Darlington Tramways

History
Although Darlington's horse tramway opened for business in October 1880, it was actually not the first tramway in the town, that accolade going instead to the very early and short-lived Darlington Street Railway (1862 to 1865). The new tramway had a much longer life, passing through four separate owners over the course of its 23-year existence, before its eventual conversion to electric traction. Although the first owner — the Stockton and Darlington Steam Tramways Company (1880 to 1888) — operated steam trams in Stockton, it never did so in Darlington (which was physically unconnected to the Stockton lines), relying solely upon horse traction. Following a period in voluntary liquidation, the S&DSTCo was restructured as the Stockton and District Tramways Company, before passing into the hands of the grandly titled Imperial Tramways Company Limited in 1896, a concern which owned several tramways throughout the British Isles, and whose express intention was to electrify the system. Their plans however came to nought, and the corporation took-over, leasing the operation to a Mr C J O'Dowd for the final 19 months of its life (January 1902 to August 1903).

Uniforms
The photographic record is reasonably rich for such a small system, and clearly shows that conductors and drivers wore heavy duty but informal attire — trousers, jackets, shirts and ties, along with heavy overcoats in colder weather. Headgear tended to follow the fashion of the day, probably the bowler hat in the early years, and later on the flat cap. No badges of any description appear to have been worn on either the jackets or the hats. The odd photo shows conductors wearing a circular object on their cash-bag straps, suggestive of a licence, however, in view of its position, it is more than likely to have been a ticket punch.

Photographs of inspectors have not survived, so it is currently impossible to say whether men of this grade wore company uniforms or insignia, or indeed, whether the company even employed them at all.

Further reading
For a short history of Darlington's horse and electric tramways, see: 'The Light Railways of Darlington' by G S Hearse, in The Tramway Review (Volume 2, No 11, p49-58); Light Railway Transport League (1953).

Images

Horse Tram drivers and conductors
Darlington Tramways Horse Tram No 12 1880s
Tramcar No 12 and crew on a Kings Head to Cockerton service — photo undated, but definitely taken during Stockton and Darlington Steam Tramways Company days, probably in the mid-to-late 1880s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Darlington Tramways Horse tram No 53, Imperial Tramways Company
A very youthful conductor and his barely older driver, with Horse Tram No 53 in North Road — photo undated, but definitely taken during 'Imperial Tramways Company' ownership, and more than likely around the turn of the century. Why the tram has such a high number for a small system is something of a mystery — there was also a No 54 — though it may well be that this was actually a fleet number within the ITCoLtd as a whole rather than Darlington itself. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Darlington Tramways Taken by W Richardson Bondgate Darlington
An unidentified horse tram in Bondgate — photo undated, but almost certainly taken between January 1902 and August 1903, when the system was municipally owned. Several photographs exist showing the same gentleman in the identical light-coloured suit (see below); he is in all probability, Mr C J O'Dowd, who operated the horse tramway on behalf of Darlington Corporation for the last 19 months of its existence. Photo by W Richardson, courtesy of the Stephen Howarth Collection.


Darlington Tramways horse tram conductor
A blow-up of the above photograph showing the youthful conductor. He is clearly wearing informal attire, and what appears to be a round licence, though given its position, it could well just be a ticket punch.


Darlington Tramways 9th August 1902 coronation
Mr C J O'Dowd again (probably) with a procession of three trams at the High Row terminus; photo undated, but possibly taken on the occasion of Edward VII's coronation (9th August 1902). Photo courtesy of the Stephen Lockwood Collection.



Darlington2_SLCROP
A blow-up of the above photo showing the three extremely youthful conductors, only one of whom appears to have a round object (a licence or ticket punch) on his cash-bag strap. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Lockwood Collection.


Darlington Tramways Woodland Rd Depot 18th August 1903
A driver, conductor and proprietor (presumably Mr C J O'Dowd) at Woodland Rd Depot on the 18th August 1903, the last day of operation. Photo courtesy of the Stephen Lockwood Collection.


Darlington Tramways Woodland Rd Depot 18th August 1903 horse tram driver and conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the smartly turned-out driver and conductor, neither of whom appear to be wearing a licence.