Corporate Nazi 1
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I have never studied politics academically, I have never read any political books like Karl Marx, and can’t even name any right wing authors, so perhaps to get a true idea of where my politics come from one needs to examine my early life. I was born at Queens Park Hospital Blackburn Lancs on 14th September 1961 by caesarean section, my mother was quite pleased as she had had two miscarriages in previous pregnancies, perhaps due to being a diabetic. I was an only son, and quite well looked after even though my mum ran a busy corner shop, but her mother also lived with us and kept an eye on me for most of the time.
I don’t really remember much of my early life, but my father worked on a local farm as a laborer, it is said that when I was two and staying with my auntie I questioned the farm workers as to whether a load of hay would fit underneath a wire across the track. From being about four I spent quite a bit of time with my great uncle Herbert and also his wife auntie Mary. Herbert had quite a large allotment and kept several goats, I vaguely remember going to a goat club social function at Bury, I remember being chased and scared to death by his cockerel in the free range hen pen.
Herbert was quite severely disabled due to his right knee, he injured himself in an accident at work one Saturday morning, the next day he went to Ribchester and walked all the way from the bus stop Oaks Bar and back on it, about eight miles in all. It was no better on Monday so he went to the doctor at Clitheroe who sent him for an X-ray at Blackburn Royal, when he went for the results the doctor told him that he had got arthritis in his knee and that there was nothing to be done. Twenty five years later he was examined by a ” modern ” doctor and told that he had broken his knee, he declined treatment as auntie Mary was not fit enough to be left on her own.
AS the story progresses it will increasingly have a transport angle, and it was during the building of the Whalley,Clitheroe by-pass that I had my first experience of wagons, with an older friend we cadged a lift there and back from one of the construction lorries, a Commer four wheeler all the way to Langho and back. Another friend of mine’s father worked for the large haulage contractor in the bottom of our village, and occasionally I would go with them, once from one of the local quarries to the then under construction M61 near Blackrod, on the return trip we picked up a load of coal from Bickershaw and delivered it to Brockhall Mental hospital.
It was a struggle getting up Buncer Lane at Blackburn, it was a six wheeler Dodge ( crewe cab ) with only a 100 Bhp Perkins 6-354 to haul over twenty tons, we were most probably overloaded. I suppose that that was why I became hooked on wagons, had plenty of Dinky wagons, Bedford’s, and a Foden dumper which I still have today over 40 years later. That was not the only influence on my early life, becoming a farmer was high on the list of aspirations and play, as I grew older I spent the school holidays on my uncle Cliff’s small dairy farm with my two older girl cousins. Other interests included train spotting, across the road by the side of the bridge where I now live, Black Fives and 8F’s and a 9F on the Long Meg, before they cut back the foliage more recently an apple tree ( golden delicious ) grew just over the high wall we used to perch on.
The large haulage contractor in the centre of the village went broke in 1969, so my mates dad got a job at the local cement works delivering tarmac from the local quarry. Passengers were frowned upon and so my trips out in wagons were few and far between, the in thing was train spotting even though by now the railways had gone onto diesel.
I remember an older friend an I thumbing a lift to Preston outside the local quarry one Saturday morning, it was a 5LW Gardner ERF four wheeler and was pretty slow going up Halfpenny Brow but it got us there. When I was about ten my older friend and I did a North West rail rover, valid anywhere between Wigan and Carlisle and as far east as Skipton including the Settle Carlisle, we just went from Preston to Carlisle and back most of the week. I always chose older friends, as what they got up to was more daring, but I didn’t really fit in with most of the kids my age due to being somewhat overweight and nicknamed Piggy.
I was always the outsider, and strove hard to prove that I was as good as anyone else at doing things, I was always top of the class at primary school, and was attending the scouts before I went to secondary school which influenced my (and my parents ) decision to go to Ribblesdale County Secondary School even though I was a dead cert to pass the eleven plus and go to the grammar school.
I went straight into the top stream and enjoyed science ( only physics and biology ), geography, history and even math’s, I was never any good at English and I positively hated art, couldn’t really grasp French and probably knew more about ” rural studies ” than the teacher having spent loads of time helping uncle Herbert on his allotment ( now much smaller due to increasing ill health ).
