Portsmouth Corporation Tramways

Summary
Following the corporation's take-over of the Portsmouth Street Tramways Company in 1901, the corporation operated horse trams for nearly 30 months, the last one running in May 1903. Although it is currently unclear whether uniforms were issued to horsecar staff, what photographic evidence there is, suggests that they were not.

Electric car staff initially wore heavy-duty double-breasted jackets with three pockets, two rows of four buttons (presumably brass — see link) and lapels. The left-hand collar bore ‘P C T’ in individual initials, whilst the right-hand side appears to have borne an employee number (both probably brass to match the buttons). Caps were military in style with a glossy peak and tensioned crown (top); they bore a small shield badge, taken from the city’s coat of arms, which was worn above a script-lettering grade badge, either Motorman or Conductor, again more than likely in brass to match the buttons.

New dark grey uniforms — edged in red piping — were issued to all 355 staff in August 1916. These were very similar in style to their predecessors, being double-breasted with two rows of five buttons (sometimes four in later issues), three waist level pockets and lapels; the latter bore 'P.C.T' one-piece collar badges on each side rather than the individual metal letters and employee numbers that had been worn previously. Caps were unchanged, but now bore a prominent nickel and blue enamel cap badge; these were however not issued until the 27th September, possibly due to wartime supply difficulties. The new badges were emblazoned with the system title — ‘Portsmouth Tramways’ — and an employee number in the centre; lower numbers were apparently issued to conductors and higher numbers to motormen (see 'Tramways of Portsmouth' by S E Harrison). The button material was possibly changed at this time to nickel, and in later years (1930s), to chrome.

At some point, probably the 1920s, the 'P.C.T' collar badges were dispensed with in favour of the small Portsmouth shield badge that previously adorned the caps. Given that marked chrome buttons exist, it is possible that the shield badges were also changed to chrome at some point.

Tramcar staff were also issued with long double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons, three waist-level pockets high, fold-over collars and epaulettes; the collars probably carried system initials up to the 1920s, thereafter the municipal shield badge. Tramcar staff also wore municipal licences, which appear to have been enamel, bearing — in addition to the number — the crescent and star of Portsmouth. These appear to have been dispensed with around the time of the Great War, probably when numbered cap badges were issued.

It is unclear what uniforms were worn by inspectors, though one photograph below suggests that they wore kepi-style caps, at least in the Edwardian era. In later years, senior staff certainly wore cloth cap badges marked with the full system title in gold bullion (see below), along with matching grade badges (Timekeeper, Inspector, Depot Inspector and Chief Inspector are known); the latter were presumably worn on either the lapels or epaulettes.

In common with the majority of UK tramway systems, Portsmouth employed female staff during the Great War (from 1915) to replace male staff lost to the armed services; these ladies were overwhelmingly employed as conductresses, though a few were trained as drivers in 1918. It is unclear what uniforms were issued initially, though there is no reason to think that these were any different from those issued in August 1916, which consisted of a long, tailored single-breasted jackets with five buttons, a waist belt with buttons, two waist pockets and high, fold-over collars and epaulettes; the collars bore the same one-piece 'P.C.T' collar badge as the jackets worn by male employees. Two types of cap were worn, one probably for winter wear, and the other probably for summer wear. Both were military in style with a glossy peak, but one had a woven crown (top) and the other a baggy crown. The caps bore the same badges as those worn by the ladies male colleagues, i.e., a script-lettering Conductor badge until September 1916, and the new nickel and blue enamel pattern from then onwards.

Portsmouth Corporation Tramways was officially renamed the ‘City of Portsmouth Passenger Transport Department’ on 14th July 1936, barely 4 months before the last tram ran. It is unclear whether the ‘CofPPTD’ cap badge illustrated below was ever issued to tramway staff, though this is clearly a possibility, even if somewhat unlikely.

For a detailed history of the area's tramways, see 'Tramways of Portsmouth' by S E Harrison, Light Railway Transport League (1955).

