Croydon Corporation Tramways

Croydon Corporation became a tramway owner on the 6th June 1897, when it completed a short connecting line between two Croydon Tramway Company-owned lines, which it then leased to the company. The lease was not however destined to last for long, as the corporation had plans to build its own system (electric), and with this end in mind, it acquired the horse tramway company on the 22nd January 1900. Perhaps surprisingly, the corporation chose not to operate the tramway itself, but to lease it to the British Electric Traction Company Limited, a concern which over the course of its history either owned, part-owned or leased almost 50 tramway concerns across the British Isles. It is unclear whether the CTCo continued to operate the horse trams, pending conversion to electric traction, or whether this was handed over to the BETCo. The first electric service ran on the 26th September 1901, with the horse-drawn services being withdrawn in late January or early February 1902 — the precise date appears not to have been recorded.

The relationship between the corporation and the BETCo appears never to have been a particularly happy one, and when it became clear that the BETCo was taking concrete steps to create its own network surrounding Croydon (to the northeast, northwest and southwest), the corporation took umbrage. Relations between the two deteriorated rapidly, which resulted in the corporation deciding not to renew the company's lease, and to run the services itself, which it did from the 1st June 1906.

Normal relations were eventually restored, with agreement for the corporation to run through to Penge (over BETCo tracks, which were by now owned by its subsidiary, the South Metropolitan Electric Tramways Company) and for the SMET to run through from Crystal Palace to West Croydon (over corporation tracks). The corporation's benevolence did however not extend to allowing the SMET to run through services to either Mitcham or Sutton, which would have effectively allowed the company's operations to be connected up.

An opportunity for through running to the north presented itself at the CCT's Norbury terminus, when London County Council Tramways extended its Streatham line to within 6ins of the corporation's. There were however significant technical hurdles to through running with the LCCT, due to the latter's use of conduit current collection, which would require the CCT to equip a significant number of its cars for dual operation (conduit and overhead). Although the LCC commenced services to Norbury on the 31st July 1908, it was to be another 17 years before the gap was closed, with through running commencing on the 7th February 1926.

Like many tramway systems across the British Isles, the CCT emerged from the Great War with a huge backlog of maintenance and much of its infrastructure life-expired. Matters were not helped by the corporation's predilection for using the tramway's operating surplus to subsidise the rates, but in the end the corporation bit the bullet, and invested heavily in track renewal and newer vehicles. The corporation must have felt more than a little indignant when, after all this expenditure, control of its system — along with 13 other London tramway systems — passed to the newly created London Passenger Transport Board on the 1st July 1933.

The last tram of all in Croydon, operated by the LPTB, ran on the 7th April 1951.

Photographic evidence suggests that staff working the horsecar services — from the takeover of the Croydon Tramways Company in January 1900 through to their withdrawal in early 1902 — continued to wear the same type of informal attire they had worn in company days. Other than Public Carriage Office badges (see link), no insignia of any kind appears to have been worn. This is consistent with the BETCo's approach to other systems that it ran and electrified, which was, broadly speaking, to only issue uniforms to the staff working the new electrified services.

Photos taken during the BETCo period clearly show that staff working the new electric services were issued with 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. Jackets, which were apparently of blue serge, were double-breasted with four pairs of buttons (of the standard BETCo pattern — see link), three pockets at waist level, and lapels; the latter carried individual embroidered system initials — 'C. C. T' — on both sides. Caps were military in style with a tensioned crown (top) and a glossy peak, and carried the standard BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge (see below), below which an employee number was worn. The badges and buttons were almost certainly brass. Although this style of double-breasted jacket — with its decidedly naval appearance — was relatively quickly superseded on the vast majority of BETCo systems where it was used, this had not happened in Croydon by the time the corporation took over operation of the system in 1906.

Curiously, the BETCo did not see fit to use employee numbers on its other two London systems (Metropolitan Electric Tramways and South Metropolitan Electric Tramways) so it may be that this was actually a requirement of the owners, Croydon Corporation.

