Birmingham and Midland Tramways
(including the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee)

History
The Birmingham and Midland Tramways Company Ltd began operating steam-hauled services on the 6th of July 1885, running them for almost 20 years, before the last was withdrawn in 1904. The tracks within Birmingham were owned by the corporation, but those outside were owned by the B&MTCoLtd, which acquired them from the constructor — the Birmingham and Western Districts Tramways Co Ltd — as they were completed. The company had its share of financial challenges, with the short Spon and Bromford Lane routes to West Bromwich being closed as early as 1892, though the Spon Lane line was however re-opened the following year (on the 20th May 1893), but using horse traction, and a lessee. The British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BETCo) who had grand aspirations for an integrated electric tramway network spanning Birmingham and its Black Country neighbours, gained a controlling interest in the company in August 1899 (they also controlled the B&WDTCo). The last horse service ran on the 3rd of November 1903, and the first electric service over B&MT tracks began the same month, though this initially had to be operated by another of the BETCo's subsidiaries — the South Staffordshire Tramways [Lessee] Co Ltd (SSTLCo) — as the B&MT did not possess any trams of its own at this point in time. The last B&MT steam service ran on 23rd November 1904.

On the 1st of July 1904, the BETCo transferred its shares in all of its local tramway companies (i.e., the City of Birmingham Tramways Co, the Dudley, Stourbridge and District Electric Traction Co, the SSTLCo and Wolverhampton District Electric Tramways) to the B&MTCo. All these systems were then operated as a single entity, governed by the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee (B&MTJC), which comprised board members of the individual concerns.

In 1902 and 1903, West Bromwich Corporation, and Oldbury and Smethwick Urban District Councils, took the opportunity to purchase the tracks within their boundaries, immediately leasing them back to the B&MTCo, with Dudley Corporation following suit in 1909 after protracted and acrimonious negotiations.

The B&MTCo changed its name — on the 13th August 1912 — to the Birmingham and District Power and Traction Co Ltd and in 1917, it took over another local BETCo system, the Kidderminster and District Electric Light and Traction Co Ltd. By the mid-1920s, the writing was however firmly on the wall, and the B&MTCo ran its last service on 31st March 1928, with Birmingham Corporation taking over operation of its main line to Dudley the following day, and the DS&DETCo its services in West Bromwich. The B&MTJC continued for a few years more, but ceased to be a tramway operator itself on 1st October 1930, when it handed over its last service — operated by the DS&DETCo — to Walsall Corporation. The B&MTCo did however remain a tramway owner until the 30th September 1939, when Birmingham Corporation finally withdrew services on the Birmingham to Dudley line and surrendered its lease.

Uniforms
The B&MTCo does not appear to have operated horse trams itself, instead leasing the services to a Mr B Crowther, who worked them for around 10 years, up to their electrification in 1903. Somewhat surprisingly, a few good quality photographs have survived, which show that staff working these horsecar services wore informal but smart attire, comprising trousers, jackets and waistcoats, along with white shirts, ties, and bowler hats, though in later years flat caps seem to have been more the vogue. Staff also wore long, heavy greatcoats, which along with the rest of their work clothing, were presumably purchased by the individuals themselves. Conductor's may have worn a municipal licence, though this is far from clear.

Photographs of steam-hauled services are relatively common, and a fair few have survived that show the staff in reasonable close-up. In common with the majority of UK steam-operated tramways, drivers wore very similar attire to their railway counterparts, namely, heavy cotton trousers and jackets, often light in colour, along with grease-top caps or soft-topped caps. No badges or insignia appear to have been worn on either the jackets or the caps. In the early years, conductors were issued with single-breasted jackets with five metal buttons (presumably bearing the full company title — see link) and lapels; it is unclear if the latter bore any insignia. Caps were in a kepi style and bore a large and distinctively shaped cap badge. For some reason now unknown, it would appear that the company ceased to issue uniforms, possibly from as early as 1886/7. Although photos taken subsequently clearly show staff wearing single-breasted jackets with lapels, and soft-topped caps, the jackets do not appear to have borne reflective buttons (suggesting that they were plain composite), nor did the caps carry a badge.

Conductors working within the confines of Birmingham during the steam era were required to wear a round licence which bore the arms of Birmingham, a number and the grade (CONDUCTOR); for some reason, this requirement seems not to have been applied to steam engine drivers, though they may have had them but simply didn't bother to wear them. There are two types of this licence, which almost certainly reflect the situation prior to, and after, the full grant of arms in April 1889 (see below). In the electric era, and up until around the end of the Great War, conductors and motormen working within the Birmingham boundary were required to wear licences, still with the arms, a number and the grade, but in a new style (see below).

