Sunderland District Electric Tramways

Motormen and conductors were initially issued with double-breasted jackets with lapels; it is currently unclear what, if any insignia these carried. They were however relatively quickly superseded by double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics with two rows of five brass buttons — narrowing from top to bottom, and bearing the full system title around a monogram of 'STD' initials; see link — two waist pockets, epaulettes and upright collars. The latter carried individual metal employee numbers on both sides, whilst the epaulettes had a button fastening at the neck end and bore what appears to have been an employee number. Caps were military style with a glossy peak and a tensioned crown (top); they carried standard, 'off-the-shelf' script-lettering grade badges — either Conductor or Motorman - presumably in brass to match the buttons. Around the time of the Great War, the script-lettering cap badges were superseded by a large oval cap badge (possibly enamel), details of which remain unknown.

Given that numerous examples of nickel buttons have survived, the buttons were probably switched tot this material at some point.

Staff were also issued with long, double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons, high fold-over collars and epaulettes (with a button fastening); the latter appear to have carried employee numbers, in similar fashion to the tunics worn underneath.

Photos suggest that motormen and conductors initially wore licences, possibly of white enamel, though this practice appears to have been dispensed with by 1910.

Inspectors wore double-breasted jackets with two rows of four buttons and lapels, with the latter probably bearing Inspector in embroidered script lettering. Caps were of the same type issued to motormen and conductors, but presumably bearing the grade - Inspector - and more than likely in embroidered script lettering.

In common with the vast majority of UK tramway operators, the S&DET employed female staff during the Great War to replace male staff lost to the armed forces. It is unclear what jackets/tunics were issued to these ladies, as all surviving photographs show them wearing long, double-breasted greatcoats of seemingly identical design to those worn by their male colleagues. The ladies were issued with large baggy caps with glossy peaks, which bore the same oval cap badge worn by their male counterparts (at this time).

For more information on Sunderland District Electric Tramways, see: 'Tramways of Sunderland' by S A Staddon; Advertiser Press (1964). Second, and heavily revised edition published by the Sunderland Echo (1991).


Motormen and conductors
Sunderland District Electric Tramways Tram 17
A motorman at the controls of a fairly new-looking No 17 in Burn Terrace — photo undated, but probably taken in 1905 or 1906. The subject is wearing a double-breasted jacket and what would appear to be a licence, possibly of white enamel. Source unknown.

Sunderland District Electric Tramways
A staff photo taken in taken September 1908. All the uniformed staff, bar those at the front, are wearing 'lancer-style' tunics, with many of them also appearing to be wearing some kind of licence. The six men wearing double-breasted jackets (seated at the front) are inspectors. With thanks to Peter Searle.

Sunderland District Electric Tramways
Conductor 111 and his motorman pose in front of Tramcar No 18, bound for Houghton le Spring at Penshaw Station in 1911. With thanks to Stephen Howarth.

Sunderland Distirct Electric Tramways cap badge
Standard ‘off-the-shelf’ script-lettering cap badges of the type used by the S&DET from 1905 through to the Great War - brass. Author's Collection.

Female staff
Sunderland District Electric Tramways great war conductress
The crew of Tramcar No 21(2) at the Grangetown terminus on the south side of the junction with Ocean Road - photo undated, but probably taken between 1918 and 1920. Both employees are wearing a large oval cap badge, which by this time had clearly superseded the standard script-lettering grade badges used earlier. With grateful thanks to Malcolm Fraser.

Sunderland District Electric Tramways great war conductress
Another view of a tramcar crew at Grangetown terminus, this time with No 14 — photo undated, but probably taken between 1918 and 1920, possibly even on the same day as the photo above. The motorman is thought to be Peter James of Houghton le Spring. For some reason, Mr James is wearing his 'new' cap badge in the middle of his overcoat! With thanks to Paul Lanagan.

Sunderland District Electric Tramways great war conductress
S&DET tramcar crew posing with their vehicle (No 13) at the terminus in Ryhope Road, Grangetown. This was the second car to be numbered 13 - being delivered in December 1920 and withdrawn on 7th November 1924 - thus dating the photo to this period (my thanks go to Malcolm Fraser for this information). Both crewmen are wearing double-breasted greatcoats bearing two rows of five buttons. The conductor’s cap clearly bears the large oval cap badge seen in previous photos. Note that the S&DET also ran buses, and indeed continued to run them — initially as the Sunderland and District Transport Co, then the Sunderland and District Omnibus Co — for half a century after the demise of the trams. Image kindly supplied by Beamish Museum Limited (see link), image copyright Beamish Museum Limited.