Manchester Corporation Tramways
Manchester Corporation Tramways is extremely well-represented photographically, so it is possible to describe the gradual change in the uniform and insignia, over the years, with a high degree of certainty.
In the first four years or so of operation, motormen (known as 'drivers' in Manchester) were issued with double-breasted jackets with two rows of four buttons (presumably brass - see link) and lapels; the latter carried an employee number on the bearer's left-hand side (in individual brass numerals) and a brass, one-piece, underlined script-lettering grade badge - 'Driver' - on the other side. The badge was of one-piece construction, underlined, and with the tail cut off obliquely from top left to bottom right (see photo below); this pattern of badge appears to have been unique to Manchester Corporation Tramways and nearby system of Stalybridge, Mossley, Hyde and Dukinfield Tramways, the latter presumably following Manchester's lead. Conductors (known as 'guards' in Manchester) wore single-breasted jackets with five buttons and upright collars. Like the motormen, an employee number was worn on the bearer's left-hand collar and a grade badge - 'Guard' - on the right-hand side. Both grades wore kepi-style caps with a glossy peak and a large brass cap badge comprising the municipal arms above a ribbon bearing the full system title: 'Manchester Corporation Tramways'.
Around 1905, a change was made to the style of the motormen's tunics, as well as to the headgear of all tramcar staff. Motormen were now issued with double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons and upright collars; the latter bore the same insiginia as previously. Having said that, several photos exist which show motormen wearing the same style of single-breasted jackets issued to conductors. Caps were initially soft-topped and in a military-style with a glossy peak, however, these appears not to have lasted long - perhaps a couple of years, before being replaced by a smarter style of military cap with a tensioned crown (top). Both styles of cap carried the same cap badge as the earlier kepis.
A change was made to a more modern style of uniform some time around 1930. Jackets for all tramcar staff were now double-breasted with two rows of four closely spaced buttons, two waist pockets, lapels and epaulettes (with button fastenings); the latter, like the overcoats, appear to have carried an employee number in individual metal numerals on the left-hand side, and a grade badge on the right-hand side. The uniform material was blue serge with red piping. It is likely that a switch was made to chrome insignia at some point, at least for new employees, as several examples of chrome-plated nickel 'Tramways' cap badges have survived, one of which came from the old Uniform Store at Hyde Road depot.
Given the famous Mancunian weather, staff were frequently to be seen in long, double-breasted greatcoats; these had two rows of five buttons and high, fold-over collars, which usually carried the same insignia as the tunics that were worn underneath. At some point, the design of the greatcoats was subtly changed to include epaulettes (with button fastening), probably at the same time as the same embellishment was applied to the jackets worn underneath. Whilst the epaulettes bore an employee number, and probably a grade badge (left and right, respectively), the collars appear to have been left plain, i.e. without badges of any kind. Epaulettes also began to make an appearance on the conductors' jackets, very possibly at the same time as they were introduced on the greatcoats.
Manchester, along with Salford, was a great employer of 'trolley boys', young lads who assisted the conductor on the larger double-deck trams by directing passengers and, as the name implies, moving the trolley boom. The position lasted until 1933. In the early years, these boys were issued with single-breasted jacket with lapels; these bore an employee number on the bearer's left-hand side, with the other side left plain, i.e. no grade badge was worn. Caps were identical to those worn by conductors and motormen. At some point, probably in the mid-Edwardian era, the jackets were switched to the same pattern as those issued to conductors; these continued to carry just an employee number.
In the earliest days, inspectors were issued with a very elaborate single-breasted jacket with piping, braiding and various other ostentatious decorations, including quite impractical frogs (embellishments to the jacket fastenings); an elaborate, braided kepi-style cap was also worn, which seems to have borne the standard municipal 'Tramways' cap badge. This style of jacket appears to have been relatively quickly superseded by a much more pragmatic style of tunic, which was single-breasted with upright collars and two slit pockets on the bearer's left-hand side; the latter, and the front edges of the jacket were finished in a finer material than the main body, quite possibly a form of corduroy. The jacket was closed by means of hook and eye fasteners rather than buttons. The collars carried the grade - 'Inspector' - on the bearer's right-hand side and an employee number - in individual metal numerals - on the left-hand side. Caps were identical to those worn by tramcar staff, but with a brushed material hat band and braided edging to the peak, along with the standard municipal cap badge.
Inspectors appear to have continued the practice of wearing kepi-style caps long after tramcar staff had changed to the military style caps, though they did eventually make the switch. Inspectors' tunics evolved subtlely over time, looking much the same, twenty years on, as they had in the early years, but with four flap closure pockets rather than slit pockets. In the latter years of the system, these were superseded by jackets of a more modern double-breasted design with lapels. Inspectors also wore long double-breasted overcoats.
