Classic heavy haulage

I enjoyed reading Bob Tuck’s article concerning Diamond Ts in the January issue of HC. This reminded me of a similar journey that I undertook with my Diamond T 981, registration number G G F 814. This has a canvas cab and is still in military guise, with a Rolls-Royce C6NFL diesel engine which was installed by the British Army.

In 1982 the boiler inspector condemned the firebox on my AA6 Fowler ploughing engine, number 13877, weighing about 22 tons. After trying several firms to undertake the work, it was agreed to give the job to Stuart Woodbine, whose premises were near Chesterfield. At that time the North Downs Steam Railway was collecting various locomotives and asked me If I would bring a Fowler diesel shunter back from South am Cement Works which is near Daventry. I decided that the only suitable vehicle would be the Diamond T and a Scammell arctic trailer which had been converted to a drawbar trailer by inserting a four-In line dolly at the front.

Obviously the logistics of this exercise were going to be extremely complicated as we had to take everything with us from pajamas to jack handles and all the other bits In between. In fact the only things that were forgotten were some extra cushions for the seats of the Diamond T, as they became very hard after a time.

Having completed the preplanning by covering the route by car, we were very fortunate In finding an ideal site for unloading in a lorry drivers’ rest area about five miles from our destination. Also a friend of mine, Bob S i d d a l l, who is now in charge of the engine drivers section of the National Traction Engine Trust, lived near Mansfield, agreed to put us up for the night.

The arrangements for collecting the diesel locomotive were left entirely to the North Downs Society, so we were now ready to start the journey proper. I wanted to get maximum use out of the steam engine before it went away which resulted in us not leaving until the beginning of November. My good friend Simon Fisher, who is now chairman of the Steam Plough Club, agreed to come with me as second man.

So off we set from Borough Green in Kent to Chesterfield plodding up the M1 at a steady 25-30 mph.

We arrived and were duly collected by our friend from Mansfield where we spent an extremely comfortable night. On Sunday morning he drove us back to Chesterfield to put the engine in steam and drive it the five miles to the works where the repairs were to be made.

The weather really excelled itself by sleeting continuously, but we were able to take shelter in the lorry drivers’ rest room while the engine made steam. By 11 am we had got the engine off the trailer and started to drive it the five miles to the works when we were stopped by a police car. I was asked why a Ford van in Croydon was masquerading as a ploughing engine in Chesterfield. I pointed out that the registration NO 5 had been sold by the previous owner to Chanel, the perfume makers, and yet the new number plates, 282 H Y R, had not yet been made. Surprisingly we were let off with a caution.

On the road to South am we met up with the North Downs Railway member who had made our arrangements and he led us to a pub car park where we were to leave the outfit for the night. We spent a comfortable night in digs and were able to dry out at last.

On Monday we set off to load the diesel loco from the local Blue Circle cement works. Weighing in at 30 tons on two axles there was quite a weight on each wheel and one of the rails on the ramp broke clean in two. However, with additional packing we were able to overcome the problem, and by the evening all was secured to the trailer.

We spent the night in the same digs and apart from setting off all the fire alarms by lighting my ppe under a smoke detector it was uneventful.

On Tuesday morning we finally set off home, once again on our own as all the North Downs Railway helpers had gone back the previous night. My main concern was getting a puncture on the trailer with all that weight on, but I wasn’t anticipating what happened next. There was a short shower of rain just as we were approaching a steep hill. I changed down through the box and on changing into first and letting in the clutch the back wheels just spun on the wet road.

I hadn’t bothered to ballast the tractor as I never thought that I would be towing a heavy enough weight to warrant it. How wrong I was — and now we were stuck. However, I tried again and whether the friction of the spinning wheels had dried the road enough to get a grip I don’t know, but we started to move forward ever so slowly, and I just sat there with my foot on the throttle not daring to move a muscle until we got to the top of the hill. The gods were certainly with us that day.

We reached London by lunch time and managed to find a layby where we could park up for a couple of well-deserved pints. We then went on to H i g h a m Station, the headquarters of the North Downs Railway. We left the trailer there and made our way home in the Diamond T after five exhausting but enjoyable days.

Mercedes power

I found the Dodge Commando article in the September issue very interesting. An article written in the 1970s said some Dodge Commandos were fitted with turbocharged Mercedes Benz OM352 diesel engines. These produced 172bhp and the drivers loved them. Dodge also offered a four-cylinder Mercedes diesel in its ‘Walk Thru’ vans as an option to Perkins units. The six-wheeler version of the Commando w3S fitted with a Perkins V8 diesel, as were the tractor units.

I liked the Thames Trader article, but can’t agree with the part about the F o r d s o n 4×4 military vehicles. A Karrier Bantam cab on one of those trucks would look like a pimple on a haystack. They were fitted with modified Comer OX cabs (wider wings) made by B L S P of Acton, not Motor Panels. Karrier Bantam cabs were also made by B L S P, and were a scaled-down version of the Comer Q X cabs.

I think Derek Rogers’ A E C Mercury looks fantastic.

Another Brian Harris wagon

I am writing with reference to Heritage Commercials Issue 283-July 2013. and the article on page 44 about Brian Harris.

