Luton Corporation Tramways

Early photographs suggest that motormen were issued with double-breasted, 'lancer- style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom) and upright collars; the latter carried some kind of insignia - possibly system initials and/or an employee number - though these cannot be made out on surviving photographs. Conductors were issued with single-breasted jackets with a row of five buttons, breast pockets with button closures, upright collars and epaulettes; the collars probably carried the same insignia as motormen's tunics. Later photographs suggest that this uniform distinction (between grades) did not last too long, as numerous photographs show both motormen and conductors wearing double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics.

Caps were in a military style with a tensioned crown (top) and a glossy peak, each bearing a script-lettering badge, either ‘Motorman’ or ‘Conductor’. A small unidentified badge was worn above the script-lettering cap badge, possibly a municipal device given that Luton Corporation owned the system; this badge appears however, to have been gradually dispensed with, as photos taken in later years show staff wearing just the script-lettering grade badges. It is currently unknown whether the badges were brass or nickel, or for that matter, what form the buttons took. Staff appear to have been issued with more modern jackets - double-breasted with lapels - in the 1920s.

Tramcar crews were also issued with long, double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons, three pockets and high, fold-over collars; the latter certainly carried insignia, very probably the same as that on the jacket collars.

Inspectors wore a single-breasted jacket edged in a finer material than the main jacket, with hidden buttons (or a hook and eye affair), two open breast pockets and upright collars; the latter bore ‘Inspector’ in embroidered script lettering on both sides. The cap was in the same style as worn by tramcar crews, but bore a hat band embroidered with the designation 'Inspector'. Inspectors were also issued with smart double-breasted overcoats with two rows of five buttons, three waist-level pockets with flaps, and lapels; the latter do not appear to have borne any insignia.

In common with the vast majority of British tramway systems, female staff were employed during the Great War to replace men lost to the armed services, though in the case of Luton, seemingly only as conductresses. These ladies were issued with mid-length, tailored, single-breasted jackets with four buttons, a waist belt (with two buttons) and lapels, along with a long matching skirt. The upper lapels carried elaborate embroidered system initials - 'LCT' - on the left-hand side, and probably on the right-hand side as well. Headgear consisted of a dark-coloured straw bonnet with headband; the latter bore lettering of some description, which cannot unfortunately be made out on the surviving photographs.


Motormen and conductors
Luton Corporation Tramways crew
Inspector, conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 5 at the Round Green Terminus - photo undated, but very probably in the first year of operation given the condition of the tramcar. Author's collection.

Luton Corporation Tramways cap badges
Standard 'off-the-shelf' script-lettering nickel cap badges - it is unclear whether Luton's badges and buttons were nickel or brass.

Portion of a staff photo from 1908 showing Motormen, Conductors and an Inspector (bottom right). Note the distinction in tunic styles between motormen and conductors. With thanks to Colin Brown.

Luton Corporation Tramways Tram No 8 at Round Green
Inspector (?), conductor and motorman with Tramcar No 8 at Round Green - photo undated, but probably late Edwardian. The crew men are both wearing double-breasted greatcoats with badges on both collars. Source unknown.

Luton Corporation Tramways 10
Motorman at the controls of Tramcar No 10 in George St - photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the late 1920s or early 1930s. He is wearing a more modern double-breasted jacket with lapels. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Senior staff
Luton Corporation Tramways inspectors
One-man operated Tramcar No 13 photographed at the depot, along with what would appear to be three inspectors - photo undated, but almost certainly taken after 21st May 1923, when No 13 was purchased from Glasgow. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Nickel cap/lapel badge used in the days of Luton Corporation Transport. It is unclear whether this was ever worn by tramway staff. With thanks to John Burford.

Female staff
Studio portrait of a Great War Luton Corporation Tramways conductress. Although there are no identifying features on either the photograph or the uniform, the latter does in fact exactly match that seen in other photographs that are unequivocally of Luton conductresses, whilst the mark on the rear - 'Black & White Studios' - is from a studio that is known to have been in business in Luton in that period.