Accrington Corporation Tramways

History
Accrington Corporation became a tramway owner on the 5th April 1886, when services commenced on its newly built, 4ft 0ins-gauge steam tramway. Operation of the services was however leased to the Accrington Corporation Steam Tramways Company (see link), a somewhat misleading name given that the corporation had no stake in the company.

The steam-operated system eventually comprised a line out to Church in the West, a line to Clayton in the North, and a very steeply graded line to Baxenden in the South. The latter line was subsequently extended by Haslingden Corporation through to its boundary with Rawtenstall (at Lockwood) — who like Accrington leased the lines to the ACSTCo — and by the company itself from there through to Queens Square, Rawtenstall. Although the system was eventually connected to two other 4ft 0in-gauge steam tramways — at Church (Blackburn Corporation Tramways) and Rawtenstall (Rossendale Valley Steam Tramway Company) — other than the odd special working, no regular through running took place.

Rather than buying the ACSTCo out of its 21-year lease, Accrington Corporation chose to wait until it expired — in April 1907 — no doubt to ensure that they got the best deal possible. The down side of this was that conversion to electric traction came rather late in the day compared with Blackburn and Darwen, though Haslingden and Rawtenstall were later still, the latter becoming the last street tramway system in Britain to use steam traction on a regular basis.

Despite planning well ahead, the corporation were however not ready to take over operation of the system when the lease expired, so the ACSTCo continued to work the steam services until agreement could be reached. Accrington formally purchased the engines, trailers and assets necessary to work its lines on the 20th September 1907, with the ACSTCo agreeing to continue working the steam services until the end of the year. Long before a price was agreed, Accrington set about converting its tracks to electric traction, the first service running on the 2nd August 1907. The last steam tram — operated under contract by the ACSTCo — ran on the 31st December 1907. This may not however, have been the last ever steam service over Accrington's tracks, as there is some circumstantial evidence to suggest that Haslingden Corporation, who also bought engines, trailers and assets from the ACSTCo, may have run a service to Accrington as late as the 4th or 5th of September 1908, possibly to celebrate the end of the steam working, or at least the end of steam working on the Haslingden-Baxenden route.

The ACT electric system eventually extended to just over seven miles, with another 2.9 miles worked under lease from Haslingden Corporation. Connections were made with Blackburn Corporation Tramways in the West (at Church) and Rawtenstall Corporation Tramways in the Southeast (at Lockgate), with inter-running agreements eventually being implemented. BCT and RCT trams therefore ran through to Accrington, whilst those of the ACT reached Blackburn and Bacup.

Bus competition started in earnest in 1922, with the corporation belatedly commencing its own bus services on the 12th of November 1928. This was followed in May 1929 by Rawtenstall's decision to abandon its tramways, which quickly led to an agreement between Accrington, Haslingden and Rawtenstall to replace the Accrington-Rawtenstall tram services with buses; this took place on the 1st April 1930. The writing was now clearly on the wall for the trams, as without the Accrington-Rawtenstall route, the rest of the system could not realistically be operated economically. Matters were however accelerated by the poor state of the track and roadway in Oswaldtwistle, which led to a decision to abandon the tramway, services being withdrawn on the 26th August 1931; however, a shortage of buses saw a temporary reprieve, the final curtain falling on the 6th of January 1932.

Uniforms
Staff working the newly inaugurated electric services were issued with double-breasted 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom) and upright collars; the latter certainly bore insignia of some description — 'ACT' initials on the right-hand side, and possibly on the left too, though photographs are of insufficient quality to say for certain. Caps were in a military style with a tensioned crown (top), and bore standard, 'off the shelf', script-lettering cap badges, either Driver or Conductor; these were probably nickel.

Staff were also issued with long, double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons and high, fold-over collars; the latter carried 'ACT' initials on both sides.

Inspectors wore single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or more likely a hook and eye affair), edged in a finer material than the main jacket, with upright collars; it is unclear whether the latter bore any insignia as this cannot be discerned on surviving photographs, though in all likelihood they bore Inspector in embroidered script-lettering. Caps were initially in a kepi-style, but were superseded by the same style of military caps worn by tramcar crews, but with the peak embellished with braiding. Somewhat unusually, the caps appear to have been devoid of insignia.

In common with the vast majority of UK tramway operators, during the Great War Accrington employed women — both as conductors and later on as motorwomen — to replace men lost to the armed services, though only from relatively late in the war (1917). Just a solitary photo has survived, though unfortunately, not in anything like close-up. This shows a conductress wearing a single-breasted, tailored jacket with four pockets (the top two with button closures), a waist belt and lapels, and a long, matching skirt. It is currently unclear what insignia, if any, were carried on the jacket. Headgear appears to have taken the form of a close-fitting bonnet.

Further reading
For more information on the system, see: 'The Tramways of Accrington 1886-1932' by R W Rush; The Light Railway Transport League (1961).

