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The history of the forklift truck – Episode 44: 1964 Earls Court Show revisited

hyster-ransomes-l40aWarehouse & Logistics News is proud to bring you the forty-third instalment in our exclusive series on the history of the fork lift truck, the machine that over the decades has revolutionised the face of materials handling around the world.

Our writer is James Brindley, an acknowledged authority on fork lift trucks. James’s distinguished career has involved engineering and management roles with BT Rolatruc and serving as a Director of the Fork Lift Truck Association, before he set up the National Fork Truck Heritage Centre in 2004 as Britain’s first such collection open to the public.

The Heritage Centre continues to need your support in 2009, and if you or your company would like to help in any way, you can contact James on the number below. Now sit back and enjoy the latest part of this fascinating series.

bonser-4-tonEpisode 44: 1964 Earls Court Show revisited: fork lift goes from John O`Groats to Lands End Completing the list of launches of electronically controlled forklifts at the 1964 Earls Court show was the Hyster – Ransomes L40A counterbalance from the SpaceSaver range. Hyster – Ransomes used the brand name ‘Solectron’ for their stepless control system and quoted the benefits of saving time and money in and around cold stores and food processing areas. This they explained was due to the faster lift and travel speeds the system provided and was a major sales feature of their new trucks.

Against the background of industrial expansion in general, most established manufacturers were taking the opportunity of launching more new models and innovations than ever. This was also the view taken by the forklift producers who at the very least were updating an already successful model or machine. One company, outside forklift manufacturing decided that now was the time to enter this competitive field. Bonser Equipment Ltd of Hucknall, Nottingham, making good use of their experience in the large scale manufacture of hydraulic components, were able to produce an indoor-outdoor, forklift truck with a 4 ton plus capacity. The machine featured a David Brown 990 diesel engine driving through a six-speed forward and a two speed reverse gearbox. Its actual rated capacity was 9,000 lbs to 144 inches at 24 inch load centres. As standard the machine was equipped with power assisted steering and pneumatic tyres, and carried the very attractive price tag of £1,695 ex works.

matbro-swingliftAnother British machine that raised major interest at the show came from Matbro Ltd of Frome in Somerset. Among their new range of trucks was the innovative “Swinglift” with slewing mast. This type of mast configuration enabled the machine to be used as a conventional counterbalance or as a sideloader. To facilitate this a long load such as timber or steel having been picked up in the counterbalance mode could be moved horizontally through 90 degrees and lowered onto the truck deck, allowing the machine to drive as a sideloader. This action could be reversed if required. The machine exhibited had a 6,000 lb lifting capacity, but prospective customers were told that models with higher capacities could be supplied.

In a change from its normal petrol/diesel powered units the Lister company of Dursley Gloucester now supplied for the first time a range of battery driven models. The machine exhibited was a 1 ton platform truck with detachable sideboards but a 2 ton version was available, as was a battery driver four-wheeled tractor unit.

lister-1ton-elecOn a lighter note the Earls Court exhibitors and visitors welcomed a Yale and Towne engine powered forklift truck to the show after an endurance run from John O’Groats to Lands End (actual road mileage: 1,041.) The model 51 was a standard machine with a Perkins 4203 diesel engine and the new Yale automatic transmission. The run was made to prove the reliability of the machine and transmission and the ease of operation for the driver. The sole driver for the run was Harry Davis, Director of Sales and Service for the Wednesfield factory where the truck was made. When interviewed at Earls Court he only had cause for one complaint during the whole 10-12 mph run, and that was to being soaked with rain during the Scottish leg. Author’s note: can anyone imagine doing anything like this on the roads of today?!

To be continued

By James Brindley, Director, National Fork Truck Heritage Centre

If you would like to support the National Fork Truck Heritage Centre, please call James Brindley on 0780 195 4167