Uncle Herbert used to tell stories about old times, he originally came from Greetland near Elland in west Yorkshire, he joined the army in 1914 and was eventually injured by a head wound on the Somme in 1916. He was evacuated to Calderstones Hospital at Whalley and spend months recovering during which time he lost all his hair, even though he had a full head in later life. He talked of trench warfare, gas attacks and the primitive early gas masks, he was acting sergeant when he was wounded, he seemed to enjoy talking of his war experiences unlike some people.
He went back to Yorkshire where his father ran a horse and cart business carting coal from the railway to the mills, he fell out with his father over the purchase of a Dennis motor lorry, needless to say the horse and cart job went bust when motorized transport came along. Herbert moved to Lancashire and worked in the local quarries ” breaking and filling “, in one quarry the strata was such that dynamite was not required, but it was a hard life even when supplemented by an allotment. Keep a good pig and a good horse and you will never go far wrong was his motto, he always had the allotment almost right up to his death, in later life he worked as second man to Fred Seed on the local mill wagon during the 1950s.
I have wandered off secondary school, but we did get trips to the China exhibition and to the Isle of Man, train from newly electrified Preston to Euston, double decker bus to Fleetwood and across the ferry, spewed my breakfast up. At 13 I plucked up the courage to tackle one of the drivers from the small haulier across the road to ask if I could go with him, a round trip to Horton in Ribblesdale with a load of three inch fill for Oswaldtwistle in a gutless 20 ton Albion six-wheeler. I helped to fill it up with fuel and before I knew what I was doing I was going around every night filling all the five wagons with fuel as they came in, soon afterwards checking the engine oil.
I took a shine to Ray Seed, Fred Seed’s son who took his wagon home to Darwen every night and carried foundry products for Serfco all over the UK in KNF355F, a then 28 ton eight-wheeler ERF fitted with a Gardner 150 and a drop side tipper body. Other vehicles included an eight wheel 26 ton Foden fitted with a 150 Gardner, fixed side tipper body, and MUP 875J, an ERF 28 ton powder tanker again fitted with a 150 Gardner, little used was a 22 ton six wheel AEC drop side tipper 505 engine and a 16 ton four wheeler Dodge of 1966 vintage, both drop side tippers. Under accident reconstruction in the ample garage was MTC 618K, a 180 Gardner ERF tractor unit, with drop side tipper trailer also under overhaul parked in the yard. You had to be a good driver to work there as the entrance had to be reversed into and it was only ten feet wide at the narrowest wit a kink just inside. I went out on the road riding “shotgun ” at every opportunity with all the drivers during the school holidays, going to the farm was dropped
By the age of 14 I was having days off school to show any new drivers the ropes and routes, as well as how to discharge a powder tank. I got into quarries, foundries and even Ravenscraig steel works near Motherwell, lots of potentially dangerous and exciting places, whilst at home modifying fireworks to turn an air bomb into a screecher and vice versa, a friend and I also experimented with weed killer and sugar. A genuine miss spent youth and by now I had decided to go for a career in road transport, at school all the wagon enthusiasts hung out together at break time, trying to out do each other with stories. I left school at Easter to start working as an apprentice HGV fitter, went back to do my O levels though, only got grade1 CSE math’s, couldn’t grasp calculus, could never see the point in it.
The September I formally started my apprenticeship I enrolled at Accrington & Rossendale college and did the general first year course using my 50cc 50 Mph moped to get there, I had had a moped since my sixteenth birthday and crashed two weeks after I went on the road after being dazzled by the sun and failing to get through a narrow gap on a minor road past a ford D series coal lorry (7.5 tonne ). I broke the top of my right arm and due to the plaster was off school until nearly Christmas, surprisingly my English improved due to the experience, got done for driving without due care and attention which I thought was particularly unfair. I passed the first year exams with an award of merit and enrolled on the technicians course in the second year.
I was doing most jobs on my own by this time, my academic talent was much improved by a semi retired fitter who worked for us part time, we had a common interest in steam locomotives and he would wax lyrical about his time in the Merchant Marine prior to and during the start of WW2. He was invalided out with a bad leg injury but called up as an engine room artificer in the Royal Navy, spent time on an aircraft carrier fighting the Japs in the far east.
