By A. C. Williams THERE was nothing really wrong 1
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with the old ex-Army Albion, although, travelling around corners, one had the impression that cab and chassis were going their separate ways, the road could be seen through the floorboards and the sky through the roof. Crown wheel and pinion had teething troubles.
The wiring was temperamental— no one quite knew why—so the side lamps functioned only when the hand brake was hard on, which made night travel a slow business. The silencer was ripped and the noise in the cab discouraged even the most garrulous of passengers. The " mate," in any case, was always too busy keeping his balance on the bit of planking which supported his seat in place of hinges.
But, as I have said, there was nothing really wrong with the old Albion. On reflection, I realize that if there had been, it would have saved a lot of trouble in the end, because she would never have been put on old Stebbing's sugar-beet job.
Old Stebbing's fields came up to the back of our workshop. We did quite a bit of haulage for him, whilst the repair shop took in his tractors from time to time to remove the ravages of earth, fire and water.
From the state of his men, horses, tractors and implements, you could see that old Stebbing was a driver. He drove himself to a frenzy regularly—and to drink nearly as often.
rlINIE of the possible reasons for this story is to tell what befell after old Stebbing had driven us into putting on an extra lorry to complete his season's delivery that week to the beet factory.
There was no real urgency to finish the job, but old Stebbing had his permits and, being what he was, they were burning a hole in his pocket. Old Stebbing, in the yard at 7 a.m. on a raw morning, doing the St. V. act, was too much for us and so into commission once more went the Albion.
She had a big butt for a 5-tonner and it didn't take long for old Stebbing's hard-pressed mob to fling on wet, clay-covered beet until the load weighed (on the factory weighbridge) just over seven tons. It took two tractors to tow the Albion out of the oozing loading site, but, once fairly on the road, we creaked along first on two, then on three and, finally, on four cylinders.
The first hill of 1 in 86 was reeled off in top—but I need not go into details of the journey. Suffice to say that we did eventnally reach the factory, where our appearance created the utmost alarm and despondency; the queue of waiting trucks melted away from the weigh bridge, so that in a very few minutes we found ourselves panting towards the wash-off.
The girl in the weighing office said something about a disgrace. .. The man on the wash wanted to know if
he should put the fire out. We said no, everything was under control, except the inner near-side back tyre, which had blown, so would he hurry and get the load off, please? Which he did. Whereupon the butt reared its ugly head off the rear wheels, shook the arch out of its back and generally indicated readiness for the stable.
WE found old Stebbing walking VY feverishly up and down, waiting for us, with that perpetual movement of the head he affected, suggesting a 13 collar on a 16 neck.
" One more load to-morrow," he roared.
"Hell," we said.
"And you'd better come and pull out one of your wagons stuck with a load on in the lower gateway."
We looked at the Albion and the Albion looked at us; we threw a length of chain across her back—an almost symbolic action, we thought. We heaved the new lorry from the slime with three of the Albion's cylinders firing—she usually kept one up her sleeve during light work, but she would call up all four when occasion demanded.
There was nothing really wrong with the old Albion, you see. We might have done her up and put in some new parts, but we neve "found time.' And so she remains. Forever Albion