British Electric Traction Company Limited
The British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BETCo) began life in 1895 - as the ‘British Electric Traction (Pioneer) Co Ltd' - by aggressively purchasing horse and steam tramway systems with the intention of electrifying them, but quickly expanded into tramway building and operation, as well as electricity supply. The name was changed to the final form in 1896. At its zenith, it either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles.
Any horse or steam-operated systems it took over were invariably allowed to continue as they were - from a uniform perspective - until electrification, upon which new uniforms were issued. Although jackets varied somewhat between BETCo systems, as well as across the decades, the cap badges, collar designations and buttons invariably followed a standard pattern, which made heavy use of the company's 'Magnet & Wheel' device.
Whereas the uniform story of the individual systems is told elsewhere on the website, this page is used to present photographs where it has unfortunately not been possible to identify the subject's host system, but which are nevertheless of intrinsic historical interest.
BETCo cap badge varieties
BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, with electrical flashes - brass; the magnet is actually a bent tram rail. On this version, the magnet is smooth. It is unclear when this was worn, but given that several very sharp turn-of-the-century photographs clearly show individuals wearing badges with rims (see next photo), it may well have been in use prior to that. Author's Collection.
BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, with electrical flashes - gilt. The magnet has a rim surround with a grainy finish in the centre. The style was definitely in use from the turn of the century, though whether gilt was used for all employees is unclear. Author's Collection.
BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, with electrical flashes - chrome; smooth finish. This was probably worn from the 1940s onwards, when chrome came into more widespread usage as a material for badges (see link), so it probably saw little if any use on BETCo's tramways, nearly all of which had closed by this time. Author's Collection.
BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, with electrical flashes - chrome. It is unclear when this was worn, but certainly not until the 1940s or possibly later still. Author's Collection.
Motormen and conductors
BETCo conductor from an unidentified system. The usual employee numbers are missing from both his collar and cap, which could mean that he was in a probationary period, or alternatively, that he had only been taken on temporarily (e.g. during the summer season). Author's Collection.
An excellent studio portrait of a British Electric Traction Company inspector. The card is marked 'Metropolitan?' on the rear (presumably by a post card dealer), but there is absolutely no evidence, either front or back, to support this, thouigh it may of course have 'surfaced' in London. Author's Collection.
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the collar and cap insignia, as well as the general level of uniform embellishment. The photo is sharp enough to discern that the 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge is of the pattern where the magnet has a rim with a grainy centre (see below).