Images

Motormen and conductors
Portsmouth Corporation Tramways conductor
Portsmouth Conductor 185 — photo undated, but very probably taken in the first decade of operation. Author's Collection.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the uniform, including the shield cap badge worn on the rain cover and the employee number on both the licence and the right-hand collar


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways cap badges
Cap badges — brass/gilt and chrome. The brass badge was initially worn as a cap badge, but was later relegated to the upper collars following the introduction of the large cap badge below. The chrome example was probably not issued until the 1930s, or possibly even after the tramway system had closed. With thanks to Richard Rosa.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways cap badges
Standard ‘off the shelf’ script-lettering cap badges of the type used by Portsmouth Corporation Tramways — brass. Author's Collection.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways tram No 116
A motorman poses for the camera with Tramcar 116 at Clarence Pier — photo undated, but probably taken in the mid to late 1920s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways motorman
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman; the large municipal cap badge (introduced in late 1916) and the lighter cut of the jacket compared to the earlier version, are easily seen.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways cap badge
Portsmouth Corporation Tramways cap badge — nickel and blue enamel — introduced in September 1916. The relatively high number of this badge would suggest that it was issued to a motorman. Author's Collection.



Portsmouth Corporation Tramways Tram 48 1930s
Conductor and motorman pose for the photographer (H Nicoll) with two tramcars, one of which (No 48) is on a Route 11 service to the dockyard — photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1930s. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways staff with Tram No 48
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and motorman; the former is wearing a double-breasted jacket, but with the shield badge on the lapels rather than system initials formerly worn there.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways Tram No 57
A conductor stands somewhat proprietorially with Tramcar No 57 at the Hard — photo undated, but very probably taken in the early 1930s. Photographer, A D Packer. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways conductor
A blow-up of the above photograph showing the conductor; it is the only image I'm aware of which appears to show a tramway employee wearing a single-breasted jacket.


Portsmouth Corporation tramways motorman
A motorman at the controls of Tramcar No 82 - photo undated, but probably taken in the early 1930s. Photographer, M J O'Connor. With thanks to the National Tramway Museum.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways cap badge
City of Portsmouth Passenger Transport Department cap badge (introduced some time after July 1936), though probably not before the demise of the tramway — nickel and blue enamel. Author's Collection.


Senior staff
Portsmouth Corporation Tramways 84
Tramcar No 84 with a service for Eastney stands in front of the Victoria Barracks — photo undated, but probably taken in the early Edwardian era. The three figures on the right are probably inspectors, all of whom appear to be wearing kepi-style caps. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways inspectors
Two individuals pose with an unidentified tram — photo undated, but almost certainly taken prior to the Great War. Both men are wearing single-breasted jackets, a contrast which suggests that they may be inspectors. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways cap badge
Senior grade cap badge — bullion and embroidered cloth. Author's Collection.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways Timekeeper badge
Timekeeper lapel or shoulder badge — bullion and embroidered cloth. Author's Collection.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways inpsector badge
Inspector lapel or shoulder badge — bullion and embroidered cloth. Author's Collection.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways Depot Inpsector badge
Depot Inspector lapel or shoulder badge — bullion and embroidered cloth. Author's Collection.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways Chief Inpsector badge
Chief Inspector lapel or shoulder badge — bullion and embroidered cloth. Author's Collection.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways cap badge
Unknown stripe badge, probably worn on the jacket sleeve, possibly denoting long service or good conduct — bullion and embroidered cloth. Author's Collection.


Female staff
Portsmouth Corporation Tramways conductress
Studio portrait of a conductress, probably called 'Maude', by a Portsmouth-based photographer — photo undated, but likely to be early in the Great War as she is not wearing the new style of cap badge issued in September 1916. Author's Collection.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways conductress
A blow-up of the above photo showing that whilst the subject is wearing the newer 'P.C.T' one-piece collar badges, she still has the older script-lettering grade badge. The cap probably has a woven upper (see below), but this is hidden by a rain cover.


Portsmouth Corportation Tramways conductress Florrie Rutland 1916
PCT tram conductress (Employee No 65) — 1916. On the back of the photograph, the inscription reads: "Auntie Florrie Rutland (sp?) 1916, on the trams at Portsmouth". Although she is wearing the new corporation cap badge (introduced in September 1916), her tunic collars are missing the usual PCT initials badges; she also sports a baggy-topped cap, presumably ordered specifically for female employees. Author's Collection.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways Great War Tram conductress Alice Emberton
Great War Portsmouth tram conductress Alice Emberton (nee Knight James) — photo undated, but certainly taken after September 1916 and no later than 1919. Photo with kind permission of Anne Stocks, Alice's granddaughter.


Portsmouth Corporation Tramways Great War Tram conductress Alice Emberton
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the collar insignia, as well as the employee number (No 50). She is wearing a military-style cap with a woven upper, presumably for summer wear.