Following the corporation take-over, staff continued to wear very similar, if not identical double-breasted jackets (of deep navy-blue serge with red piping), but with brass Croydon Corporation Tramways buttons (see link). At some point, the button arrangement on the jackets was changed from four pairs (with the top set mounted between the lapels and collars) to five pairs (with the top set mounted between the lapels and collars). Caps also followed previous practice, being military in style with an employee number (in brass numerals), but with the BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' badge replaced by an elaborate badge comprising the municipal shield and motto, surrounded by a wreath, all above the full system title: 'Croydon Corporation Tramways'. In later years, the crowns (tops) of the caps had a plaited-straw finish.

Tramcar staff in both the BETCo and municipal eras always appeared in service wearing enamel Public Carriage Office licences issued by the Metropolitan Police (see link), usually worn on the left breast. They were also issued with heavy double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons and lapels; the latter carrying embroidered 'C. C. T' upper-case system initials.

Croydon Corporation also employed the services of points boys; these lads appear to have worn the same uniform as tramcar staff, but without an employee number.

In the early days, inspectors wore uniforms which followed standard BETCo practice, namely, a single-breasted jacket with hidden buttons (or more likely a hook and eye affair) and upright collars; the latter carried the designation Inspector in embroidered script lettering. The cap bore a hat band with the standard BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' badge, along with Inspector, once again in embroidered script lettering. Similar uniforms appear to have been worn during the municipal period, but with a metal script-lettering Inspector badge; the municipal cap badge appears not to have been worn above this. Examples of a small, round, blue enamel badge have however also survived (see below), and this may have been worn on the cap in later years.

Female staff were employed in significant numbers during the Great War (from late 1915 onwards). They were issued with tailored single-breasted jackets with five buttons, high fold-over collars and a waist belt (with button fastening), along with a medium-length matching skirt and lace-up gaiters; the collars bore 'C.C.T' in prominent embroidered letters. Headgear was a dark-coloured, wide-brimmed bonnet, to which a standard municipal cap badge was affixed (on a hat band), and above which an employee number (in brass numerals) was worn.

Further reading
For a history of Croydon Corporation Tramways, see: 'Croydon Tramways' by Robert J Harley; Capital Transport Publishing (2004).


Horse tram drivers and conductors
Croydon - 3 RED
The driver of Horsecar No 27 poses for the camera at Selhurst Station — photo undated, but very probably taken in the last few months of operation (1901/2). The driver is wearing a full-length leather apron and a bowler hat. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Croydon Tramways horse tram No 27
Another shot of Horsecar No 27 — photo undated, but probably taken shortly before the withdrawal of the last horsecar service (in January or February 1902) as No 27 is known to have been one of the last cars running. The man on the rear platform is probably the conductor. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Motormen and conductors
Croydon Corporation Tramways Tram No 10
The crew of what would appear to be a fairly new Tramcar No 10, on a Purley and Thornton Heath service, with an inspector at the controls — photo undated, but probably taken in 1902/3 given that the lifeguard is a replacement for that originally fitted, and it has the new destination boxes. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Croydon Corporation Tramways tram conductor 1902
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor — Employee No 210. His BETCo 'Magnet & Wheel' cap badge and 'C. C. T' collar initials are easily made out.

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

Crodon Corporation Tramways tram driver
Another blow up of the Tramcar No 10 photo, this time showing the motorman.

Croydon Corporation Tramways
A staff photo, more than likely taken to commemorate the opening of the electric system in September 1901. All the uniformed staff are wearing the standard BETCo ‘Magnet & Wheel’ cap badge, above an employee number (for lower grades) or an embroidered Inspector badge. There are a total of thirteen inspectors (seated on the second row) whilst the front row comprises eight very youthful looking employees, probably points boys. With thanks to Richard Rosa.

Croydon Corporation Trmaways staff photo
A blow-up of the above photo showing a group of motormen and conductors. All present are wearing double-breasted, naval-style jackets with 'C C T' collar initials and military-style caps with rain covers, a standard BETCo cap badge and an employee number.

Croydon  Corporation Tramways points boys
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing a few of the youths at the front, almost certainly points boys. Their uniforms are identical to those worn by motormen and conductors, save for the absence of an employee number.

