Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways
(Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways from 1888)

Summary
The Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways Ltd (MBR&OSTLtd; 1883-1884), as well as its later incarnations, the Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways Company (MBR&OSTCo; 1884-1888) and the Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways Company (BR&OSTCo; 1883-1904), are extremely well represented photographically, so it’s possible to get a relatively good feel for the uniform policy of this early steam tramway.

Images taken during 1883 and 1888 (MBR&OSTLtd and MBR&OSTCo days) clearly show that drivers wore very similar attire to their railway counterparts, namely, heavy cotton trousers and jackets, predominantly light in colour. Headgear initially followed horse tramway practice — bowler hats — though these gradually gave way to grease top and soft-topped caps. No badges were worn, either on the uniforms or the caps. Conductors wore smart but informal attire, comprising jacket, shirt and tie, along with the fashionable headgear of the day, in this early period, the bowler hat.

Despite the available photographic evidence, which is admittedly relatively sparse for the first two years of operation, at least four examples of elaborate MBR&OSTLtd cap badges have survived (see below); these comprise the system title — 'M. B. R. &. O STEAM TRAMWAYS LTD' surrounded by a wreath, with an employee number cut out of the centre panel. Three of the examples are 'DRIVER' badges (with the grade in a scroll above) and one a 'CONDUCTOR' badge (with the grade in a scroll below). The precise form of the tramway's name is actually the earliest, i.e., before the assets were transferred to a new legal entity in July 1884, which differed solely by inclusion of the word 'Company'. All four badges are in extremely good condition, suggesting that that they were either never issued, or that they were only worn for a very short period. It is tempting to speculate that the badges were ordered before the name change, and for whatever reason were not issued. This may explain why so many examples have survived for this very early period, presumably all together in a box somewhere through to modern times.

Following the takeover of 1888 by the newly formed BR&OSTCo, no change was made to drivers' attire, and they continued to wear railway-footplate-like clothing right up until the demise of the tramway in the early Edwardian era. Conductors on the other hand were now issued with kepi-style caps; these bore a large oblong cap badge — almost certainly metal — with a semi-circular protrusion in the middle at the top, somewhat reminiscent of American railroad and 'trolley' practice. No examples are know to have survived. Towards the end of the company's life, around the turn of the century, the caps appear to have been dispensed with, so conductors simply wore flat caps along with whatever informal attire they wished.

A single photograph has survived (not shown), which appears to show an inspector (taken in BR&OSTCo days). Based on this photograph, inspectors wore smart but informal jackets, waistcoats, shirts and ties, topped off with a tall kepi-style cap — presumably company issued; the latter appears to have been plain, i.e., without a badge, or at the very least a reflective (metallic) one.

For a history of system, see: 'The Manchester Bury Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway' by W G S Hyde; The Transport Publishing Company (1979).

Images

Steam tram drivers and conductors
Manchester, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tram No 43 1885
Narrow gauge Black Hawthorn Steam Tram No 43 (of 1884) posed for the camera with what is probably a brand-new Falcon trailer, dating the image to 1885, i.e., in MBR&OST days. Photo courtesy of David Gladwin, with thanks to Trevor Preece.


Manchester, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tram crew 1885
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor (left) and a man who is probably the driver. Both men are wearing bowler hats and informal jackets.


Manchester Rochdale and Oldham Steam tram No 55
Standard gauge Falcon Engine No 55 (of 1885) stands at what is probably Hathershaw (clearly a favoured photographic location) with a heavily loaded open-topped trailer. Although undated, the fact that the trailer is in excellent condition strongly suggests that the photograph was taken in 1885 or 1886, i.e., MBR&OSTCo days. With thanks to the now defunct Bury Image Bank; Image b13724 — copyright Bury Archive Services.


Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam tram conductor
A blow-up of the above photo, clearly showing that the conductor is wearing informal attire.


Manchester, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tram No 54 1886
Standard gauge Manning Wardle No 54 (built in 1885), stands at what is probably Hathershaw, with what would appear to be No 73, a Lancaster-built trailer, delivered in 1886. Although undated, the fact that No 73 looks fairly new, suggests that is was taken in 1886 or 1887, i.e., in MBR&OSTCo days.


Manchester, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tram conductor 1886
A blow-up of the above photograph showing the conductor; he is holding a Kayes Patent Fare Box and is wearing informal attire, including the distinctive tall bowler of the period with its upturned, curved brim.


Manchester, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tram Driver 1886
Another blow-up of the above photo showing the driver; he is wearing a light-coloured cotton jacket, along with the characteristic bowler of the time.


Manchester Bury Rochdale and Oldham Steam tram No 53 Manning Wardle
Another shot of a standard gauge Manning Wardle, this time No 53 (of 1885), coupled to what would appear to be a fairly new Falcon-built trailer, at what is very probably Hathershaw - although undated, the excellent condition of the trailer and the fact that the conductor is wearing a kepi-style cap, strongly suggests that it was taken in the late 1880s, i.e., after the BR&OSTCo take-over. Photo courtesy of David Gladwin, with thanks to Trevor Preece.


