Cambridge Street Tramways

History
Cambridge's horse tramway, which was owned by the Cambridge Street Tramways Company, opened for business on the 28th October 1880. Operation was initially leased to a London contractor (in fact the builder of the tramway) — J F Meston — but in 1884, the company chose not to renew the lease, and to therefore operate the system itself. In 1900, the British Electric Traction Company Ltd acquired a major stake in the company, with the express intention of electrifying the system; however, after objections from local worthies had proven to be insurmountable, it gave up and sold its shares (in 1904) to the Cambridge Electric Traction Syndicate. This group had no more luck than its predecessor, so the tramway struggled on with horse traction right through to its closure on the 18th February 1914.

Uniforms
Fortunately, the photographic record is relatively rich for such a small system, so it is possible to say with some confidence what attire was worn and how this changed over its 34-year lifespan. In common with the majority of UK horse tramways, conductors and drivers simply wore informal but robust attire — trousers, jackets, waistcoats, shirts and ties. Headgear appears to have followed the fashion of the day, predominantly the bowler hat, though this gradually gave way to the flat cap as the years wore on. No badges of any kind were worn on either the jackets or the hats.

At some point, possibly in the 1890s, large, round badge/licences were introduced, and all photographs that can be securely attributed to this and subsequent decades always show conductors and drivers wearing them. A few Edwardian-era photographs show crewmen wearing soft-topped caps, and though these may possibly have been issued by the company, they do not appear to have carried a badge of any kind.

A single photograph has survived which appears to show a conductor wearing a uniform (see below). All other photographs — and there are many — show conductors in informal attire, raising the possibility that uniforms may have been issued for a short while, or alternatively, that the individual depicted is not actually an employee of the tramway company.

It is currently unclear what uniforms, if any, inspectors wore, or indeed, whether the various owning companies every employed them.

Further reading
For a history of the system, see: 'Cambridge Street Tramways' by S L Swingle; The Oakwood Press (1972).

Images

Horse tram drivers and conductors
Cambridge Street Tramways horse tram No 2
Horsecar No 2 in original single-deck condition on the Station-Post Office route — photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1880s judging by the style of the bowler hats and the state of the road. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice


Cambridge Street Tramways horse tram crew 1880s
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver — in long, coachman's coat — and a very youthful looking conductor.


Cambridge Street Tramways horse tram crew
Horsecar No 4 and crew — photo undated, but possibly taken in the 1890s; No 4 was originally a single-deck vehicle. The conductor (left), the driver (on the platform), as well as the individual standing in front of the horse's rump, are all wearing round badges/licences. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Cambridge Street Tramways tram at Post Office
A double-deck tram waiting at the Post Office terminus — photo undated, but probably Edwardian. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Cambridge Street Tramways tram at Post Office
A blow-up of the above photo; whilst the driver is wearing informal attire, the conductor, if he is indeed a conductor, appears to be wearing a uniform of sorts. All other photographs however, show conductors in informal attire.


Cambridge Street Tramways Company horse tram No 6
Conductor and driver pose with Horsecar No 6 in Trumpington Street — photo undated, but possibly taken in the last week of operation closure (i.e., 1914). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Cambridge Street Tramways Company crew
A blow up of the above photo, showing the two tramwaymen, both of whom are clearly in informal, workman-like attire. Both men are wearing large, round, badges/licences.


Cambridge Street Tramways Horse Tram No 5
A postcard evidently sold to celebrate/commemorate the demise of services on 18th February 1914. The photograph was in all probability taken in the final days. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice


Cambridge Street Tramways Horse Tram No 5 and crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and driver, both of whom are wearing soft-topped caps, seemingly without badges. Once again, both men are wearing badges/licences.