By now we were rebuilding an eight wheeler ERF B-Series with a bent chassis leg, straightened it using a loaded eight wheeler on a chain whist propped up against the garage wall, jacked the other bit out and cut of the end and welded a bit of an old Dodge chassis on the extreme end. Sounds primitive but it did the trick, we also did all the day to day maintenance and MoT preparation, plus engine failures, David Brown gearboxes were particularly unreliable plus the usual two speed differential problems on the tractor units.
By now the anti-lorry brigade were getting into their stride and a weight limit was imposed on the Forest Becks route to Settle, it was the politically correct thing to do for politicians and they tried but failed to get a weight limit through our village. The road haulage industry was being actively discriminated against for political ends, especially the smaller companies, lots of hassle from Bob Stewart from the ministry although it was rare for us to get a GV9 prohibition notice unless under circumstances beyond our control.
The main problem was due to the drivers, the company had taken over a subsidiary of a building contractor who had gone bust, the vehicles were in pretty poor shape to start and we only got one more almost useless third year apprentice to help out. I passed the second year exams with distinction again but ever since I had my appendix removed the year before I had experienced problems with my back, although not too much of a problem at that time. We moved out of the old garage to a nearby industrial estate, we had to due to the articulated combinations we were moving on to, eight wheelers were too heavy on maintenance, but it meant using a motor bike to go to work in a morning.
By now I had passed my car test and was going out on any breakdowns or blown tyres in the works van, when the van was broke down we used one of the owners cars. I got my first car, a 1969 Mini 1000 and have never really wanted anything more powerful, a good driver doesn’t need loads of power to get from A to B in good time. I was also getting into serious train spotting again, went all over the north of England in my parents 1979 Mazda 1400 estate at weekends along with friends.
A friend and I did an all line rail rover travelling all over the UK sleeping on overnight trains from Saturday coming home only once for a bath on Tuesday and finishing on Friday. All this time I was helping out in the corner shop, particularly making our excellent home made ice cream, I never felt happy working behind the counter but went to cash and carry to buy supplies often finishing late at night.
Being a bit of a rebel at heart, I got a then illegal CB radio off one of the drivers at work and met loads of new people through it, although many were complete idiots. I had to give it up because the bloke across the road was just about to report me for TV interference on his radio alarm, but in 1981 it became legal on new FM sets.
I became particularly friendly with Mighty Atom from Settle, who introduced me to scuba diving although I never really took it up, but it was an experience. By now I had an old diesel Land-Rover and with Atom in his Suzuki Jeep we traversed many of the green lanes of the Yorkshire Dales, even went up to the summit of Ingleborough, likewise Pendle Hill.
Politics never came into it, people were loosing their jobs in heavy industry but it never affected me or my friends, however the company I worked for had financial problems, Serfco one of our major customers had gone bust, owing a fortune on transport. We never knew at the time but it was said that a liquidator had come to the yard to tot up how much the fleet was worth, all the wagons were pretty old so he went away and left us alone. It ruined the family culture of the firm, the owner was now hostile and remote, the main fitter ( bit of a tyrant ) left for more money and although technically out of my time by now was refused the going rate even though I was carrying most of the burden.
The trouble was the prat we got was totally useless, couldn’t even electric weld and he would have expected the same money as me as he was a year older. I was ready to throw the towel in and find a new job, but Ray Seed died of a heart attack aged 37 so I decided to stay with the family. By now my back was giving me problems and one day I injured myself lifting my big tool box into the van, whilst working at the side of the road my legs gave way, so it was time off again.
I passed my Pt II technicians exam with the usual distinction but things were getting almost impossible at work, the owner kept telling us to do all sorts of unnecessary work, one Saturday morning he had us thrutching trying to move a rear axel back into alignment, when the problem was a knackered track rod end wearing the front nearside tyre queer. I spent hours one afternoon tapping out and fettling a brake back plate, then at almost going home time he turned up with the new part we should have had in the first place, it was tech night so I didn’t want to be late. I told him that I was going home at the usual time so he threw my tool box onto the floor and damaged it so I cracked him one on the nose in the heat of the moment. Of course that was the end of my time there but I was almost 21 and went on a crash HGV driving test course soon after my birthday.
