of 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 like the jackets worn underneath, 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 three pairs of 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 Tram No 30 at Fighting Cocks
Conductor and motorman pose on the platform of Tramcar No 30 at Fighting Cocks — photo undated, but probably taken between 1904 and 1910.


Wolverhampton Corporation Tramwatram conductor and driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the crew; the 'W C T' collar badges are easily made out, as is the general shape of the small municipal cap badge.


Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways cap badge
Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways cap (and later epaulette) 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.


Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways tram no 47 and crew
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.


Wolverhampton Corp MTM_AWB RED
A studio portrait of an unidentified WCT motorman with his wife (named Florie) and daughter (who died shortly after the photo was taken according to the rear of the card) — photo undated, but probably taken shortly after the Great War judging by the medal ribbon. The photo was taking in Nightingale's Studio at 45 Coleman St in Wolverhampton, a photographer who is known to have been active in the 1920s and 1930s. Author's Collection.


Wolverhampton Corp MTM_AWB CROP
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the motorman's tunic and cap. The collars bear individual 'W C T' initials, whilst the cap and epaulettes bear the standard municipal arms badge.


Wolverhampton Corporation Transport bus driver Frank Turley circa 1930
A rare studio portrait of a Wolverhampton Corporation Transport employee, Frank Turley. Frank was born in 1880 and died in 1950, and looks to be in his late 40s in the photograph, which would date it to the late 1920's or early 1930's. He is believed to have been a bus driver rather than a tram motorman, though the uniform may well have been issued to all the corporation's drivers in the mid-to-late 1920s, irrespective of the type of vehicles they drove. Photograph courtesy of Ralph Hickman.


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.