Wantage Tramway

Summary
The Wantage Tramway was one of those oddities that seemed to straddle the tramway/railway world, never quite knowing for certain which it was, and somehow struggling on until relatively modern times (1945). Although initially horse drawn, the company soon switched to steam traction, and over the course of its history ran a rather eccentric mix of tramway and railway engines; in contrast, its passenger stock was always purely 'tramway' in design. Given that the line had no street running whatsoever, and despite its name, the 'tramway' can only really be regarded as a roadside railway with the owning company having an odd taste in motive power and passenger vehicles.

Photos of the horse-drawn period appear not to have survived, so it is impossible to say what drivers and conductors wore, though in all probability it was informal attire.

Steam engine drivers wore railway footplate attire, namely: heavy cotton jackets and trousers and soft-topped or grease top caps; neither the caps nor the jackets bore badges of any kind.

By the turn of the century, and possibly from the earliest days, conductors were wearing smart but informal attire, seemingly devoid of insignia, but which was however topped off by a kepi-style cap, probably company issued. From around the end of the Great War through to the cessation of passenger services in 1925, the kepis were superseded by military-style caps with a tensioned crown (top). Neither form of cap appears to have borne a badge of any description, though in the absence of detailed photographs, this cannot be stated with certainty.

The system was essentially operated on railway principles, so inspectors were never employed.

There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the 'Wantage', unlike the vast majority of UK tramway companies, used the services of women during the Great War.

For a history of this short line, see: 'The Wantage Tramway' by Reg Wilkinson; The Oakwood Press (1976) and 'The Wantage Tramway' by Nicholas de Courtais; Wild Swan Publications (1981).

Images

Drivers and conductors
Wantage Tramway Engine No 4 and Trailers 1 , 2 and 3
Engine No 4 (a Hughes design of 1877) stands at Wantage with Trailers No 1, 2 and 3 — photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1890s, shortly after the arrival of Trailer No 3. Although it is unclear whether any of the individuals depicted is the conductor, what is clear is that none of them are wearing a uniform. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Wantage Tramway Engine No 4 and Trailer No 3 1900
Engine No 4 once again, this time with a rather pristine-looking Trailer No 3 (acquired in 1890) — photo purportedly taken in 1900, though considering the condition of the trailer, probably much closer to 1890 I would have thought. Photo courtesy of the John Law Collection.


Wantage Carriage No 3 CROP
A blow-up of the above photo showing the man in the middle, who is presumably the conductor; he would appear to be wearing a kepi-style cap.


Wantage Tramway early 1900s Engine No 4
Engine No 4 stands near Wantage Rd with what is probably Trailer No 3 (at the rear) and one of the two original horsecars (No 1) — photo believed to have been taken around 1900. Photo courtesy of the John Law Collection.


Wantage Tramway conductor 1900
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor, who is wearing an unmarked greatcoat and a kepi-style cap.


Wantage Rd with steam tram 1912
A scene at Wantage Rd, purportedly taken in 1912. Engine No 6 (a Matthews design of 1881) is coupled to Trailer No 4, which began life in 1900 as a double-deck Hurst-Nelson exhibition tramcar, being acquired by the WTCo in 1912, following which it was unceremoniously cut down. The two uniformed figures are more than likely Great Western Railway porters from Wantage Rd Station. Source unknown.


Wantage Tramway Engine No 6 1915
Engine No 6 stands in one of the yards at Wantage in 1915. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Wantage Tramway No 7 Great War
A commercial view of Engine No 7 (a Manning Wardle saddle tank acquired in 1893) and Trailer No 4 — photo undated, but definitely taken between 1912 when Trailer No 4 was acquired, and 1915, when Conductor Bill Savory (see below) left the company.


Wantage Trmaway No 7 circa 1914
A blow-up of the above photo showing the central figures — the conductor is believed to be Bill Savory and the driver (right), a Mr Hewitt. Conductor Savory is wearing a plain single-breasted jacket and what would appear to be a squat kepi-style cap; the latter does not appear to bear a cap badge.


Wantage Tramway No 7 1914
Driver Hewitt and Conductor Savory once again with Engine No 7 and Trailer No 4, this time at Grove Bridge around 1914. Conductor Savory is wearing a kepi-style cap. Commercial view.


Wantage Engine No 6 and Trailer No 5
A commercial view of Engine No 6 and a rather pristine-looking Trailer No 5 (purchased in 1912) — photo undated, but possibly taken just after the Great War. The conductor is wearing a double-breasted jacket without insignia, and a military style cap, again without a badge.


Wantage Tramway No 6 in 1923
The driver of Engine No 6 poses for the camera outside the small engine shed at Wantage — photo purportedly taken in 1923. The driver appears to be the same man who we see in the 1915 shot of No 6 shown above. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Wantage Tramway engine driver 1923
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver; he is wearing a waistcoat, work jacket and soft-topped peaked cap, all without insignia of any kind.


Wantage Engine No 6 1920s
No 6 captured outside the small engine, with Trailer No 3 behind it — photo taken in the early 1920s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Wanatge Tramway conductor guard 1920s
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor-cum-guard; he is wearing a single-breasted jacket and military-style cap, though whether or not it bears a cap badge, is impossible to say.


Wantage Tramway Engine No 6
Engine No 6 once again, this time in the train shed at Wantage — photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1920s. The driver is the same man seen in many other photos taken between 1910 and 1925, whilst the man at the other end is probably a stoker.