Derby Corporation Tramways

History
Under the Tramways Act of 1870, Derby Corporation had the right to purchase the local 4ft-gauge horse tramway — owned by the Derby Tramways Company — in 1898, i.e., 21 years after the DTCo's enabling act. As this date approached, the corporation began to give serious consideration to converting the horse system to electric traction, and running the tramway as a municipal enterprise. The company had been struggling for a number of years, and was certainly in no position to finance the large investment needed, so it was more than happy to negotiate a sale, especially so when it became clear that the corporation was willing to pay a fair price, rather than the 'scrap prices' that many other councils endeavoured to obtain their local horse or steam tramway for. An agreement was signed on the 28th December 1898, with ownership to be transferred on the 1st January 1899, but with the company continuing to operate the tramway until such time as the corporation was in a position to take over.

Powers to operate the tramway were obtained on the 4th August 1899, the corporation finally taking over the running of the horse trams, as well as the ex-DTCo horse omnibuses, on the 1st November 1899. The corporation was however keen to build a modern municipal tramway system, and was willing to take the time to consider all options and to plan accordingly, which meant that the horse tramway would need to kept operational for a number of years yet. Rather than simply running the tramway into the ground, the corporation set about placing the system in good running order, which included the acquisition of several second-hand tramcars and omnibuses to replace the decrepit vehicles they had inherited.

Powers to convert the horse tramway to overhead electric traction, retaining a gauge of 4ft, were acquired as part of the Derby Corporation Act of 1901. Work did not however start until November 1903, possibly due to the need to construct new sewers on many of the roads the tramway would follow, the first electric tramcar service commencing on the 27th July 1904. The horse trams were gradually replaced by omnibuses as conversion work proceeded, the last horse tram running on the 1st June 1907, when work began on lowering the roadway under the Great Northern Railway Company's bridge on the Ashbourne Rd line.

The corporation had therefore operated the horse tramway for just over seven and a half years. At its maximum, the system had extended to 4.68 miles, being centred on Victoria St, from where lines ran: northwestwards along Ashbourne Rd to a terminus at Windmill Hill Lane; northwards to the Market Place; southeastwards along London Rd to a terminus at Deadmans Lane, with a branch running northeastwards along Station St to the Midland Railway Company's station (Midland Station); southeastwards along Osmaston Rd to a terminus at Cotton Lane; and southwestwards along Babington Lane, then southwards along Normanton Rd to a terminus at the Normanton Hotel.

The corporation's planned electric tramway system was completed on the 8th February 1908 with the opening of the Nottingham Rd line. The system was extended twice, firstly on the 30th July 1908 (along Burton Rd) and 15 years later on 4th August 1923 (along Osmaston Rd from the Abingdon St terminus to the junction with Osmaston Park Rd).

The tramway was well-planned, and thrived accordingly, though the narrow streets that it had to negotiate were to become a serious cause of concern, particularly in the 1920s with the advent of private car ownership. Like most tramways in the British Isles, Derby's suffered during the Great War from a loss of men (and skills), which together with difficulties sourcing spares and stringent war-time restrictions on the purchase of tramcars and track, meant that only the bare minimum could be done in terms of maintenance. As a result, the tramway emerged from the conflict in badly run-down condition. Despite of the challenges posed by the post-war economy, the corporation nevertheless found the money to invest in the system, renewing worn-out track, purchasing a total of 28 new tramcars between 1920 and 1928, and top-covering others.

The last tramway extension was opened in 1923, which took the electric system to its maximum extent of 13.96 miles. As in horse-tram days, the system was centred on Victoria St, with lines running: northwestwards along Ashbourne Rd to a terminus at Windmill Hill Lane, with a line branching off southwestwards along Uttoxeter Rd to a terminus at Constables Lane; northwards through the Market Place, then northwestwards along Kedleston Rd to a terminus at Penny Long Lane, with a line branching off northeastwards at the Market Place along Derwent St, then eastwards along Nottingham Rd to the Cemetery; southeastwards along London Rd to a terminus at Alvaston (the Harrington Arms), with a branch running northeastwards along Station St to the Midland Station; southeastwards along Osmaston Rd to a terminus at the Mitre, with a connecting line running along Bateman St to join the London Rd line; southwestwards along Babington Lane, where the line divided, one route running southwards along Normanton Rd to Cavendish, where it then turned northeastwards — via Dairyhouse Rd and Douglas St — to join the Osmaston Rd line; the other route running southwestwards along Burton Rd to the borough boundary.

