Hartlepool Electric Tramways

Photographs of Hartlepool Electric Tramways, either in its early years (under the General Electric Tramways Company; 1895 to 1899) or subsequently under the auspices of the British Electric Traction Company (1899 to 1912) and West Hartlepool Corporation (1912 to 1927) are very thin on the ground, and those showing staff are rarer still.

The only photograph I am aware of which unequivocally depicts staff in GETCo days suggests that uniforms may not have been issued to tramcar crews, as both the motorman and conductor are wearing different jackets, seemingly without insignia, together with informal headgear, again devoid of badges. Given that this is based on a single photograph, some degree of caution must however be exercised in interpreting it.

During the BETCo era, conductors were issued with single-breasted jackets with a row of five buttons (undoubtedly of the standard BETCo pattern — see link) and upright collars; although nothing can be made out on the surviving images, the latter probably bore system initials on one side and an employee number on the other, as this was fairly standard BETCo practice. Motormen appear to have worn double-breasted jackets with two rows of four buttons and lapels, and by analogy with other BETCo systems, the latter probably bore embroidered system initials. Caps appear to have been in a kepi-style, and though nothing can be made out on the surviving photographs, these would certainly have borne the standard BETCo 'Magnet and Wheel' cap badge, along with an employee number (both almost certainly in brass). It seems likely that these early style of uniforms would have been superseded at some point, and likewise, the kepis by military-style caps with tensioned crowns (tops).

Under West Hartlepool Corporation ownership, conductors (at least) wore single-breasted jackets; it is unclear what insignia, if any, these carried, though the collars may well have born 'W H C T' initials, as this was certainly the case with the corporation's bus uniforms. Caps were military in style with a tensioned crown and bore script-lettering grade badges - either Conductor or Motorman - and possibly, a West Hartlepool Corporation cap badge; the latter may however have been worn elsewhere on the uniform (for example, on epaulettes or collars).

During the GETCo era, inspectors were certainly issued with elaborate uniforms, comprising single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or an hook and eye affair) and upright collars, with the jacket and pockets edged in a finer material than the main body. The sleeves were also embellished with chevrons, again in a finer material than the jackets. The upright collars probably carried insignia, though this cannot be made out on surviving photographs. Headgear took the form of a kepi-style cap with a steeply inclined glossy peak, topped by a pom pom; the caps certainly carried a badge of some description, possibly 'TRAMWAY INSPECTOR' in embroidered block lettering. Photographs of inspectors from later periods are yet to come to light, so it is currently unknown what uniforms they wore, though in all likelihood, they were very similar in style to those used in the early years.

During the Great War, the majority of UK tramway systems took on women workers to replace male staff lost to the armed services. It is currently unknown whether the HET employed female staff, though if they did, photographs would appear not to have survived.

A history of Hartlepool Electric Tramways is yet to be written, so further information is unfortunately not readily available.


Motormen and conductors
Hartlepool Electric Tramways Tram No 10
Tramcar No 10 (new in 1897) stands in Victoria Rd, West Hartlepool, with its crew and an inspector, in the year it was delivered, 1897. Photograph courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Hartlepool Electric Tramways Tram driver 1897
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman, who though smart in appearance, appears to be wearing a jacket devoid of insignia, and a tall almost maritime style of peaked cap, also without a badge of any kind.

Hartlepool Electric Tramways Tram No 18
A busy street scene with Tramcar No 18 - photo undated, but certainly taken between 1901 (when No 18 was delivered) and 1912. The tramcar carries a large bag, presumably for parcels and packages, and the staff in the street are moving large baskets marked 'T P E', probably standing for 'Tramways Parcel Express'. The boys with the baskets are therefore almost certainly 'Parcels Boys' rather than tramcar crew. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Hartlepool Electric Tramways Tram No 12
A poor quality photo, but one which is believed to show Tramcar No 12 (delivered new in 1899) which would mean that the photo was taken in BETCo days, and probably quite early on given that the conductor is wearing a kepi-style cap. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Jarrow and District Electric Tramways cap badge
Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge — brass. Although I have yet to see a photograph of a Hartlepool tramwayman showing this clearly, this is the pattern the BETCo issued to all its subsidiary operations (with the exception of Birmingham), so it would definitely have been used in Hartlepool between 1899 and the corporation take-over of 1912.

Hartlepool Electric Tramways Tram
The crew of an unidentified Hartlepool tramcar in West Hartlepool Corporation days. Both men are wearing script-lettering grade badges, the conductor in single-breasted jacket and the motorman in a double-breasted greatcoat. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Hartlepool Electric Tramways cap badges
General pattern script-lettering cap badges — Motorman and Conductor — of the type used in West Hartlepool Corporation days (1912 to closure in 1927). Author's Collection.

Hartlepool Electric Tramways badge
West Hartlepool Corporation Transport badge — nickel. These may well have been worn in tramway days (but brass rather than nickel), though this is yet to be confirmed by photographic evidence. Author's Collection.

West Hartlepool Corporation Transport collar/lapel badges — brass. It is currently unclear whether these were worn in tramway days.

Senior staff
Hartlepool Electric Tramways Tram Inspector 1897
A blow-up of the 1897 photo of Tramcar No 10 above, showing the inspector. He is wearing typical tramway inspector garb, embellished with fine edging material (and sleeve chevrons) and with a kepi style cap with pom pom atop; the cap clearly carries a badge of some description, possibly embroidered 'TRAMWAY INSPECTOR'.