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Scammell Scarab Lorries

Posted: Wed 25 Oct, 2017 6:16 pm
by dogduke
Not strictly Leeds but I sense that there are many transport
"Buffs" amongst us.
Scammell Scarabs/mechanical horses were a common sight around Leeds in the post war years
operated mainly by the railways pre and post war.

Looking on YouTube for something else there was amongst the suggestions was a promo film
produced for Scammell.

It runs for almost 22 mins and is well worth watching.

It should be easily found on YouTube search and maybe someone can post a link

Re: Scammell Scarab Lorries

Posted: Wed 25 Oct, 2017 7:18 pm
by jim
I recall being called out one night in the 1960s to Hunslet Lane Goods. Transport provided was a Commer "Cob" - the Scarab's predecessor (and possible reason for the "mechanical horse" description). There was no passenger seat, and I had to go some four miles perched on a beer crate. One of the hydraulic traversers had stopped, and I was asked to repair it. On clambering beneath the platform staging, there was the drive chain - in all the wrong places. A pulley wheel had ripped clean out of a support timber some twelve inches square. The Foreman asked how long befrore I could return the traverser to service. "It'll take weeks mate, I can't do it, you need the Civil Engineers Department, I'm off home". An easy three hours pay at time and a half for Jim - apart from the quality of the transport provided!

Re: Scammell Scarab Lorries

Posted: Wed 25 Oct, 2017 9:01 pm
by iansmithofotley
Hi everyone,

I can remember these vehicles and I knew them as ‘mechanical horses’. The ones which I remember consisted of a three wheeled ‘tractor unit’ which pulled a small ‘flat back’ or ‘enclosed’ trailer. I came across these vehicles under slightly unusual circumstances. Firstly, I will set the scene.

There was a branch of the Bank of England situated at Park Row/South Parade/Headrow. Every week (I think on a Friday) a massive amount of money, which we called ‘The Bullion’, used to be sent by train from the Bank of England in London to the Bank of England in Leeds. The train used to arrive at the City Railway Station. The money was contained in large aluminium containers (similar to what were used for despatching school dinners to schools from a central kitchen, if you remember them). When the Bullion Train arrived, the money was unloaded manually from the train on to ‘mechanical horses’. The vehicles were then driven from the railway station to the bank.

Obviously this procedure posed a massive security risk and was supervised by the C.I.D. at Millgarth Police Station, who did it on a weekly basis. It was manpower intensive and involved detectives, uniform staff and traffic department staff to cover the station and the bank plus the route in between, which was mainly from City Square and then along Park Row. During the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, I worked as a detective in the Leeds City Crime Squad, based at Brotherton House Police Headquarters, and when Millgarth C.I.D. were short of staff, we were regularly asked to help out with security for the Bullion. All of the detectives and traffic officers were armed with hand guns.

On one occasion, one summer, I remember that the station platform, where the train arrived, had been dug up and had been resurfaced with tarmac, earlier in the week. On the day that the Bullion Train arrived at the platform, it was an extremely hot day and the tarmac was still soft. The small trailers were lined up on the platform and the railway staff and Bank of England staff started to load the money from the train on to the trailers. As they loaded more and more money, the ‘jockey wheels’ at the front of the trailers started to sink into the soft tarmac and they all became stuck. Attempts were made to get the rear of the tractor units under the trailers but they had sunk too far and were too low. If they tried to wind the trailers higher, they just sunk deeper into the tarmac. It was an absolute farce and the money was very vulnerable, as were the staff. All the money had to be unloaded on to the platform in order to release the trailers from the tarmac, and then moved by hand to a part of the platform that had not been resurfaced. The whole operation took hours instead of about half an hour.

On another occasion, I remember one of the vehicles jackknifing and tipping over as it turned at the top of Park Row. The money containers fell off the vehicle into the road and it was ‘panic stations’ again. Again, the situation was resolved but it was farcical.