The corporation finally ran its last horse bus service on the 19th May 1917, a battery-electric bus taking over the next day; this lasted in turn until the 30th June 1924, when it was replaced by the corporation's first modern motorbus. With new housing estates being built away from the city centre, the corporation opted to introduce motorbuses rather than extend or build new tram lines. With the rise of the suburbs, motorbus services expanded significantly throughout the latter half of the 1920s, several of them extracting passengers from the tramway. The success of the new motorbus services, coupled with the impending need for major track renewals, inevitably precipitated a discussion on the way forward, the council deciding — on the 21st August 1929 — to gradually abandon the tramway, though it was to be the following year before it was decided to replace the trams with trolleybuses.

Powers were acquired to abandon the tramway and operate trolleybuses in 1930, the first tramway casualty being the Nottingham Rd line, which closed on the 14th November 1930; services initially being provided by motorbuses until the trolleybuses were ready to take over, which they did on the 9th January 1932.

As more trolleybuses arrived, conversion proceeded, more closures taking place in 1932, 1933 and 1934, the last tram of all running on the 2nd July 1934.

Like many small municipal systems, the tramway was relatively successful until the advent of the motorbus and growth of the suburbs, which it did not serve. Although the tramway carried a large number of passengers during its lifetime (445 million), the low fares and short journeys meant that it was always going to struggle to pay off the debt, let alone set aside enough for renewals. By the time of the 1929 debate, the debt was a staggering £250,000, which though large was not uncommon, as many councils had either kept fares artificially low, or used the profits their tramway made to subsidise the rates. It is unclear what happened in Derby, though the consequence of the large debt was a decision to opt for what the council saw as a cheaper and more modern option, rather than a much more expensive tramway renewal.

Uniforms
Following its takeover of the DTCo, the corporation issued staff working the horsecar services with kepi-style caps, which bore a script-lettering grade badge — either Conductor or Driver — above which individual system initials ('D C T') were sometimes worn; it is currently unclear whether the badges were brass or nickel. The earliest Corporation-era photos show that staff continued to wear the distinctive long overcoats (with dark collars) of the DTCo, though whether a uniform was worn underneath or not, is currently unclear. Later photos reveal that horsecar staff were eventually issued with the same double-breasted jackets and military-style caps as their colleagues working the new electric trams (see later). Horsecar crews were eventually issued with double-breasted greatcoats with five pairs of buttons and high fold-over collars; the latter bore some kind of municipal badge, more than likely the Derby 'buck in the park' shield device.

Electric tramcar crews were initially issued with double-breasted jackets with four pairs of nickel buttons (bearing the full system title and municipal device — see link) and lapels; the latter bore individual letters on both sides — ‘D C T’ — presumably in nickel to match the buttons. Caps were military in style with a glossy peak and tensioned crown (top); they bore a standard, 'off-the-shelf', script-lettering grade badge (either Driver or Conductor), above which a stylised municipal shield badge was worn.

For a short period, possibly just prior to the Great War, conductors and motormen were required to wear oval metal armbands — presumably municipal licences — and probably of nickel or alloy. In the case of conductors, these bore the grade — 'CONDUCTOR' — and a number (in the middle), surrounded by 'BOROUGH OF DERBY TRAMWAYS'. The motorman's counterpart probably bore the grade 'DRIVER', though confirmation must await the discovery of new photographic evidence or a surviving example.

At some point (probably around the time of the Great War), the style of the jackets was subtly altered, and though still double-breasted, the top set of buttons were now usually buttoned through the lapels (see photos below); the jackets appear to have initially borne four pairs of buttons, though this appears to have been relatively short-lived, being superseded by a similar style with five pairs. The Driver grade badges were superseded by the Motorman variety around the same time. Further changes were made in the last few years of the system, with the left-hand collar now carrying an employee number, and a switch from individual system initials to a one-piece 'DCT' badge. Caps also appear to have been changed around this time, still military in style, but with a woven top, a type that was also used by Leicester City Tramways (see link).

Tramcar crews were also issued with long, double-breasted greatcoats with five pairs of buttons and high, fold-over collars; the latter carried the standard 'buck in the park' municipal shield badge on both sides. Odd photos also show motormen wearing capes, which were presumably official issues.

In the early years of municipal ownership, inspectors were issued with single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or more likely an hook and eye affair) and upright collars; the latter carried the initials ‘D C T’ in embroidered block letters on both sides. The jacket and pockets were finished off by edging in a different (silk-like) material, which was also applied to the trousers in the form of a stripe. Caps were in a kepi style and bore a large oval cloth badge containing embroidered script initials, ‘D C T’, above ‘INSPECTOR’ in block letters. The pattern of uniform worn by inspectors in later years is currently unknown.

