Aberdeen Corporation Tramways

Summary
Following the takeover of the horse tramway on 26th August 1898, drivers and conductors continued to wear the long overcoats issued by their former employers - the Aberdeen District Tramways Company - as these were deemed (by the Tramways Committee) to be in good condition and therefore fit for continued use. New soft-topped caps were however issued, some with material peaks and some with glossy peaks; photos suggest that the former were worn by drivers, and the latter by conductors. Initially, no badge or insignia of any kind was carried on either coats or caps; however, as electrification proceeded towards completion, horsecar staff were issued with double-breasted overcoats and kepi-style caps. These latter bore embroidered grade badges, either 'Conductor' or 'Driver'.

To mark the inauguration of the new Woodside electric service in 1899, staff on that route were issued with new single-breasted jackets with four buttons and lapels; it is unclear whether any insignia was carried on these early uniforms. Kepi-style caps were subsequently issued to staff on the Mannofield route (and to Woodside); these bore script-lettering cap badges - either 'Motorman' or 'Conductor' - probably in brass; the caps appear to have had a wide band of darker material on which the badge was carried. In 1899 drivers were issued with dark grey overcoats with silver buttons bearing the city coat of ams, and piped in red.

The uniform appears to have been subjected to a series of alterations during the first five or so years of the system's life, eventually settling down into a recognisable pattern/policy. Both conductors and motormen were issued with single-breasted tunics with five buttons (probably brass - see link), and lapels; conductors tunics bore two breast pockets (with button closures), whilst motormen's tended to have a single open breast pocket. Initially, the upper lapels appear to have borne embroidered 'A C T' initials, though these were soon replaced by a one-piece 'brass' badge consisting of the system initials, 'ACT'. A distinction appears to have been made between conductors and motormen in respect of their caps - conductors invariably wore kepis, whilst motormen wore soft-topped peak caps, which were superseded - around 1903 - by smarter military-style caps with a tensioned crown (top). Standard script-lettering cap badges continued to be worn, though the occasional photo does show the metal 'ACT' collar badge being worn as a cap badge, probably the result of overlapping uniform issues and the re-use of existing tunics.

At some time in the later Edwardian period, a new brass cap badge was introduced; this was worn above, and in addition to, the standard script-lettering grade badges; it consisted of the arms of Aberdeen, surrounded by a red enamel circle and ribbon containing the full system title, 'Aberdeen Corporation Tramways'.

The cut of the uniforms was changed again in the 1920s to give a more modern feel, but with conductors having single-breasted tunics, and motormen double-breasted; caps were now solely in the upright military style. Apart from minor alterations in cut, the style of the uniforms (and the caps) essentially remained unchanged for the next 30 years (up to the demise of the tramway in 1958).

Following the creation of Aberdeen Corporation Transport Department in 1931, badges and buttons were changed to reflect the new title, and were to all intents and purposes identical to those previously used, but with the word 'Tramways' replaced by 'Transport'. The new insignia were almost certainly introduced on a piecemeal basis, as and when new uniform issues were required.

Three inspectors appear on the early Woodside and Mannofield depot photos below, and it is clear that their uniforms were intended to be a degree smarter than those of the tramcar staff. Whilst the jackets were similar in style to tramcar staff, the sleeves were prominently piped (probably in silver) and the upper lapels were broadly edged in a light-coloured material that contrasted starkly with the darker material of the uniform (again, probably silver). A waistcoat, fly-winged collar and a tie were also worn. Inspectors' kepi-style caps were noticeably taller than those of other grades, with piping at the top and the bottom, between which a large municipal cap badge was worn (see below). It is possible, though not certain, that both badge and buttons were nickel rather than brass.

This style of uniform appears not to have been used for long, as a photo taken in 1905 shows two inspectors wearing single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair) and upright collars; caps were however unchanged. By the late 1920s, inspectors' uniforms had evolved to a modern single-breasted design of jacket with four buttons, two waist and two breast pockets (with buttons closures) and lapels; the latter bore 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. The jackets were piped in silver; caps were in the same upright military style as worn by tramcar staff, but with a dark hat band (again piped in silver), bearing the usual prominent nickel municipal arms badge (see below).

In common with the vast majority of British tramway systems, Aberdeen employed female staff in considerable numbers during both world wars to replace male staff lost to the armed services. According to the Aberdeen Evening Express, the first eight Great War conductresses (referred to as 'conductors' by the paper) took up their duties on Saturday the 22nd May 1915. They were issued with navy blue uniforms with red facings, which comprised single-breasted jackets with lapels and long matching skirts; the jackets appear to have carried the standard 'ACT' lapel badges. Headgear comprised dark-coloured waterproof straw bonnets (probably summer wear) and baggy field caps with a cloth peak (probably winter wear); both types carried the standard municipal cap badge, as well as a grade badge, either 'Motorman' or 'Conductor'. Long, tailored, double-breasted overcoats were also worn; these bore two rows of five buttons, a waist belt (with two buttons) and high, fold-over collars which carried the standard 'ACT' collar badge on both sides.

During the Second World War, conductresses were issued uniforms that were very similar in style to those issued to male staff, though appropriately tailored. The main difference was the use of a baggy cap with a glossy peak; these carried script-lettering grade badges, but without the ACT red enamel cap badge worn by their male colleagues.

With grateful thanks to Mike Mitchell for sharing his photos and knowledge, and for his patience in unravelling this complex chronology, as well as to Alan Brotchie who provided several nuggets of information. For more information on public transport in Aberdeen, see Mike's 'Fae Dee to Don and Back Again'; First Aberdeen (1998).

