When E was Gold ...
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Recollections of Three Pioneer in the Field of Commercial-vehicle Manufacture in 1905, as Described to Ashley Taylor, . A.M.1.R.T.E.
DURING the year when The Commercial Motor was born, one could buy matches for 3d. a dozen boxes and cigarettes at five a penny. The electric tram signalized the autumn of the horse-drawn era. hut the horsed fire-engine with steam pump was still a thrilling sight.
Few people anywhere in the world had so much as set eyes upon an aeroplane. Enterprising cycle repairers and others, here and there, were appointed as agents for motor vehicles and, if they had the good luck to secure an order, they themselves would sometimes collect the machine from the factory, despite complete inexperience in driving it. If they ran off the road a few times in the course of the journey back, nobody was surprised.
A pound was a gold coin and not a scrap of paper. Not for another decade were workmen to rip open their wage packets and find that they had torn their pay as well as the envelope.
That was the world into which The Commercial Motor was launched. Among those who viewed the infant journal with favour were Mr. William Foden. Mr. C. B. Nixon and Lt.-Col. T. B. Browne.
THIS was the time, Mr. Foden I recalls, when the eyes of enterprising men were being turned towards the new possibilities that had opened out for road transport. They were days of trial and error, but of confidence in the future. In the second half of the 19th century Foden's Elworth foundry was a general engineering plant, at that time producing mainly agricultural implements, horse gear and a stationary steam engine.
Traction engines and steam engines for industrial use were the mainstay in the latter years of the Victorian era, but, after the War Department trials of 1901. the thoughts of the heads of the cornpahy turned to the Foden steam wagon. This vehicle was so successful in those trials that in 1902 the emphasis was on the steamer, although general engineering plant and traction engines were still in production.
The optimism of the pioneers in the future of road haulage was justified, as is shown by the steady progress that was made up to 1914. In that year, Mr. Foden told me, not only the British authorities demanded their vehicles, but Camions a Vapeur Fodens also went into service with the French.
Fodens, Ltd., came --into being in 1902, the previous style of the company being Edwin Foden, Sons and Co., Ltd. It was somewhere about this time that Mr. Edwin Foden told his son, who was playing a euphonium in the Foden Motor Works Band, "Willie, I am going to have the best band in the country. You are not quite equal to
E28 this standard, so you will have to get
out." That uncompromising attitude perhaps gives a key to the whole outlook of the founder of Fodens, Ltd.
At the time when The Commercial Motor first saw the light of day, Mr. Foden told me, the steel-tyred steamer boasted of carrying 7 tons at 5 m.p.h., -as compared with a pair-horse vehicle which could move a mere 2 tons at 2i m.p.h. When an order had been obtained and the vehicle built, it was usually delivered by road, a man from the works taking the steamer to the customer and spending a week or so teaching the new owner's driver the mysteries of the machine.
Men who had learnt to drive the traction engine could qttickly accustom themselves to the self-contained unit. In defiance of the law, drivers who had gained confidence would often pound along at 8 m.p.h., a thing that was unpopular with the people at the factory.
The makers were, of course, always ready to carry out repairs and to send a fitter long distances. With the assistance of the driver, a mechanic might have to complete extensive work by the roadside.
The Foden traction engines had built up a great reputation and that background assisted in selling the new steam wagons in areas distant from the factory.. At the outset this steamer appealed principally to brewers and millers, but van, tipper and other types of specialized bodywork were made at the Sandbach works to meet customers' requirements.
Naturally the Sandbach men regarded the Foden as the best possible steamer, but, as good northerners, they were willing to agree that Mr. Spurrier's Leyland, from the next county, was the best proposition in the petrol field.
Fodens, Ltd., have had a long association with The Commercial Motor and Mr. William Foden looks back to the time, some 47 years ago, when young Arthur Thompson—now publicity and labour manager—took the late Mr. J. A. Jackson, who was in charge of advertising in The Commercial Motor, to meet Mr. S. P. Twemlow, who then looked after publicity and later was to become joint managing director.
Another visitor about that time was Mr. Hans Renold, founder of the company that now bears the title of Renold Chains, Ltd., who supplied thousands of chains for the early Foden vehicles.
IN the Leyland stable in 1905 there I was already a slight scent of petrol, although it was not for a further couple of years that the company were to assume their present title. The Lancashire Steam Motor Co., as they were then named, was fairly descriptive of the organization's past activities, which included experiments with a two-scat tricycle that had side wheels of the size employed by the "penny farthing." Steam lawn mowers had brought in the money to the Leyland works for some time and the first steam wagon appeared in 1897.
