“Why do you like lorries?” How many times have I been asked that? How many times have you been asked that?! My honest answer is that I really don’t know, although I have a couple of theories, of which probably neither are right!
Theory one involves the fact that my late mum, before she married my father, used to date a gentleman called Dougie Leach, son of JA Leach of Littleborough of road haulage fame. That avenue is best not explored too deeply!!
My second theory is regarding my late Uncle Harry Beck, my mum’s older brother. Uncle Harry had as far as I am aware always worked in transport since leaving the RAF after the war. He’d been mainly involved in the maintenance side, but like most people in those days, you were often expected to be extremely flexible and no doubt, having received the appropriate training was never a prerequisite to having a go and going doing the job. Harry Beck had worked for Ellen Smith coaches of Rochdale, a company ripe in history in its own regard, and one that I and my family would often use when travelling. I remember going to Rochdale swimming baths as a school kid of 9/10 on Ellen Smiths ageing Leyland Tigers with Harrington bodies, a contract they used to alternate with Yelloway, another Rochdale icon name. Little did I realise at that time, that approx 15 years later I would be the driver of the school baths contract, albeit in Staffordshire, but still in a vehicle with musty seats and dusty luggage racks!
When I got to know Uncle Harry he worked for Whittles Bakery in Littleborough in their vehicle workshops. It must have been about that time when my interest started to blossom. Whittles bakery operated BMC FG’s and were a pale blue and white. They soon became part of the Sunblest group, yellow replacing the blue, and later Ford D series replacing the FGs.
In fact, my first recollection of taking a ride in a lorry was one of those D series. I was at my grandma’s one day when Harry popped in for a mid road test cup of tea, and took me for a short spin around the estate in Milnrow. Its strange but I can’t recollect the vehicle being equipped with satellite tracking to monitor its movements (luckily for Uncle H), or seeing a sticker declaring “No Passengers,” or any high viz jackets stuffed behind the seats, or even being given a brief H&S induction on how to correctly enter and exit the cab – always maintain 3 point of contact in case you’re not aware!
So those are my theories. And I’m leaning towards the second. That’s what my father tells me to do anyway!
My interest in trucks and transport developed significantly through my school years, the early ‘80s, and usually involved taking lots of photographs, visiting vintage vehicle shows, mooching around scrap yards and transport depots, making models and reading Truck Magazine.
During school holidays I had worked on a farm in Devon and had regularly helped out delivering local produce to holiday camps and hotels in the North Devon seaside resorts. This was to be my homemade Youth Opportunity Programme!
The farm was owned and run by the Heddon family, whose 4 sons worked in various roles: one looking after the milking and cattle, one the arable commitments, whilst the other two, Tim and Nick delivered produce locally. During our holidays staying on the farm, I progressively started to spend more time “working” and less with my parents. This was so much so that I eventually ended up staying for most of the school holidays by myself. Besides getting involved in the usual farming activities, (and developing my taste for Scrumpy Cider) my favourite job was to help on the delivery rounds.
Tim Heddon, with whom I spent most of the time, drove a VW LT van in lime green – stunning! We mainly delivered fresh fruit and veg (much of it bought from the local wholesalers) to the many holiday camps and corner shops in the Bideford/Appledore/Westward Ho! area. The wholesalers, whose name I can’t remember or find, were based East of the Water in Bideford. As I recall, each day they collected produce from the Bristol markets, returning in time for local sellers and distributors to buy their goods for onward sale. The wholesalers operated two very smart looking four wheel Commandos – one badged Commer, and a newer one as a Dodge. I’m sure they were fitted with roller shutter bodies, and painted predominantly maroon.
Potatoes, both home-farm grown or bought in, were a large part of the delivery service. Whilst the odd 55 lb bag would be sent on Tim’s VW LT, the majority of orders for the local chippies went with Nick. I seem to remember that the best day to go out with Nick was a Wednesday, because that was the day we did distance!
Nick was the only brother to hold a HGV licence, and drove RUO 453S, a rather more austere looking Dodge Commando 100 fitted with Mercedes Benz engine. The aluminum body was fitted with 5 roller shutter doors which gave excellent all round easy access – that was of course unless the pallets of potatoes were shoved up tight against it. The potatoes might have been loaded by the pallet load, but at all destinations on route, those sacks came off one by one!
For a young lad, the ride in the Dodge felt fabulous. The cab was typical of any piece of farm equipment – full of dust! And the roar of the engine often meant that conversation was not possible. Apparently the Mercedes engine option was the higher powered choice, however that Dodge really struggled with any of the hills on the distance run to Woolacombe and Ilfracombe. Or maybe we just had had a few too many spuds on board!
The first "real" lorry I got to work with was this Dodge Commando fitted with a Mercedes engine. Delivering sacks of potatoes along with fruit and veg to the holiday makers of North Devon from a farm just outside Bideford.
The only member of my family who ever worked in transport was my uncle, Harry Beck. As a child I remember him working for Whittlle's bakery, Littleborough, but he had previously worked for Yelloway & Ellen Smith coaches of Rochdale.
