Aberdeen Suburban Tramways Company

The Aberdeen Suburban Tramways Company appears to have been rather tardy in issuing uniforms; although they seem to have begun issuing uniforms early on, it appears to have been a rather half-hearted effort, with many staff simply wearing heavy overcoats (albeit with shirts and ties) and flat caps well into 1906. This lax approach to uniforms eventually led to a letter of complaint from the corporation (in 1906), who felt that AST men were lowering the tone of the corporation lines over which they operated joint services (thanks to Mike Mitchell for this information).

The first uniforms bore a striking resemblance to those issued by the corporation, almost certainly being obtained from the same supplier - they were navy blue with red piping. They were single-breasted with five buttons and lapels, but differred between conductors and motormen, the former having two breast pockets (with button closures), and the latter two waist pockets; neither type carried badges. The company also followed general corporation policy in respect of caps, with conductors wearing kepis, and motormen wearing military-style caps; standard script-lettering badges were worn, either 'Conductor' or 'Motorman'. It is unclear whether buttons and badges were in brass or nickel, though probably the former given the AST's predeliction for following corporation uniform policy, as the latter certainly used brass for its tramcar staff.

In later years (probably just prior to the First World War), staff were issued with single-breasted jackets with four buttons, three pockets (two waist and one hip) and lapels. As before, no insignia were worn. Caps for both conductors and motormen were now in the military style, but with a distinctive wide-brimmed top; they continued to carry script-lettering cap badges.

Inspectors wore identical jackets to motormen and conductors, with the exception of the lapels, which were edged in a lighter material (possibly silver in colour) and carried 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. Caps were in the military style, similar to those worn by motormen, but had a hat band of a lighter colour (again probably edged in silver) which bore 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. Buttons may have been nickel to match the silver edging - this was also the case for corporation inspectors.

As with many tramway operators, the AST employed female staff during the Great War - both as conductresses and as motorwomen - to replace male staff lost to the armed forces. Female staff were issued with long, tailored single-breasted jackets with four buttons and waistbelt (with button fastening), two waist and two breast pockets (with button fastenings) and lapels. Long matching skirts were also worn. Other than the buttons, the jackets do not appear to have carried any form of insignia. Headwear consisted of baggy caps with material peaks; these bore standard script-lettering cap badges, 'Conductor' or 'Motorman'.

With grateful thanks to Mike Mitchell for sharing his photos and knowledge.


Motormen and conductors
Aberdeen Suburban Tramways crew
Conductor and motorman aboard the steps of Tramcar No 1 at Bankhead circa 1906. Note that the motorman appears to be wearing a conductor's tunic. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways
Standard ‘off the shelf’ script-lettering cap badges of the type used by Aberdeen Suburban Tramways - brass.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways crew
Motorman and two conductors pose with Tramcar No 2 at Bankhead circa 1906. All three men are without uniforms or official caps. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways crew
Another photo taken at Bankhead, circa 1906 - once again, the crew are without official uniforms. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways
An Aberdeen Motorman (No 9) - photo undated. It is unclear whether the individual depicted is AST or ACT, as both issued motormen with jackets and caps in this style. What is clear is that the buttons are plain, and that the badge he is wearing appears in no other photo of an Aberdeen tramwayman, either AST or ACT. It is in fact in the shape of the arms of Aberdeen, so could have been a personal addition (AST tramcars carried a similar shaped device on their waist panels). The metal number on his lapel is another mystery, as it is not seen in any other photos, again, either AST or ACT. The only thing that is certain, is that the photograph was taken in Aberdeen. Author's collection.

Senior staff
Aberdeen Suburban Tramways
Conductor, Inspector (Mr Kerr) and motorman (George Cruikshank) pose with Tramcar No 5 at Mannofield Depot circa 1904/5. Note the close adherence to corporation uniform policy, both in the style of the jackets and the caps (conductor in kepi-style cap and motorman in military-style cap). With thanks to Mike Mitchell.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways staff
An inspector, and rather tense-looking motorman, pose with Tramcar No 6 at the Bankhead Terminus - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1920s. Note the round badge on the inspector's lapel. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.

Female staff
Aberdeen Suburban Tramways crew
Conductress and motorman with Tramcar No 4 at Bankside, some time between 1915 and 1919. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways crew
Conductress and motorman with Tramcar No 8 at Mannofield Depot - photo taken during or shortly after the First World War. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways conductress and motorman
Conductress and motorman with Tramcar No 7 at Bieldside, some time between 1915 and 1919. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways motorman and conductress
Motorman and conductress with Tramcar No 11 - photo undated, but probably taken during the Great War. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways staff
A group of AST staff, including motorman, motorwoman, conductor and conductress, pose alongside Tramcar No 4 at the Bankhead Terminus either during or shortly after World War I. With thanks to Mike Mitchell and First Aberdeen.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways conductress
A studio portrait of conductress Barbara Craib, grand-daughter of Forbes Christie, the AST Permanent Way Foreman. Miss Craib worked for a short time on the trams in Lanark (they had recruited female staff from the Aberdeen area), but returned home when the AST started hiring female staff. With thanks to Mike Mitchell for the photo and background information.

Aberdeen Suburban Tramways conductress
A blow-up of the above photo, which reveals a rather odd-looking cap badge, not to mention cap. The badge may simply be difficult to make out due to the rain cover which obscures it, however, what is clear is that it is a man's cap; other photos clearly show female staff wearing tailored uniforms and baggy caps. This photo is possibly therefore very early, before the company had taken delivery of female uniforms, such that Miss Craib was kitted out with whatever was to hand. The studio was also known to keep a variety of caps (and apparel) in stock for photographic purposes, so it is entirely possible that the cap and coat are not even male AST issues! If the greatcoat is indeed AST, then it suggests that uniform buttons took the form of a monogram, possibly of intertwined letters. With thanks to Mike Mitchell for this information.

AST shield device - with monogram - as applied to tramcar waist panels. With thanks to Mike Mitchell.