Barrow's tramways, although municipally sponsored, were until 1920 owned and operated by independent companies. The first of these was the Barrow-in-Furness Tramways Company, which ran steam services up until its liquidation in 1898, following which it was purchased by the British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BET), whose primary aim was to electrify the system.
Steam engine drivers and firemen wore typical railway footplate attire, namely: cotton jackets and trousers, with greasetop or heavy cotton caps. Conductors wore informal attire - jackets and trousers, shirt and tie, with the fashionable headgear of the day, especially the flat cap. It seems highly likely that the BET continued the uniform policy of its predecessor - at least as far as steam services were concerned - only issuing uniforms once electric services commenced.
The BET operated Barrow Corporation Tramways from 1899 to 1920, a concern which at its zenith either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles. The photos below clearly show Barrow tramway staff wearing the familiar and largely regulation BET uniform. Although jackets appeared to vary somewhat between BET systems, as well as across the decades, the cap badges, collar designations and buttons invariably followed a standard pattern.
Electric tramcar crews were initially issued with double-breasted jackets with two rows of five brass buttons (of the standard BET pattern - see link), three pockets with flap closures (two hip level and one waist level) and lapels; the latter appear to have carried embroidered, script-lettering system initials on both sides: 'BINF T'. Caps were in a military style with a tensioned crown (top) and glossy peak; they carried the standard BET ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge (see below), beneath which was probably an employee number (in individual brass numerals. Although the studio portrait below shows an individual without an employee number, it is possible that they had not been issued at the time the photograph was taken.
The above uniform was quickly superseded by a more robust outfit: conductors were now issued with single-breasted jackets with five buttons, a single breast pocket (with button closure), and upright collars; the latter carried individual ‘B E T’ initials on the right-hand side - presumably standing for 'Barrow Electric Tramways' - and an employee number on the left-hand side, all brass. Motormen wore double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom) and upright collars; the latter carried the same insignia as conductors' collars. Caps were as previously but definitely carried an employee number. At some point, and certainly by the time of the Great War, the collar initials had shrunk to 'B T' (i.e. Barrow Tramways).
Tramcar staff also wore round municipal licences, invariably on the left breast of their tunics. Long double-breasted overcoats were also issued; these had two rows of five buttons and high fold-over collars, and in later years, epaulettes; the collars possibly carried insignia, though precisely what form this took is currently unclear.
In 1907 the company employed just 34 motormen and conductors, with a solitary inspector (Barrow-in-Furness Transport; Ian L Cormack, 1977).
A wonderfully detailed depot photo has survived from the Great War (see below), which shows staff wearing a motley assortment of uniforms and insignia; the latter primarily regimental badges. This was common practice amongst tramway staff during the Great War, presumably either to mark military service rendered, or to show support for a close family member or partner (in the case of female employees) who was on active service.
Whilst the uniforms do not appear to have changed substantially in style following the corporation take-over, photographs clearly reveal that a large round cap badge was worn from 1920 onwards; this was almost certainly the same pattern as used in the later 'Corporation Transport' era, and featured the Barrow armorial device within a wreath (see below). In all likelihood, staff were also issued with Barrow-in-Furness Corporation buttons (see link), most probably brass.
Inspectors wore standard BET uniforms, which comprised single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or a hook and eye affair); the jackets were edged in a finer material than the main body of the jacket, with the collars bearing either 'Inspector' or 'Traffic Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. Headgear comprised the same upright military-style caps issued to tramcar crews, but with 'Inspector', in embroidered script lettering on a hat band. Inspectors also wore long double-breasted overcoats with lapels, the upper part of which bore the designation 'Traffic Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. By the time of the Great War, Barrow Tramways employed the services of a Chief Inspector; his uniform was essentially identical to those worn by inspectors, but with 'Chief Inspector' in place of 'Inspector'.
In common with many other UK tramway systems, women were employed during the First World War, initially as conductresses, but also as motorwomen and inspectresses. Female staff initally wore makeshift uniforms along with long overcoats and whatever headgear was to hand; the latter was invariably adorned with regimental badges. Eventually, smart, tailored uniforms were issued, comprising a long skirt, with a long, matching, single-breasted jacket with five buttons, a waist belt and two hip-level pockets; the jacket does not appear to have carried any insignia. Headgear consisted of dark, round-brimmed straw bonnets (presumably for summer use), and possibly baggy peaked caps (for winter use); both bore the standard BET ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge. Female staff were also issued with long, single-breasted overcoats with buttons offset to one side. These coats were tailored, with a broad waist belt carrying two buttons, and large hip level pockets and epaulettes.
Barrow also had lady inspectors (see below), who appear, at least initially to have worn long overcoats (probably because uniforms were yet to be issued), along with a baggy cap bearing an ‘Inspector’ badge in embroidered script lettering.
Steam tram drivers and conductors
Conductor and driver pose with Kitson-built Steam Tram No 1 and Falcon-built trailer - photo undated, but probably taken in in the early to mid 1890s, i.e. in 'company' days, as the engine is in relatively good condition. The conductor is wearing informal attire with a flat cap. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.