Timekeepers were also employed, and an excellent studio portrait has survived which indicates that in the early years, at least, they wore single-breasted jackets which were very similar, if not identical to the corduroy-finished style worn by Inspectors. The only difference appears to have been the embroidered grade on the bearer's right-hand collar: 'Timekeeper'.
In common with many tramway systems, Manchester employed significant numbers of female staff during the Great War - both as conductresses and as trolley girls - to cover for men lost to the armed services. These ladies were initially issued with long, tailored, single-breasted jackets with four buttons, four pockets, lapels, epaulettes (with button fastenings) and long matching skirts. The epaulettes carried an employee number on the bearer's left-hand side and a 'Guard' badge on the right-hand side (for conductresses). The jackets appear to have changed over the course of the war to a simpler single-breasted design with four buttons, two waist pockets (with button closures), high fold-over collars and epaulettes. Wide-brimmed bonnets appear to have been worn initially; these carried a hatband and the standard cap badge. Other photos show ladies wearing close-fitting peakless hats reminiscent of modern 'beanies'; these also carried the standard municipal tramway cap badge, and may have been designed for winter wear, though there is a possibility that they were for trolley girls, at least initially. Female employees were also issued with long single-breasted overcoats with the buttons offset to one side, lapels and epaulettes, though the occasional photo shows that double-breasted overcoats were also worn.
Female staff were also employed in considerable numbers during World War Two, including three as motorwomen. These ladies were issued with double-breasted jackets and stylish peakless bonnets.
For a detailed history of Manchester Corporation Tramways, see 'The Manchester Tramways' by I Yearsley and F P Groves; Transport Publishing Co Ltd (1988).
Motormen, conductors, trolley and parcels boys
A motorman (called 'Drivers' in Manchester), conductor (called 'Guards') and another motorman, pose for the camera with Tramcar No 389 on a Longsight to Plymouth Grove service - photo undated, but probably taken in 1903. All those depicted are wearing kepi-style caps bearing the distinctive Manchester Corporation Tramways cap badge. The difference in the patterns of motormen's and conductors' jackets - double-breasted with fold-over collars versus single-breasted with upright collars - are clearly apparent. Author's collection.
Manchester Corporation Tramways cap badge - brass. Author's collection.
Conductor and motorman pose with a Milnes tramcar on a Whitworth Park-Moss Lane East-Raby St & Brooks Bar service - photo undated, but definitely early Edwardian. Both men are wearing kepi-style caps and double-breasted greatcoats with collar grade badges. Author's collection.
MCT Guard, Employee No 32x in kepi-style cap. His grade badge - on the right-hand collars of his jacket and greatcoat can just be made out. Author's collection.
One-piece, underlined grade badge - 'Guard' - of the type used by MCT and another local system, the Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Tramways. Author's collection.
A conductor and his motorman on the platform of Tramcar No 159 on a service from Ashton to Piccadilly - photo undated, but probably taken around 1905. By this time the kepi-style caps had been displaced by a soft-topped, military style of cap. The heavy, double-breasted greatcoats were no doubt essential attire for working on an unenclosed tramcar in a Manchester winter. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
Trolley boy, conductor and motorman with Tramcar No 457 on an Ashton to Piccadilly service - photo undated, but probably taken around 1905/6. All those depicted are wearing soft-topped caps rather than kepis. The trolley boy is wearing a single-breasted jacket with an employee number on his right-hand lapel, but no grade badge. Author's collection.
Two Manchester Corporation Tramways Department employees pose with Parcels Car No 1 at Hyde Rd Depot - photo undated, but probably mid-Edwardian.
A posed scene aboard the platform of Tramcar No 590 bound for Manchester Exchange - photo dated 'circa 1909'. Left to right are an inspector, conductor, trolley boy and motorman. Trolley boys were seen as an essential part of the crew for larger trams, both in Manchester and in Salford. By this time, the soft-topped caps had been replaced by a smarter design with a tensioned crown (top), though the inspector is still wearing the older style kepi cap. Image kindly supplied by Beamish Museum Limited (see link), image copyright Beamish Museum Limited.
Blow-up of the above photo showing the trolley boy and the motorman - the cap and collar badges are easily made out.
One-piece, underlined grade badge - 'Driver' - brass - of the type possibly used by MCT and another local system, Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Tramways. Author's collection.
MCT conductor, Employee No 740, in the new military style of cap with a tensioned crown (top) - photo undated, but probably mid-to-late Edwardian. Photo courtesy of the Richard Rosa Collection
Two motormen (left and right) and a trolley or points boy (centre), pictured at Queens Road depot - photo undated, but possibly taken shortly before the Great War. Author's Collection.
Manchester Corporation Tramways Employee No 487 (very likely a motorman) - photo undated, but probably taken before the Great War. The jacket now has epaulettes. Author's Collection.
MCT motorman in later military-style cap and greatcoat with epaulettes. WIth kind with thanks to Stephen Howarth.
Studio portrait of an MCT conductor - photo undated. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
Motorman Jack Hassle and conductor Jack Palfrey pose with their tramcar at Queens Rd Depot circa 1927. The 'Guard' badge is now being worn on the right-hand epaulette rather than the collar. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
Two tramwaymen pose for the camera, presumably outside one of the mens' homes - photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s. Note the more modern double-breasted style of jacket. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
Studio portrait of a Manchester tramwayman, Employee No 517, in greatcoat - photo undated, but possibly taken in the 1920s. Author's Collection.
A group of parcels boys, in clogs, pose outside one of the MCT parcels offices. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
A trolley boy with Tramcar No 851 - purportedly taken on the last day of their employment, or at least in the last year (1933). Author's Collection.
A photograph to commemorate the last trams run by Manchester, taken at Birchfields Road Depot on 10th January 1949. Apart from the manager (seated front) and two inspectors, the five motormen and conductors represent the crews of Tramcars 113, 976, 978 and 1007 (plus the spare, 102). Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
A blow-up of the above photo, showing the crew of Tramcar 1007, Motorman Richard Berwick (second from right, standing) and Conductor George Cadywould (probably first right, standing). Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
Manchester Corporation Tramways cap badge - chrome-plated nickel. Given that several examples have survived, one of which came from the MCT Uniform Store at Hyde Rd, it would seem highly likely that a switch was made to chrome insignia at some point, probably in the late 1930s or 1940s (see link). Author's collection.
Manchester Corporation Transport cap badge - brass. Although the name of the department was changed from 'Tramways' to 'Transport' on 1st November 1929, the existence of chrome 'Tramways' badges would tend to suggest that tramway employees continued to receive 'Tramways' badges right through to closure (1949). Author's collection.
Inspector S E Whillingham circa 1901. Mr Whillingham served with the Manchester Carriage and Tramways Company from 1881 to 1901 and MCT from 1901 to 1907. This rather elaborate style of jacket must have been distinctly impractical as a working garment, and was quickly superseded by a more serviceable style. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
An MCT inspector, together with various dignatories and a 500-series tramcar, on the occasion of a visit by an Indian military unit - photo undated, but probably taken in 1902 or 1903. Judging by the facial resemblance, the individual depicted may well be Inspector Whillingham. Author's collection.
A blow-up of the photo of Tramcar 590 above, showing the inspector, with embroidered collar designation and whistle.
Inspector George William Ross (Employee No 140) of Hulme, who died in 1918 - photo undated. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
A rather earnest looking Inspector Patrick Feeney of Rusholme - photo undated. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
A formal staff photograph of 35 inspectors and a Mr Raw (seated centre without uniform) - photo undated. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
Manchester Corporation Tramways timekeeper, Employee No 117. The photograph is of sufficient quality to discern the 'hook and eye' jacket fasteners, as well as the edging material, which appears to be a form of corduroy, commonly known as 'Manchester' in continental Europe. Author's Collection.
A photo which purportedly depicts Manchester's first two Great War conductresses, along with Tramcar No 732. Both ladies are wearing long skirts, tailored single-breasted jackets and felt bonnets. Author's collection.
A studio portrait of an unknown MCT conductress - photo undated, but certainly taken during the Great War. She is wearing a 'Guard' badge on her right epaulette and a standard 'Tramways' cap badge on her hat band. The small badge on her right-hand collar is probably a sweetheart badge, the wearing of which was very common during the war years. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
Conductress Millicent Jones (nee Bullock) - photo undated, but certainly taken during the Great War. The hat is quite unusual for the period, being more akin to a modern 'beanie'. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
Studio portrait of an unknown MCT Great War conductress. With thanks to Nick Thurlow.
Three female employees, either conductresses or trolley girls, pose in their beanie-like hats - photo undated, but clearly taken during the Great War. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Greater Manchester Transport Society (see link).
Conductress (guard) and motorman (driver) on the platform of Tramcar No 564 on Service 18a (Moston Lane - High Street) - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. Stephen Howarth Collection.
Two motormen, two conductresses and a trolley girl (probably) with Tramcar No 205 on a No 46 service (Piccadilly, Chorlton, Southern Cemetery & Palatine Rd) - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. Author's collection.
Instructor Jim Botterill with trainee motorwoman (Employee No 2001) aboard Tramcar No 896 - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Second World War. Author's collection.