I got a new job working for another friends dad who I met at school, never really liked mechanizing due to my back problem and was launched onto the road in a Guy Big J 6 20 tonner ( AEC 505 engine ). It was mostly site work for construction jobs shifting dirt to tips and mostly around Rossendale, we had a big long term job at Sterling Stubbins paper mill expansion. The Guy was almost life expired and I was promoted onto a 24 ton Leyland Bison, which had a 500 fixed head engine which was pretty gutless, almost impossible to change up from third to fourth gear unless you were going down hill. I also did dry stone work out of Tarmac Clitheroe but the best work was Waddington Fell, they were impressed with the Leyland ( doesn’t it go well ! ) and even bought a new Leyland six wheeler.
I was eventually promoted to the older Scammel 30 ton eight-wheeler fitted with a 220 Rolls-Royce Eagle, plenty of power now but only a six speed David Brown gearbox, spent most of the time running out of Tarmac, Jackson’s at Galgate and other Carnforth area quarries. I enjoyed this more than the site work but still did site work occasionally. I got forced into the dyke by a Daf artic coming down from Long Preston one afternoon on the last load from Horton to Ribble cement with ” moon rock “, did quite a bit of damage to the nearside front of the cab which was patched up.
The next day I got pulled by plod for alleged dangerous parts, got done for it at the kangaroo magistrates court. A couple of weeks later a tipper ram collar came out and jammed, I tried to get it back in with the help of a crane from the adjacent garage and it crashed down causing major damage to the cab. I got sacked for that although I would have resigned anyway and once again I was looking for a new job.
I went back fitting at Transport Engineering at Altham building gritters for road salt in winter, I think I got the job on the strength of Pat,an old Jackson’s driver who was chief fitter there. Things were pretty easy until they started fitting really heavy electronic hydraulic valves, before that my duties included delivering vehicles to customers, and driving the demonstrator.
I once took it to Glasgow and stopped out overnight with the posh boss man and Pat, took it down to March in Cambridgeshire the day after, came back on the train to Skipton and got a lift home with the chief designer. He was brilliant in the drawing office but I could have come back from Skipton faster in a wagon, he would come into the workshop and struggle to chose the right spanner to fit a bolt he had been specifying all day. I could do any job they threw at me really well, but the heavy valves took their toll on my back and I was forced to take time off, I was asked back and would have been given the job of charge hand hydraulic fitter if I had returned.
My next job was working for another friend, I had done some part time driving for them during the holidays at TE and they had just taken over the transport from a Blackburn metal pressing company so there was a vacancy for a driver. It was Ideal for me, no heavy lifting just a curtain to draw on the side of the taut liner, my steed was a Seddon Atkinson 400 series tractor unit ACK 68V fitted with a 265 RR Eagle. The work involved delivering metal pressings in stillages to Ford at Dagenham engine plant and Langley Truck plant near Slough, they did sumps for engines and cab back and roof panels for the Ford Cargo Truck.
We also delivered front panels to Dodge at Dunstable, plus Triumph spares to Pegasus Phosprime at Daventry, driving up and down the motorway is not very demanding physically. At slack times and during the holidays we did silencers from Blackburn, usually two drops for instance Nottingham and Barking, the longer trips meant nights out and we also did chemicals from near Bury, Southampton area, Norsk Hydro Polymers Havant was usually the main drop. We also did east Anglia and Scotland, I arranged good back loads from these areas, BRS Wisbeach and spuds from Fife through Scott Newman Shrewsbury.
Other interesting jobs included the tools for Ford Cargo cab doors from Vickers Newcastle back to Blackburn and conveyor belts for India to Teesport. The best job for me was delivering X mover, deturgent granuals used for washing trains, got into several locomotive depots delivering that and always managed a long chat, they would always offer you a brew.
