NARRATIVES OF THE INDUSTRY.
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The Evolution of the Prominent Concerns in the British Commercial Vehicle Industry which Have Made History by the Pursuit of a Progressive Policy.
THOSE who have only been associated with the commercial vehicle industry of more recent years, and are only familiar with the name of Straker-Squire in connection with the manufacture of a wide range of petrol-driven vehicles for goods and passenger carrying, may be somesdnat surprised and enlightened to learn that the pre,lecessors of the present company entered the trade to ad ,ance the claims of. the steam vehicle for mechanical haulage. This was in the opening year of the twentieth century, when Mr. Sidney Straker established the Straker Steam 1/ ehicle Co., Ltd., with works at Bristol.
Although the steam wagon has undergone radical changes in design since its earliest inception and this type has .ceased to figure on the company's manufacturing programme, it is worthy of mention, as indicative of sound design and workmanship, that sonic of the original 5-tonnes' Strakers produced in those far-off pioneering days am still in active service in. parts of this country and certain of the Colonies. The outstanding characteristics of the original Straker steam wagon were a vertical water-tube boiler, a compound engine, final chain drive and a differential in the rear axle, and the disposition of the main units of the assembly can be seen from our picture of the company's first 54onner built in 1900.
The company continued to devote attention to the perfecting
• of the steam vehiclo far varied uses and a definite epoch in road transport development can be said to have been marked in 1902 by the appearance of. the first passenger-carrying unit of this description. Its introduction was apparently welcomed
for, in 1903, a larps, number of steam omnibuses was built and put into service in many country districts. Moreover, these vehicles gave remarkably efficient results for the period, and such was the success they achieved that the company found it desirable to acquire larger premises in order to deal with their expanding business. They, accordingly, built new works in London on a well-chosen site in Nelson Square, Blackfriars, S.E.
Coinadent with the development of the steam yehicIe progress was also being made at this tune with the design of petrol chassis, and although less was known of the possibilities of the internalcambustion engine for commercial uses, the company, holding the belief that an extensive demand would ultimately he created for a machine incorporating a power unit of this description, set themselves the task of constructing a chassis along these lines, It was in 1905 that their first petrol chassis were produced, and, in the same year, many of them were used as the basis of buses which were put into service on the streets of London. It is claimed that the first motorbuses to ply for hire through the City proper were those of Straker-Squire manufacture, to seat 34 passengers, rim under the title " Union Jack," by the London Road Car CO., LW.
Baring the years 1905 and 1906 many hundreds of motorbuses were supplied to C42 the various companies then competing for a share of London's passenger road traffic, and we are told that there were more Straker-Squire vallieles in service in the metropolis than the total of all other makes. From this time the company special
ized in bus construction and the reputation then acquired has been preserved ever since. The company's -designers were most active about this period. and, although petrol. chassis still attracted much notice, time was found in 1906 to introduce a new type 5-ton steam wagon of the locomotive pattern. An example of this vehicle received a special award and gold medal at the New Zealand International Exhibition held at Christchurch in that year. In 1907 a 30-cwt. paraffin-driven lorry was introduced to meet certain definite requirements of the War Office, to which several were supplied. The following year witnessed many new developments, not the least interesting Of which was the use of worm-driven rear axles on three new products, these being a 25-cwt. chassis with a two-cylinder engine, a 3-ton goods-carrying model and a 36-seater omnibus.
The activities of the company were now mainly directed towards the production of petrol chassis for varied uses, and between the years of 1909 and 1913 they introduced a number of new models to meet specific needs. There was a 1-ton van having a four-cylinder engine, with a bore and stroke of 75..srim. and 110 mm. respectively, and a 2-ton lorry with a more powerful unit.
Sight had not been lost of the potentialities of the overseas market, hnd in 1910 the introduction of a 5-ton Colonial-type chain-driven petrol chassis was recorded; a large number of this model was supplied for service abroad.
A new branch of manufacturing activity was also indicated by the appearance of a range of petrol-propelled tramcars to seat up to 35 passengers.
Local authorities were now beginning to evince a livelier -interest in mechanical haulage, so the company set themselves out to meet certain of their requirements by designing two separate municipal models. One was a gully emptier, of 850 gallons capacity, with a vacuum system for emptying gullies rapidly and without exposing the sludge to the air and spreading offensive odours. The other machine was a street washer, or sprinkler, with a tank capacity of 1,200 gallons, in which the water pressure was created by a centrifugal pump.
During the ,period from 1908 to 1913 the 15 h.p. StrakerSquire touring car formed an important item in the programme of manufacture, and this model earned an enviable reputation by successes obtained in competitions on Brooklands track and elsewhere.
In November, 1913, the company were registered as StrakerSquire (1913), Ltd., but the date was eliminated from the title in June, 1917. With the continual widening of their ramifications, they found the works atlackfriars being tas:ed to the utmost, with the result that, in 19L4, they took over supplementary works at Twickenham. In the same year a new 2itonner was added to the existing range. Except to say that the -works were fully engaged on the production of various military essentials, we can omit the period covered by the years from 1914 to 1918. In passing, however, we would mention that many hundreds of StrakerSquire lorries were supplied to the War Department and contributed their quota to the efficiency of the transport services in the field.
One of the earliest post-war developments of the company was to co-ordinate their works organization under one roof. The demand for their various business vehicle and private car products had so 'increased that it was deemed expedient to effect this move and, accordingly, new works were acquired at Edmonton, London, those at Blackfriars and Twickenham being sold.
The year 1919 was, in a sense, noteworthy in the history of the company, for it witnessed the birth of the 3-5-ton A-type chassis which, as our readers are well aware, has proved a remarkably good proposition for passenger and goods service within its rated capacity. A new touring model—the 2480 h.p. six-cylinder chassis—was also added to the pleasure. car range.
We now pass on to the year 1921, when the A-type chassis was marketed in a modified form with certain detail improvements suggested by prolonged experience incorporated in its layout. In its present guise the A-type Straker-Squire chassis represents one of the most advanced designs, in which the powerful and efficient overhead-valve engine and a good system of Suspension are outstanding features.
• The company have always paid close attention to the passenger-carrying side of the industry, as their pioneering efforts conclusively prove, and with a 'vast experience upon which to draw it was only natural, perhaps, that their assistance should have been sought in the autumn of 1922, when certain enterprising owners created a stir in London passenger 'transport circles by running buses in opposition to the L.G.O. Co., and
many of these vehicles have been supplied for regular duty in the metropolis. An informative -contrast can be made by comparing the illustrations of the 34-seater made in 1905 with the latest double-decker on the A-type chassis.
We have written of the company's interest in passenger transport,, and a further endorsement of their enterprise in this direction is to be found in the introduction of the StrakerClough trolley-bus in 1922. It may be known that the Keighley Corporation is substituting its tramcars by trolley-buses of this pattern over its complete tramways system, and other municipalities which have exhibited tangible proof of their support for Straker-Clough trolley-buses, in preference to the rigid form of traction, are the corporations of Rotherham, Middlesbrough,-Penang, Bloemfontein, etc.
The most recent addition to the Straker-Squire range of touring cars is a, light 10-20 hp. four-cylinder car, which was brought Out last year.
The works (for chassis and bodies of all types) of Straker. Squire Ltd., cover 14 acres, and they are equipped throughout with modern machine tools and plant which ensure production and workmanship of a high order.