Cheltenham and District Light Railway

Owner Cheltenham and District Light Railway Company
17th August 1901 (electric)
Operator Cheltenham and District Light Railway Company
Taken over (ownership) 1914 (Tramways Light and Power Company, a subsidiary of Balfour, Beatty and Company Limited)
31st December 1930
Length 10.44 miles
Gauge 3ft 6ins

Button description (Pattern 1) Block initials: 'MOTORMAN' between 'C & D' and 'L R'
Materials known Brass
Button Line reference [None]

Button description (Pattern 2) Block initials: 'CONDUCTOR' between 'C & D' and 'L R'
Materials known Brass
Button Line reference [None]

Comment Stylistically, this button is very unusual, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to any other pattern of button issued by a UK or Irish tramway concern. The unique use of the word 'MOTORMAN', a frequent occurrence on American 'streetcar' buttons, hints at an American connection, most likely Thomas Nevins, the promoter of the Cheltenham system. All buttons known are of 1-piece construction, with the shank fixed directly to the front.

I had originally identified this button — somewhat tentatively — as an issue of another tramway company, the Chatham and District Light Railway, but this was solely based on hearsay. Follow-up investigation revealed the main source of these buttons to have been a single auction where they were simply advertised as such. Given the relative regularity with which I have seen buttons misdescribed, I'm inclined to think that this auction description was nothing more than a guess that has come to be accepted as fact. Firmer evidence comes from a studio portrait of a conductor, taken in a Cheltenham studio, where the pattern of the button is clear (see link).

In 1914, control of the company passed to Balfour Beatty, being formally reconstituted — under the same title — as an official subsidiary of BB&CoLtd, but administered via another of its subsidiaries, the Tramways Light and Power Company (the Midland Counties Electric Supply Company from 1921). It is likely that uniforms issued after 1914 bore plain buttons with scalloped rims. In addition to the Cheltenham system, BB&CoLtd also owned, operated or had a significant interest in the following systems: City of Carlisle Electric Tramways, Dartford Council Light Railways, Dunfermline and District Tramways, Falkirk and District Tramways, Leamington and Warwick Electric Tramways, Llandudno and Colwyn Bay Electric Railway, Llanelly Tramways, Luton Corporation Tramways, Mansfield and District Light Railway, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Tramways, and Wemyss and District Tramways.