British Electric Traction Company Limited



History The British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BETCo) began life in 1895 - as the ‘British Electric Traction (Pioneer) Co Ltd' - by aggressively purchasing horse tramway systems with the intention of electrifying them, but quickly expanded into tramway building and operation, as well as electricity supply. The name was changed to the final form in 1896.

Perhaps the most complex picture to unpick is the BETCo's labyrinthine ownership/operation of a large part of the London and Birmingham area tramway networks, the latter via the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee. In London, the company was in fact the sole owner of both the South Metropolitan Electric Tramways (SMET) and the Metropolitan Electric Tramways (MET), as well as the Tramways Omnibus (MET) Company Limited. In 1912, the MET was combined with London United Tramways under a holding company - the London and Suburban Traction Company Ltd - which was itself jointly owned by BETCo and the Underground Electric Railways Company of London Limited. This latter group owned several transport concerns, including the London General Omnibus Company and the Underground, and was known as the 'Underground Group'. A year later (14th June 1913), the BETCo’s remaining London tramway company - the SMET - was added into the combine, creating a truly pan-London transport system.

Given their electrical expertise, BETCo later became a key player in the embryonic broadcasting world (in the 1920s), creating 'Rediffusion', a company which in turn went on to become a major stakeholder in the British television world, owning amongst other companies, Thames Television. The BETCo also owned bus concerns until relatively late in its life, including Stratford-upon-Avon Blue Motors and the Northern General Transport Co.


Button description Wheel, magnet and electrical flashes
Materials known Brass; chrome; nickel; black horn
Button Line reference [113/16]

Tramway interests
The following list details - to the best of my knowledge - those concerns in which the BETCo had an interest (either as the owner, the operator or as a major shareholder) at some time during the tramway's life. The dates represent the approximate span of BETCo interest (from opening/purchase/lease to closure/sale/termination), not the life of the tramway system itself. Interestingly, of all the companies listed below, I am only aware of two which issued named tramway buttons (the Swansea Improvements and Tramways Co Ltd and Rossendale Valley Tramways Company), both of which were pre-existing companies taken over by BETCo. This probably indicates that the BETCo issued the 'Magnet and Wheel' button as soon as lines were electrified - invariably shortly after BETCo takeover.

Airdrie and Coatbridge Tramways (1904-1920);
Barnsley and District Electric Tramway (1902-1930);
Barrow-in-Furness Tramways (1899-1920);
Birkdale and Southport Tramways (1899-1901)
Birmingham and Midland Tramways (1899-1928);
Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee (1904-1928)
Brighton and Shoreham Tramways (1896 to 1913);
Cavehill and Whitewell Tramway (1902-1911);
Cambridge Street Tramways (1900-1904);
City of Birmingham Tramways (1902-1912);
Croydon Corporation Tramways (1900-1906);
Devonport and District Tramways (1901-1915);
Dewsbury, Batley and Birstall Tramway Company (1902-1906)
Dewsbury, Ossett and Soothil Nether Tramways (1931-1933);
Dudley and Wolverhampton Tramways (1899-1901)
Dudley and Stourbridge Steam Tramways (1897-1898);
Dudley, Stourbridge and District Electric Tramways (1898-1930);
Gateshead and District Tramways (1897-1951);
Gravesend and Northfleet Electric Tramways (1902-1929);
Gravesend, Rosherville and Northfleet Tramways (1901)
Greenock and Port Glasgow Tramways (1899-1929)
Hartlepool Electric Tramways (1896-1912);
Jarrow and District Electric Tramway (1906-1929);
Kidderminster and Stourport Electric Tramway - BET's first tramway (1895-1923);
Kinver Light Railway (1901-1930);
Leamington and Warwick (Electric) Tramway (1899-1912);
Merthyr Tydfil Electric Tramways (1901-1939);
Metropolitan Electric Tramways (1901-1928);
Middleton Electric Tramways (1902-1925);
North Shields and Tynemouth District Tramways (1897-1900)
North Staffordshire Trawmays (1897-1932);
Oldham, Ashton and Hyde Electric Tramways (1899-1921);
Peterborough Electric Tramways (1903-1930);
Poole and District Electric Tramways (1901-1905);
Pontypridd and Rhonda Valley Tramway (1898-1904);
Potteries Electric Traction Company (1898-1928);
Rossendale Valley Tramways (1900-1908)
Rothesay Tramways Company (1901-1931)
Sheerness and District Tramways (1903-1917);
South Metropolitan Electric Tramways (1906-1928);
South Shields Tramways (1899 to 1906);
South Staffordshire Tramways (1899-1924);
Southport Tramways (1899-1918);
Swansea Tramways - via the Swansea Improvements and Tramways Co Ltd (1897-1937);
Swansea and Mumbles Railway (1897-1960);
Taunton Electric Tramways (1901-1921);
Torquay Tramways (1931-1934);
Tynemouth and District Electric Tramways (1901-1931);
Weston-super-Mare and District Tramways (1902-1937);
Wolverhampton District Electric Tramways (1902-1928);
Wolverhampton Tramways Company (1898-1900)
Worcester Electric Tramways (1904-1928);
Worcester Tramways (1898-1903);
Wrexham Tramways Company (1900-1901)
Wrexham and District Electric Tramways (1901-1927);
Yarmouth and Gorleston Tramways Company (1900-1905)
Yorkshire (Woollen District) Electric Tramways (1903-1934).