Page 4.   Shelvoke & Drewry Enthusiasts' Club Newsletter - Autumn 2021.

S & D Memories  No. 4.


By Barrie Woods.

S & D supplied a good number of Fork Trucks to British Railways, some to their Trafford Park yard.  I remember one occasion I was actually on a delivery with a TY somewhere up north, on arrival at Shefford there was a considerable hold up.  

One approaches Shefford from Letchworth in a southerly direction, arriving at the central junction where it was straight on for Bedford or turn left to Ampthill and the M1. The left turn took one under the Hitchin to Bedford Railway line.  There were four brick arches, the main larger one spanned the main road. The cause of the hold-up; a contractor’s lorry carrying a brand new S & D Fork truck had miscalculated the height of the mast which had clouted the bridge. In doing so it had dislodged quite a number of bricks, burst a couple of the trailer tyres and severely bent the two hydraulic rams which controlled the mast.

Mechanical handling transformed British Railways goods transport. Western and Midland regions placed large orders for the Freightlifter Model 100.

I’m not sure of the outcome from that incident, but I soon found myself at the helm of our trusty Commer Artic with a British Railways Fork truck on board bound for Trafford Park!  The problem with this particular model was their mast when closed was around 15ft high, hence the contretemps with the Shefford Bridge.  Ernie Harmes came along as second man on this venture because of this height situation.  The Carpenter’s shop made us a long wooden pole with a ‘V’ shaped end, which when required could be used to lift up telephone wires and the like.  Bridge heights along the route were checked, I think with the AA. We made our way via the A421 and A600 to gain the M1 at Junction 13.  At the first overbridge we pulled on to the hard shoulder.  Ernie walked forward to direct me through watching the height very carefully, we made it by a whisker.  That un-nerved us slightly, so we pulled into Newport Pagnell Services and had a word with the traffic police who assured us that the bridge we had negotiated was the lowest on our route.  Satisfied with that we resumed our journey, albeit with some trepidation.  We exited at Junction 18 on to the A5.  And made good progress, Ernie watching hawk-like for any overhead wires.  We had to stop a few times to negotiate some. 

At Brownhills there is a major junction these days, but then a simpler affair where the A5 proceeded straight under an arch railway bridge.  This immediately looked too low for us to pass under.  Ernie again climbed down and walked well ahead. I had all my lights on to keep other traffic at bay. I manoeuvred to the centre of the road where the arch was at its peak, and very, very slowly went through. We made it!  There were no more problems and we arrived at the container depot all in one piece – well almost!  We removed the rear wheels from the trailer and set the jacks to lower it, added ramps and safely drove the fork truck on to terra firma.  When we came to test it – problems with the hydraulic cables which were wound around cable drums at the very top of the mast and despite our caution with the A5 bridge it looked as if we had bent over the tops of these drums so preventing them revolving.

This Defiant 14 is fitted with paper handling equipment and the mast top cable drums can be seen in this photo.

We could do little as the problem was 15ft up in the air, so contacted the local S & D Service depot in Manchester and off we went home.

Barrie C. Woods 21st August 2020

This Model 72 Freightlifter at Reeds’ Paper Mill has an outstandingly tall mast for handling paper rolls.

All three photos from the late Bob Edlin’s collection.

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