Ford in there infinite wisdom decided that Archbold Distribution was to undertake all their incoming haulage, which meant that we were out of our main job, along with many other small engineering companies often doing their own haulage, the unions did nothing to help us. Perhaps it would have not been so bad if Archbold were doing it cheaper, but they were charging extra and even offered us our own work back under sub contract which was declined as they were alleged bad payers.
Ford were also bad payers and this factor eventually put the engineering company we originally worked for out of business, Ford failed to pay a construction company for a big job so they left the Langley car park like a bomb site and pulled out. We found new work carting pet food for Knacker Davis Blackburn, we also collected knacker meat frozen on pallets in an insulated van, ( they had a fridge on but you had to plug it into the mains ) one trip was up to Kilmarnock, change trailers, then up to Kirkintillock and return fully loaded.
Much of the pet food out ( chubs ) was hand ball, which was not good for my back and when the prat apprentice I once worked with killed himself trying to overtake a tractor he should have know was likely to turn right into Langcliffe tip, I called in on my original employer on the way back from the north east one night. I got quite a good reception from the son considering history and he offered me a job driving there, I did a day’s trial and liked it and was promised a said vehicle GCK 535S, a RR 265 ERF B-series tractor.
Unfortunately for me the previous driver wrote it off before I started so I was given a less good tractor to start with. Made plenty of money running concrete aggregate from Horrocksford to Blackburn, we also did Swinden ( nr Grassington ) to RMC Burnley, plus Tilcon work, made more money than top link drivers on 38 tonner’s hauling grain. We also brought slates from north Wales and distributed them throughout the country, it was an easy trip down to Bleanau-Festiniog and back, especially after the A55 was turned into a dual carriageway, although we often went out with wood off-cuts to Kronospan at Chirk.
I also started keeping racing pigeons with the help of my father, I was no that good at it to start with, lost nearly all my original birds which I took over from an old hand who died.
Life could have gone on like that forever, but I was forced to drag a heavier trailer with a bad tailboard and one day during August 1987 it was 10C and pissing down, we had had no summer and I decided that I would go to Australia that winter.
I got the visa and an Ausrail Pass for three months, I set out on Philippine airlines ( £865 return ) in November, landing in sunny summer Sydney. Alan ( the transport manager ) had given me the address of one of his mates who lived in a suburb of Sydney, and he let me use his house as a base camp for my expedition.
My first trip was from Sydney to Melbourne, then overnight to Adelaide where I caught the train to Perth. I got talking to the driver and his young mate and they offered me a cab ride as far as Port Augusta, I jumped at the chance even though it meant standing for almost four hours. Got talking about railway stuff, the young probably trainee driver missed a speed limit on a bridge and it was said that the soup was spilled in the dining car. I rejoined the train and the guard gave me some really nasty looks, I was in economy class and you were not allowed in the club car except to buy food, I lived off railway steak pies and Cornish pasties. I spent much of the time playing cards with the other economy passengers, going across the Nullarbor plain was really boring, if you looked out of the window long enough the horizon would start to spin round.
I teamed up with a character called Paul who was an illegal immigrant, at Perth we went down into the town and checked in at the cheap hotel across from the main suburban station, I think it worked out at £5 a night, Paul got himself a job restoring a boat for someone. I hired a car for the week and travelled all around the local area, did lots of drinking at night, was nearly skint at the weekend, just enough brass to go on a trip to Rotness Island on Sunday, was totally broke until the bank opened on Monday morning. The second week
I used my Ausrail pass to go on the bus to York and then Geraldton, looked up the phone book and contacted the secretary of the local racing pigeon club, went up to his place a couple of time, taught me lot about breeding and racing pigeons. Paul had fell out with the bloke he was working for and had got himself as an escort for a US ship captain in port at Freemantle, he shouted at me in the street one day and that night we all went out to a strip club. After the captain left Paul got a job doing up a shop basement, living in at the same time but it was time for me to head back east, I will never know what became of Paul. Even though on holiday technically away from wagons when I had the car I went to Freemantle docks an blagged a trip around the grain terminal in an old Mack, it was said that I could go on a long trip with him the day after but it never materialized.
