Barnsley and District Tramways

History
Barnsley and District Tramways were operated by the Barnsley and District Electric Traction Company, which was a subsidiary of the much larger British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BETCo), a concern which at its zenith either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles.

In the late 1890s, the BETCo was aggressively purchasing horse and steam-operated tramways across the British Isles with the intention of converting them to electric traction, as well as promoting schemes for completely new electric tramways. In 1899, the BETCo gained powers to construct a small standard-gauge tramway system in Barnsley, much to Barnsley Corporation's annoyance, as they had their own plans for a municipal system. The corporation however, soon wavered, eventually opting to support the company's plans; with the first tram running on the 31st October 1902.

Passenger numbers were unfortunately disappointing, so one can well understand the company's reluctance to build extensions, despite being pressured to do so by surrounding councils. In 1912, the company decided that petrol bus operation was a more promising means of expansion, and by the end of 1913, they had acquired 48 vehicles, a quite staggering number considering that the technology was still largely unproven. The gamble proved to be successful, and in June 1919, the name of the company was changed to the Barnsley and District Traction Company, to emphasise the change in scope. Perhaps surprisingly, in view of the success of the bus operations, the company continued to invest in track renewals in the 1920s.

On the 10th July 1924, the B&DT got a new neighbour in the form of a brand-new tramway, the Dearne and District Light Railways, which was owned by Wath-upon-Dearne, Wombwell, Bolton-upon-Dearne and Thurnscoe Urban District Councils. The relationship between the D&DLR and the B&DTCo was however not a happy one, as the councils had deliberately blocked the expansion plans of the latter, driven by a desire for a publicly owned service; as a result, the B&DTCo refused to countenance a connection between the two systems, despite the tracks being only a few feet apart. The B&DTCo's buses were of course now in direct competition with the D&DLR's trams, and the latter's inability to gain access to Barnsley was to prove fatal. In fact, the D&DLR proved to be a titanic waste of ratepayers' money, and was to last only nine years before closure.

In November 1928 (or possibly January 1929; documentary sources are conflicting), the company's name was changed yet again, this time to the Yorkshire Traction Company, following which it quickly made plans to abandon the tramway system. The last tram of all ran on the 1st September 1930.

Uniforms
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the company operated for some 28 years, photographs depicting staff are not only surprisingly rare, but are overwhelmingly from the first decade and a half of operation; care must therefore be exercised in extrapolating from this evidence through the Great War and the 1920s, as uniforms may well have changed in style over the course of these 15 years or so. The photographs that have survived do however show staff of the B&DTCo wearing the familiar and largely regulation BETCo uniform; although jackets appeared to vary somewhat between BETCo systems, as well as across the decades, the cap badges, collar designations and buttons invariably followed a standard pattern.

The jackets issued to staff during the first decade of operation were single-breasted with five buttons (presumably of the standard BETCo pattern — see link), a single breast pocket (with button closure) and upright collars; the latter carried an employee number on the bearer's left-hand side (in individual numerals) and systems initials — 'B & D T' — in individual letters on the right-hand side, all almost certainly in brass. Caps were military in style with a glossy peak and tensioned crown (top), and carried a standard brass BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge (see below), underneath which an employee number was worn (in individual brass numerals).

By analogy with other BETCo tramway systems, inspectors almost certainly wore single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or more likely a hook and eye affair) and upright collars, the latter bearing Inspector in embroidered script lettering. Caps were military in style with a tensioned crown and bore a hat band bearing the grade — Inspector — again in embroidered script lettering, above which the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge was worn. The Chief Inspector wore a virtually identical uniform, but with the grade Chief Inspector; his cap appears however to have borne a more elaborate hat band. Senior staff were also issued with smart double-breasted overcoats with lapels, the upper part of which (i.e., the collars), bore their grades in embroidered script lettering.

Like the vast majority of UK tramway systems, female staff were employed in significant numbers during the Great War to replace male staff lost to the armed services. A studio photo has survived which depicts eight conductresses, all wearing long, tailored, single-breasted coats with five buttons, a waist belt with two-button fastening, epaulettes, cuff embellishments, and high, fold-over collars; the latter carried system initials — 'B & D T' — on the bearer's left-hand side and an employee number on the right-hand side. The collar insignia would appear to have been of a rather unusual striated design, giving a rope effect, a style which was also used on the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee (another BETCo concern), though others in the photo clearly have the more frequently used plain variety. It is currently unclear whether jackets were worn underneath these coats or not. Headgear took the form of a bonnet with an upturned brim, around which was a thick material band, held in place by a wide material loop at the front; the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge was mounted on this loop. As far as I am aware, this highly unusual design of hat was unique to the B&DTCo amongst UK tramway systems.