Although the tramway was taken over by the BETCo in 1899, the latter appears to have been content to continue the policy of its predecessor, only issuing new uniforms following electrification. Over the course of its history, BETCo either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns in the British Isles, across which it largely imposed a standard uniform policy. Although jackets appeared to vary somewhat between BETCo systems, as well as across the decades, the cap badges, collar designations and buttons invariably followed a standard pattern. However, in the case of the BETCo's Black Country and Birmingham systems (see link), the parent company appears to have initially allowed each of its operating companies a degree of autonomy, and this was certainly reflected in the uniforms worn. Initial issues to B&MTCo electric-car staff appear to have been single-breasted with high, fold-over collars; the latter probably carried badges, but these cannot be made out on surviving photographs. Caps were military in style, and carried 'off the shelf', script-lettering grade badges — either Conductor or Driver — rather than the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge used by all other BETCo-controlled tramway companies. These badges were almost certainly brass.

Following the creation of the B&MTJC on the 1st July 1904, a standard uniform policy was imposed across all the member companies, including the B&MTCo. Motormen and conductors were issued with double-breasted jackets with two rows of four buttons (almost certainly the standard BETCoLtd 'Magnet and Wheel' pattern — see link) and high, fold-over collars; the latter carried individual metal initials — either 'BMT' or 'B&MT' — on the right-hand side and an employee number on the left-hand side, almost certainly in brass. Surviving examples suggest that the first collar badges may have had diagonal striations giving a rope effect (see below). At some point, the employee number was eventually dispensed with, leaving the left-hand collar badgeless. Caps were initially in a kepi style, and carried a prominent oval brass cap badge that consisted of intertwined 'BMT' initials beneath the 'Magnet and Wheel' device, all within a wreath (see below). As the B&MTCo did not operate electric services itself until after the creation of the B&MTJC, it seems highly likely that staff wore the newly issued B&MTJC uniforms from the inception of these new services.

At some point prior to the Great War, the caps were changed to a military-style with a tensioned crown (top), though they continued to carry the same cap badge. Jackets varied subtly in style across the decades, always double-breasted, but sometimes with four buttons and sometimes five, and with three waist-level pockets. The jackets could be worn open at the neck giving the effect of lapels or buttoned up; the collar insignia remained unchanged throughout the life of the tramway. Double-breasted greatcoats were also issued; these had high, fold-over collars that carried the same badges as the jackets worn underneath.

Photographs of inspectors indicate that they wore single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or more likely a hook and eye arrangement) and upright collars; the latter bore Inspector in embroidered script lettering. Caps were initially in a kepi style, but were later changed to a military style with a tensioned crown (top). During B&MTJC days (1904 onwards) the caps carried the grade — Inspector — in embroidered script lettering, as well as the standard B&MTJC cap badge (worn above the grade badge).

Female staff were employed during the Great War to replace men lost to the armed services; they were definitely employed as conductresses, though whether they were also employed as motorwomen remains unclear. These ladies were issued with tailored, single-breasted jackets with five buttons, lapels, epaulettes and a belt with button fastening; it is currently unclear what insignia was worn on the lapels, though in all probability it was the standard system initials — 'B M T' — on the bearer's right-hand side. Headgear took the form of a dark-coloured straw bonnet or a baggy cap (probably for summer and winter wear, respectively); these bore the standard BMT cap badge on a hat band. Double-breasted, 'lancer-style' greatcoats were also issued; these had five buttons and high, fold-over collars; the latter usually bore system initials on the right-hand collar only, but were also left plain.

Further reading
For a general history of the B&MT (and B&MJTC), see: 'Black Country Tramways Volumes 1 and 2', by J S Webb; self-published (1974 and 1976).

Images

Horse tram drivers and conductors
Birmingham and Midland Tramways horse tram B Crowther
A horsecar owned by Mr B Crowther (who may be one of those depicted) at the West Bromwich terminus of the Spon Lane route, which he worked on behalf of Birmingham and Midland Tramways — photo undated, but probably taken in the mid 1890s. The conductor may be wearing a municipal licence, though this is far from clear. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Birmingham and Midland Tramways Crowther tram No 23
B&MTCo Horsecar No 23 at West Bromwich — photo believed to have been taken in 1900. Both men are actually employees of Mr B Crowther, to whom the Spon Lane services, and latterly two B&MT horsecars, including this one, were leased. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Steam tram drivers and conductors
Birmingham and Midland Tramways Steam Tram No 13 and conductors 1885
Driver, conductor (right) and possibly an inspector (left?) with Thomas Green-built Steam Tram No 13 outside the Cape of Good Hope Inn in Smethwick in 1885, the year the engine was built. The conductor and inspector are clearly wearing uniforms with kepi-style caps and prominent cap badges. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Birmingham and Midland Tramways Steam Tram No 7 and crew
B&MTCo Kitson-built No 7 (delivered in 1885) along with an unidentified trailer. Judging by the style of the conductor's bowler hat, with its upturned brim, and the good condition of the engine, the photo was probably taken around 1886/7.


irmingham and Midland Tramways Steam Tram conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor. He does not appear to be wearing a uniform, but does have the usual licence attached to his cash-bag strap.