Images

Horse tram drivers and conductors
Aberdeen Corporation Tramways Horse Tram
Former Aberdeen District Tramways Company Horsecar No 9 at Queens Cross - photo undated, but certainly taken after the corporation take-over (August 1898) as the tramcar bears the city coat of arms. Although the conductor is wearing a late-period company greatcoat, he also has a corporation-issued soft-topped cap. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways horse car
Another former Aberdeen District Tramways Company horsecar under corporation ownership - photo undated, but clearly taken after the corporation take-over (August 1898). The soft-topped, convex cap worn by the driver is easily discerned. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways horse tram
The impressively named Litentius Falconer (conductor) and his driver, William Milne, pose for the camera at the Bayview Terminus - photo probably taken in 1902. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways horse tram
Another view of a horsecar at the Bayview Terminus - photo probably taken in 1902. Note that both men are wearing heavy corporation overcoats and kepi-style caps, which appear to carried the mens' grades in embrodiered script lettering. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.


Motormen and conductors
Aberdeen Corporation Tramways motorman
Motorman C WIght at the controls of Woodside No 2 at Anderson Rd - photo taken prior to opening in late 1899. Note the absence of insignia, on either cap or greatcoat, and the soft-topped cap. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways conductor
Conductor, standing at the rear of the above tram (same photo). It is possible that he is wearing a script-lettering cap badge, though this may just be a trick of the light. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways staff photo Woodside Depot
A staff photo taken outside Woodside Depot, probably to mark the inauguration of the first electric service on 23rd December 1899. Apart from depot staff, all present are wearing single-breasted jackets and kepi-style caps, those of the conductors and motormen adorned with script-lettering cap badges, and the inspectors with a municipal arms badge (probably that shown below). The gentleman in the centre, wearing a Homburg, is Tramways Convener Baillie Alexander Wilkie, later Managing Director of the Aberdeen Suburban Tramways. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways cap badge
Standard ‘off the shelf’ script-lettering cap badges of the type used by Aberdeen Corporation Tramways - brass.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways crew
Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 18 on the Mannofield route - photo undated, but probably taken in 1902. Both men are wearing single-breasted jackets, and appear to have 'A C T' initials embroidered on their upper lapels. Whilst the conductor is wearing a kepi-style cap, the motorman clearly has a soft-topped cap. Note that the conductor appears to be wearing an ' ACT' badge on his cap; a one-piece version of this badge was subsequently carried on the upper lapels of staff tunics. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways Mannofield depot staff 1903
Staff photo taken at Mannofield depot - photo undated, but probably taken in 1903. All the tramcar staff have script-lettering grade badges on their caps; the conductors once again have kepis, whilst the motormen have soft-topped caps. With thanks to Malcolm Fraser.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways crew
Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 12 on the Rosemount route - photo undated, but probably taken around 1903. The general style of the tunics is unchanged from the previous photo; however, one-piece metal collar badges have now been introduced, and the motorman now wears a smarter, military style cap with tensioned crown. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways collar badge
ACT collar/cap badge - brass


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways tram crew
Conductor and motorman pose aboard Tramcar No 15 at the Mannofield terminus on the Great Western Road route, presumably about to set off with a service to Castle St - photo undated, but probably taken around 1908 to 1910. By this time, a brass and red enamal ACT cap badge had been introduced - this was worn above the script-lettering cap badge. With thanks to Ian Souter for information on the location and probable date.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways cap badge
General issue brass and red enamel cap badge (motormen and conductors)


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways crew
Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 80 at Hazlehead around 1925. Note the more modern cut of the uniforms, especially the motorman's double-breasted jacket. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways motormen
Two motormen pose for photographer M J O'Connor inside Tramcar No 99 at Woodside in 1954. The basic style of the uniforms and the insignia, is almost unchanged from 30 years previously. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways crew
Motorman and conductor again posing for photographer M J O'Connor, this time inside Tramcar No 135 at Kings Gate in 1954. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways / Transport badge
General issue chrome and red enamel cap badge (motormen and conductors), 1931 onwards. Author's Collection


Aberdeen Corporation Transport lapel badge
ACT lapel badge - chrome.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways Last Tram Crew
Motorman W Hay and Conductor T Watson with Lord Provost Stephen and Aberdeen's last tram (No 36) on 3rd May 1958. Note that Motorman Hay is wearing a script-lettering 'Driver' cap badge, rather than the usual 'Motorman' variety. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.

Senior staff
Aberdeen Corporation Tramways inspector 1903
A blow-up of the circa 1903 Mannofield depot staff photo above, showing a motorman, inspector and conductor. The extremely smart nature of the inspector's uniform - which was probably piped in silver - is easy to see.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways Inspector Pat Oliphant
Inspector Pat Oliphant talks to H B Priestley at King St Depot on an LRTL tour on the 3rd August 1955. Photo by J H Price, courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways inspector
Blow up of the above photo showing the cap badge.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways inspector's cap badge
Inspector’s cap badge - nickel. Author's collection.


Female staff
Aberdeen Corporation Tramways WWI crew
Motorman and conductress pose with Tramcar No 81 at Mannofield Terminus - photo undated, but clearly taken during or shortly after the First World War. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways Great War female staff
A group of two motorwomen and a conductress - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. Headgear appears to be in the form of a baggy field cap (here with white rain cover), on the face of it, identical to those worn in the Second World War.


Aberdeen Corporation Tramways conductress
An Aberdeen conductress issuing a ticket aboard a tramcar on Union Street, some time during World War Two. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth collection.


Aberdeen Corporation Transport Clippie
A studio portrait of an Aberdeen Corporation Transport conductress - photo undated, but probably taken during or shortly after World War Two. Not the absence of the red enamel ACT cap badge worn on men's caps. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth collection.