Volks Electric Railway

Summary
From the start of services in 1883, it would appear that drivers and conductors/ticket collectors were issued with basic uniforms comprising single-breasted jackets and soft-topped caps (reminiscent of railway practice). Whether these uniforms carried insignia of any kind is currently unclear.

By the 1890s, drivers and conductors/ticket collectors were wearing smart, double-breasted jackets with two rows of four buttons (possibly bearing a stylised 'V'; see link) and lapels, along with soft-topped, military-style caps. The lapels bore embroidered system initials - 'V E R' - on both sides, with the caps seemingly left plain, though this cannot be stated with certainty. The jackets were probably changed to a single-breasted cut some time in the 1930s or 1940s, possibly following the take-over by Brighton Corporation. Around the same time, the soft-topped caps were superseded by a military style of cap with a tensioned crown (top); although some photos clearly show that these caps bore a round cap badge, almost certainly embroidered and bearing a letter 'V' within a circle, others are less clear, hinting at a metallic badge.

Staff were also issued long, double-breasted greatcoats with lapels; like the jackets worn underneath, they do not appear to have borne badges of any kind.

At the time of the centenary (1983), and possibly as part of it, new uniforms made an appearance; these comprised single-breasted jackets with lapels, the latter highlighted with light-coloured edging material, and with a large 'V' - in the same material as the lapel edging - on the breast pocket. The caps were also embellished with the same light-coloured material, though it is unclear if a cap badge was worn.

Photos taken in the 1980s/90s suggest that uniform policy had become extremely relaxed, with most staff wearing informal attire, though in later decades, VR-branded polo shirts and sweatshirts became the norm.

The VER also employed a more senior grade, possibly a line superintendent or inspector. The opening day photo below shows an individual in a long coat with upright collars, heavily embellished, and with a kepi-style cap topped with a pom pom. By the turn of the century, the uniform had been changed to a three-quarter length coat with two rows of four closely spaced buttons and lapels; the lapels bore embroidered system initials, and the sleeve cuffs were highlighted with two rings of lighter material. The cap was now soft-topped, and military in style, but it is unclear whether or not it bore a cap badge. The whole ensemble was very naval in appearance.

For a pictorial history of the railway, see: 'Volk's Railways Brighton - an Illustrated History' by Alan A Jackson; Plateway Press (1993).

Images

Drivers, conductors and station/line staff
Volks Electric railway opening day 1883 conductor
A photo taken on the opening day, 3rd August 1883. The driver (on the left-hand platform), who would appear to be wearing a uniform of sorts, with a soft-topped cap, is actually Magnus Volk. The figure on the extreme right is wearing an elaborate three-quarter-length coat with upright collars and a kepi-style cap with pom pom; he is clearly a senior official, possibly a superintendent or station master. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Volks Electric Railwa conductors etc.
A rather busy scene at the Palace Pier terminus, unfortunately undated, but thought to have been taken in the early Edwardian era. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Volks Electric Railwy driver conductor station master
A blow-up of the above photo showing three of the figures. The men on the left and right are probably drivers or conductors/ticket collectors, whilst the man in the centre, in three-quarter-length double breasted jacket, is probably a station master or superintendent. All present appear to have three letters embroidered on their jacket collars, presumably the system initials, 'V E R'.


Volks Electric Railway driver Edwardian
The driver of an unidentified car adopts a rather earnest-looking pose for this photograph, which although undated, was probably taken in the early Edwardian era. He is wearing a double-breasted uniform jacket and a military-style cap with rain cover; whilst the jacket's collars certainly bear insignia of some description, the cap appears to have been left plain. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Volks Electric railway driver and conductor
VER driver and conductor/ticket collector captured at Blackrock Station - photo undated, but almost certainly taken in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Volks Electric Railway cap badge
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the cap badge. It clearly bears a large 'V', and would appear to be embroidered, though this is by no means certain.


Volks Electric Railway driver
VER driver at the controls, probably at Paston Place Station - photo undated, but possibly taken in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Volks Electric Railway driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the large, round cap badge. It would appear to be different to that shown in preceding photos.


Volks Electric Railway driver 1883
The driver of an unidentified car - photo undated, but almost certainly taken in 1983. The driver is wearing a uniform jacket and military-style cap embellished with yellow edging/piping, including a prominent 'V' on the breast pocket; the cap on the other hand, does not appear to bear a badge. The whole ensemble may possibly have been introduced specifically for the centenary. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Volks Electric Railway driver
A driver eases a car out of Paston Place Station - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1980s. He is wearing informal attire, something that appeared to be the 'norm' during this and the ensuing decade. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Volks Electric Railway driver 2000s
Car No 6, with the driver in a 'logo'd' burgundy sweatshirt - photo undated, but probably taken between 2010 and 2015. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.