Scarborough Tramways Company

Scarborough's 3ft 6ins-gauge, overhead electric tramway system, which was owned and operated by the Scarborough Tramways Company, opened for business on the 6th May 1904.

The STCo was a subsidiary of Edmundson's Electricity Corporation, which controlled numerous electricity supply companies across the country, including that in Scarborough; one of these subsidiaries — the Urban Electric Supply Company Limited — owned and operated the small, provincial tramways in Glossop (Derbyshire) and Camborne/Redruth (in Cornwall).

Other than a very short extension opened in 1906, the tramway remained as built throughout its life, 4.78 miles in total. The system itself was a compressed 'figure of eight' lying on its side, with three branches and a short connecting line. From the depot in Scalby Rd at the western apex of the 'figure of eight', the line ran southwards to Falsgrave Rd then northeastwards along Westborough, Newborough and Eastborough to the eastern apex of the 'figure of eight' at West Pier. Here the line turned southwards along the Foreshore to the Aquarium, then northeastwards along Falconers Rd to cross itself on Newborough Rd (by means of a staggered junction from Vernon Rd to Aberdeen Walk), before returning to Scalby Rd via Horton Rd, Prospect Rd and Manor Rd. One long branch ran from Aberdeen Walk along Castle St and North Marine Rd to North Sands, whilst the other two branches, which were very short, ran southwards from the Aquarium to the Spa, and eastwards from West Pier to South Sands. The connecting line ran between the western loop of the 'figure of eight', from opposite the station on Newborough, northwestwards along Hanover Rd, Barwick St and Trafalgar St, to rejoin the 'figure of eight' at Prospect Rd.

The STCo struggled from the off, making losses that were presumably only sustained courtesy of its parent company, the EEC. In short, the town was fundamentally unsuited to a tramway, being rather compact, so it was never far to walk to your destination, and with narrow and often very steep streets that forced single line and loop working, as well as the use of low-capacity, narrow-gauge tramcars. On top of this came the bane of all seaside tramways, large numbers of passengers in the summer (assuming the weather was good) and hardly any outside that season. Although the company ran a restricted service in winter, this was not enough to stem the losses, so after a poor summer season in 1910, the company announced that it would close the system during the winter. This move incurred the wrath of the council — from whom the STCo had leased the powers to build the system — and they successfully prosecuted the company for failing to fulfil its statutory requirement to run services; the company however, seemed to be more than happy to pay a daily fine right through into April 1911, rather than to run loss-making services.

Shortly before the Great War, the company was considering abandoning the tramway in favour of trolleybuses or buses, but nothing came of it. Like most systems during the Great War, Scarborough's suffered from a shortage of staff and skills, and an inability to source spares or carry out anything other than minimal maintenance; unlike many systems however, which were heavily loaded due to war work, Scarborough had no war industries to speak of, and being on the east coast, the shoreline was fortified and access restricted, leading to a dramatic fall-off in passengers and revenue. As a result, the system emerged from the conflict in badly run-down condition, and there was simply no money to renew the tramcars or track, the company resorting to lifting tracks from little-used sections to replace worn-out track on the main routes.

The losses continued unabated, and by the close of 1921, the EEC had clearly had enough; although they considered closing the system, rather surprisingly, it was purchased — in January 1922 — by a business syndicate with connections to Seaton's Yellow Motor Buses. Unsurprisingly, this led to the introduction of motor buses, which ran along Marine Drive, a long-held aspiration of the tramway, but once which, given the financial situation, was never fulfilled. This led to a fall-out with the council, who for some reason refused to grant the company a licence for the new services, even though they seemed happy to grant them to many of the company's competitors. The new dawn ended barely one year after it had begun — in 1923 — with a provisional winding-up order, which amazingly did not end in liquidation, as yet another business syndicate (a Yorkshire family by the name of Pulleyn) stepped in to try their hand.

