Bournemouth Corporation Tramways

Summary
Bournemouth opened its new electric tramway system on the 23rd July 1902, which it eventually expanded to reach Poole — on the 16th June 1905 — through its acquisition of the neighbouring British Electric Traction Company system, Poole and District Electric Tramways. The P&DET's tracks passed into the ownership of Poole Corporation, with Bournemouth Corporation working the lines under a lease agreement. The system remained in municipal ownership until 1935, when Poole Corporation sold its tracks (and operating rights) to Hants and Dorset Motor Services, the last tram service in Poole running on the 7th June 1935. Meanwhile, Bournemouth pressed ahead with its own programme to replace the trams with trolleybuses, which it duly completed on the 8th April 1936.

Bournemouth shares the dubious honour, with the Metropolitan Electric Tramways, of having to have their vehicles fitted with two means of current collection, namely, overhead and conduit. Whilst the M.E.T were effectively forced to do this in order to run over London County Council Tramways metals, in Bournemouth's case this was self-imposed, as the corporation opted for conduit collection over the central section of the system, so as not to have the genteel vista spoiled by unsightly overhead wires. Conduit slots were however not only expensive, but also troublesome when used near the sea — they had a tendency to fill with sand and other wind-blown detritus —a fact which eventually led to their displacement in favour of overhead wiring in May 1911.

Apart from the caps, the general style of uniform appears to have remained virtually unchanged for the entire life of the system (1902-1936). Tunics were single-breasted with five buttons (presumably brass — see link), two breast pockets (with button closures) and upright collars; the latter carried an employee number in individual metal numerals on the left-hand side and system initials — 'B C T' — in individual metal letters, on the right-hand side. One of the photographs below shows that many employees had a cloth chevron on the left arm of their tunics; this was almost certainly to recognise long service or good conduct.

Caps were in a kepi style initially, with a steeply inclined glossy peak and metal script-lettering cap badges, either Conductor or Motorman; a small municipal 'coat of arms' badge was worn above the script-lettering cap badge. Between 1908 and 1910, the kepi-style caps were superseded by military-style caps with tensioned crowns (tops); the cap insignia however, remained the same. Badges (and buttons) were in all probability brass for the entire life of the system, though there remains a possibility that nickel may have made an appearance in later years.

Conductors, and especially motormen, also wore long, double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons, epaulettes and high, fold-over collars; these do not appear to have carried insignia of any kind.

Although photographic evidence of inspectors is sparse, a single early photograph does suggest that they were initially issued with single-breasted jackets with upright collars, along with kepi-style caps bearing the standard municipal cap badge, worn above another long badge, very possibly the grade — INSPECTOR — in embroidered lettering. Smart double-breasted greatcoats (with plain buttons and lapels) were also worn; these garments bore a badge on both collars, once again very likely the bearer's grade (in embroidered lettering). The style of uniforms worn in later years remains unknown.

Unlike the vast majority of tramway systems, who employed women during the Great War to replace male employees lost to the armed service, Bournemouth elected not to employ female staff; instead, the corporation adopted a policy of employing boys aged 16 to 18 years, who were ostensibly ineligible for call up due to their age.

For a history of the system, see: 'Bournemouth and Poole Tramways' by R Anderson; Middleton Press (1995).

Images

Motormen and conductors
Bournemouth Corporation Tramways Conductor No 126?
An excellent studio portrait of a Bournemouth Corporation Tramways conductor — photo undated, but probably taken in the early Edwardian era. Author's Collection.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways Conductor No 126?
A blow-up of the above photo showing the collar insignia and the municipal arms cap badge, topped by a pine tree. He is probably Employee No 126.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways cap badge
Bournemouth municipal 'coat of arms' cap badge — brass. Author's Collection.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways cap badges
Standard ‘off the shelf’ script-lettering cap badges of the type used by Bournemouth — brass. Author's Collection.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways Tram 6 and crew
A conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 6 at the Landsdowne Rd conduit change pit with a service to Boscombe — photo undated, but very probably taken shortly after opening in 1902. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways Tram 6 and crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor, in single-breasted tunic and wearing a kepi-style cap.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways tram 50 and crew
The crew of Tramcar No 50 pose for the cameraman with a service to County Gates — photo undated, but almost certainly taken before July 1905 when the gap between the Bournemouth and Poole tramway systems at County Gates was closed, and through services were introduced. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways tram 50 and crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor, in single-breasted tunic, and the motorman, in open double-breasted greatcoat, both men wearing kepi-style caps.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways Tram No 17 circa 1908
A conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 17 in the middle of what is probably High St (terminal stub) in Christchurch — photo undated, but probably taken in 1908. Source unknown.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways
A line-up of Bournemouth staff, predominantly motormen, possibly taken outside Southcote Depot — photo undated, but almost certainly late-Edwardian given the high proportion of moustaches. Only the older men are wearing medals, suggestive of Boer War rather than Great War service. With thanks to Stephen Howarth.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways staff
A blow-up of the above photograph showing several motormen. By this time the kepi-style caps had been superseded by military-style caps with tensioned crowns (tops). The chevrons on the upper arm of the jackets almost certainly denote seniority (in terms of service) or good conduct.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways tram 79 and crew
Although a poor-quality image, this photo of Tramcar No 79 at Tuckton Bridge is believed to have been taken in 1910, proving that military-style caps had replaced kepis by this date. Author's Collection.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways conductor No 103
Bournemouth Corporation Tramways conductor (Employee No 103) — photo undated, but possibly taken shortly before the Great War. The photographer is 'J Deayton of Winton, Bournemouth'. Author's Collection.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways conductor No 103
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the uniform. The photo is so sharp, that the system can be identified from the button alone.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways Tram No 54 circa 1912
Tramcar No 54 stands at the terminus next to Poole Station. Although the photo is undated, posters on the left advertise 'Marie Tempest in The Marriage of Kitty' at the Theatre Royal in Bournemouth, a play which was revived around 1911, so the date is probably between then and the outbreak of the Great War. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways Tram 54 and crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the crew, both men in military-style caps.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways conductors 95 and 2
A studio portrait of two Bournemouth conductors (Employees No 95 and No 2) — photo undated, but given that both men are clean-shaven and wearing military-style caps, probably taken shortly before or shortly after the Great War. The collar insignia are clearly discernible, as is the quality of the uniform. Author's Collection.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways conductor No 95
A blow-up of the above photo, clearly showing the pine tree atop the municipal 'coat of arms' badge.


Bournemouth tram conductors and moterman
Two conductors and a motorman (Employees No 74, 222 and 113) — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Photo courtesy of Grant Kemp.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways tram No 28 and staff
Tramcar and maintenance staff pose with Tramcar No 28 — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways Tram No 46 and crew
A motorman and conductor pose aboard Tramcar No 46 in the depot — photo undated, but possibly taken on the same day as the preceding shot. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways cap badge
Possible 'tramways era' cap badge — nickel plated brass (curiously, there is no sign of this badge ever having had the tree seen on the previous badge and photos). Author's Collection.


Senior staff
Bournemouth Corporation Tramways Tramcar No 35
A new-looking Tramcar 35 with an inspector (left), conductor and motorman — photo undated, but almost certainly early Edwardian. Source unknown.


Bournemouth Corporation Tramways Inspector
A blow-up of the above photo showing the inspector. He is wearing a double-breasted greatcoat with embroidered lettering on both collars — possibly his grade — along with a kepi-style cap bearing the standard municipal cap badge and another unknown badge, again possibly an embroidered grade badge. The upright collars of his tunic can just be seen.