I booked a sleeper back to Adelaide ( cost me extra ), spent most of the time playing cards and met a woman fro Lancashire working as a hostess, she said I could come to her house if I was in Perth again, but I was never to return. Got the overnight train from Adelaide to Melbourne, then the day train back to Sydney ( you had to book in advance ) but which time it was Christmas,
Steve the man at base camp was going to stay on the coast near Woy-Woy so I met him at the local station. I spent Christmas day fishing, soon we were back at Sydney and went for a day trip to the Blue Mountains with Steve and another English friend out there. Wentworth Falls were pretty impressive, went down the trail to the bottom and back up, I was knackered, missed breakfast and ran out of energy, was OK when I had a can of Coke.
My next project was Queensland and I caught the train to Brisbane, then the train from Brisbane to Townsville ( three foot six gauge ), the seats were the most uncomfortable in the world so hardly got any sleep. I decided to book a sleeper overnight in future, only a fiver a night but stayed in Townsville for the week, went snorkeling on the barrier reef, then out to Mt Isa and back the day after, moved on to Cairns on the day train.
I stopped two nights in Cairns, went up to Kuranda on the train during the full day I was there, Cairns reminded me of Morecambe. I got the train back down to Rockhampton, then out to Winton in a compartment with a sheep sheerer who had cut off his thumb, they had stitched it back on in Brisbane and he was on his way home. He offered to put me up overnight but all my sleepers were booked back to Brisbane, where I stayed for the week.
I had to upgrade to first class to get back to Sydney on the overnight train, it was 23C when I got there and it felt freezing. The next project was Alice Springs, caught the Indian Pacific overnight to Adelaide, then the Ghan overnight to Alice,( no sleeper) spent part of the day keeping cool in the librarary, then found a rail enthusiast shop and had to be torn away to catch the overnight train back to Adelaide.
Overlander back to Melbourne, then back to Sydney on the day train. Went to Dubbo and back on the HST, one power car was shut down due to failing its oil test but it got us over the Blue Mountains and back almost on time. Then back to Adelaide, this time on the HST to Allbury, then overnight by double deck coach, the driver told everyone not to close their individual air vents but nobody took any notice and the bus was soon freezing, had to put my jeans on over my shorts. Spent the last part of the trip talking to the driver, we got in early doors and I booked into the Franklin Hotel for three nights.
The bus system was first class and cheap, the tickets were also valid on local trains not covered by my pass, spent most of the days travelling around the area. Then it was back to Melbourne on the day bus/train, stopped in Melbourne for a couple of nights but didn’t like the place, on a previous passing through I visited a preserved narrow gauge steam railway. Back to Sydney on the overnight train, then it was time to think about visiting relatives in NZ, so I booked a cheap flight with NZ airlines out, Quantas back.
I must admit that I was sad to leave Australia, perhaps I should have become and illegal immigrant like Paul, but life had to go on and I arrived at Auckland at about tea time and caught the bus to the railway Station where I got the overnight bus to Whakatane where my relatives lived.
The bus was half van and also carried the mail stopping at Hamilton and then Roturua for a full hour to transfer between vehicles. We arrived in Whakatane at about 4.00 am, and I bedded down in the town centre shelter until a Maori security guard accosted me and said that I could kip in his mates caravan until daylight.
I rang my relatives up to collect me, they lived on the side of a hill up a long rough track about two miles outside the town centre. I stayed there a few days then was driven to Roturua to catch a flight to Christchurch where some other relatives lived, stopped in Christchurch at my relatives for a few days then back to Whakatane by air to Roturua again and collected.
We drove to Auckland and back to see my cousin’s son at boarding school stayed a few more days doing local trips out including inspecting recent earthquake damage. Soon my time was up and I caught the day bus back to Auckland, then the plane to Sydney, Philippine airlines DC10 to Manila, then back to the UK via Dubai and Frankfurt where the plane was delayed for two hours due to an engine fault. Caught the train back to Preston via Victoria, tube and Euston and it seemed to be a changed country, everything was so expensive, even at the local pub the beer had gone up 20p a pint, probably to pay for its refurbishment, but the landlord soon gave up.
