C-class motor tramcar︎

C-class motor tramcar, No. 260, inventory No. MIM 1640/I/33; created: circa 1925; manufacturer: Lilpop, Rau and Loewenstein; location: Warsaw, Poland; materials: timber, steel, copper, glass, brass, Bakelite, ceramics, cast iron; dimensions [mm]: H 3425, W 2200, L 9970.

The C-class motor tramcar was the first tram of Polish origin. It was designed and manufactured by Lilpop, Rau and Loewenstein at the order of the Warsaw-based Tramwaje Miejskie (Municipal Tram Company). The design was based on A- and B-class German cars delivered to Warsaw in 1906-1907 and in 1914. The C-class tramcar was one of the last resembling horse-drawn carriages (#non-human_employees) kept in the style of the belle epoque. The cars ran on the streets of Warsaw until 1956. The Museum of Urban Engineering holds one of two surviving units.

From the perspective of the tram driver (motorman), the C-class tramcar offered significant improvement relative to previous models. It had a factory-fitted windshield (#innovation). Windowpanes in the trams of Warsaw were installed in the 1920s, under pressure from the tram driver labour union (#trade_unions #work_spaces).

The introduction of windowpanes constituted a significant change from the perspective of the tram driver. However, this modification did not necessarily make their working conditions comfortable. Most cars manufactured in the first decades of the 20th century did not have doors (#outdoor_work #low_temperature). The first motor tram in Warsaw that offered the option of closing off the interior, therefore making working conditions for tram drivers more tolerable was the F-class tramcar, commissioned in 1929. It marked the appearance of the series of so-called “Pullmans” – called “parlour cars” by the tram drivers, while A- and B-class cars were called “cocks” (#professional_jargon).

The fact that working conditions were not the most convenient is demonstrated by a set of clothing elements given to the employees by the Tram Company in Warsaw. Pursuant to the provisions of a collective agreement, the tram driver and ticket inspectors received summer and winter caps, summer and winter uniforms (once a year), summer and winter trousers (once a year), gaiters, felt boots (once every two years) and sheepskin coats (once every five years) (#standardisation #work_clothing #ohs #employee_rights).

Changes in tram design over the years reduced the exposure of the tram driver to prevailing weather conditions during work. Nonetheless, this element was never fully eliminated, even after the introduction of closed and heated cabins. Driving a tram entailed the need to leave the vehicle relatively often, for example when switching the points (if they malfunctioned).

In a radio reportage from 1967, a tram driver from Warsaw recalled:

I have been working on the morning shift for 20 years now, and I often go on foot (…) in the summer, when you dress lightly, one can take a walk, but in the winter, when dressed heavily in felt shoes, a quilted jacket and a sheepskin coat, you get tired, sweaty, and after sitting down in the car, you cool down and catch a cold.

This statement not only demonstrates the “long durability” of the tram driver’s uniform, but also makes one realize that the very fact of getting to work was quite a challenge for tram drivers (#commuting_to_work).

The protagonist of the aforementioned reportage uses the phrase: “after (...) sitting down in the car”. If a similar statement had been recorded in the interwar period, it would certainly not have included such words. The work of a tram driver was conducted solely whilst standing at that time. The C-class tram on exhibition at the Museum of Urban Engineering does not have a seat or any point of support for the tram driver (#exertion #body_positions #onerous_factors). Similar was the case with other models. This was supposed to aid the tram driver in maintaining concentration at work (#self-control).

Single-leg wooden stools began appearing in trams in Warsaw in the 1930s. They were, however, uncomfortable, and not all drivers wanted to use them. As a matter of fact, they were more of a supporting point than a seat (#ergonomics, #modified_work_tools).

This rule applied to the driver, as well as the ticket inspector. Even if there were vacant seats in a tram, the conductor had to stand. The ticket inspectors were punished for failing to observe this principle (#work_control). Such a work mode resulted in varicose veins being a common ailment for tram drivers (#onerous_factors #pain).

Before World War I, tram drivers in Warsaw worked 12 hours a day, 29-30 days a month. In the Second Polish Republic, the working day was reduced to 8 hours (#labour_unions #strikes). The working day on Saturdays was 6 hours long. All employees were also entitled to 4 weeks of paid leave. However, the actual working time was longer since it often involved overtime (#permeation of work time and leisure time).

There was a clear hierarchy onboard a tram, as recalled by a pre-war tram driver, Marian Mirowski, who remembered horse-pulled trams:

When travelling, the ticket inspector in a tram car was the person whom the coachman (later the tram driver) was unconditionally subordinate to. This relationship was rarely forgotten even after work.

So-called changers (switchmen) (PL. wekslarze) were even lower down the hierarchy. Stationmasters were more highly ranked (#work_hierarchies). As noted by Mirowski: “a ticket inspector could be an employee who was better with a pen, familiar with numbers and exhibiting the good manners required when handling passengers” (#competence).