From Mr, C. B. Nixon, the present chairman, I learned that the first denizen of the now famous Leyland ."
zoo" was the Pig, an experimental 12 b.h.p twin-cylinder chassis of 30-cwt. capacity which saw the light of day in 1904. -I gather that there was universal thankfulness that this early model was never accepted for production. An improved version giving 24 b.h.p. was evolved. The fact that 1905 was a tqrning point in the commercial-vehicle world can be seen in the Leyland production figures for that year, which amounted to 25 steam and 16 petrol wagons. Up to about that time, steel tyres had been "the only wear," but, because of increasing speeds, rubber solids were becoming customary on petrol vehicles, In Leyland there was some jubilation when the first order for a double-deck bus was received from London in the summer of 1905. By the end of that r the borough of Chelsea had insulated a fleet of at least 15 land steamers, on which the tipping ies w ere interchangeable with 10-gallon tanks for street watering. tmers of this era gave satisfactory 'ice for periods of 20 years and yards.
those days. Mr. Nixon recalls, ctically all the components were le by the chassis manufacturer, for
development of the specialist 'slier to the automotive industry had to come. Building of an engine, uding the testing of the cylinders,. Ald take something like 12 working s.
or many years Tire Commercial tor has made a feature of its costing des. -but. I was reminded, in the ly days sales staffs of conurereial tor manufacturers had to be ready dispel the erroneous idea that motor rides would necessarily be extremely Itly. Back in 1905 the Leyland leesentatives would quote how :ssrs. Ley and Sons, the Preston lers, ran a steamer at a cost of £6 10s. ekly, including driver's wages of „. as compared with an average of 4s. 2d, for the horses which viciusly performed similar work. sten from the factory used to deliver vehicles by road to the customers, -haps staying Iwo or three weeks to ch the new driver something of his ies. The mysteries of the trade dently left some of the customers' ifs puzzled, With the consequence factory employees were given ations in charge of the fleets that re being set up.
rhe Leyland organization lost some ad men in this way and, later; angements were made for traffic to reversed, members of the purchasers' ifs coming to the factory for a month so to gain the requisite knowledge. ?etrol distribution was, of course, 1 in its infancy and new wagons
would go out heavily loaded with 2-gallon cans to meet their needs en route. With the steamers, the question of supplies was always ill mind, for on long journeys the man in charge had to have a ready eye for brooks where the water could be replenished. and places where suitable coal could be purchased.
A T the time The Commercial Motor I-1 first appeared Lt.-Col. T. B. Browne was chairman and managing director of James and Browne, Ltd., King Street. Hammersmith, a company which started in 1901 to build motorcars and engage upon other engineering work.
"The late Mr. Edmund Dangerfield was a great friend of mine.Cot.
B r ow n e told me. "One of his acquaintances in the cycling world was Mr. A. W. Carnage. owner of the _London store. In 1905. Mr. Dangerfield referred Mr. Carnage to me, as he wished to have some delivery vans built. The Carnage vans, of which we made six. were among the first goods vehicles we built and each covered 300,000 miles before being taken out of service. Their chassis were modifications of our landaulette model."
Thesompany also built a laundry van for Pickford's that year and a van for Mr. H. .7. Heinz to deliver his 57 Varieties. When the Heinz vehicles came back for reconditioning after covering a great mileage Mr. Heinz used to visit the workshops of James and Browne, Ltd., every day to see how the work progressed.
. These vehicles had fOur-cylinciereci engines which superseded an early twincylindered unit. The bore was 31 in.
and the stroke 41, in. The cone-type clutch made cast-iron to cast-iron contact and emitted a whirring noise. There was a raw-hide drive to the two gearboxes and the rear wheels incorporated internal-expanding brakes. Col. Browne asked: Can anyone deny my tentative claim to be the inventor of such brakes? "
The whe'els were of French acacia. as this material was considered safer than oak. a commonly used timber for wheels at that time. Incidentally, the collapse of an oak wheel caused the first motoring fatality.
Connolly solid tyres were fitted at first, but later Michelin pneumatics were used.
A great believer in the future of aluminium. Col. Browne asked the National Physical Laboratory and some metallurgist friends to produce a suitable alloy. They did so, and he said that crankcases and other parts made of this light alloy remained in perfect condition in two old vehicles still in existence. These take part in the veteran run to Brighton every year, which gives their originator, as president of the Circle of 19th Century Motorists, just cause for pride.
Bodies for the vans of James and Browne, Ltd.. were constructed by out
side companies. The company would seem to have a good claim to have built the first motor ambulance in this country, the first tower wagon and the first trolleybus, the ambulance being for the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the tower wagon for the operators of the trams in Hammersmith.
The trolleybus was constructed to the design of Messrs. Douglas Fox and Partners, consultant engineers, and ran in chassis form experimentally at Hendon. it being decided that a second motor should be fitted. • Let Col. Browne take up the story: Among my associates were Col. J. D. C. Cooper and Mr. S. R. Roget, whose grandfather compiled the famous Thesaurus. They were " sleeRing partners." and I had a clever works manager. Mr. F. L Martineau. who later left me to start making a rival vehicle. From 1913-14 I was president of the Institution of Automobile Engineers.
About this time James and Browne. Ltd., were not faring well and the coup de grace was struck when Vickers gave heavy financial backing to the Wolseley company, our biggest competitors.
The 1914-18 war came and I joined the Army, serving in the same unit as Mr. G. Mackenzie Junner. Later 1 sat with his predecessor as editor of The Commercial Motor, Mr. E. S. Shrapnells Smith. on the council of the Commercial Motor Users' AssOciation, and I knew the second editor of this journal. Mr. George Sharp, fairly well, He was a man of great .charm.
After the war I joined the family advertising business, of which I am chairman today.
Three pioneers of the industry welcomed the coming of the infant journal. Today, as the first 50-year cycle closes, they are among the many to welcome its entry upon a new half-century.