North London Tramways

The North London Suburban Tramways Company originally began life as a horse tram operator in 1881, subsequently being dissolved and reincarnated as the North London Tramways Company, which although first and foremost a steam tram operator - London's only one — began services with horsecars, and probably always retained some to cover breakdowns , etc. Photos that depict the crews of the horse trams are however extremely rare (perhaps even non-existent), so it is currently impossible to say what attire was worn by horsecar staff.

Steam tram drivers wore a variety of attire, ranging from typical railway footplate-like clothing (heavy cotton jackets and trousers, light in colour) to heavy-duty jackets and waistcoats. Headgear also appears to have varied considerably, from the bowler hat through to soft-topped caps and even deerstalkers.

Conductors wore smart but informal attire: jackets, waistcoats, shirt and tie, and overcoats, probably all purchased by the individuals themselves. Headgear was again variable, from the ubiquitous bowler hat (early on) to soft-topped caps. No insignia were carried on either the caps or the jackets.

Conductors, but not apparently drivers, wore standard Public Service Vehicle badges (see link) whilst on duty; these were usually hung from a button or were attached to some other item such as a cash-bag strap.

It seems likely that inspectors were not employed, and certainly, there is no photographic evidence to suggest that they were.

For a history of this troubled system, see: 'A History of the British Steam Tram - Volume 4' by David Gladwin; Adam Gordon Publishing (2008).


Steam tram drivers and conductors
North London Tramways Steam Tram Merryweather No 10 1885
An apparently brand-new Engine No 10, a Merryweather product, stands with its equally pristine trailer (No 17), a Falcon product. Although undated, given the condition of both vehicles, it seems highly likely that they were being photographed to mark their delivery into service, so the year is probably either 1885 or 1886. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

North London Tramways conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor, with cash bag and licence; he is wearing informal attire, along with a soft-topped, peaked cap.

North London Tramways steam tram No 2
North London Tramways Steam Tram No 2 and a Falcon trailer on the Ponders End to Stamford Hill route — photo undated, but given that the engine appears to be quite new, probably taken in 1885/6. The driver is wearing typical railway footplate attire, with what looks to be a soft-topped cap; the individual at the rear (probably the conductor) is wearing informal but smart attire, along with the tall bowler hat of the period. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

North London Tramways steam tram depot in Tramway Avenue in 1877
A rare survivor of what is probably the entire staff of a steam tram operation, drivers, conductors, fitters and management. The photo captures a scene at the depot at Tramway Avenue on some unknown occasion, but given that flags are in evidence, a possible candidate would be the Queen's Golden Jubilee of 1887.

North London Tramways stream tram depot staff
A blow-up of the above photo showing a number of the men, all of whom are in informal attire, and wearing a representative selection of the working man's headgear of the period, namely: bowlers and soft-topped caps, with the odd trilby.

North London Tramways Steam Tram No 18 and crew
Steam Tram No 18 — a Dick Kerr manufactured engine — and a Falcon-built trailer stand at Wood Green late in the system's life (i.e., in the late 1880s or 1890) judging by the diagonal reinforcing strutts, which were presumably added as the locomotives began to flex unduly with age.

North London Tramways Steam Tram conductor and driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and driver. The former is wearing a soft-topped cap, waistcoat (or tight-fitting jacket) and long overcoat; the edge of a licence can just be made out protruding from his overcoat, attached to what is probably a cash bag strap. The driver is in railway footplate-like attire, and would seem to be wearing a deer stalker. No badges of any kind are being worn.

North London Tramways Steam tram No 6 and Trailer No 25
A rather tatty Merryweather engine (No 6) and an MRC&WCo trailer (No 25) — photo undated, but undoubtedly taken right at the end of the tramway's life, so probably in 1890 or 1891.

North London Tramways steam tram driver 1891
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver. It is unclear if he is wearing a bowler hat or soft-topped cap.