The new company overhauled the system, purchasing second-hand cars from Ipswich Corporation Tramways, and generally tried to make the concern pay in the face of bus competition and council opposition, the latter clearly wanting the tramcars gone from its streets. The corporation, who had passed up the right to buy the tramway in 1926, eventually decided to do so, acquiring powers to that end in 1931. The tramway was purchased on the 30th September 1931, the last tram running that day, following which, the services were taken over by the buses of United Automobile Services Limited.

Despite operating a system in one of the north of England's premier tourist resorts, images of Scarborough Tramways Company staff are surprisingly rare, especially those taken prior to the Great War. Surviving photos from the early years of the tramway's existence seem to have been largely intended to show the new electric wonder within its wider environment, so close-up shots of crewmen are rare. Those that have survived reveal that both motormen and conductors wore double-breasted, 'lancer-style' tunics with five pairs of buttons (narrowing from top to bottom), epaulettes and upright collars; the latter carried an employee number on the bearer's left-hand side and system initials — 'S T C' — on the right-hand side, both in individual numerals/letters. The material used is currently unknown, but would have been either nickel or brass. Caps were in a military style with a glossy peak and tensioned crown (top); they bore standard, 'off-the-shelf', script-lettering grade badges, either Driver or Conductor, with the former being relatively quickly displaced by Motorman.

At some point, and certainly by the middle of the Great War, a switch was made to single-breasted jackets with seven buttons (the STCo was probably unique among British tramway systems in having such a high number of buttons; the usual was five), two breast pockets (with button closures), and upright collars; the latter carried the same insignia as described above. It would appear that this style of jacket was worn right through until closure in 1931. Tramcar staff were also issued with long, double-breasted greatcoats, which somewhat unusually, bore pairs of 'lancer-style' buttons, six or seven, narrowing slightly from top to bottom, and high, fold-over collars. The greatcoats do not appear to have carried badges of any kind.

Only two photographs of STCo inspectors are known to have survived, one taken in the first few years of operation, and the other much later, probably in the 1920s. Inspectors' jackets were initially double-breasted with four pairs of buttons and lapels; the upper part of the latter bore insignia of some description, almost certainly the bearer's grade — Inspector — in embroidered script-lettering. Caps were in the same style as those worn by tramcar crews, but whether or not they bore a badge is currently unclear. At some point, a switch was made to a more traditional style of tramway inspector uniform, single-breasted with hook and eye fastenings, a slit breast pocket, epaulettes and upright collars; the slit pocket and the jacket were all edged in a finer material than the main body. The collars very probably carried the bearer's grade — Inspector — though this cannot unfortunately be made out on the surviving photograph. Caps continued to be military in style, with a hat band of a lighter colour, which again probably bore the grade, and above which a tall, oval cap badge was worn. Details of the badge remain unknown, as no examples are known to have survived.

A photo has also survived of the Chief Inspector, taken late in the tramway's life. The single-breasted jacket had upright collars, and was heavily embellished with material of a finer quality than the main body to give a bandsmaster-like effect. The upright collars carried the grade in embroidered script-lettering, as did the military-style peaked cap (on a hat band).

In common with the vast majority of UK tramway systems, the STCo employed women during the Great War to replace male staff lost to the armed services. The first ladies were taken on in spring 1915 and served as conductresses (some later as motorwomen), and were issued with tailored, single-breasted jackets with five or six buttons, high, fold-over collars, and a waist belt with button fastening; the jackets do not appear to have carried insignia of any kind. A long matching skirt was also worn, along with a large baggy cap (with a stiff glossy peak), which carried a standard script-lettering grade badge. It is unclear whether the women were ever employed to drive the trams.

Further reading
For a short history of Scarborough's tramways, see: 'Trams by the Sea: a History of Trams and Early Buses in Scarborough' by Chris Goode and Ross Hamilton; United Automobile Services Ltd (1981). For a more detailed history, see: 'The Scarborough Tramways' by H V Jinks, in the Tramway Review, Nos 82 (p35-44), 83 (p79-95), 84 (p126-128), 88 (p247-249) and 89 (p21-24); Light Railway Transport League (1975 to 1977).