Croydon Corporation Tramways tramwaymen
A studio portrait of two Croydon Corporation Tramways employees (Numbers 101 and 76) — photo undated, but definitely taken after the corporation take-over of 1906. Both men are wearing the standard ‘Croydon Corporation Tramways’ cap badge (see below) with an employee number beneath. The man on the right has a round badge of some description, worn on his left lapel, though its meaning is unclear. The significance of the maple leaf is also uncertain, but may be something to do with commemorating the Boer War, and in particular, the Canadian volunteers. With thanks to Richard Rosa.

Croydon Corporation Tramways cap badge
Croydon Corporation-era cap badge — brass. Author's Collection.

Croydon Corporation Tramways tram driver
Corporation-era motorman (Employee No 195) wearing what appears to be a home-made employee number, as well as a PCO licence (see link), which is always evident in photos of 'on duty' tramcar staff. With thanks to Richard Rosa.

Croydon Corporation Tramways tram driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the cap badge and home-made employee number. The embroidered greatcoat collar initials are also easily made out.

Croydon Corporation Tramways tram driver
A motorman poses for the cameraman aboard Tramcar No 31 — date and location unknown, but possibly taken around 1910. By this time, the jackets had two rows of five buttons rather than two rows of four. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Croydon Corporation Tramways points boy
A Points Boy (with points iron) walks ahead of Tramcar No 73 — location and date unknown, but given the pristine condition of No 73, probably taken nbot long after it was delivered in 1911. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Croydon Corporation Tramways band
Croydon Corporation Tramways Band — photo taken after the corporation take over. Some of the staff are wearing employee numbers, whilst others are not. The bowler-hatted figure in the centre is the same dapper gentleman who appears with the Cricket Team in BETCo days (see below). With thanks to Richard Rosa.

Senior staff
Croydon Corporation Tramways tram inspector 1902
A blow-up of Tramcar No 10 above, taken around 1902/3, and showing the inspector, who is at the controls. His collars and hat band both bear his grade — Inspector — in embroidered script lettering.

Croydon Corporation Tramways inspectors
A group of thirteen CCT inspectors — photo undated, but certainly taken in BETCo days, i.e., no later than 1906. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Croydon Corporation Tramways tram inspector
A blow-up of the above photo showing two of the inspectors. Curiously, some of the men have Inspector on both collars, some have Inspector on one collar and system initials on the other, and some system initials on both collars! The man on the left is almost certainly the same man who is seen at the controls of Tramcar No 10, above.

Croydon Corporation Tramways cricket team
Croydon Corporation Tramways staff — most probably the cricket team — sometime between 1900 and 1906. The gentleman in the centre is very probably the General Manager, whilst the sole uniformed member of staff is an inspector. With thanks to Richard Rosa.

A blow-up of the above photo showing the inspector's BETCo cap badge and embroidered Inspector badges (beneath the cap badge and on the upright collars).

Croydon Corporation Tramways Inspector
A blow-up of the Great War staff photo shown below. The subject is wearing the same style of inspector's jacket that was worn in BETCo days. Whilst the cap bears the subject's grade — Inspector — it does not carry the standard municipal cap badge, but may have carried a similar cloth badge with gold bullion wire (not evident in this photo).

Blackburn Corporation Tramways Inspector cap badge
Croydon Corporation Tramways Inspector cap badge; these were worn from 1906 to 1933— nickel. Author's Collection.

Croydon Corporation Tramways inspector cap badge
Possible later 'corporation-era' inspector's cap badge — gilt and blue enamel. Author's Collection.

Female staff
Croydon Corporation Tramways Tramcar No 8 and conductress at Penge
A conductress and a motorman with Tramcar No 8 at Penge — photo undated, but almost certainly taken during the Great War. Author's Collection.

Croydon Corporation Tramways Tram No 8 and Great War conductress
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductress and motorman.

Croydon Corporation Tramways Great War ladies
A staff photo taken during the Great War, which includes three conductresses and a motorwoman. All four are wearing waterproofed straw bonnets bearing the standard cap badge and an employee number above. J B Gent Collection, with kind permission of Robert Harley.

Another Great War photo taken at Penge, this time of Tramcar No 17. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.