The tramway company also employed women as inspectors (i.e., inspectresses) during the Great War. These ladies were issued with full-length, single-breasted coats with high, fold-over collars and a waist belt, all seemingly in a gabardine-like material. The collars bore the grade — Inspector — in embroidered script lettering. Headgear took the form of a bonnet, seemingly identical to those worn by conductresses, but possibly made from the same material as the full-length coat; the bonnet bore the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge. It is unclear whether inspectresses wore a company-issued jacket under the coat or not.

Further reading
For more information on the Barnsley and District Tramways, see: 'A History of the Barnsley, Dearne, Mexborough and Rotherham Tramway Conurbation' by C C Hall; Tramway Review Nos 51 to 58 (1968-1969).

Images

Motormen and conductors
Upper Sheffield Road Depot, Barnsley and District Tramways staff photom 1902
A photo taken at Sheffield Rd depot, which judging by the pristine condition of the trams, was probably taken in 1902. Unfortunately, the image is of too poor a quality to make out any of the uniform details, though the men are certainly all wearing the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge. Photo courtesy of the Craig Sheppard Collection.


Barnsley and District Tramways crew and tram No 14
Conductor (Employee No 13) and motorman (possibly Employee No 4) with what would appear to be a rather new-looking Tramcar No 14, suggesting that the photo was taken in or shortly after, 1912. Both men have an employee number on their left-hand collars, and individual system initials — 'B & D T' — on their right-hand side. The military-style caps bear the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, worn above an employee number.


British Electric Traction cap badge
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge, of the type worn by Barnsley and District Tramways staff — brass. Author's Collection.


Barnsley and District Tramways staff photo
A rather poor quality photograph, but one which shows four B&DTCo tramcar staff proudly posing for the camera with the Friendly Society Challenge Cup, presumably in 1911. All are wearing single-breasted jackets and caps with standard BETCo insignia. The jacket collars carry an employee number on the left-hand side and individual 'B & D T' initials on the right-hand side, all almost certainly in brass. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.


Senior staff
Barnsley and District Tramways Great War tram inspector, chief inspector and inspectresses
A superb studio portrait of three B&DT inspectresses, an inspector (back right) and the Chief Inspector (back left)— photo undated, but almost certainly taken during or shortly after the Great War. Author's Collection.


Barnsley and District Tramways Tram inspector Great War
A blow-up of the above photo showing the inspector. His single-breasted jacket with upright collars can just be made out underneath his overcoat; the collars, along with those on his overcoat, bear his grade — Inspector — in embroidered script lettering. His cap also bears his grade in embroidered script lettering, along with the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge.


Barnsley and District Tramways Tram Chief Inspector
A further blow-up of the above photo, this time showing the Chief Inspector. His uniform, overcoat and cap insignia all appear to be identical to the inspector's, save for the grade, but with a more elaborate hat band.


Female staff
Barnsley and District Tramways Great War tram conductresses
A group of eight Great War B&DT female staff, probably all conductresses. The bonnets are really quite unusual, and as far as I am aware, were unique to the B&DT amongst UK tramway systems. Author's Collection.


Barnsley and District Tramways Great War tram conductress
A blow-up of the above photograph showing Employee No 56. Like most of the others depicted, she is wearing narrow system initials, which were in all probability striated to give a rope effect; this type of badge also found use on a small number of other BETCo systems.


Barnsley and District Tramways Great War tram conductress
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing one the conductresses with the more usual plain system initials.


Barnslet and District Tramways Great War Tram inspectress
A blow-up of the 'inspectors' studio photo above showing a Great War B&DTCoLtd inspectress. She is wearing a full-length, single-breasted coat with high, fold-over collars (bearing her grade) and a waist belt, all seemingly in a gabardine-like material. The bonnet is very similar to those worn by conductresses, though perhaps in the same material as the coat; it bears the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge.