Metropolitan Electric Tramways

Summary
The M.E.T was expressly formed to take over and electrify horse-operated tramways in north London, most notably, the North Metropolitan Tramways Company. Whilst the M.E.T effectively owned and operated horsedrawn tramway services for nearly three years, it actually left operational matters in the hands of the companies it had taken over, so staff essentially continued to wear whatever they had worn previously.

Metropolitan Electric Tramways Ltd, as well as its predecessor, the Metropolitan Electric Tramways and Omnibus Co Ltd, was a subsidiary of the much larger British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BET), a concern which at its zenith either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles. Photos taken in the first 15 years or so of operation clearly show 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.

Following the introduction of electric services, tramcar staff were issued with double-breasted tunics with two rows of four buttons, three pockets at waist level, and lapels; the latter carried individual letters on both sides (’MET’ - almost certainly embroidered). Caps were in a flatter railway style with a glossy peak, and carried the standard brass BET ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge (see below). Unlike most other non-London BET tramway systems, an employee number was not worn on the cap, possibly due to the requirement to wear Public Service Vehicle badges (see link). Although this style of double-breasted uniform was relatively quickly superseded on the vast majority of BET systems, for some reason BET saw fit to retain them on the M.E.T.

Following the transfer of the M.E.T into the 'London & Suburban Traction Company Ltd' (a holding company jointly owned by the 'Underground Electric Railways Company of London Ltd' and BET’) in 1913, no change appears to have been made to the uniform policy; however, shortly after the First World War, an effort was made at standardisation across all three consitutuent tramways, the M.E.T, London United Tramways and South Metropolitan Electric Tramways. The double-breasted style of jacket with lapels continued to be used (dark blue serge with red piping), but with the embroidered MET initials on the lapels now being replaced by brass 'MET' initial badges. These lapel badges exist both with and without a lozenge-shaped surround (see below); the significance of this, if any, is unknown. The standard BET 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge was replaced by a large nickel and blue enamel cap badge in the shape of the Underground Group 'bullseye', which bore the word 'TRAMWAYS' across the middle, with 'METROPOLITAN' above and 'ELECTRIC' below.

Staff were initialled expected to provide their own overcoats, but were subsquently issued with heavy double-breasted overcoats with two rows of four buttons and lapels; the latter appear to have carried 'MET' initials, probably embroidered, but possibly metal after World War I.

In the early days, inspectors wore uniforms which followed standard BET practice, namely, a single-breasted jacket with hidden buttons and upright collars, the latter probably carrying the designation 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. The cap probably bore a hat band with the standard BET 'Magnet & Wheel' badge, along with 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. Although it is currently unclear what uniforms were worn during the Underground Group era, the cap badge was definitely changed to a 'bullseye' pattern with INSPECTOR across the bar in the middle (see below); the badge was smaller in size than the standard badges issued to motormen and conductors; a similar badge was issued for the grade of Regulator. District Inspectors - a more senior grade - were issued with small circular, brass and blue enamel cap badges (see below).

Female staff were employed in significant numbers during the Great War (from late 1915 onwards), and were issued with tailored single-breasted jackets with five buttons, lapels and a waist belt (with button fastening), along with a medium-length matching skirt and lace-up gaiters; the lapels bore 'MET' in prominent embroidered letters. Headgear was a dark-coloured, wide-brimmed straw bonnet and a similar shaped grey felt hat, to which a standard BET badge was affixed (possibly on a hat band).

Cap and lapel badges also exist (see below) which are just marked 'TRAMWAYS'; these were more than likely issued to staff who worked across all three Underground Group tramway systems, such as ticket issuers/collectors etc.

A 1907 issue of the BET house magazine, 'BET Gazette' reveals that the M.E.T had a total of 36 inspectors and regulators (at that time) and 395 tramcar crew (information taken from 'North London Trams by R J Harley; Capitol Transprot [2008]).

For a detailed history of the system, including its predecessors, see: 'Metropolitan Electric Tramways, Origins to 1920, Volume 1' and '1921 to 1933, Volume 2' by C S Smeeton; Light Rail Transit Association (1984 and 1986).

Images

Horse tram drivers and conductors
Metropolitan Electric Tramways horse tram
M.E.T horse tram shuttle working between Tramway Avenue in Edmonton and the Tottenham boundary - 1905. The driver is wearing informal but robust attire, a policy which the M.E.T did not see fit to change when it took over the erstwhile North Metropolitan Tramways Company. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Motormen and conductors

Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 73 on a short working to Bowes Park - photo probably taken in 1906. Not the absence of an employee number on the cap, something which was possibly rendered redundant by the prominent Metropolitan PSV badges that each man wore. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.



Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge - brass. In use up to the end of World War I.



Motorman and conductor pose with Tramcar No 205 at the Harrow Rd terminus - photo undated but definitely after 1908. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.



Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 283 bound for Smithfield Market in 1911. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.



A smart motorman stands with Type E tramcar No 147 bound for Alexandra Palace - photo undated but probably taken not long after the First World War. Note the new cap badge. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways crew
Motorman and conductor pose with Tramcar 142 at Alexandra Park with a service for Wood Green - photo undated, but probably taken around 1930. Both men are wearing 'Underground Group' blue enamel cap badges. Photographer, H Nicol. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.



M.E.T cap badge - nickel and blue enamel. Post World War I.



A motorman at the controls of Type H tramcar No 266 on Route 29 - photo undated but probably taken in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.



A conductor issuing a ticket on the 'Pay As You Pass' principle, which was trialled aboard prototype Tramcar No 330 in 1929. The 'MET' lapel badge can be clearly seen. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.



'MET' lapel badges - brass



Official's badge - nickel and blue enamel
(with acknowledgement to 'Wheels of London', Times Newspapers Ltd, 1972)



General 'Underground Group' Tramways cap badge - nickel and blue enamel



General 'Underground Group' Tramways collar badge - brass

Senior staff

Three views of M.E.T inspectors, all taken prior to World War I. Photos courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with particular thanks to David Voice.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways Inspector bullseye cap badge
Inspector's cap badge - nickel and blue - probably worn from around the end of the Great War until the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933. Author's Collection.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways Regulator cap badge
Regulator's cap badge - nickel and blue - probably worn from around the end of the First World War until the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933.


Metrpolitan Electric Tramways District Inspector cap badge
District Inspector lapel badge - brass and blue enamel. Author's collection.


Female staff

Studio portrait of M.E.T conductresses taken in either 1917 or 1918. All are wearing the BET 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge, strongly suggesting that its replacement, the Underground Group 'bullseye' badge (see below), was not issued until after the war had finished. Image copyright Rita Ferris-Taylor, courtesy of TUC Library Collections.