Images

Motormen and conductors
Accrington Corporation Tramways opening day
One of the ACT's new single-deck trams (Nos 1 to 4), decorated for the opening procession, which actually took place the day after the line was certified for use, i.e., on the 2nd August 1907. The motorman stands proprietorially to one side, whilst the Mayor and Mayoress pose for the cameraman on the platform.


Accrington Corporation Tramways motorman tram driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman. He is wearing a 'lancer-style', double-breasted tunic and a military-style cap bearing a script-lettering Driver grade badge.


Accrington Corporation Tramways cap badges
General pattern script-lettering cap badges — Driver and Conductor — of the pattern used by the ACT — nickel. Author's Collection.


Accrington Corporation Tramways No 4
Tramcar No 4 pictured turning from Market St in Church into Blackburn Rd, with the link to Blackburn Corporation's Church line in the background — photo undated, but judging by the immaculate condition of the vehicle, almost certainly taken in August 1907. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Accrington Corporation Tramways No 4 and motorman
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman, who would appear to be the same individual picutred in the opening day procession above. He is wearing a 'lancer-style' tunic with upright collars and a military-style cap with a tensioned crown (top).


Accrington Corporation Tramways No 11 first tram to Haslingden
A local postcard ostensibly commemorating the first electric tramcar (No 11) to Haslingden, which took place on the 28th September 1908. Photo courtesy of Jim Halsall.


Accrington Corporation Tramways conductor and inspector
A blow-up of the above photo, which though of low resolution, does show some details of the conductor's and inspector's uniforms.


Accrington Corporation Tramways Tramcar No 6 and crew
The crew of Tramcar No 6 pose for the camera at Oakleigh, Whalley Rd — photo undated, but given that the vehicle looks to be in very good condition, probably taken in late 1908 when No 6 was delivered. Author's Collection.


Accrington Corporation Tramways Tramcar No 6 and crew
A blow-up of the above photo, which although of poor condition shows that both the conductor and motorman are wearing 'lancer-style' tunics with upright collars, along with military-style caps with script-lettering cap badges.


Accrington Corporation Tramways Tram No 5 and motorman
A motorman at the controls of Tramcar No 5, believed to have been taken in the vicinity of China and India Streets around 1910. The subject is wearing a Driver script-lettering cap badge, and 'ACT' initials on his greatcoat collar. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.


Accrington Corporation Tramways Tram No 12 and crew
A Clayton-bound, Tramcar No 12 and crew — photo undated, but probably late Edwardian. Although difficult to make out, both men are wearing greatcoats with ACT system initials on both collars. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.


Accrington Corporation Tramways decorated Great War tram and crew
A motorman and conductor with a decorated, fund-raising tram during the Great War. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Accrington Corporation Tramways decorated Great War tram and crew
A blow-up of the above tram showing the motorman and conductor, both in 'lancer-style' tunics unchanged from the first years of electric working.


Accrington Corporation Tramways Tram No 19 and conductor
A conductor poses for the photographer with Tramcar No 19 — photo undated, but probably taken in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.


Accrington Corporation Trmaways Tram No 9 and motorman
A motorman stands with Tramcar No 9 in Peel Street in the centre of Accrington — photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1920s given that No 9 was refitted with its original roofed upper deck in 1924. Photo believed to have been taken by Walter Gratwicke, with thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Accrington Corporation Trmaways Tram No 9 and motorman
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman. Although on first glance he appears to be wearing a jacket with lapels, it is in fact a standard 'lancer-style' tunic, half unbuttoned. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Accrington Corporation Transport cap collar badge
Cap/collar badge worn by staff of Accrington Corporation Transport, but almost certainly not during the tramway era as surviving photos do not show the badge, nor was the material (chrome) widely used until the 1930s, i.e., after the closure of the system.


Senior staff
Accrington Corporation Tramways Tram No 18 and crew 1907
An inspector (left) poses for the camera with the crew of Tramcar No 18 at Oakleigh, Whalley Road — photo undated, but given the pristine condition of the tram, very probably taken in late 1907. In contrast to the crew, the inspector is wearing a kepi-style cap. Photo courtesy of Jim Halsall.


Accrington Corporation Tramways Tram No 5 and crew
An inspector (left), very possibly the same man as in the preceding image, with the crew of Accrington-bound Tramcar No 5 — photo undated, but probably taken in 1907/8. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.


Accrington Corporation Tramways crew
An inspector (with arms folded) stands with the crew of an Accrington-bound tramcar — photo undated, but probably taken in the 1920s. By this time, and probably from much earlier, inspectors had dispensed with the kepi-style caps in favour of military-style caps. Photo courtesy of Jim Halsall.


Female staff
Accrington Corporation Tramways Tram tank week and Great War conductress
A poor quality image, but the only one I am so far aware of that shows a Great War tram conductress (second from the left). The photo can be fairly accurately dated to the week of the 28th January 1918, which was 'Tank Week' in Accrington and Blackburn, the tram being decorated to support the fund raising. Photo courtesy of Duncan Holden.