Colin shares great memories and photos of Derby haulage firm and its Normanton base

We wonder how many of our readers remember the Derby haulage firm Mansfield and Dawson? For Derby-born author Colin Baker it played a significant role in his childhood and sparked a life-long interest in transport. Here Colin, who now lives in Suffolk, takes us back to those early years.

"What triggers a person's interest in road transport? Understandably, there are a variety of answers to this question depending upon personal experiences, particularly those in formative years. In my case, two childhood experiences triggered the interest, public transport and road haulage.

The former resulted from a wartime visit to my maternal grandmother's home in Hastings, where Hastings Tramways operated single-deck Guy trolleybuses fitted with Ransomes Sims and Jefferies bodies. Imagine my surprise when returning to my home town of Derby, and leaving Midland Station, at being confronted by an identical vehicle. It was one of six purchased second-hand by Derby Corporation as a result of a decline in wartime traffic in the seaside town, and the increasing transport needs because of manufacturing activity in this Midlands industrial centre.

Three Mansfield and Dawson vehicles parked up in the Cameron Road depot in Derby

The second catalyst for my interest was the fact I lived almost opposite a haulage contractor.

The company was Mansfield and Dawson Ltd, which operated out of a depot at 89 Cameron Road, Derby. I became interested in its activities at an early age during the Second World War. Immediately before the war, the company operated a small fleet of petrol and diesel vehicles from a variety of manufacturers, including Leyland, Morris Commercial and Foden, all employed on general haulage.

They were painted in a lined out maroon livery with an "M&D" headboard. The business started in the early 1930s as a supplier of firewood and firelighters, plus light haulage, but grew substantially during the war, with an intake of vehicles from Maudslay, Thornycroft, ERF and Vulcan. In addition, there was a solitary Bedford articulated unit with a Carrimore trailer.

Colin shares great memories and photos of Derby haulage firm and its Normanton baseThere are two Commers in this sports day line-up of Qualcast Big Bedford S Types in Derby

After the war, Thornycroft was the favoured choice of manufacturer, with one ex-War Department vehicle, together with four post-war Sturdys being added to the fleet.

The Cameron Road premises had been acquired in about 1938, the business having been previously located at 107 Grange Street. The increase in wartime traffic resulted in branches being established in Birmingham and Sheffield. The Derby depot included a single-storey office block and separate workshop/stores, with a covered area over loading docks, served by hand operated chain lifting tackle.

The covered area and the loading docks were extended during the war, presumably to cater for increased traffic and to reduce light exposure during the blackout. There was a drivers' mess room in a terraced house opposite the depot.

Colin shares great memories and photos of Derby haulage firm and its Normanton baseDuring his trips with Mansfield and Dawson drivers, Colin saw the blue and cream trolleybuses owned by Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Traction

Most journeys were within a 50-mile radius of Derby, with round trips being completed in a day. Next day deliveries were consolidated during the night and I can well remember being woken regularly by the ringing tones of castings being man-handled in the docking area.

Vehicles were parked overnight in a car park near the then-Baseball Ground, with an elderly Irishman who lived a few doors away from me acting as a night watchman. Lorries would be brought up to the depot during the night to be unloaded and prepared ready for the next day's deliveries, before returning to the parking area. Drivers would be taken to their vehicles in a Morris van.

Mr and Mrs Dawson managed the business, Freddy Bust was the depot foreman, plus there was a secretary named Pat. I used to hang around the depot gate, watching vehicle movements, particularly in the late afternoon/early evening, when vehicles were returning from the day's activities. I also used to wander into the workshop at every opportunity, where fitters could be seen working on engine overhauls and regular maintenance activities.

I was once housebound with chickenpox and one of the fitters delivered a thick manual on the workings of a diesel engine to keep me occupied! There was a painter/joiner named Harold and I recall seeing him rubbing down cabs and bodywork between coats of paint, and lining out with a thin paintbrush, arm rest and a steady hand before the final coat of varnish.

Colin shares great memories and photos of Derby haulage firm and its Normanton baseInside the Qualcast Sunnyhill lawnmower factory in Derby with a BRS Foden FG6 being loaded with products

Saturday mornings were interesting as all vehicles were parked in the depot for the weekend; lorries could not be left in the overnight parking facility as, every other week, the car park was required when Derby County were playing at home. There must have been a Saturday rota of drivers, as there was fun and games when the driver of the Bedford artic was not available.

There were repeated reversing manoeuvres, as inexperienced drivers endeavoured to move the vehicle into the depot. Cold weather starting was also entertaining to watch. The majority of vehicles had fixed starting handles and, to get some of them to start, particularly the diesels, required manpower.

A rope would be attached to the starting handle, with four or five men on the other end; the one nearest the starting handle would make sure he was positioned to avoid any kickback.

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After a co-ordinated count to three, the rope would be pulled sharply and the engine turned over by the assembled manpower; if their luck was in, the engine would start first time, otherwise the whole process was repeated. Visiting lorries from other fleets included Albion flats owned by Keelings Transport, another Derby haulier, and a forward control Thornycroft Trusty in a blue livery owned by Ripley haulier, Ropers Transport. When I was about 10, I plucked up enough courage to ask one of the drivers if I could travel out with him.

Colin shares great memories and photos of Derby haulage firm and its Normanton baseThis Maudslay Merlin is like the one Colin travelled in as a boy

After due parental approval, this was the start of many trips with Bill Smith, who drove a Maudslay Merlin with Gardner engine, plus occasional trips with other drivers.