Around 1971, the Bank of England moved premises to King Street. At this time, the arrangements for the Bullion were changed. By this time there was a Container Base, with railway links, constructed at Stourton and the Bullion train arrived there instead of at the City Station. The money was contained in one large container on a railway truck and was then transferred to a container vehicle at Stourton. The Bullion vehicle was then driven under Police escort to the new Bank of England building and I seem to remember that the building was constructed so that the whole vehicle could be driven into the building (like an underground car park). This system was much less labour intensive particularly as far as the Police were concerned. A couple of plain cars containing armed detectives, and a couple of marked Road Traffic cars containing armed traffic officers, was all that was required and I never knew of any problems with this system.

I still have a chuckle when I think of the ‘mechanical horses’. As far as I am aware, I don’t think that there was ever an attempt made to rob the Bullion vehicles at the railway stations or elsewhere.


Re: Scammell Scarab Lorries

Posted: Wed 25 Oct, 2017 9:41 pm
by buffaloskinner
The Scarab Mechanical Horse - Scammell Factory Produced Promotional Film. This fascinating 1950s film shows archive footage of the Scarab, fore-runner of the modern articulated vehicle.


Re: Scammell Scarab Lorries

Posted: Wed 25 Oct, 2017 9:53 pm
by Leodian
Fascinating stuff. I should recall them but sadly I only vaguely do.

Your post about the 'bullion' transportation iansmithofotley makes very interesting reading. I suspect that there would likely have been people looking out for any chance to take a container or more but the high police presence would have deterred them.

Re: Scammell Scarab Lorries

Posted: Wed 25 Oct, 2017 11:38 pm
by blackprince
I do remember seeing lots of these vehicles buzzing around the old Central Station.
The bullion transfers to the Bank of England were quite widely known about by people who worked in central Leeds. My mother told me about them and I saw one myself, on one occasion, with police escort.

Re: Scammell Scarab Lorries

Posted: Thu 26 Oct, 2017 11:48 am
by volvojack
When i left School 1950 the Scammell "Iron Horse" was a very common sight around Leeds, usually just the flat back type. They delivered just about anything, anywhere and as they had this unique separate Cab they could turn around in a very short space. Though i was quite familiar with this vehicle, having passed the B.Rail Yard on Hunslet Lane I had one occasion more than others. In the late 1950s i used to go just about every Sunday on Fishing Matches with a Club from Beeston. normally i would go and buy a Pint of Live maggots from Kirkgate Anglers but as we were having our annual trip to fish on the River Trent ( very wide and very deep ) we were advised to bait the hook with worm. I sent away for a box of these and on the Thursday they arrived on one of these in a sealed box. After our trip to the Midlands i forgot about worms until the following Wednesday an Iron 'orse arrived with just another box of Worms. The delivery Lad said "Did i not bring something like this last week" The Company that advertised various baits in the Angling paper must have got their wires crossed somewhere because during the next week i heard a vehicle pull up outside our house and there was a flat bed truck with only a square sealed box on. The same lad just gave me a strange look as he passed me the sheet to sign.
These worms went into the back garden along with the second box full.
I worked for a Carpet Co. also in the 1950s and this type of Vehicle was so good when delivering or collecting rolls of carpet, the quantity they could carry was amazing.

Re: Scammell Scarab Lorries

Posted: Thu 26 Oct, 2017 6:16 pm
by trophy
the photo is of the later type with faired in front wheel .the earlier ones just had a small basic mudguard at the front.

Re: Scammell Scarab Lorries

Posted: Thu 26 Oct, 2017 9:51 pm
by buffaloskinner
trophy wrote:the photo is of the later type with faired in front wheel .the earlier ones just had a small basic mudguard at the front.
It states on the photo that its from 1962, so there shouldn't be any confusion!

Re: Scammell Scarab Lorries

Posted: Mon 22 Feb, 2021 6:17 pm
by jma
I was in A Division CID in the early 1970s at Ireland Wood and we used to share the Bullion Run duty with Millgarth although they did a bigger share than we did. I've travelled in the cab of one of the container lorries en route to Stourton - my memory is of a couple of lorries - but it's a long time ago.

That system was eventually changed. I've no idea what happens now.