Blackburn and Over Darwen Tramways

The Blackburn and Over Darwen Tramways Company commenced operations on the 16th April 1881, running steam-hauled services for the best part of two decades, most of the time under the ever-watchful eye of Blackburn Corporation. The latter seems to have had an obsession with prosecuting both the local steam tramway operators (the B&ODTCo and the Blackburn Corporation Tramways Co Ltd), generally hounding them at every available opportunity.

The system, which was built to a gauge of 4ft 0ins, comprised a single 4.93-mile line running southwards from St Peter Street in the centre of Blackburn, through Ewood, Earcroft and Darwen, terminating at Whitehall. Although the tracks of the B&ODTCo crossed those of the BCTCo in Blackburn — at the junction of Darwen Street and Jubilee Street — there was no physical connection between the two systems.

The system was generally quite profitable, excepting a few years following a fatal accident in the early 1880s, when significant sums in compensation were paid.

The company eventually sold out to the municipal authorities — Blackburn and Darwen Corporations — on the 1st August 1899, the purchase price being based on the proportion of track in each of the municipalities. Both corporations had plans for electric tramway systems, but until such time as conversion could be progressed, Blackburn agreed to run the steam services in Darwen under a lease agreement. The last steam service over former B&ODTCo tracks ran around the end of October 1900.

In common with the vast majority of British steam tramway systems, engine drivers wore railway footplate-like attire, comprising cotton jackets and trousers, along with a soft-topped or grease-topped caps; no badges or insignia of any kind were worn.

Although photographs of conductors are scarce, those that do exist strongly suggest that they wore smart but informal attire: jacket and trousers, shirt and tie, and the fashionable headgear of the day, namely, bowler hats, flat caps and straw boaters (presumably worn in summer months). Once again, no insignia of any kind, including licences, appears to have been worn.

Photographs of inspectors have not survived, so it is unknown what uniforms, if any, they wore, or indeed, whether the B&ODTCo even employed them.

Further reading
For a detailed history of the system, see: 'A History of the British Steam Tram - Volume 2' by David Gladwin; Adam Gordon Publishing (2006).


Steam tram drivers and conductors
Blackburn and Over Darwen Tramways steam tram no 8 and Trailer No 13
Blackburn and Over Darwen Steam Tram No 8, a 'Thomas Green'-built engine, and Trailer No 8, at the reversing triangle at Whitehall — photo taken in 1885, the year Engine No 8 was delivered. Photo courtesy of the Duncan Holden Collection.

Blackburn and Over Darwen Tramways steam tram no 8 and driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver (in the engine); he is wearing a light-coloured cotton jacket and a soft-topped cap.

Blackburn and Over Darwen Tramways trailer tram no 8 and driver
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing the trailer; the conductor is second from the right with a cash bag, wearing informal attire a straw boater.

Blackburn and Over Darwen Tramways tram no 7 and trailer no 7
Another shot taken at the reversing triangle at Whitehall, this time of Steam Tram No 7 and Trailer No 7 — photo undated, but probably taken in 1887. It is unclear if any of the individuals depicted on the left is the conductor, though none has a uniform or cash bag. Photo courtesy of the Duncan Holden Collection.

Blackburn and Over Darwen Tramways steam trams No 12 and 3
'Thomas Green'-built No 12 (probably delivered in 1896) and Kitson-built No 3 (of 1881 vintage) at Hollins Grove with various tramway staff, all of whom seem to be in informal attire — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1880s from the style of headwear. Photo courtesy of the Duncan Holden Collection.

Blackburn and Over Darwen steam tram and trailer Whitehall
Steam tram crews pose for the cameraman at the Whitehall reversing triangle — photo undated, but from the condition of the locomotive, probably taken in 1899. None of those present are wearing uniforms, suggesting that the photograph was taken shortly before the corporation take-over. Photo courtesy of Phil Calvey.