The road to becoming a ticket inspector (in interwar Warsaw) led through a training of several stages, each of which ended with an exam (#education, #competence, #training):

(…) in April 1918 I was hired at the Municipal Tram Company. Although I was qualified as a ticket inspector candidate, I never got this job. Each of the candidates, to be able to independently handle passengers, was obliged to attend a 2-week course at the so-called School of Electrical Engineering, pass the required exam and complete a 2-week internship supervised by an experienced conductor. Next, after completing the internship, such a person had to pass a second test prior to starting as an independent deputy ticket inspector. Work as a deputy ticket inspector, at 2/3 of the pay lasted at least 6 months. After this period, the persons took a third exam, required for promotion to a full-fledged ticket inspector (motorman).

Unlike the tram driver, the ticket inspector did not have a singular designated workplace. His duty was to approach a passenger and inspect their ticket. Therefore, during “peak hours, selling a ticket required not only attention, but also great dexterity and considerable physical effort” (#work_in_tight_spaces). In addition, the ticket inspector announced stops and signalled departure (#work_sounds). In the case of highly sloped streets, the ticket inspector would stand on the rear deck and hold the brake crank (#manual_work).

Upon introducing standing places, the inspector would also direct the flow of passengers in the car and ensure maximal use of tram space. This was graphically described by the ticket inspector in the aforementioned radio reportage:

Come on, just a tad deeper inside, dear sirs, so that more passengers fit in. That's right, up front, between the benches. It’s so nice when I see the passenger move up front, just a little further like this. You realize: there were so many people. Look how finely they lined up [#work_organization #conflict_potential].

His colleague added:

The ticket inspector does more than just collect fares. It requires being a host, in the full sense of the word. Just like at one’s own home. The conductor welcomes guests to his home [#hierarchies].

The way passengers moved in a tram car was associated with the presence of a ticket inspector. Every tram had a set of doors marked as “entry” (PL. wejście) and a second marked “exit” (PL. wyjście). Such plates can be found on the C-class tram which is on exhibition at the Museum of Urban Engineering:
The entrance was located at the rear deck (or the central part of the car, if it had doors), and the exit was always at the front deck. The crew made sure that there were no exceptions to this rule and that traffic was correct (one of the protagonists of the reportage by Polskie Radio-Polish Radio, giving an example of cultural passenger behaviour, said that when someone asked nicely, he would turn a blind eye to entering through the front deck) (#work_organization).

By the 1960s and 1970s, ticket inspectors no longer appeared in trams. They were replaced by ticket punchers (#automation #innovation). The last ride with a ticket inspector in Kraków took place in 1969. In Warsaw this happened more or less at the same time.

A peculiar illustration of this transition is a film étude by Krzysztof Kieślowski entitled Tramwaj. The silent film from 1966 takes place in the eponymous tram. The main protagonist punches his ticket, for the night tariff, an operation which turns out to be complicated as the ticket must be punched in several places. In the background, there is an inscription inside the car:

Wagon bez konduktora / Tylko dla posiadaczy biletów okresowych, abonamentów pracowniczych i 10-cio przejazdowych (Car without a ticket inspector / Only for holders of season tickets, employee subscriptions and 10-ride tickets).

Tram companies employed few women in the interwar period (#work_genderisation). The Municipal Tram and Bus Company in Warsaw recorded the highest percentage of women relative to the entire workforce in 1921 at 4.2%, with the lowest in 1933 at 2.7% (the selection of dates in this case is not accidental and is related to the political and social situation). It should be emphasized that tram crews consisted of men only. There were no female tram drivers or ticket inspectors in Warsaw. The first training course for female ticket inspectors was organized in 1939 (#training). As blue-collar workers, they usually conducted auxiliary tasks, such as those undertaken in workshops and depots. More women worked in administration (#employee_segregation_due_to_gender).

Despite the numerous inconveniences involved, the work of a tram driver in interwar Warsaw was an attractive career prospect. Getting this job meant financial stability for the entire family.

In the period of 1935-1939, the average monthly salary of a motorman and a ticket inspector (together with the end of year bonus) was approximately 340 zlotys, and 470 zlotys for a workshop worker (bread cost about 66 groszy per kilogram, butter 3.62 zlotys per kg and sugar 1 zloty per kg). Given that the living cost for a working-class family of four at the end of 1920 was estimated at less than 280 zlotys (Statistical Yearbook of Warsaw 1930, p. 46), such a remuneration guaranteed fairly good living conditions (#well_(highly)_paid). As a result, employee fluctuation in the interwar period was minor (#prestigious_work). This is noted by Józef Ławnik:

Getting a job at this company usually meant many years of stabilization for the employee, and in numerous, possibly most cases – until the end of their career (…). Hardly anyone voluntarily quit this job in the interwar period.