Portstewart Tramway

Despite running for almost 44 years, photographs that clearly show Portstewart Tramway drivers and conductors are all from the ten years immediately prior to closure (1926), and even then, there is a very heavy skew to the mid 1920s. During this period, engine drivers wore typical railway footplate attire, namely: heavy-duty jackets with metallic buttons, presumably bearing Midland Railway Northern Counties Committee buttons (from 1903 to 1923), and London, Midland and Scottish Railway Northern Counties Committee buttons thereafter (see link). Headgear took the form of a grease-top or soft-topped cap with a glossy peak, which does not appear to have carried a badge of any kind. It seems likely that similar attire was worn prior to 1903, i.e., when the tramway was operated/owned by the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company, with the jackets presumably carrying buttons from that concern.

In the 1920s, conductors wore single-breasted jackets with three/four buttons (presumably MR and LMS NCC issues) and lapels; the latter carried some kind of insignia on the collar, possibly embroidered company initials. Caps were in a military style with a glossy peak and a wide crown (top); the cap bore a hat band, which probably carried embroidered lettering, most likely company initials or a grade. It is unclear what uniforms, if any, were worn prior to this period.

The tramway appears to have operated its trains (often consisting or an engine, two trailers and a luggage/parcels van) with three employees, namely: a driver, a conductor and one other; it is currently unclear what the precise duties of the third individual were, though he may have been a porter-cum-guard. The third crew member also wore a single-breasted jacket, though seemingly more robust than that issued to the conductor, and without collar insignia. His cap was again in a military style, but was soft-topped, and carried a metallic badge of some description, most likely a standard MR NCC or LMS NCC issue.

Photographs of tramway inspectors have not come to light, and it may well be that the tramway never employed them, given that it was operated according to railway practice. Likewise, and unlike the vast majority of British mainland tramways, there is no evidence that the company employed the services of women during the Great War.

For a history of the tramway, see: 'The Portstewart Tramway; Locomotion Papers No 41' by J R L Currie; The Oakwood Press (1968).


Steam tram drivers and conductors
Portstewart Tramway Tram The Parade
The crew of what would appear to be Steam Tram No 3 pose for the cameraman in the Parade, Portstewart — photo undated, but probably taken in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, courtesy of David Voice.

Portstewart Steam Tram crew
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver, and another tramwayman, whose precise role is unclear, given that the conductor can be seen standing on the trailer platform in the uncropped photo above. Whatever his grade, he is clearly wearing a uniform and a cap with metallic cap badge.

Portstewart Tram Steam Tram No 1 The Parade Portstewart
Steam Tram No 1 (Kitson T56 of 1882) posed for the camera on the Parade, Portstewart — photo undated, but probably taken between 1923-26.

Portstewart Tramway tram driver and conductor
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor (on the trailer platform); he is wearing a uniform jacket with collar insignia and a large-crown, military-style cap with an embroidered hat band. The driver is wearing typical railway-footplate attire. The grade of the man between the engine and trailer is unclear, but he is certainly wearing a uniform, and with a soft-topped railway-style cap with what would appear to be a metallic cap badge.

Portstewart Tramway Steam Tram No 2 Kitson at Portstewart Station
Steam Tram No 2 (Kitson T84 of 1883) sits at Portstewart Station — photo undated, but probably taken not long before closure.

Portstewart Tramway steam tram driver
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver, who is almost certainly the same man as in the preceding photo. His jacket clearly has metallic buttons, so it was in all probability an LMS NCC issue.

Portstewart Steam Tram No 3 Victoria Terrace
The crew of Steam Tram No 3 (Kitson T302 of 1901) pictured in Victoria Terrace, Portstewart — photo purportedly taken in 1925. The engine is still in MR NCC livery, despite the amalgamation which created the LMS NCC having taken place over two years previously. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, courtesy of David Voice.

Portstewart steam tram crew
A close up of the above photo showing the conductor (left), the driver (in the cab), and another tramway employee, possibly a porter-cum-guard; they are clearly the same men as in the second 'Parade' photo above, and are all similarly attired. Photo courtesy of David Gladwin, with thanks to Trevor Preece.