Highgate Hill Cable Tramway

The Highgate Hill Cable Tramway had, to say the least, a chequered history, passing through several hands, and even closing for over four years in the 1890s. A single photograph taken in the year of opening (1884), suggests that staff may initially have been issued with uniform jackets, though curiously not with caps. The jackets had lapels and epaulettes, and were edged in material of a lighter colour than the main body; the collars appear to have borne three embroidered initials on each side, presumably those of either the operating company (the Highgate Hill Tramways Company) or the owners (the Steep Grade Tramways and Works Company Ltd).

Photographs taken between 1884 and the early 1890s indicate that neither drivers nor conductors wore uniforms, suggesting that uniforms, if they were ever issued, soon fell out of use; tramcar staff therefore wore smart but informal attire, namely, jacket, shirt and tie (and sometimes a waistcoat) and the fashionable headgear of the day, invariably the bowler hat.

Photographs taken between the re-opening of 1896 and final closure in 1909, and which show staff, are few and far between, but do suggest that drivers continued to wear informal attire. Conductors on the other hand may have been issued with jackets and soft-topped caps, though this is based on a single photograph that may not be representative.

Drivers and conductors always wore enamel Public Carriage Office licences (see link) when working on the trams.

In view of the extreme shortness of the line, it is believed that the company did not see fit to employ inspectors.

For a history of the Highgate Hill Cable Tramway, see: 'London County Council Tramways Volume 2, North London' by E R Oakley; The London Tramways History Group (1991).


Cable tram drivers and conductors
Highgate Hill Cable Tram No 9 1884
Bogie Cable Tram No 9, evidently brand new, posed for the camera at the top of the line in August 1884, the year the line opened. Photograph courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Highgate Hill Cable tram driveer 1884
A blow-up of the above photo showing an individual who would appear to be the driver (standing on the platform). Although he has a trilby-style hat, i.e., informal headgear, he would seem to be wearing a uniform jacket; this is edged in a different material than the main body of the jacket, and has three initials embroidered on the collars. The man on the left has a bandolier, and whilst it cannot be excluded that he is a conductor, no other surviving photographs show conductors wearing kepis and bandoliers.

Highgate Hill Cable Tramway No 6
A rather new-looking Tractor Car No 6 and its pristine trailer standing at the top of the line, suggesting that the photo was taken not long after opening, so probably in 1884. Given that there are no passengers, this is in all likelihood a proving run. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Highgate Hill Cable Tram
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor (possibly but not certainly) and another unidentified individual, both of whom are wearing informal attire. The conductor's PCO badge can just be made out hanging from his cash-bag strap at the bottom of his jacket.

Highgate Hill Cable Tram No 5 and trailer
Tractor Car No 5 and trailer — photo undated, but judging by the slightly faded paintwork and the tall bowler hats, probably taken in the late 1880s. Both the driver and conductor (the latter stood on the trailer platform) are wearing informal attire with bowler hats; the sole nod to officialdom are the Metropolitan Police-issued PCO licences, which both men are wearing. Photo courtesy of Dave Jones.

Highgate Hill Cable Tramway Tractor No 5
Tractor Car No 5 and Trailer No 3 stand at the Archway Tavern terminus — photo purportedly taken around the turn of the century. Photo in the public domain.

Highgate Hill No 5 CROP
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and conductor. Whilst the driver is wearing informal attire, the conductor would appear to be wearing a uniform with a soft-topped cap, and possibly a uniform jacket, though this is by no means certain. Once again, both men are wearing enamel PCO licences.