Belfast Corporation Tramways

Summary
Belfast Corporation operated horse tram services for approximately 12 months, from its takeover of the Belfast Street Tramways Company on the first day of 1905, to the final run, which probably took place in December of that year. Existing photographs are difficult to date precisely, but the one shown below, which was apparently taken in 1905, suggests that the corporation was content for tramcar crews to continue wearing the uniforms issued by the company. These comprised single-breasted jackets and overcoats, both with lapels, and seemingly devoid of insignia. Caps were in the kepi style, and bore an employee number in individual metal numerals.

Belfast City (Corporation) Tramways electric tramcar crews (motormen and conductors) appear to have worn the same basic style of jacket throughout the system's almost half century of service. Jackets were double-breasted and naval in style, with two rows of buttons (bearing the BCT monogram - see link), three pockets at hip/waist level (with flap closures), and lapels; the upper part of the latter (the collars) bore system initials - 'B.C.T.' - in block letters on both sides. Whilst the jackets carried two rows of five buttons in the early decades of the system, in later years a change was made to two rows of four closely spaced buttons. Caps were military in style with a tensioned crown (top) and bore standard, 'off-the-shelf', script-lettering grade badges - either 'Motorman' or 'Conductor' , above which an employee number was worn (in individual numerals). The badges were almost certainly brass to match the buttons.

In the late 1930s or 1940s, a switch was almost certainly made to chrome insignia, and change which probably coincided with the introduction of underlined grade badges - 'Motorman' and 'Conductor', and later on 'Driver' - a pattern which was very rare amongst UK tramway operators. Towards the very end of the system's life, photos show that some staff dispensed with the grade badge, wearing a one-piece, chrome, 'BCT' block intiials badge in their place.

Motormen and condcutors were also issued with double-breasted greatcoats with high, fold-over collars; the latter appear to have carried embroidered system initials on each side.

Unfortunately, photographs of Belfast City Tramways inspectors have proven very elusive, so it is currently impossible to state what unfiroms they wore; however, an oval cloth cap badge has survived - embroidered with bullion block letters, 'INSPECTOR' and 'BCT' -which is almost certain an issue of Belfast Corporation Tramways.

Whilst the vast majority of UK tramway systems employed conductresses and occasionally motorwoman during the Great War, to replace male staff lost to the armed services, there is no evidence that Belfast ever did, nor in the Second World War either.

For a history of the system, see 'Belfast Corporation Tramways, 1905-1954' by J M Maybin; Light Rail Transit Association.

Images

Horse tram drivers and conductors
Belfast City Tramways horse tram No 23 1905
An excellent study of Belfast City Tramways Horsecar No 23 taken in 1905, so after the corporation take-over. The car is still in the livery of the erstwhile Belfast Street Tramways Company. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Belfast City Tramways horse tram conductor 1905
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor. The uniforms appear to be those issued by the company (see link), with the overcoats unmarked, and the kepi-style cap bearing a metal employee number.


Belfast City Tramways horse tram driver 1905
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing the driver, once again in smart overcoat and with kepi-style cap.


Motormen and conductors
Belfast City Tramways Tram No 138 and crew
The crew of what is probably a nearly new Tramcar No 138 pose for the cameraman - photo undated, but probably taken in 1906. Source unknown.


Belfast City Tramways conductor 1905
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor. The collars of his jacket bear embroidered system initials, whilst his cap carries an 'off-the-shelf', script-lettering grade badge - 'Conductor' - and an employee number, '158'.


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


Belfast Corporation Tramways Tram No 89
The crew of Tramcar No 89 pose for the camera in 1923. Both men are wearing double-breasted jackets with lapels. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Belfast City Tramways Tram No 158 at the docks
A rather evocative scene outside one of Belfast's shipyards at the end of a shift - photo undated, but probably taken shortly before the Great War. The motorman is wearing a double-breasted greatcoat. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Belfast Corporation Tramways motorman
A fine studio portrait of a Belfast Corporation Tramways motorman - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1940s or 1950s. His cap carries an employee number (805), along with a script-lettering grade badge; the latter is underlined, which probably reflects the late date, as the vast majority of UK tramway operators used badges without underlining.. The buttons are the 'BCT' monogram type (see link). Stephen Howarth Collection.


Belfast Corporation Tramways Tram No 249 and crew
A rather battered-looking Tramcar No 249 outisde what is probably the shed fan in Gaffikin St - photo undated, but possibly taken in 1953 by M J O'Connor. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Belfast Corporation Tramways driver in 1953
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman. He appears to be wearing a standard script-lettering 'Driver' cap badge (possibly underlined), above which is what seems to be an employee number in unusually large numerals - possibly 369.


Belfast Corporation Tramways cap badges 1940s and 1950s
Script-lettering 'Driver' and 'Conductor' cap badges, of the type used in later years by the BCT - chrome.


Belfast Corporation Tramways tram crew at Mount Pottinger depot
A nice crew shot taken by M J O'Connor alongside Tramcar No 340 at Mount Pottinger depot on 6th June 1953. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Belfast Corporation Trmaways motorman
A blow-up of the above photo which clearly shows that the motorman (on the left) is wearing a 'BCT' block initials cap badge.


Belfast Corporation Tramways cap badge chrome
BCT system initials cap badge - chrome. These were appear to have been used a cap badges in later years. Stephen Howarth collection.



Enamel armband pass.


Senior staff
Belfast Corporation Tramways inspector's cap badge
Probable Belfast Corporation Tramways inspector's cap badge - cloth and gold bullion wire.


Non-staff badges

Pin-back, school pupil’s brass travel badge - red and white enamel.



Pin-back, school pupil’s brass travel badge - blue and white enamel.