DGR to Spud Pot Pit

Back in the early 1990s the local cement works got its coal from Potato Pot pit, an opencast working just inland from Whitehaven, they had once got all their coal from deep mine Holdich, near Stoke on Trent but that was shut by John Major, also Wooley (could access via the services on the M1 ) and before them Hapton Valley less than 15 miles away, all good stuff with lots of volatiles in them. I came to the conclusion that 200kg of gas escaped on the hour and a half trip back from Holdich to the cement works, my first suspicion was that they had rigged the incoming and outgoing scales to sell extra cement as no matter what you did as far as cleaning the box out completely ( had to do this to load concrete aggregate anyway ) you always lost 200kg of your load.

Whilst on the subect of dodgy weights and measures we once supplied wheat straight from the farm to a small animal feed firm called Ashko, often you would get there in the late afternoon only being turned away until the morning after. The thing was that they got you to weigh in with an empty fuel tank, then drop the trailer before going home to fill up for the night. Next morning they would let you tip the load then tare off with a full tank, therefore getting up to 200kg of wheat free. I couldn’t handle the morals of this so I started doing the gross weight again in the morning, they had already lost me a tenner for a lost load and perhaps if I wouldn’t play their game I would get tipped when I arrived.

I got loads of shit from them over it for not complying with their continuous petty pilfering, it was the same with the stone scam at RMC as run by Sir Cumference and subscribed to by the dodgy drivers from Clitheroe, hundreds of tons of stone went missing. I was approached to deliver stone booked out of Horrocksford to RMC to a farm at Langho for a tenner a load, get all the notes signed up by the Blackburn plant manager, of course I declined and furthermore reported it to my employer in confidence, he said that another driver had also been approached so my report was credible.

Anyway it turned out that a locum sent to cover for holidays ran out of stone ( failed to order for first Monday ) because there was 250 tonnes on the books. You could actually make this back in time as concrete batching plants make stone but lose sand and dust so it is possible to slip out the odd load for yourself, same with the cement, the scales are never zero and stone is first on. Sir Cumference was sacked but no criminal charges were brought, a couple of mixer owner drivers lost their contracts also, including the one who always attempted to portray that we were lazy because we took our mandatory breaks whilst tipping into the hopper. I heard later that they had been delivering straight stone in the mixers but the most stupid thing was that the locum who sprung the scam was caught stealing thousands of tons of stone from a big plant near Manchester, and convicted for it.

Anyway I’m wandering off the subject but I concluded that because the sheet was wet inside even on a dry day and the load smelt like someone has sprinkled 5 gallons of paraffin over it it must have lost the gas from the coal straight from the pit head that day. I hate to think how much gas they lose bringing coal all the way from Columbia but the Spud Pot coal was not as good as Holditch or Wooley, but by then they were burning cem fuel waste solvents as well. Some of the imported coal they got in after Spud Pot shut was so bad even the dockers couldn’t be bothered to nick it it was so bad but Hapton Valley was probably the best. Spud Pot was a saviour in a depression in trade, we had little else and therefore they sent me in my 13 year old B-Series ERF alleged 265 Rolls-Royce Eagle to do a job for a 290 at least in the same time.

It was getting late when we finally got loaded from Stock and a 320 Cummins had a ten minute start on me on the way home. DGR was pretty fit for her age but not quite as good as when tyhe company got her at 5 years old, when she had Kaiser radiator shutters and a Dinair fan, she was registered in the north east but her last home was allegedly Grantham, probably just done easy work up the A1. I got her from rebirth with tipping gear as designed by me originally years before, at the time I was pulling a tri-axle trailer before its official launch, still with twins as opposed to the lower resistance super singles.

It was soon clear that she was the most powerful truck in the yard, left another alleged good 265 for dead pulling up the hill from Preston to Standish, had tipped my load at Burscough before he caught me up. I also managed to keep pace with a fit E290 Cummins coming up from Holdich, in fact I was gaining on the hills even though I could never match top speed, she was really competent and it was oly in her later life that why she was so good became apparent. After years of steam cleaning the original chassis was painted white suggesting that she may have been a factory demonstrator originally, and tweaked accordingly to give a good show of herself.

Anyway getting back to the loaded trip back I set off at may usual pace and was soon humming back across the A66 and charged up the bank at Troutbeck re-living the railway route in steam days, then onto the M6 and the long pull up to Shap summit from Penrith. I could really have done with another 5 Mph top speed like a Cummins but by the time I got to the M55 at Broughton the alleged 320 Cummins was in sight and I followed it off onto the A59 at Samlesbury, then up the dual carriageway bank, where I passed it easy on the steeper bit.

The driver of said 320 was not amused when he followed me into the cement works not allowed to pass him and all that. I did actually get said 320 a year later and it was useless, I moaned a lot so they got it tweaked by a specialist at Newton-le-Willows and it was magic but never as much fun as DGR. Another time I gave a 290 Cummins a similar head start but came back down the A65 as an experiment, again I had tipped before said Cummins arrived much to the astonishment of its driver !


One thought on “DGR to Spud Pot Pit

  1. My first encounter of the Stainmore Line in the flesh was when I was 13 and had started riding ” Shotgun ” with the the drivers from the haulage contractor just across the road from where I lived. My favourite wagon was MUP 875J, an ERF eight wheeler bulk powder tank as driven by the late Neville Oliver, who was originally from East Anglia, she was rebuilt by the company from an accident write-off. Her main work was delivering Ribble Cement from Clitheroe throughout the north of England, that’s how I got to go to Hartley Quarry near Kirby Stephen !


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