I own M913 Y K F, an ERF EC14, that was part of Brian’s fleet and sold at the auction. Its fleet name was Peter Gurney. I read the article with great interest as I wish to return M913 Y K F back into the Brian Harris livery.

Could I ask readers and ex-drivers of M913 to see if they have pictures of this particular vehicle at any stage of her life with Brian? When I repaint her I want to ensure It is authentic.

Canadian Pacific

I must admit to being a just casual browser of Heritage Commercials but when I saw the June issue and the article on Pacific trucks I had to buy it, not only because I like the trucks but I was flying to Vancouver Island on holiday a few weeks later. My cousin doves a logging truck and kindly took me out for the day. While he washed the truck down at end of shift I had a wonder around and snapped a few Pacifies. We also had to pull in on our descent of the mountain to let a convoy get past, including a Pacific with low loader and processor, being assisted by a grader.

Hope you like the pics.

Glimpses of childhood

I was interested to spot the three photographs of D W Free lorries in the September edition of Heritage Commercials. while browsing magazines in WH Smith. My grandfather was D W Free (Douglas) and my father (Martin) ran the company at the time the photos were taken.

The TK Bedford was generally used as part of the firm’s road construction activities, but around Christmas (cr cold snaps) would be fitted with ‘greedy boards’ to supplement the main fleet and transport coal.

The body on the A E C Marshal would, most likely, have been taken from a scrapped Dodge or Commer six-wheeler, or even cut down from an eight-wheeler (Leyland Octopus) of a previous generation. The bodies were corrugated aluminium, with cross chains to hold their shape, and outlived the truck chassis, occasionally by two generations (I believe).

The company’s core bulk transport fleet was six wheelers (Leyland — Comer — Dodge — A E C), which never seemed very long lived. There were a few artics and eight-wheelers (generally Atkinson. Seddon or Foden) fitted with company’s engine of choice — Gardner; these seemed to last longer.

I remember the firm having to tipping trailers, of which I can find no images, that I think were described as ‘variable wheel-base’. These were single axle articulated trailers and had no ‘hinge’ as such. As the tipping rams raised the front of the body, the rear wheels and the tractor were drawn together; the rear axle being the pivot point. The driver could either apply the trailer brakes, in which case the tractor was pulled backwards or the tractor brakes in which case the trailer wheels moved forward. My father described recovering an empty lorry, of this type, that was stuck in the snow by using this technique, like punting, to push the tractor unit to clear ground. I would be interested to hear more about these trailers if anyone knows anything.

Thanks for the glimpse into my childhood.

Boris the B u l m e r s Bedford

I read with Interest the article in this month’s Heritage Commercials on Bulmers of Hereford. It may be of interest to you that we, Andy Powell Commercials of Hereford, own and have restored an original B u l m e r s Bedford KM multi-lift that was sold to them In 1976. Andy delivered ‘Bons’ (the nickname given to the truck during a European road trip last year) to Bulmers in 1976 where it was to be used in and around Hereford fetching apples from the local orchards. The last time he was taxed appears to be 1998, after this he was used as a snow-plough on site but was then parked up for a number of years. Andy bought the truck back off Bulmers a couple of years ago and had It restored. Then In May last year I had an idea to do a charity trip to the twin towns of Hereford. Dtllenburg in Germany and Vierzon in France. The trip had an extra bit added to it when I contacted Bulmers and the firm asked if I would like to take Boris to the Heineken Museum in Amsterdam (Heineken now own Bulmers). So the route was mapped out and for nine days and 1650 miles Boris was on the road again.

Driving for ICI

Please find enclosed a picture of my father, George Davies (on the right), who drove for ICI from 1969 until 1990. This picture shows vinyl chloride being unloaded at Fleetwood Docks possibly in 1969. This was obviously a bit of a transitional period livery-wise, as the tractor unit (a Foden S32) is obviously in the older blue livery, pulling one of the new gas barrels in the white and orange that was to be seen around our roads throughout the 1970s and 80s until T D G, Tank freight and Suttons took over Id’s haulage. They all now run a variety of ex-I C I hardware. The grey banding around the ICI logo was later removed but I don’t know when. The trailer 170 was actually in use by T D G at P i c o w Farm Road, Runcorn throughout the 2000s (albeit as a thru-axle).

This photo is full of detail — the informal hazchom markings, the total lack of protective equipment — even overalls, and the large drip tray.

Concrete Capers

In reply to the letter ‘Spanish Dodge’ in Heritage Commercials August, I used to do the same work out of C r e n d o n at G e o l e, Yorkshire.

I enclose a photo of Volvo F10 Reg O J V 850S. which was the first on the road in this country, bought by L A Reed of Swine fleet, and came from John Ebbs of Wootton.

TK memories

Further to the tetter from Mr H Dauby in the September issue, I was employed by a Bedford dealer in Leicester from 1950 until 1962. The Bedford TK was launched in late 1960. and the gear lever was modified due to a change in the gear linkage mechanism, which was dene to rectify a problem with selecting first and reverse gears. It originally had a three lever system, and this was modified to a single linkage.

The picture of 279 X T B shews the launch model with the high level mounted mirror arms. These T K s were not even fitted with windscreen washers, as they were an optional extra.

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