Birmingham and Midland Tramways Steam Tram No 17 and conductors
Two conductors pose in front of Steam Trailer No 17 at West Smethwick depot — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1880s or early 1890s. By this time, the company had clearly stopped issuing uniforms and cap badges. Both men are wearing municipal licences, probably of the pattern shown below. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Birmingham Corporation tram conductor licence
Birmingham municipal licence — brass — probably issued to B&MT conductors prior to 1889. In April 1889. a full grant of arms was made to the city, including supporters and crest. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation tram conductor licence
Birmingham municipal licence — brass — probably issued to B&MT conductors from 1889 onwards, following the full grant of arms.


Birmingham Corporation tram conductor licence
Birmingham municipal licence — brass. This oval type of licence may well have been used at some point, though photographic evidence is inconclusive. Author's Collection.


Birmingham and Midland Tramways Steam Tram No 18
B&MTCo rebuilt Kitson Steam Tram No 18 and Steam Trailer No 18 (?) pictured with a Windmill Lane to Smethwick service, in all likelihood outside Windmill Lane depot — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1890s. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Birmingham and Midland Tramways steam tram conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor's attire — note the licence and seeming absence of a cap badge.


Birmingham  and Midland Tramways Steam Tram No 11 crew
An excellent illustration of the filthy nature of the work involved in working steam tram engines, in this case, Kitson-built B&MTCo No 11 — photo probably taken at Windmill Lane depot around the turn of the century, given the battered condition of the engine. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Birmingham and Midland Tramways Steam Tram conductor
A blow-up taken from the same photograph as the crew photo above, showing the conductor on the platform of Steam Trailer Car No 17. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Birmingham and Midland Tramways Steam Tram No 25 and crew
Driver and conductor with B&MTCo-assembled Kitson Steam Tram No 26 on a Birmingham-Windmill Lane-Smethwick service — photo undated, but probably taken around the turn of the century given that the trailer was built in 1899. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Motormen and conductors
Birmingham and Midland Tramways Tram No 7 and crew Smethwick
A youthful conductor and his motorman with Tramcar No 7 in St Paul's Rd, Smethwick — photo undated, but judging by the relatively good condition of the tram, probably taken in 1905 or 1906 (it was built in 1904). Both men are wearing script-lettering grade cap badges. The standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge is nowhere to be seen, despite the fact that the tram side panel carries it prominently (not shown). A Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Birmingham and Midland Tramways early cap badges
General pattern script-lettering cap badges — Driver and Conductor — almost certainly issued in brass by the B&MTCo. Author's Collection.


Birmingham tram drivers licence
Birmingham municipal driver's licence (No 122) — brass. This pattern of badge was possibly issued to drivers working the company's electric services in the early years, though this is far from certain. Author's Collection.


Birmingham and Midlands Tramways tramway man No 100
An excellent shot of a Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee tramwayman (No 100) — photo undated, but very probably mid-Edwardian. It is unfortunately not possible to say which of the five constituent companies of the B&MTJC he actually worked for. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.


Birmingham and Midlands Tramways tramway man No 100
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the collar insignia (individual 'B&MT' initials and employee number, '100') as well as the cap badge, an example of which is depicted below.


Birmingham and Midlands Tramways cap badge
Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee cap badge — brass. This was introduced some time after 1904, when the B&MT became part of the B&MTJC. Note the use of the parent company's (British Electric Traction Company) 'Magnet and Wheel' symbol.


Birmingham and Midlands Tramways collar badge
Probable Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee early 'rope effect' collar initials and collar number, which were eventually superseded by plain brass letters/numbers. Author's Collection.


Birmingham and Midlands Tramways tramway man No 327
Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee employee No 327. Note that his collar initials are simply 'BMT' rather than 'B&MT'. He is also wearing a more modern military-style cap with a tensioned crown. The presence of a licence suggests that he worked within the Birmingham municipal boundary, so he would have been employed by either the B&MT, the City of Birmingham Tramways (up until 1911) or South Staffordshire Tramways. Author's Collection.


Birmingham Corporation Tramways licence
Birmingham ‘Conductor’ licence of the pattern issued to all tramway conductors operating within the confines of Birmingham, including Birmingham Corporation Tramways, from the early Edwardian era through to the end of the Great War. Author's Collection.


Senior staff
City of Birmingham Tramways Company inspector
A B&MTJC inspector at a City of Birmingham Tramways Company depot circa 1906/7 — the tram in the background is No 229. Author's Collection.


Female staff
Birmingham Midland Tramways Joint Committee Great War conductress
A B&MTJC Great War conductress. She is wearing a lancer-style greatcoat devoid of badges, and a baggy cap bearing the standard B&MTJC cap badge. It is unfortunately not possible to say which of the B&MTJC's tramways she worked for, though as she is wearing a licence, it would have been one of only two B&MTJC tramways that had services which penetrated the municipal boundary at this time (the B&MT or the South Staffordshire Tramways). Photo courtesy of Dr Paul Collins.