In common with the vast majority of UK tramway systems, Derby employed female staff during the Great War to replace men lost to the armed services. The first of these ladies were taken on in 1915, and by September 1916 they numbered 62, all conductresses; they worked through the war and well into 1919, the remaining 51 being released on the 1st November 1919. The ladies were issued with tailored, single-breasted jackets with four buttons, a waist belt with button fastening, two breast and two hip-level pockets (with button closures), epaulettes and high fold-over collars; the latter could be worn open to give the effect of lapels. Unlike the mens' jackets, the ladies' jackets did not carry any insignia. Two forms of cap are known, one soft-topped with a glossy peak and the other with a tensioned crown, this latter type probably the same as tissued to the men; the caps bore the same cap badges as worn by the men, i.e., a script-lettering grade badge and the standard municipal shield badge.

Further reading
For more information on Derby Corporation Tramways, see: 'The Story of Transport in Derby' by Barry Edwards; The Breedon Books Publishing Company (1993).

Images

Horse Tram drivers and conductors
Derby Corporation Horse tram Normanton Hotel
An unidentified horse tram and crew pose outside the Normanton Hotel in Normanton Rd — photo probably taken very shortly after the corporation take-over of November 1899. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Derby Corporation Trmaways horse tram conductor and driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor (left), driver (on the platform) and a trace-horse or 'link man' (right) who is holding a hook for quickly attaching and detaching his trace horse. The conductor and link man are both wearing the old Derby Tramways Company greatcoats, but with new corporation-issued kepi-style caps.


Derby Corporation Tramways horse tram conductor
A studio portrait of conductor Harrison Fletcher — photo undated, but probably taken around 1904. It is likely that Mr Harrison was a conductor on the horse trams at this time (these only ceased running in 1907), as he is wearing a kepi-style cap, whereas photos of electric tramcar crews taken in the same period, show them wearing military-style caps and double-breasted jackets. The collar badges are probably the stylised Derby shield shown below. Photo with kind permission of the North East Midland Photographic Record at ‘Picture the Past’.


Derby Corporation tramways cap badge
General pattern script-lettering grade badges of the type issued to staff working the DCT's horse tram services. It is currently unknown whether these were issued in brass or nickel.


Derby Corporation Tramways brass collar badge
Derby Corporation stylised shield badge, with the so-called 'buck in the park' — brass. This was possibly the badge worn on the collars of horsecar crew greatcoats. Author's Collection.


Derby Corporation Horse tram in Ashbourne Road
An ex-Glasgow horsecar stands on Ashbourne Rd — photo undated, but certainly taken between 1903 and 1907. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Derby Corporation horse tram crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the crew. The conductor is wearing informal attire, including a flat cap, whereas the driver is wearing a corporation-issued greatcoat and a military-style cap.


Dery Corporation Tramways horse tram in Surrey St
Another photo taken at the same location as the previous image — undated, but probably taken after 1903 as the conductor is wearing a double-breasted jacket of the same type issued to electric car crews. Both men are also wearing military-style caps rather than kepis. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Derby Corporation Trmawys Horse Tram No 22 and crew
A driver and a conductor on the platform of Tramcar No 22 (ex-Glasgow) in Ashbourne Rd — photo undated, but certainly taken between 1903 and 1907. The driver's left-hand collar bears 'D C T' system initials. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Derby Corporation horse tram 1907
A posed photo of Tramcar No 22, once again on Ashbourne Rd at the junction of Surrey St (seemingly a favoured photographic location) — probably taken in the last few months or weeks before closure (the road behind the tram has been excavated for the new track). Photo by Mr C Dakin Turner, courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Derby Corporation horse tram conductor 1907
A blow-up of the above showing the conductor, in double-breasted jacket and military-style cap.


Motormen and conductors
Derby Corporation Tramways Tramcar No 3 and crew on the opening day
The crew of Tramcar No 3, decorated for the occasion, pose for the cameraman on the opening day of the new electric services (27th July 1904); both men are wearing double-breasted jackets with lapels, and military-style caps bearing a Derby municipal 'shield' badge and a grade badge (Driver and Conductor). Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Derby Corporation Tramways cap badge
Derby Corporation cap badge — nickel. This was worn from the inauguration of electric services right through to their withdrawal. Note the absence of stag supporters to the shield, the granting of which post dates the demise of the tramway. Author's Collection.


Derby CorporationTramways script-lettering cap badges
Standard 'off-the-shelf' script-lettering cap badges of the type worn by Derby Corporation Tramways electric tramcar staff from 1904 to around the time of the Great War — nickel. Author's Collection.


