Barnsley and District Tramways

The Barnsley and District Electric Traction Co Ltd 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. Despite the fact that the company operated successfully for some 28 years before closure in the 1930s, photographs depicting staff are not only surprisingly rare, but appear to stem overwhelmingly from the first decade 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 latter two decades. The photographs that have survived do however show staff of the B&DTCoLtd 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 probably wore single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair) and upright collars, the latter bearing ‘Inspector’ in embroidered script lettering. Caps almost certainly bore a standard, brass BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge, possibly with the grade - 'Inspector' - in embroidered script lettering underneath; confirmation must however await the discovery of photographic evidence.

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 single 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 and 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&DT amongst UK tramway systems.

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 53 to 58 (1968-1969).


Motormen and conductors
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 and 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.

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.

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.