Here at The National Tramway Museum, we have a significant collection of archival material relating to the history of tramways. Unfortunately, when it comes to staff records we have very little material, so we’re always pleased when we can collect personal stories relating to people who worked on the tramways.
Last year, we were contacted by a lady who had visited the Museum and wanted to provide some information about her Great Grandmother, who had been involved in an act of bravery as a Conductress during the First World War. Gertrude Slim was awarded a medal by The British Electric Traction Company (BET) in 1917 “For presence of mind displayed in the execution of her duty, Canal Bridge and Blackheath, March 3rd 1917″.
A contemporary newspaper article featured Gertrude’s story and describes her being presented with her medal. This refers to the presence of General Manager Mr W G Bond of the Birmingham and Midland Tramway Company, and a gentleman who was Traffic Superintendent for the Dudley & Stourbridge Tramway Company. The presentation was made in the Hart’s Hill tramway depot.
The ‘Electric Railway and Tramway Journal’ in 1917 also contains a brief reference to the incident that Gertrude was involved in under the heading “Women and Tramway Work”. Unfortunately it doesn’t include her name, but it details the incident as follows: “A medal is to be presented to the conductress of a runaway tramcar at Blackheath, Staffordshire. The brakes at the front would not act, and the car commenced to run backwards down a steep hill. By her promptly applying the brake at the rear the car was stopped and a serious accident averted”.
The medal was awarded to Gertrude by The British Electric Traction company, which was involved in the electrification of tramways in British towns and cities. BET became the largest of the private owners of tramways in the British Isles and gained control over many tramway companies, including a number in the Black Country and Birmingham area. You can read more on the history of these tramway companies and see photographs of their staff on the Tramway Badges and Buttons website here.
Gertrude died in 1937 aged only 44, leaving her husband Bert, with whom she had three children – George, Bert and Beryl Slim. With thanks to Melissa Davies for providing the information on her Great Grandmother.
We are always interested to hear from people with personal stories and connections to our tramway history. If you would like to get in touch, please contact us here: