Westwood Works 1903-2003
Immediately after WW2, Baker Perkins began to step up production to meet the demands of their customers for replacements for their machinery and for new automatic plant that would relieve the shortage of skilled labour. Rather than depend on sub-contracting, as had been the case after WW1, It was decided to open a factory which would be complimentary to Westwood Works. As the railway had been a paramount factor when F.C. Ihlee decided to make the move from Regent Square to Peterborough in 1903, this also influenced Baker Perkins in choosing Hebburn-on-Tyne as the location for this new factory. It was known as Bedewell because of the area's association with the Venerable Bede.
After a lot of teething troubles - the re-training of the sheet-metal workers and boiler-makers of Tyneside to cope with the precision work of Baker Perkins and the transfer of machinery and men from Westwood - the new factory came into full production. Starting with Laundry equipment, the factory soon moved on to making baking ovens and a small drawing office was set up. The two factories were, in a number of ways, inter-dependent in respect of manufacturing capacity and facilities. If either was short of work then arrangements would be made for the transfer of suitable products to sustain their respective workloads. This could be simply the subcontracting of parts for machining or assembly or the full production of complete machines.
This association was highly dependent on an efficient transport service between the two factories. As freight traffic on the railways gave way to road transport, the Company began to use outside road transport contractors for this work. This carried on for a number of years but studies suggested it would be more cost effective if the Company purchased its own Low Loader type lorries.
Brian Harris, Works Manager of Bedewell, was instrumental in introducing this and in about 1972 the Board of Directors authorized the purchase of three 6-wheel, 32 ton ERF articulated Lorries. With these the Company continued to provide this essential trunk service whilst at the same time maintaining a more direct control of the service between Peterborough and Bedewell. Administration at Peterborough was the responsibility of Gordon Liquorish, Senior Foreman of the Despatch Department and Fred Watkins Transport Foreman.
It was a night time service and operated every night of the working week, Monday to Friday inclusive. The lorries would leave Peterborough and Bedewell at appropriate times in order for them to meet at the "half way" point. The meeting place was Wentbridge Services on the A1 at Doncaster. The vehicles would park on their respective side of the road, the Peterborough lorry heading north and the Bedewell lorry heading south.
The drivers would pause for a chat and cup of tea and exchange any other information that was necessary in relation to their loads. After this they would swap lorries and return to their home factories.
The Peterborough lorry would leave the works at 6.00pm and arrive at Doncaster at around 10.30pm - 11.00pm, the return Bedewell load arriving at Westwood Works at about 1.30am - 2am the next morning. On arrival at the factory the driver would clock off and return home. The "day" man would clock-on at 7.30am, unload the vehicle and distribute the components around the factory. He would then reload the vehicle with "new" items for Bedewell and get this ready for the "night" man to take on to Doncaster and the changeover point. Loading would finish at 4.30pm as the vehicle had to be roped and sheeted down ready for this onward journey.
Inter-factory mail was another important part of this activity and each lorry carried a mailbag. There was often a last minute scurry to catch the bag with urgent letters, drawings and other documents before the vehicle left.
Eventually it was decided that the drivers would keep to their own cabs and simply change the trailers. This was not allowed at the Wentbridge Services so the vehicles carried on to the M62 and made the changeover at a transport café at Castleford. Here they would uncouple the trailers and hook them up to the Peterborough and Bedewell cabs ready for their onward journeys.
The ERFs were eventually replaced with three Scania lorries of the same wheelbase and tonnage, and these were used until the service finished in about 1990. Trevor Moore, John Travers and Gordon Ingham were the Peterborough drivers.
Trevor Moore recalls the story of a lorry almost home from Bedewell:
"In the early hours of the morning it was climbing up the notoriously steep Castor Hill when a printing machine frame fell off the back. Gordon Ingham quickly realized what had happened and swung the big articulated lorry round to drive down the Hill in order to guard the frame and warn oncoming vehicles of the danger.
Gordon's quick thinking and action prevented any accident occurring. He notified Baker Perkins of the situation and people were sent out to recover the frame. Lou Park, of the Despatch Department, drove the company's Mobile Crane from Westwood to Castor but, to those who were waiting at the scene, seemed to take a long time getting there. It wasn't until he arrived and was asked why he had taken so long that he realized the crane had more than two gears and he had been driving in 2nd gear all the way from the factory.
The story continues because the frame had damaged the road surface quite badly and this of course needed to be repaired. Rumour has it that Ernie Hudson (of the Experimental Department), who was also a senior dignitary of the Ailsworth Community, rather than just having the local damage repaired, had the whole of the road through Ailsworth resurfaced as a result."
There is another story associated with the Trunk Lorry service. Who remembers Arthur Cobley?
Arthur also worked in the Despatch Department and drove what was referred to as the "Tin Wagon". He lived in Castor and obviously knew just what time the Trunk Lorries would travel through the village. On the return journey this was, of course, early in the morning but this didn't deter Arthur from playing his quite regular prank.
Gordon Ingham recalls the times when Arthur would dress up as a tramp and walk along the road carrying a battered suitcase, at the unearthly hour of 1.30 to 2.00am. He would wave to the lorries just to see if they would stop and ask how he was. The drivers refrained from doing this but back at the works Arthur would discreetly have questions asked of the drivers to see if they had seen a tramp walking through the village of Castor and Ailsworth. This caused much comment and amusement amongst the members of the Despatch Department.
When the overnight trunk service ended in 1990, the Company purchased two Leyland Daf vehicles, each with a HIAB crane on the back. These vehicles were used primarily to deliver Master Baker Ovens around the country, the crane facility allowing Ovens to be quickly unloaded at customers' premises where a fitter soon had it in production.
|Date?: Master Baker Delivery Lorry||Date?: Peterborough to Bedewell Lorry|
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