Poole and District Electric Tramways

Summary
The Poole and District Electric Traction Company were a subsidiary of the much larger British Electric Traction Company Ltd (BETCo), a concern which over the course of its history either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles. The photos below show Poole and District Electric Tramways staff wearing the familiar and largely regulation BETCo uniform. Although jackets appeared to vary somewhat between BETCo systems, as well as across the decades, the cap badges, collar designations and buttons invariably followed a standard pattern.

Although the P&DET only existed as an independent concern for a mere 4 years (1901 to 1905) before being sold to Bournemouth and Poole Corporations (company and track within their respective boundaries), a reasonable number of photos showing tramway staff have in fact survived. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these photos are undated, which makes the task of establishing a precise chronology for the uniforms exceedingly difficult, especially as there appear to have been three distinct styles in this relatively short period. What follows is therefore conjectural, and may need to be changed as and when new photos are discovered.

The first photo below suggests that staff were initially issued with single-breasted tunics with five buttons and upright collars; the latter seem to have carried script lettering insignia, possibly embroidered. Kepi-style caps were worn, which also appear to have carried some kind of embroidered, script-lettering, once again of unknown pattern. It is perhaps worth noting that the use of embroidered script-lettering insignia seems to have been a general policy of the BETCo around the turn of the century, before it switched to metal insignia; an early date is also supported by the tramcar, which is in pristine condition. Other photos of the earliest years of operation reveal that tramcar staff were issued straw boaters in summer.

At some point, probably within the first year or two of opening, the uniforms were radically changed. Motormen and conductors were now issued with double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five buttons (narrowing from top to bottom and presumably brass; see link) and upright collars; the latter certainly carried individual metal initials — 'P&DET' — on the right-hand side, and seemingly also on the left-hand collar as well. If staff did indeed wear system initials on the left-hand collar, this would run counter to the general BETCo policy, where one collar invariably carried an employee number in individual metal (usually brass) numerals. At the same time, presumably, caps were changed to a military style with a glossy peak, carrying a standard brass BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ badge (see below) above an employee number.

A staff photo taken at the Ashley Road Depot (not shown) — purportedly shortly before the Bournemouth takeover — suggests that another significant change was made to uniform style. In this photo, staff are wearing double-breasted jackets with two rows of five buttons and lapels; the latter appear to have carried an embroidered designation. Although this cannot be made out on the photo, in all likelihood, the lapels would have carried system initials — 'P&DET' — as this was standard BETCo practice for this style of jacket. Although most men are wearing military style caps, a handful are still wearing kepis.

Clear photographs of inspectors appear not to have survived, so it is currently unclear what style of uniform they wore.

For a history of the system, see: 'Trams and Buses of Poole' by C G Roberts and B L Jackson; The Oakwood Press (2001).

Images

Motormen and conductors
Poole and District Electric Tramways
A conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 2 at County Gates — photo undated, but given the pristine condition of the tram, probably taken in the first year of operation (1901). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Poole and District Electric Tramways
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor. His collars and caps appear to bear some kind of script-lettering insignia, possibly embroidered, and surprisingly, there is no evidence of the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge.


Poole and District Electric Tramway Tram No 10
Motorman and conductor pose with Tramcar No 10 at County Gates - photo undated, but given the pristine paintwork, probably taken in the first couple of years of operation (1901/1902). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Poole and District Electric Tramways
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman and conductor, both of whom are wearing 'lancer-style' tunics (with metal systems initials on the collar), and military-style caps bearing the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' badge and an employee number.



Standard British Electric Traction Company ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge — brass. Author's Collection.


Poole and District Tramways Tram No 4
Conductor and motorman pose with Tramcar No 4 in Ashley Road, Parkstone — photo undated, but given the shabby paintwork, probably taken in the last years of operation (1904/1905). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.


Poole and District Electric Tramways
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and motorman; both men are wearing the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' badge and employee number on their caps, and system initials — 'P&DET' — on their collars.