Leeds Tramways Company

Summary
The Leeds Tramways Company began operating horse tramways on 16th September 1871, gradually expanding, and eventually leasing newly built, corporation-owned lines. Steam-hauled services were introduced from 17th June 1880 onwards, with the entire concern finally succumbing to municipalisation on 2nd February 1894.

In common with the majority of horse tramway operators in the UK, Leeds Tramways Company drivers wore informal but smart attire - trousers, overcoats, jackets, waistcoats, shirts and ties, often supplemented with leather aprons. Headgear appears to have largely followed the fashion of the day, predominantly the bowler hat; no badges of any kind were worn on either the jackets or the hats. Conductors on the other hand appear to have worn long jackets, and company-issued kepi-style caps. Although the coats do not appear to have carried any insignia, and were probably not formal issues (several styles are seen in photographs, implying that they were purchased by the employee), the caps certainly carried a prominent metal cap badge, which appears to have been oblong in form, with a semi-circular protrusion at the top.

Steam tram drivers (and firemen) wore typical railway footplate attire (heavy cotton jackets and trousers, light in colour) with greasetop or cloth caps (without badges). Conductors on steam tram services wore identical attire to their horse-tram counterparts.

Leeds introduced Europe's first overhead electric service (Roundhay Park) on 29th October 1891, though strictly speaking it did not officially open to passengers until the following month. The line was owned by Leeds Corporation, but was worked on behalf of the corporation and the Leeds Tramways Company, by Mr Graff Baker, a representative of the Thompson Houston Company of the US. Although BTH certainly owned the tramcars and electrical equipment, it is unclear whether the electric tramcar staff were their employees or whether they were provided by Leeds Tramways Company. What is however clear is that staff were for the first time issued with uniforms: conductors wore double-breasted jackets with two rows of four buttons and lapels, whilst motormen appear to have worn single-breasted jackets with five buttons and high, fold-over collars. Although the jackets appear to have been devoid of insignia (other than possibly the buttons), the kepi-style caps bore a very large semi-circular shaped cap badge, the precise details of which are unknown, though it was certainly different in size and form to those worn by horse and steam tram conductors. Electric tramcar staff were also issued with long, double-breasted overcoats with two rows of five buttons, lapels and high fold-over collars; once again, these do not appear to have carried badges of any kind.

For more information on Leeds Tramways Company, see 'A History of the British Steam Tram, Volume 3 by David Gladwin; Adam Gordon (2007)

Images

Horse tram drivers and conductors
Leeds Tramway Company horse tram
A poor quality but early photograph of an unidentified horse tram on the Woodhouse Moor-Headingley route with driver and conductor - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1880s. The driver is wearing a bowler hat with upturned brim, typical of the period, whilst the conductor sports a kepi-style cap. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Leeds Tramway Company Horse car No 1 and crew
The crew of Horsecar No 1 (the second vehicle to carry that number) pose for the camera outside the Woodpecker Inn at the terminus of the York Rd route - photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1890s. The driver is smartly but informally attired, whilst the conductor is wearing a kepi-style cap with prominent metal cap badge; it is unclear whether his coat was company issued, but in all likelihood it was bought by the individual himself. The occupation of the individual in the centre of the photograph is unclear; although he could be an inspector, he may not be a tramway employee at all. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Leeds Tramway Company Horse car No 58 and driver
Driver with Eades reversible car No 58 outside the Woodman Hotel in Otley Rd - photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1890s. The driver is wearing a bowler hat and leather apron. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Leeds Tramway Company Horse car No 58 and conductor
The conductor of Horsecar No 58 (same photo as above), holds the trace horse for the camera. He is wearing the company-issued kepi-style cap with its prominent metal cap badge. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Steam tram drivers and conductors
Leeds Tramways Company Steam Tram No 11
The crew of Steam Tram No 11 (Kitson T192 of 1885) pose for the cameraman outside the Crown Inn terminus at New Wortley - photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1890s.


Leeds Tramways Company Steam tram driver and conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and driver; although blurred, the latter is clearly wearing cotton footplate attire, whilst the former has a short single-breasted jacket and kepi-style cap with prominent metal cap badge.



Leeds Tramway Company steam tram No 16 with crew
Driver and conductor with Steam Tram No 16 (Kitson T212 of 1886) on a service for Wortley - photo undated, but probably taken around 1890. Whilst the driver is in railway footplate-like attire, the conductor is wearing a long jacket and a kepi-style cap with cap badge, the latter almost certainly the same pattern as that worn by horse tram conductors. Author's collection.


Leeds Tramways Company Steam Tram No 23 T Green
Leeds Tramways Company Steam Tram No 23 ( a Thomas Green product) and Milnes trailer, both delivered in 1889, pictured at Headingley - photo undated, but probably taken not long after delivered, so circa 1890.


Leeds Tramways Company steam tram crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor 9in kepi-style cap with prominent cap badge) and driver (in railway footplate-like attire).


Motormen and conductors
Leeds Roundhay Electric Tram and crew
Conductor and motorman pose with a new electric tramcar at the Roundhay Terminus in 1891. It is unclear if these individuals were employees of Leeds Tramways Company or the Thomson-Houston concession which carried out the electrical installation and which also owned the vehicles themselves. Note the metal cap badge, which appears to be noticeably larger, and a slightly different shape, to those worn on the caps of horse and steam tram conductors. Photo from Author's collection.


Leeds Roundhay Electric Tram No 79 and driver
Motorman at the controls of Tramcar No 79 outside the depot - photo undated, but almost certainly taken around the time of opening (October/November 1891). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Leeds Roundhay Electric Tram No 77 and driver
Tramcar No 77 in Beckett St - photo undated, but certainly taken before the corporation take-over in 1894, and probably much earlier. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Leeds Roundhay Electric Tram staff
A poor quality but interesting photograph of a large assemblage of Roundhay Park tramway employees, possibly the entire operating staff - photo undated, but certainly taken before the municipal take-over. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.