Page 1. Shelvoke & Drewry Enthusiasts' Club Newsletter - Autumn 2017.
THE SHELVOKE DEMPSTER YEARS.
Trevor Upchurch posted this photo on Facebook in June of himself and Bob Porter at No 4 factory Icknield Way Letchworth circa 1985 with a Shelvoke Dempster Routechief. I was pleased that Trevor has kept this photo for over 30 years as it indicates to me that he retains happy memories of his years working at S&D. In 1985 it was over 20 years since I left the company, but I am aware that it still was regarded as a good place to work. This was despite the changes of ownership that had taken place and that the company would only survive for a further six years.
These thoughts led me to think about the ‘Dempster Years’. I turned to Eric Voytko’s excellent website Classic Refuse Trucks to learn more about Dempster and as I’ve not written about the company before I thought it appropriate to give a little of its history here.
George R. Dempster was involved in construction work in Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.A. in the 1930’s when he conceived the idea which became the modern skip loader as a means of moving construction material more readily by attaching a frame to as lorry chassis. So in 1935 Dempster Bros. Inc. was formed to produce the Dempster Dumpster. This soon found favour also for refuse collection from blocks of flats etc. where large containers needed to be transported. In 1955 a front loader was developed that could contain the contents of more than one container. In 1964 George R. Dempster died and was succeeded by his nephew James Dempster and throughout the 1960’s the company remained family owned, providing a range of refuse collection solutions. In 1970 the Dempster RouteKing rear end loader was added to the range which previously hadn’t included a rear end loader. In 1975 the company’s name was changed to Dempster Dumpster Systems.
In 1980 the company was sold to Technology Incorporated of Dayton, Ohio, a company founded by the Krug family in 1959. In 1983 the new company introduced the mid range RouteChief rear end loader and in the same year purchased Shelvoke & Drewry.
On the face of it this could have been a highly successful move. In the 1970’s Jack Allen had built a flourishing business by importing the American Heli bodies into the U.K. and mounting them on mainly Seddon chassis. And soon building their own bodies in Scotland under licence from Heil. So a proven American design eliminated all the usual modifications that introducing a new model normally involves.
At Shelvoke Dempster the RouteChief for the U.K. market was to use aluminium alloy for the body rather than the steel body used in the U.S.A.
Meamwhile in the U.S.A. the name of Technology Inc. was changed to Krug International to reflect the original family founders. Krug International’s Dempster division was sold to Wastequip in March 1990, and the division was sold twice again before finally closing in 2003.
Meanwhile back in Letchworth things weren’t going well for Dempster and the Shelvoke company was sold to a private financier in 1988 after just five years of ownership.
A fascinating coincidence in this story is the decision by Shelvoke & Drewry in 1968 to produce a skip loader. Unfortunately S&D only saw this as of interest to municipal authorities when a knowledge of the market in the U.S.A. could have led them to becoming market leaders in an emerging skip utilising construction industry.