An extremely battered looking steam tram, possibly ex North Staffordhshire Tramways, with driver and fireman in Abbey Road - photo undated, but probably taken in 1903, some four years after the BET takeover. The individual standing on the right could well be the same driver shown in the previous image. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
Motormen and conductors
A pristine studio portrait of a Barrow-in-Furness Tramways employee - photo undated, but very likely taken to mark the inauguration of the electric services (1904). Arthur Hollis was a photographer to royalty - hence the crowns - and the quality certainly bears testament to his talent (with thanks to Geoff Holme for the background information). Author's collection.
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the cap and collar insiginia; the former bears the standard British Electric Traction Company 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, though without an employee number, whereas the latter appear to be 'BINFT' script initials (embroidered). The photograph is so sharp, that the standard pattern BET buttons are easily made out.
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge of the pattern used by Barrow-in-Furness Tramways - brass.
Conductor No 4 - date uncertain, but probably late Edwardian. The collar initials are now brass 'B E T' letters, presumably standing for Barrow Electric Tramways'. Insignia include a municipal licence and the standard BET cap badge, but now worn with an employee number. With thanks to Geoff Holme.
A conductor flanked by two motormen with an unidentified decorated tram - photo undated, but judging by the condition of the tram and the fashions on display, probably mid-to-late Edwardian. Author's collection.
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor (Employee No 12) and one of the motormen (Employee No 14). The other motorman (out of shot) is Employee No 3.
Motorman No 4 at the controls of Tramcar No 19 bound for Amphitrite Street - photo undated, but probably taken in the second decade after electrification. The employee number is identical to that borne by the conductor above, suggesting that he had by the time of this photo left the company. Note the absence of the standard BET ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge, which is clearly seen in many other photos. The three stripes on the left sleeve probably denote good conduct or long service.
Motorman and conductor at the Abbey Terminus with what would appear to be a virtually brand new Tramcar No 2, dating the photograph to 1903/4. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.
Staff photo taken at the Salthouse Depot - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War in view of the number of female staff and the plethora of regimental badges. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.
Blow-up of the above photo showing Employee No 5; the system initials are now simply 'B T' rather than the earlier 'B E T'. He has a medal ribbon on his left breast, as well as a Silver War Badge; these were issued to soldiers who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or illness. Like many in this photo, his cap badge is actually an army badge, probably the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Another blow-up of the staff photo showing the same motorman who is depicted at the controls of Tramcar No 19 above. He now has four chevrons on his sleeve rather than the three he appears to have in the earlier photo. He looks far too old to have been involved in active service, so the cap badge he is wearing, which is possibly a General Service Corps issue, is more than likely being worn to show his support for a close family member who was serving.
Points Boy or Parcels Boy along with the depot dog (?), taken from the Great War staff photo above.
The motorman of Tramcar No 5 gazes into the distance whilst his conductor heads off around the vehicle, trolley reversing pole in hand. Photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1920s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.
A poor quality photograph, but one which appears to suggest that a large round cap badge was worn in the corporation era (1920 onwards). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.
Barrow Corporation Transport cap badge - chrome. It is likely that the same pattern of badge was worn during the 'Corporation Tramways' era, but in either brass or nickel.
Corporation badge - nickel. It is unclear whether this was worn during the tram era.
Corporation badge - chrome. This would not have been worn during the tram era as the system was closed before the widespread introduction of chromium plating for badges (see link).
Blow-up of the staff photo above showing an inspector. His upright jacket collars appear to bear 'Inspector' in embroidered script-lettering, as does the hat band on his cap, whereas his overcoat collars bear 'Traffic Inspector'.
Another blow-up of the staff photo above showing two senior members of staff. The man on the left appears to be the Chief Inspector, whilst the collar insignia on the right would seem to imply that the individual is a 'Traffic Inspector'.
Blow-up of the staff photo above showing two female employees. Most of the ladies present, including these two, appear to be wearing makeshift uniforms, suggesting that the tailored uniforms that were subsequently worn by female staff had yet to be delivered.
A studio portrait (Priest of Barrow) of three Barrow conductresses in smart, tailored uniforms, making a stark contrast with the previous shot - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. Note the BET ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge on the bonnets. With thanks to Geoff Holme.
Motorwoman Annie Wilkinson - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. She is wearing an embroidered ‘Inspector’ cap badge, suggesting that she was an Inspector (or at least acting as one) when this photo was taken. Note the BET ‘Magnet & Wheel’ buttons, which can clearly be discerned on magnification. Photo reproduced with kind permission of The Dock Museum, Barrow-in-Furness (see link).
Another shot of Annie Wilkinson (right), along with an unidentified inspectress, this time taken from the staff photo above.
Conductress aboard Tramcar No 17, photo purportedly taken in 1915, though it could well be later given the appalling condition of the Tramcar. With thanks to Geoff Holme.