Below are three of us owner drivers loading trailers for Astran in Slough. The Mack is Colin McKay, an old friend who originally introduced us to Lenham Storage, where we had many years as contractors. Colin drove a Merc for Lenham after working for some time for Firmins, and then decided to have a go himself, having seen the Mack for sale and fallen in love with it. He then had to work it to justify buying it. Also here is Chris Fiske in the Scania 111, a brief foray into general haulage that he didn't like too much, and soon returned to his tippers.

This was a 60ft ships propshaft collected from Chatham Dockyard when it closed, a job arranged by Bosman Transport, with the trailer very generously loaned by Wallis Transport at Swanley, even more generous when you appreciate he had never clapped eyes on me before. Minor accident extending it, necessitating borrowing olives etc from friendly naval fitter. Happliy plodded on my way taking a detour from M25 through Purley, Wallington, Sutton and Kingston when I heard that the Ministry where out in force on the Reigate junction. Had to negotiate one roundabout by taking the trailer body over the top of the roundabout and bringing the bogey the wrong way round . Eventually arrived at Plymouth who were most surprised that I didn't have a police escort? Nobody told me.

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Colin McKay, now owner of Fast Forward Freight in Sittingbourne, introduced us to his former employers, Lenham Storage as possible contractors, We built a good relationship over many years, doing deliveries to Nurdin and Peacock depots, and Grolsch Lager, which Lenham imported from Holland. They were a curiously old fashioned company, but honourable in a way that some modern companies aren't.

We were contacted one day bt a friend of a friend called Ron Pearmaine, who ran a company called Aldos Transport in Essex. He had this curious relationship with Chris Hudson who in the early 80s was the biggest, and almost only, operator of unaccompanied trailers through Dover. He had the main Ford contract, mainly out of Dagenham. His own trucks did the shuttle during the day to Dover, but called in contractors at night, and that is where we came in. We would do one or two trailers into Dover each evening, and maybe some over the weekend, a nice little extra to top up a quiet day.

This appeared to come to a sad end when Chris started running his own ferry out of Chatham Dockyard, and his trucks could then comfortably cope. At first this hit us a bit hard, but within a few months it appeared that Chris had bitten off  a bit more than he reckoned, and his whole empire went bust. We must have been the only hauliers on his books that weren't owed money, and the receivers called us in to collect trailers from all over the country, and deliver loads that were still in transit when the axe fell. Although we earned well out of the disaster, we heard some sad tales of loss from small hauliers who could ill afford it, and who had been hoping to keep the trailers as a bargaining chip, but they had all been sold to a leasing company shortly before the death in a desperate attempt to keep the company running.

What was rather curious about the whole affair, is that Russel Hudson, Chris's brother, had set up a new company with Chris's European partner, Etwal BV, called Cargocare, to take over the work. On about the third day after the collapse, I had to help tranship a Chris Hudson trailer to another operator for onward delivery in Europe, and the vehicle that collected it was a brand new tilt, liveried as Cargocare: fastest bit of trailer building I ever saw!

The picture above shows a Reeds shunter, me, and Dave in my recently purchased F88, still in its original Reeds livery. 

Most hauliers in Kent have at some time been involved in Reeds work, carrying paper. Medway got us into this shunt work for Reeds at Imperial Wharf, Gravesend, taking reels into store in Northfleet, I think they used to call it the Kraft Estate. We were unloading in a massive warehouse, using a voluntary one-way system. Muggins thought he could steel a march on three of the others by going into the out door whilst they plodded right around the estate to the proper door.

Unfortunately, as I swung into the doorway, I discovered why we were using it as an outdoor, as my headboard swung out and clipped the side column of the door. This caused a small avalanche of brick rubble to fall to the floor, where it neatly chopped the taps of my airtanks. The brakes immediately locked on, and being an old Scania 110, the sudden loss of air also locked the clutch before I could get it out of gear, and as I was still pulling, it wound up the propshaft as well. It took most of the rest of the day to replace the taps, jack up the tractor and wind off the brakes to release the prop, before I could even start the engine again. I was not flavour of the month with the others, (I hadn't had that good a day myself).

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Above James Cornwell's Scania, and George Nottage's Merc driven by brother Frank. You would not believe that two brothers could fight as much as those two!

After a spell with F88s, we got our first F10 secondhand from Maidstone Commercials, and this was liveried in Silver Springs colours, and worked virtually fulltime delivering their pop all over the country.

We had one driver, Long Tall Graeme, whom many will remember, who was collecting here on a flat, and discovered that you can't walk further than 40ft on top of a load. He wasn't hurt apart from a couple of bruises, but the loading gang were practically in hysterics: they described it as that perfect silent movie stunt, they swear he was still walking backwards as he plummeted to the catwalk.

We have a fund of stories about Graeme, but always told with affection, because despite his faults, he was hardworking, dedicated and fiercely loyal.

He hated London, it confused him. When he had to take a load to Hackbridge, I gave him directions: turn right off the M25 at the M23 junction, fork left just past Coulsdon Railway bridge, and he would eventually come across the depot as he went over the hump bridge at Hackbridge Station. I got a call from the delivery point saying he hadn't arrived, and then a call from him in Brighton. The girl in the booking office was so tickled with this that she actually rebooked him for the afternoon, and he got a rousing cheer from the dock as he eventually drove in.

Another time, in Chester, he asked our Dave which way home he was going. Dave, not being the most talkative of drivers, grunted "A41", meaning, as we all know, A41 to M54, M6 and home. Graeme drove the entire way to Central London down the A41. Dave was in the yard, reloaded and back in Chester before Graeme got home.

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