Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways
(Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways from 1888)
The MBR&OSTCo, as well as its later incarnation, the BR&OSTCo, is 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 MBR&OSTCo days (1883 to 1888) 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 seem to have gradually given way to grease top caps. No badges appear to have been worn, either on the uniforms or the caps, despite examples of marked badges having survived (see below). The surviving examples are in fact all in pristine condition with double-digit repeated numbers (11, 33 and 66), with differences in the position of the grade ribbon, strongly suggesting that they are pattern book examples produced for consideration by the company but never purchased, or at least never issued.
Following the company's change of name in 1888, 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 appear at some point to have been issued with tall pill-box-style caps, certainly by the mid 1890s, and possibly earlier. These caps carried a large oblong cap badge - probably metal - with a semi-circular protusion in the middle at the top, somewhat reminiscent of American railroad practice. Towards the end of the company's life, around the turn of the century, the caps appear to have been dispensed with, so conductors wore flat caps along with whatever informal attire they wished.
A single photograph has survived of an inspector (not shown), which indicates that the only item of uniform worn was a pill-box style cap, though it is unclear whether or not this carried a cap badge.
For a history of system, see: 'The Manchester Bury Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway' by W G S Hyde; The Transport Publishing Company (1979).
Steam tram drivers and conductors
Falcon locomotive No 55, possible at Hathershaw - photo undated, but probably taken in the mid 1880s, i.e. in Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway Company days. With thanks to Bury Image Bank (see link); Image b13724 - copyright Bury Archive Services.
Blow-up of the above photo, clearly showing that the conductor is wearing informal attire.
Wilkinson No 74, specially posed for the cameraman between Heywood and Bury - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1890s. With thanks to Duncan Holden.
Crew posing with Manning Wardle No 53 at Hathersaw in 1895. The conductor appears to be wearing an informal jacket, along with a company-issued pillbox-style cap and cap badge. With thanks to Bury Image Bank (see link); Image b13719 - copyright Bury Archive Services.
Driver and conductor pose alongside Wilkinson loco No 61 in 1897 on the Rochdale-Littleborough line. The conductor is clearly wearing a pillbox-style cap with a prominent cap badge. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.
Conductor and driver pose with Steam Tram No 77 (a Wilkinson-patent locomotive built by Beyer Peacock & Co) - photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1890s or early 1900s. The conductor is in informal attire without the kepi style cap seen in earlier photos. With thanks to Bury Image Bank (see link); Image b13698 - copyright Bury Archive Services.
Driver and conductor posing with their tram engine outside the Old Bell Mill in Hathershaw, Oldham in 1900. The conductor is once again wearing a flat cap rather than the previously seen pillbox-style hats, perhaps indicating that the company wasn’t bothering with them at this late stage in its existence. With thanks to John Holme of the Manchester Transport Museum Society.
Conductor and driver pose alongside an unknown narrow gauge loco at Summit - photo undated, but probably taken around the turn of the century. The conductor is wearing a flat cap without insignia of any kind. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society.
MBR&OST driver's cap badge - white metal/nickel. This badge is almost certainly a pattern book example that was presented to the company for consideration, but never purchased, or at least never issued, as photos from the MBR&OSTCo-era (up to 1888) clearly show that drivers and conductors did not wear cap badges. Photo with kind permission of Michael Wilson.
Another example of an MBR&OSTCo driver's cap badge, again a repeated digit. With thanks to Nick Thurlow.
MBR&OST conductor's cap badge - nickel. In contrast to the driver's badges above, this badge has the ribbon at the bottom, lending some credence to the theory that these were pattern book examples for consideration by the tramway's management. Once again the number is a repeated digit. With thanks to Dave Lewis.