Bury Rochdale and Oldham Steam tramway conductor 1880s
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor, and another individual, both of whom are wearing kepi-style caps, suggesting that the photograph was taken after the BR&OSTCo had taken over. The conductor's cap looks to be plain, though it is difficult to tell, whilst the other individual, whose grade is unclear, would appear to have a cap badge.


Bury Rochdale and Oldham Steam tramway Tram No 51 1880s
Narrow gauge Black Hawthorn Steam Tram No 51 (of 1884) captured in a depot yard — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1880s, i.e., after the takeover of the BR&OSTCo, given that the conductor is wearing a kepi-style cap. Photo courtesy of David Gladwin, with thanks to Trevor Preece.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways crew 1880s
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and stoker, the former in a soft-topped cap, and the latter in a bowler hat with upturned, curved brim typical of the 1880s.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway Tram No 53 Hathershaw
Manning Wardle No 53 at Hathershaw once again, this time in 1895, and looking a little more battered than the earlier photo, though still in relatively good condition. With thanks to the now defunct Bury Image Bank; Image b13719 — copyright Bury Archive Services.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the stoker, driver and conductor; the latter is wearing an informal jacket, along with a company-issued kepi-style cap and cap badge. The cap badge is oblong with a semi-circular protrusion on the top, a type that was very popular with American streetcar systems, and which was used by the North Metropolitan Tramways Company (see link) and the nearby Burnley & District Tramways (see link) in the UK.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway Tram No 61 1897
Narrow gauge 'Wilkinson' Engine No 61 (of 1885) captured on the Rochdale-Littleborough line in 1897. The rather bizarre looking trailer is probably No 22, a contraption built out of two original Starbuck trailers joined together, and supplemented by a bulkhead at each end to protect the passengers from smuts. Photo courtesy of David Gladwin, with thanks to Trevor Preece.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tram No 61 and crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver, in soft-topped cap, and the conductor in a kepi-style cap; the latter, which bears an oblong-shaped cap badge (with semi-circular protrusion on the top), has caught the light, strongly suggesting that it was metal rather than cloth.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway STeam Tram 74
Narrow gauge 'Wilkinson Patent' Engine No 74 (built by Beyer Peacock in 1886), specially posed for the cameraman with a Falcon-built trailer between Heywood and Bury - photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1890s or early 1900s. With thanks to Duncan Holden.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam tram No 74
A blow-up of the above photo showing the crew, the conductor seemingly in informal attire with a soft-topped cap and the driver in a cotton jacket with a tight-fitting flat cap.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam tram and crew 1900 Hathershaw
Tram Engine No 85 (a Beyer Peacock product of 1886) stands outside the Old Bell Mill in Hathershaw with a Falcon trailer in 1900. With thanks to John Holme of the Manchester Transport Museum Society.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam tram and crew 1900 Hathershaw
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor, who is wearing informal attire and a flat cap, suggesting that the kepi-style caps had been dispensed with by the turn of the century.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam tram and crew 1900 Summit
A narrow gauge 'Wilkinson' engine and trailer captured at what is probably Summit — photo undated, but more than likely taken around the turn of the century. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam tram and crew 1900 Summit
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and conductor, the latter once again in informal attire with a flat cap.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway Tram No 77 Bury
Narrow gauge Engine No 77 (a Wilkinson Patent locomotive built by Beyer Peacock & Co in 1886) posed for the camera with, if the trailer is to be believed, a Bury-Limefield-Tottington service. Although undated, the photograph was almost certainly taken very late in the tramway's life, probably in the early 1900s (this service was withdrawn in 1904). With thanks to the now defunct Bury Image Bank; Image b13698 — copyright Bury Archive Services.


Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway Tram No 77 conductor and driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and driver. By this time, the wearing of kepis had clearly been abandoned, with conductors simply wearing smart but informal attire, in this case, topped by a flat cap.


Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway cap badge
Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways Ltd cap badges, No 66 CONDUCTOR and No 45 DRIVER - nickel. Both badges, and two others shown below are something of a mystery, as all surviving photos of the tramway — and there are dozens and dozens — clearly show that staff did not wear uniforms, except for the first ten years or so of the BR&OSTCo's tenure (circa 1888 to 1898), when conductors were issued with kepi-style caps; these however, carried a cap badge of a completely different shape. With thanks to Darren Lodge



Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway cap badge
MBR&OSTCo driver's cap badge No 33 - nickel. Photo with kind permission of Michael Wilson.



Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway cap badge
MBR&OSTCo driver's cap badge No 11. With thanks to Nick Thurlow.