By the time I left main school and entered the 6th Form, I still didn’t know where I wanted my career to take me. In the summer of 1985, a chance encounter with Alan Dean of Joe Dean & Sons Ltd whilst visiting his site to photograph his 1931 Leyland Bison led me to get my second holiday job. This initially was undertaking local collections and deliveries in his flatbed Leyland Sherpa. This is where I learnt the art of tying a “dolly” – although many of my first attempts rather more resembled a granny knot!
When I turned 18 I was entrusted with the Bedford TK and this opened up a whole new world of early starts, long distance (the North East!) and heavier tarpaulins. Since Joe Dean & Sons Ltd specialised in general haulage, my loads were everything and anything: bales of wool, fabrics, machinery, palletised freight, loose boxes of Vileda mops, barrels of bitumen and chemicals.
It was great experience – I learned from my mistakes (and those of others!) and was always willing to get involved in anything that gave me more experience and a few more quid in my pocket.
Some of this experience was acting as second man on some over size loads, that Joe Dean & Sons often did. Prior to holding my HGV licence, this was a great opportunity to have day out in a an articulated truck.
I had cycled from Ripponden to Greetland in the hope of photographing this lorry of Alan Dean's. I wasn't disappointed as this visit was to also start my career in transport.
SVH 610T is seen parked up outside Joe Dean's yard in Greetland near Halifax. This photograph by Raymond Jenkins shows the first commercial vehicle I drove at the start of my career in transport. Although this Leyland Sherpa was small, it was used to carry a large variety of goods including industrial fans, steel fabrications, boxes of yarn and various chemicals - mainly for collections, but also the occasional urgent delivery!
My most memorable and enjoyable days whilst working for Joe Deans were when I was driving the SJX 781T, a 7.5T Bedford TK, seen here in July 1986. This is were I learnt to rope and sheet, tie dollies, fill in a tachograph and understand how a large variety of goods needed to be handled, secured and weatherproofed. Large bales of wool, 45 gal drums of bitumen and machinery were all loads that made the job interesting to say the least.
In August 1986 I got my first chance to act as second man on an oversize load. AHT 745V was Joe Dean’s first Roadtrain and this load, a drill I seem to remember, was taken from
In the summer vacation following my first year at Keele, Alan Dean asked if wanted to be the second man on an oversize load being moved from Shell Carrington (
D61 NAG was officially a Freight Rover Sherpa and was Joe Dean’s second Sherpa flatbed, the first being a
C375 DAT was the other Scammell Roadtrain operated by Joe Dean, seen here in April 1988, and was fitted with the high datum cab. Both of the six wheel Roadtrains had the distinctive Scammell logo hand painted onto the
In October 1986 I started a three year course at Keele University in Staffordshire, studying Physics and Biology. If I knew then what I know now, that choice would have been somewhat different. However, one does what is right at the time, and hence to say those few years taught me more than just what a degree offers!
Although university life was full on, I still found time to enjoy my hobby and made the occasional visit to Keele Services to photograph anything of interest that was parked up. I was also made aware of a local haulier in the area that I had often seen featured in the Fifth Wheel Lorry Club’s magazine Drawbar – this was RG Bassett & Sons Ltd.
Ray Jenkins put me in touch with Leonard Bassett and one Saturday in February 1987 I arranged to visit Tittensor to take some photographs and have look round. I was made most welcome, introduced to Mr Reg Bassett and given a guided tour by Arthur Taylor – Ashley Bassett’s right hand man. I was then allowed to take some photographs of the fleet, which at the time was mainly Atkinson Borderers, ERF B series a substantial and noteworthy number of S36 and S39 cabbed Fodens.
One of these Fodens was VRE 372G, in the livery of Bassett Group and named Joyce. I would never have imagined, that 25 years later, this vehicle would be in my custody!
In TruckinCraig 2 I describe how this was not to be my only visit to Tittensor.
Undoubtedly the first book on lorries I owned was this I Spy Lorries & Vans. Although I was bought many of the I Spy series, none got so much use as this one.
My junior school in Littleborough had a good selection of the Observers' series, and I would often borrow this edition at a weekend to help me draw some of the vehicles around at the time.
Leach's Transport had their depot at the end of my road when I lived in Littleborough and had a mixed fleet of ERF, Atkinson, Seddon and this Leyland Marathon 2.
My early attempts at truck spotting were on the M62 Jctn 21 where I found a quiet footpath out of the back of Milnrow park. Not many shots came out well, but this Seddon Atkinson 400 of WJ Riding, Longridge is worth showing, and features a sleeper cab conversion by Longton Coachcraft.
Another place of interest for me was where my father worked; Fothergill & Harvey Ltd in Littleborough. Besides their own fleet which included two articulated Ford D series with Scammell couplings, there was always a steady flow of visiting trucks either collecting or delivering goods. I would often talk to the drivers and ask to sit in the cab of their lorry.
I first discovered Truck Magazine in February 1979 and was a regular reader for many years. The centrefold posters removed the need for wallpaper in my bedroom!
My trusty Raleigh bicycle (fitted with its own air horn) with my dad's Praktica SLR in the saddle bag was all I needed to go lorry spotting in the school holidays. This ex Pickfords Super Constructor was worklng for Rochdale Recovery. This vehicle is now owned by John Somerscales.
In 1983 my parents moved over the
Summer 1986 having just popped home to open my A level results and discover that I would soon be going to Keele University.
302 TD was still working for Gardner Engines when photographed here on Keele Services in 1987.