I was at a bit of a loose end when I returned from down under in 1988, I got a job working for a driver agency at Preston and did all sorts of work including concrete mixers, bulk animal feed and night shunt work between Preston and Heysham docks. Just about the only driving job I had never done was bulk liquids, one contract was for parcels as part of Eagle Express,
I loaded up at Chris Miller’s just off Preston docks, then went to Farnworth picking up at Caunce Rufford who one ran six-wheel AEC tippers out of Horrocksford. The motive power was a Seddon Atkinson 400 with the old 290 Cummins engine plus a standard forty foot taught liner, the fitters rigged up a light inside for dark mornings, usually set off at 6 pm and then was allowed to come home in the tractor unit. In the morning I set off at 5 am finished for half eight, it was a bit of a stain so I started stopping out at Farnworth in the sleeper cab, the system was doomed to failure Preston was served by two franchises, so if stuff got on the wrong load it had to go back.
I left to buy my own six wheel ERF tipper and got work from Horrocksford, unfortunately there was not enough specific work for six wheelers so I sold that and got a four wheel Leyland Freighter with a 410 engine. I made loads of money with the four wheeler, especially delivering ” Play-Deck “, special tarmac for tennis courts all over the north of England, we also got special rates, but like anything any good I ever got onto it didn’t last. The quarry closed due to a crack in the secondary crusher, so I went back to Jacksons where I started when I was 13.
Back at Jackson’s I specialized in nursing the older vehicles in their last months, all local aggregate work, mostly from Swinden to RMC Burnley and Blackburn, but we also did Tilcon plants at the aforementioned, plus Horwich in the old railway works, it always seemed a dismal place not fulfilling its original function. We also carried sand off the beach at St Annes, although we were always told that salt was no good in concrete, and to clean the body after carrying rock salt for the roads.
It was probably also mildly radioactive, but its in every foundation in houses built in NE lancs houses over the past 20 years, RMC had used it when the dredgers came into Preston Dock but that was washed with fresh water. The old certainties which had been drummed into everyone in the 1970s were being ignored, perhaps many construction projects will suffer from concrete cancer due to the salt rotting the steel reinforcing.
One bridge project on the new M65 at Nelson specified Carnforth gravel sand, I never had any problem getting a load but I had known them since I was a kid, various sub contractors had been turned away. By now we all had 38 tonne tri-axle trailers, it didn’t slow us down very much with skill it was possible to use the extra weight to your advantage, work was slack in 1991 so I decided to go to New Zealand again, this time for longer to see more of the country.
I got a charter flight for £714 at the last minute, dad took me to Luton Airport overnight to catch the early morning flight. We flew to Crete to refuel, then as the first gulf war was on Mombassa, then Singapore where we were allowed off to stretch our legs, then to Cairns where we went around the duty free on to Auckland arriving early morning.
I caught the airport bus into town and had to force the driver to let me off near the Station, nearly missed the day bus to Gisbourne, the night bus didn’t run anymore. I stayed a couple of weeks with my cousin at Whakatane where I booked a coach tour around the south island.
Flew from Roturua to Christchurch again, stayed with relatives again and started my coach tour by catching the Mount Cook Lines daily service to Queenstown, again the bus carried urgent freight, the driver said that the air suspension was good because it hid the fact that you were overloaded.
Had a full day in Queenstown going up in a helicopter, jet boat and white water rafting, up the cable car, trip on the Earnslaw on the lake in the evening, joined the tour bus the morning after bound for Milford Sound. Stopped at Te Aneu that night, the next day down to Invercargill and stayed on a farm up country that night, then Dunedin, out to Ormaru to stay the night, next day up to Mount Cook and back to Christchurch for tea.
Stayed a couple of more days in Christchurch, saw the wizard and inevitably ended up in a railway enthusiasts shop, then I got a 14 day rail / bus pass, went over Arthurs Pass to Greymouth and back by rail.
The next morning I caught the train to Picton and the ferry to Wellington, bus to Palmerton North ( 2 hours to kill ) then overnight bus to Gisbourne, then caught the day bus back to Whakatane for the weekend.
