Manx Electric Railway
(formerly the Douglas and Laxey Coast Electric Tramways)
Photographs which depict tramcar staff prior to the Second World War, whether working for the MER or any of its predecessors, e.g. the D&LCETCo, are rare, with close-up shots seemingly being non-existent. What is available however, suggests that the first uniforms - issued by the D&LCETCo - comprised single-breasted jackets along with kepi-style caps; what badges, if any, were carried on these uniforms, is currently unclear.
By the interwar years, staff were wearing single-breasted jackets with lapels, which appear to have been devoid of insignia, and almost had the look of lounge suits. The sole nod to offcialdom was the caps, which were military in style with a glossy peak and tensioned crown (top), and which carried a script-lettering grade badge - either 'Driver' or 'Conductor'. It is unclear if these were issued in nickel or brass, or indeed chrome, which many transport concerns switched to during the 1930s and 1940s. At some point, double-breasted jackets were favoured, though whether this was for a defined period only, or whether it perhaps reflected seniority, is unknown.
After the Second World War, apart from some senior platform staff, crews were simply issued with khaki-coloured, single-breasted, dust coats, which were initially worn with the standard military-style caps, but as the years wore on, frequently without. In 1978, uniforms proper were dispensed with altogether and staff were issued with short blue nylon jackets and cotton caps; by the late 1980s however, a return was made to long, single-breasted dustcoats, this time dark blue with an 'Isle of Man Railways' device on the left-hand breast pocket. A few years later saw the reintroduction of a more traditional style of uniform comprising a double-breasted jacket with lapels; likewise, military style caps were brought back, though these no longer carried a grade badge, but an oblong cloth badge embroidered with the system initials: 'M E R'.
Photographs of senior staff are very sparse, and what has survived is from after the Second World War. At this time inspectors were issued with double-breasted jackets with lapels; caps were, like the car crews, military in style and appear to have borne a script-lettering grade badge - presumably 'Inspector' - and possibly metal rather than embroidered. The MER was unique amongst UK tramway systems in employing the services of station masters, reflecting its unique inter-urban nature; station masters were definitely issued uniforms, though exactly what form these took is currently unknown.
Although the MER continued to run services throughout both world wars, unlike the vast majority of UK tramway systems, female staff appear never to have been employed.
For a full history of the Manx Electric Railway, and its earlier incarnation, The Douglas and Laxey Coast Electric Railway, see: 'Manx Electric' by Mike Goodwyn; Platform 5 Publishing Ltd (1993).
Motormen and conductors
The crew of Tramcar No 6 - photo undated, but possibly taken in the 1930s or 1940s. Both men are wearing single-breasted jackets and waistcoats, seemingly without insignia of any kind; their military-style caps bear script-lettering grade badges. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
Standard script-lettering grade badges of the pattern used by the MER up until the 1960s, though when they were first issued remains unclear. It is also unclear whether these were issued in brass or nickel, or indeed in later years, in chrome.
A very smart Car No 32 with motorman at the helm, again in a single-breasted jacket and with a military-style cap - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1930s or 1940s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
Tramcar No 32 at Ramsey with the conductor, walking away from the camera, turning the trolley pole - photo undated, but possibly taken in the late 1950s or early 1960s when this vehicle was painted in a widely reviled green livery. Both men are wearing long khaki dust coats, which were introduced in the late 1940s; some men however, continued to wear the older uniforms. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
The crew of of MER No 21 (and an unidentified trailer) attend to their charges at Ramsey on 29th June 1974. Both men are wearing the usual khaki dust coats, which by this time had been the standard crew attire (with some exceptions) for approaching 30 years. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
The motorman of cross-bench car No 25 poses for the cameraman outside the Derby Castle ticket office - photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1980s. The subject is wearing a dark blue dust coat and matching cap; the latter bears an oblong badge of unknown pattern, whilst his jacket pocket carries embroidered lettering: 'I O M Railways'. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
A smartly attired motorman, with controller key, holds onto one of the platform stanchions of a newly outshopped No 22 - photo undated, but given that No 22 was largely destroyed by fire and then totally rebuilt, only being reintroduced to service in 1992, it seems more than likely that it was taken around that year. The uniform reflects a return to a more tradition values. The cap bears an oblong cloth badge containing embroidered 'M E R' system initials. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice
The motorman of Car No 19 looks back at a figure who is in all probability an inspector - photo thought to have been taken in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.
A blow-up of the above photo showing the inspector, who is wearing a doulde-breasted jacket, seemingly devoid of badges, and a military-style cap with what is, in all probability, a script lettering grade badge - 'Inspector' - though whether this was metal or embroidered is unknown.