Given my interest in public transport, my favourite trip was out to Coventry, via Hinckley and Nuneaton, to complete the drops, and then across to Birmingham after lunch to pick up loads ready for the return to Derby. This journey provided sightings of Coventry's maroon and cream buses and Birmingham's dark blue and cream trams and buses, plus their Coventry Road trolleybuses. Interspersed with these was the highly innovative fleet of Midland Red, which was introducing its underfloor-engined single-deckers in large numbers.

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Another favourite trip was to Sheffield.

The morning highlight was the stop at a transport cafe at Unstone, between Chesterfield and Sheffield, where I was treated to a large mug of tea and a bacon and egg sandwich, the latter still being a favourite of mine. On the public transport front, there were the green and cream of Chesterfield Corporation's buses, the blue and cream of Sheffield's trams and buses, plus the eye-catching livery of brown, beige and cream used by East Midland Motor Services. Sheffield left a lasting memory, set among its seven hills and tower block construction, plus the vast steel works with smaller supporting engineering factories.

One steel factory, in particular, that impressed was the stainless steel manufacturing facility of Samuel Fox, which had a large silver fox, positioned over the office block. When inside, one could see the red-hot sheet metal passing backwards and forwards between the rolling mills, accompanied by clouds of steam and scale, and with the thickness of the steel gradually reducing at each pass. There were still trams in Sheffield during these visits and homeward journeys provided an interesting event.

After watching Bill double de-clutch the small Maudslay into bottom gear, we would grind our way out of Sheffield up the steep inclines towards Woodseats, only to be passed by fully loaded trams speeding to the summit.

Colin shares great memories and photos of Derby haulage firm and its Normanton baseThis Dalton and Co Ltd steam lorry dates from well before Colin visited the Belper Silkolene Lubricants factory

While most trips were along the A38 and A61, on some return journeys we would cut across to Matlock, then into Derby following the River Derwent, via the A6. This meant we passed through Belper and the Dalton and Co Ltd Silkolene Oils depot, housing the company's immaculate fleet of vehicles. Other trips were to Nottingham and Mansfield, including the Raleigh bicycle factory, plus the occasional visit to Stoke on Trent and the Rolls-Royce car factory in Crewe.

A major event, which was to signal significant change, was the appearance of Foden RC 7280 out of the workshop in a brilliant red livery, with the "M&D" headboard replaced by one reading "British Road Services". While not understanding the implications at the time, my beloved local haulier had been nationalised as part of the post-war Labour Government's legislation programme. The original red seemed much brighter, bordering on orange, rather than the Ayers Red used on subsequent re-paints.

The Foden appeared with the lion in the wheel logo and the Derby area code of 62E. See more Derby nostalgia on our Twitter and Facebook pages . The majority of my familiar Mansfield and Dawson vehicles soon disappeared, it having been decided that the depot would become an all Thornycroft fleet, presumably to standardise on spares and maintenance.

New vehicles included the appearance of an eight-wheeled Trusty. Not long after, the facility was closed, with the main Derby BRS base being established at the Keeling depot in Meadow Lane, Alvaston. The Cameron Road premises were first sold to Porters, a local hay and seed merchant, and then to Stevens, a corn merchant from Shardlow.

The next owner of the site was White Brothers, purveyors of mineral waters, with a fleet of vans making local deliveries, which also had overcrowded premises in the adjacent Havelock Road, which backed on to the Mansfield and Dawson premises.

Colin shares great memories and photos of Derby haulage firm and its Normanton baseWhite Brothers eventually acquired the Cameron Road premises of Mansfield and Dawson which backed onto its process plant in Havelock Road, Derby

During White's occupation, parts of the depot had a variety of uses, before being sold to a company that exported part-exchanged refrigerators and washing machines. Eventually, the depot was demolished to make way for modern domestic properties, known as Bradley Court, set amongst Victorian terraced and palisaded housing stock. On leaving school in 1954, I joined Qualcast as an apprentice draughtsman and, imagine my surprise in finding a number of ex-Mansfield and Dawson drivers now working for Qualcast.

Colin shares great memories and photos of Derby haulage firm and its Normanton baseQualcast's Derby factories used Commer and Bedford lorries for the delivery of lawnmowers and castings. This view shows one of the former at the company's Sunnyhill lawnmower factory.

The driver is Percy Phillips, an ex-Mansfield and Dawson employee

They included Burt Bird, Nobby Clark, Frank Turner and Percy Phillips. The Qualcast lorry fleet was always well turned out, in a smart two-tone green livery with red wheels, and an elliptical headboard carrying the Qualcast logo. The fleet included Commers, plus Big Bedford rigids and tractor units, which were fitted with Foden front bumpers.

Colin shares great memories and photos of Derby haulage firm and its Normanton baseThe annual children's sports day was an occasion when Qualcast in Derby lorries would be decorated and some used as mobile floats. This photo was taken at the company's sports and social club and shows two Big Bedfords

I hope I have conveyed how living close to a haulage contractor in my formative years generated my life-long interest in road transport. The journeys with the Mansfield and Dawson drivers improved my knowledge of the East and West Midlands, plus South Yorkshire, helped me considerably when we covered these areas in geography at school.

The wide variety of factories we visited prepared me for my chosen career in production engineering and manufacturing."

This article first appeared in Vintage Roadscene magazine in June 2013.

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