The next trip was day bus to Gisbourne, then overnight bus to Wellington, the bus had a sudden front wheel puncture and I helped the driver to change it ( probably showed him some new tricks to save time ) got a free brew at the changeover at Hastings. Spent the day on the train to Napier and back, met an inter island ferry engineer who invited me to inspect his engine room if I got chance, had a long in depth engineering conversation and learn’t a few new things, then caught the overnight train to Auckland, ( sitting ), then quickly changed onto the day train ( Jap DMU ) back to Wellington,
I got talking to the train staff and was offered a cab rid again, 90 Mph on three foot six gauge, pretty impressive. I caught overnight train back to Auckland again, then got a lift from my cousin’s son back to Whakatane where I remained a few more days before setting off for home in the UK.
Flew back direct to Auckland, then caught a United Airlines flight to Hawaii, it took over two hours to get through immigration so I nearly missed my flight back to the UK on a Continental DC10 stopping at Denver, could see the grand Canyon out of the window. Struggled to find a working toilet at Denver, wasn’t impressed going through immigration, the US is a dump and I don’t think that I will ever return, the flight was delayed an extra hour and we were late back into Gatwick, where I caught the train home again.
5 Second Return.
I didn’t fancy going back driving so I went to the job centre and found a job working as a laborer in the local bus garage, they took me on straight away. Duties included filling the buses with fuel, checking the engine oil and then basically sweeping them out for service the next day, starting at half three in the afternoon till eleven.
The standard brush was useless so I got a better brush to do a cleaner job, also took less time, the manager was impressed and soon had me in for an insurance driving test. I was really nervous about the test, he said make yourself comfortable but that was impossible due to the 1960 ergonomics of the test bus, no power steering either, I was the first time I had driven anything larger than a Metro on the road for over three months.
She was a bit of a handful and I struggled with the gears using the clutch, trying not to cross over hands around roundabouts, then the left hand reverse, no problem, hill start, made it have it.
The approaching retirement instructor then changed places and demonstrated changing gear without the clutch, I said I can do that and drove for miles though town and back up the by-pass without crunching gears once. He said that I was the best candidate he had had for three years, and commented ” an excellent drive ” on the form.
I was soon going out on changeovers, I liked the semi automatic gearboxes and you were soon up to the top speed of 50 on the open road, did breakdown work also, always did the towing, they knew I knew what I was doing.
Things were more efficient with me around and I probably stopped the planned closure of the depot, we got extra buses from Blackburn depot and I was moved onto the early shift which could be a cushy number taking a bus to Bolton in the morning then waiting for it to be steam cleaned before coming back.
The foreman fitter was good at his job, but the other two left a lot to be desired, one was a re-trained gas fitter, spent all day changing filters and messing with a miss-firing Gardner Engine, I went out to change it, all that was up with it was that one of the de-compressors had been left on.
That was my trick for flat batteries, the manager was responsible for leaving it on in this case, but then what do you expect from a man trained maintaining a carpet factory.
Other blunders included leaving the nut finger tight on the end of a crankshaft, going home when another fitter was to continue with the job, it lasted 30 miles and then sheared the key.
Brain dead Malcolm ( Pt II technician home trained ) was going to try and weld it with oxy-acetylene until I wrung the manager and stopped him, he also towed in a bus one Friday night and left a note saying that it needed a new injector pump.
The foreman fitter had just swapped it from another off road bus and was about to start it when I popped round to se what was happening on Saturday morning. He watched while I tried to start it, it did for a second but stopped immediately in a cloud of smoke.
I suggested checking the air cleaner, which was blocked solid with fag ash ( the intake was under the rear seats ), the engine ran perfect with a new air cleaner element. A similar bus had been parked up at Blackburn for over two months awaiting a ” new ” engine, it was found that its air cleaner was also blocked solid, no wonder they ( Stagecoach ) were on the verge of going bust.
Edited Version of Original Transcript, as written on alleged ” Free Laptop “, which automatically enrolled me into an almost impossible to an endless Computer maintenance contract. Aforementioned Lap Top was purchased at Curry’s PC World, on the same retail park where the RMC Burnley plant was originally situated ( probably in the current position as ToysRUs ) & next to the Preston-Longridge Railway which may have been originally Horse-Drawn, and opposite the Fire-Station on Blackpool Road, the other side of the road over-bride from the SPAR depot !