Page 3.   Shelvoke & Drewry Enthusiasts' Club Newsletter - Spring 2019.

An Unusual SD Freighter.




This photo which was kindly sent in by Shaun Taylor appears in Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke and Drewry as caption 92. Using information from that book, a Google search and from Wikipedia I found a fascinating story behind the photo.

Clucas Laundry was situated in Tromode, Bradden to the North West of Douglas Isle of Man and is on the boundary with and partly within the borough of Douglas. The Laundry operated from around 1905 until the early years of this century. It was housed in a former flax mill which produced Moore’s sail cloths. The mill dated back to a former corn mill on the site. In 1814 Edward Moore started his business in Tromode. In the 1840’s William Moore started to build a village for his workers, which of course, has similarities to the building of Letchworth Garden City, SD’s base.

The mill was powered by a 19 ft, diameter water wheel unless the supply of water was inadequate when a horizontal steam engine with a 16 ins diameter cylinder took over. The boiler house and stone chimney are regarded as of historical importance and have protective status.

The laundry was primarily formed to carry out the cleaning of linen from the hotels of Douglas as the Isle of Man experienced a growing tourist trade. To accommodate the seasonal nature of this work the works also produced brushes. The company flourished and a 1923 advertisement stated that:- “The Laundry is one of the largest and best equipped in the United Kingdom, and the Brush Factory is steadily growing into one of the largest Brush Factories.” It also pointed out that the Clucas’ Laundry was the only laundry in the British Isles that provided housing for its workers.

The advert went on to say:- “The Company owns the whole village of Tromode, and their employees occupy all the houses. The village is lighted by electricity, and is worth a visit any evening to see the decided improvement of lighting by electricity instead of gas. The electric current for both village and works is generated by Water Turbines, which were recently added to the laundry plant to replace the water wheel formerly used by the Sail Cloth Works.”

At some point the laundry purchased an SD Freighter with a locally bought body by Corkish and Neale. The Freighter was a dual purpose vehicle used for collecting linen in baskets and sacks and delivering the cleaned linen around the island. But each morning it collected workers from their homes and returned them in the evening. It isn’t known whether seats were provided or the workers had to stand! In 1935 a second Freighter was purchased but details of the bodywork aren’t known.
A forum website asked:-“ Does anyone know anything about an electric vehicle operated by Clucas' Laundry which used to trundle round Douglas before the Second World War picking up employees and taking them to the laundry at Tromode? I gather it was like a minibus and known locally as 'the Ghost Train.”

I think this is the not unusual confusion caused by the quietness of the SD petrol engine and the similarity to an electric milk float. One person wrote about having seen it most mornings in Derby Road where he lived in the 1930’s,  and wondered if it was an ex-milk float as it didn't have much of a turn of speed and he recalled them being flat out at about 10mph.

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