Metropolitan Electric Tramways

Summary
Metropolitan Electric Tramways Ltd 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 (1902 to 1905), 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.

The MET 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 (BETCo), 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 electric operation clearly show staff 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.

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 military style with a tensioned crown (top) and a glossy peak, and carried the standard brass BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge (see below). Unlike most other non-London BETCo tramway systems, an employee number was not worn on the cap, possibly due to the requirement for staff to wear a numbered, enamel Public Carriage Office licence (see link). Although this style of double-breasted uniform jackets was relatively quickly superseded on the vast majority of BETCo systems, for some reason, the MET saw fit to retain them them right through its independent existence.

Following the transfer of the M.E.T into the 'London & Suburban Traction Company Ltd' in 1913 - a holding company jointly owned by the 'Underground Electric Railways Company of London Ltd' and BETCo’ - no change appears to have been made to the uniform policy; however, shortly after the Great War, an effort was made at standardisation across all three consitutuent tramways of the L&STCo, namely: 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 one-piece 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 BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge was also replaced, by a large nickel and blue enamel cap badge in the shape of the Underground Group 'bullseye'; this bore the word 'TRAMWAYS' across the middle, with 'METROPOLITAN' above and 'ELECTRIC' below.

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. Bullseye cap badges also exist for specific grades - 'Official' and 'Messenger' are known - with all three constituent tramways marked on the badge.

Staff were initialled expected to provide their own coats, though the company eventually issued them with heavy double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of four buttons and lapels; the latter appear to have carried 'MET' initials, probably embroidered, though these were possibly superseded by metal badges after Great War.

In the early days, senior staff wore uniforms which followed standard BETCo practice, namely: single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or more likely an hook and eye affair) and upright collars, with the pockets and the jacket edged in a finer material than the main body. The collars probably carried the bearer's grade - Inspector - in embroidered script lettering, though this cannot be made out on surviving photographs. The cap probably bore a hat band with the standard BETCo '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 also issued for the grade of Regulator. District Inspectors - a more senior grade - were issued with a small circular, brass and blue enamel cap badge (see below).

Female staff were employed in significant numbers during the Great War (from late 1915 onwards) to replace male staff lost to the armed services; these ladies 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 took the form of a dark-coloured, wide-brimmed straw bonnet for summer use (probably) and a similar shaped grey felt hat for winter use; both styles of hat bore the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge (probably on a hat band).

A 1907 issue of the BETCo 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 Transport [2008]).

For a detailed history of the system, including its predecessor companies, 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
Metropolitan Electric Tramways Tram No 73 Bowes Park
A conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 73 on a short working to Bowes Park - photo probably taken in 1906. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.



A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and motorman. The standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge can just about be made out, which is being worn alone, i.e. without an employee number.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways early period cap badge
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge - brass. These were worn from the inauguration of electric services (1904) through to the end of the Great War. Author's Collection.


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


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


Metropolitan Electric Tramways tram driver and conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and motorman, both in double-breasted jackets with licences suspended on leather straps.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways Tram No 147
A smart motorman stands with Type E tramcar No 147 bound for Alexandra Palace - photo undated, but probably taken not long after the Great War. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways tram driver motorman
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman. He is wearing the new 'Underground Group' bullseye cap badge, along with one-piece, brass 'MET' collar badges.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways bullseye cap badge
M.E.T cap badge - nickel and blue enamel. Worn from around 1918 through to advent of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways collar badges brass
'MET' collar badges - brass. Author's Collection.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways Tram No 142 Alexandra Park
Motorman and conductor pose with Tramcar 142 at Alexandra Park with a service for Wood Green - photo undated, but probably taken around 1930. Photographer, H Nicol. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman and conductor. Both men are wearing the 'Underground Group' blue enamel cap badges. Photographer, H Nicol. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways Tram No 266
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 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 is clearly seen. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


TRAMWAYS cap badge underground group
General 'Underground Group' Tramways cap badge - nickel and blue enamel. Worn from around 1918 through to advent of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933. Author's Collection.


Metropolitan Electric Tramways collar badge
General 'Underground Group' Tramways collar badge - brass. Author's Collection.


Underground Group Messenger Tramway cap badge
Underground Group 'Messenger' cap badge - nickel and blue enamel. Note that in contrast to the Official's cap badge below, each of the constituent tramway initials misses the 'T' off. Photo courtesy of Matt Lodge.


Underground Group Official Tramway cap badge
Official's badge - nickel, (with acknowledgement to 'Wheels of London', Times Newspapers Ltd, 1972).


Senior staff
Metropolitan Electric Tramways tram inspectorMetropolitan Electric Tramways tram inspectorMetropolitan Electric Tramways tram inspector
Three views of M.E.T inspectors, all taken prior to the Great War. Photos courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


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


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


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