Motormen and conductors
Scarborough Tramways Tram No 1
The crew of Tramcar No 1 (on a circular tour service) pose for the camera on the sea front — photo undated, but judging by the relatively good condition of the tram, probably mid-to late Edwardian. Author's Collection.

Scarborough Tramways Company conductor and tram driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and motorman (Employees Nos 40 and 41). Both men are wearing 'lancer-style', double-breasted tunics with upright collars and epaulettes.

Scarborough Tramways Company cap badges
General pattern brass script-lettering cap badges of the type used by the Scarborough Tramways Company. It is currently unclear whether the STCo issued these in brass or nickel. Author's Collection.

Scarborough Tramways Company tram crew
The crew of an unidentified STCo tramcar pose for the cameraman — photo undated, but probably Edwardian. Author's Collection.

Scarborough Tramways Company Tram driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman — his collar initials are clearly seen, as well as his script-lettering grade badge, Motorman.

Scarborough Corporation Tramways Motorman cap badge
Script-lettering Motorman cap badge, seemingly issued to STCo motormen in place of the earlier Driver badges — brass. Author's Collection.

Scarborough Tramways Company Tram conductor
Another blow-up of the photo above, this time showing the conductor, Employee No 11.

Scarborough Tramways decorated tram Carnival Week 1921
A rather dark photo, but one which is clearly dated, and which shows a motorman (on the front platform) and a conductor (on the rear platform) in single-breasted jackets. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Scarborough Tramways Tram no 23
The crew of Tramcar No 23 — photo undated, but definitely taken no earlier than 1926, when this vehicle was purchased from Ipswich Corporation Tramways. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Scarborough Tramways conductor and driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and motorman, both in single-breasted tunics.

Scarborough Tramways Tram No 20 stands at the Aquarium
Tramcar No 20 waits at the Aquarium — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1920s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Scarborough Tramways motorman
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman.

Scarborough Tramways Tram No 21
A rather smart-looking Tramcar No 21, almost certainly taken in 1926 or 1927 after rebuilding using the body of an Ipswich tram (on the trucks of the old No 21, which had been written off in an accident in 1925). The precise location is uncertain, but is possibly at the Northern terminus (thanks to Brian Mulvana for this information). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Scarborough Tramways tram driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman, who appears to be wearing a 'lancer-style' greatcoat, it is difficult to say, and a Motorman script-lettering cap badge.

Senior staff
Scarborough Tram N0 5
The crew of a fairly new Tramcar No 5 standing in what is possibly Manor Rd, along with an inspector — photo undated, but probably mid-Edwardian. Source unknown.

Scarborough Tramyways Company tram inspector
A blow-up of the above photo showing the inspector (left); he is wearing an open, double-breasted jacket with lapels, with collars that very probably bear his grade — Inspector — in embroidered script-lettering.

Scarborough Tramways Company tram inspector James Birley 1920s
Inspector James Birley of Scarborough Tramways — photo undated, but possibly taken in the 1920s. The subject is wearing traditional tramway inspector's garb, namely, a single-breasted jackets with hook and eye fastenings, along with a tall, military-style cap; the latter bears a large oval cap badge of unknown pattern. A staff photo has also survived showing James Birley as a motorman on the Dewsbury, Ossett and Soothill Nether Tramways (see link). Source unknown.

Female staff
Scarborough Tramways Company conductresses
A motorman and two conductresses pose for the cameraman with a tram decorated as a horse, almost certainly for Carnival Week — photo undated, but probably taken during or shortly after the Great War. The motorman is wearing a single-breasted jacket. Author's Collection.

Scarborough Tramways Great War conductress
A blow-up of the above photo, which though of very poor quality, does show the uniform and cap in reasonable detail.