Derby Corporation Tramways driver William Henry Tomlinson
Derby Corporation Tramways motorman, William Henry Tomlinson — photo undated, but probably taken around the time of electrification. Mr Tomlinson had been a horse tram driver. His collars bear individual 'D C T' initials on both sides. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Derby Corporation Tramways staff photo Edwardian
DCT staff assembled for an official photo at Abingdon Rd depot — photo undated, but probably taken to mark the inauguration of electric services. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Derby Corporation Tramways tramcar staff
A blow-up of the above photo showing four motormen and two conductors.


Derby Corporation Tramways tram No 12 and crew
A motorman and a conductor pictured in 1904 with Tramcar No 12 at Abingdon Rd depot. Photo with kind permission of Derby City Council at ‘Picture the Past’.


Derby Corporation Tramways Tram No 21 and crew
A depot shot of Tramcar No 21 and crew — photo undated, but probably mid-to-late Edwardian. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Derby Corporation Tramways tram conductor
A fine studio portrait of a DCT conductor, wearing an armband that is rarely seen in other photographs, hinting that it may only have been worn for a short period — photo undated, but from the tall shirt collar, probably taken between 1910 and the Great War. Author's Collection.


Derby Corporation Tramways conductor licence
A blow-up of the armband above, revealing it to read: 'Borough of Derby Tramways — Conductor 29'.


Derby Corporation Tramways Tram No 16 and crew
The crew of Tramcar No 16 — photo undated, but probably taken around the time of the Great War. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Derby Corporation Tramways conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor, who is clearly wearing an armband on his left sleeve.


Derby Corporation Tramways Tramcar No 2 and crew
The crew of Tramcar No 2 pose rather stiffly for the camera — photo undated, but probably taken around the time of the Great War. The motorman, Rowland Salt, is wearing an armband, though there is no sign of one on his colleague's jacket. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.


Derby Corporation Tramways tramd river motorman
Harrison Fletcher, now a motorman (date unknown, but probably taken around the time of the Great War); he was certainly a motorman by 1908, as a photo exists of him in that year at the controls of a Derby tram. By this time, a switch had clearly been made from Driver grade badges to their Motorman equivalent. Photo with kind permission of the North East Midland Photographic Record at ‘Picture the Past’.


Derby Corporation Tramways cap badges
Standard 'off-the-shelf' script-lettering cap badges of the type worn by Derby Corporation Tramways electric tramcar staff from around the time of the Great War through to closure (1934) — nickel. Author's Collection.


Derby Corporation Tramways Tram No 46 and crew
A poor quality photo of Tramcar No 46, but one which shows a crew in greatcoats — photo undated, but probably taken around the time of the Great War. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.


Derby Corporation Trmaways Tram No 17 and crew
A conductor and a motorman with Tramcar No 17 at a location which remains to be identified — unusually, the photo is precisely dated: 9th September 1922. Author's Collection


Derby Corporation Tramways tram crew
A studio portrait of a conductor and a motorman — date unknown, but probably taken in the late 1920s. The motorman is wearing a Derby municipal shield cap badge above his grade badge, whilst the conductor is not, though it may well be hidden by the rain cover. Author's Collection.


Derby Corporation Tramways motorman No 30
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman (Employee No 30), who is wearing a cap with a woven crown (top). This style of cap was also used by the nearby Leicester Corporation Tramways system (see link).


Derby Corporation Tramways conductor
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing the conductor. The 'DCT' collar badge had by this time become a one-piece construction rather than individual letters.


Derby Corporation Tramways collar badge
One-piece DCT collar badge — nickel. Author's Collection.


Derby Corporation Tramways tram conductor
Derby Corporation Tramways conductor with Tramcar No 58 — possibly at Derby Midland Station, on 17th March 1934. Author's Collection.


Senior staff
Derby Corporation Tramways tram inspector
Studio portrait of a Derby Corporation Tramways inspector — photo undated, but almost certainly taken in the very early years of corporation ownership. Although there is nothing on the photo to specifically identify it as ‘Derby’, the uniform and badge are the same as those seen in photographs of other Derby Corporation Tramways inspectors. With thanks to Stephen Howarth for the identification. Author's Collection.


Derby Corporation Tramways tram inspector
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the cap and collar insignia.


Derby Corporation Tramways inspectors
A blow-up of the Edwardian staff photo above showing two of the inspectors.


Female staff
Derby Corporation Tramways Great War tram conductress
A rare image of a Great War DCT conductress, in fact, one of only two that I am aware of. Her cash bag carries a plate bearing 'D C T No 15', which was presumably a number allocated to the bag rather than the subject's employee number. Photo courtesy of the Geoff Caulton Collection.