Transport History

Back in 1876 when James Schofield bought a plot of land and buildings at Greenhead, high in the Pennines on a windswept hill above Huddersfield, horses and carts were the order of the day and transport logistics a far distant problem. Even in the early 1900s when Joe Benjamin Schofield lent his name to what was to become the family scrap metal and plant hire business of J.B Schofield & sons Ltd the horse still ruled, in fact the first diesel engined vehicle came 13 years after Joes death, YG8732 a Morris commercial was bought in 1933.By 1954 following the lean post war years, money was found to buy the first new wagon, a Perkins P6 engined Dodge 5 tonner (based on payload in those days of course). Carl and George who are the current owners or perhaps custodians is a better word, of the family firm, will remember father Norman saying that it would be the last new wagon he bought.

A wide variety of vehicles, Dodges and Commers to name but a few, mostly in tipper form were to come and go, some meeting an untimely end in accidents. However the first ‘real’ wagon to appear was RKU535 a Foden DG six wheeler built for the army around 1945, seemingly built to withstand desert conditions with multiple air and fuel filters to protect the legendary Gardner 6LW 112bhp working under the bonnet, coupled to a Foden gearbox that had 8 gears but with only 4 on call at any one time and the lower four only used in exceptional circumstances of which there were plenty, engaged by moving a separate lever and only when stopped. Fodens own axles, double drive, of course brought up the rear. The big Foden was one of hundreds built for the army and then disposed of at auction at Ruddington, Nottingham. Carl had his sights set firmly on a Foden, so when George and father went to the auctions, Carl suspecting that father Norman would be reluctant to part with his brass rang L.W. Vass at Ampthill and found one himself and for less money than the Vass buyer had been paying that day at auction, Carl seems to remember paying around £1100.

Originally built on single tyres all round Vass had converted the Foden to twins at the rear. A later visit to Fodens at Sandbach around 1962 saw a second steering axle added, this increased the gross weight from the original 20 to 24 tonnes. The removal of the armies split opening windscreen, replaced with one piece of glass either side gave the wagon a more civilian appearance. A reconditioned Gardner 6LW was included in the work. Bought to carry scrap, Schofields had a wooden dropside tipper body and Milshaw tipping gear fitted, a second deck of ‘greedy’ boards were fitted to give the capacity needed for the bulkier loads, it also stopped prying eyes from seeing what was on the old Fodens back, after all loads could be a little on the heavy side, no point in attracting the attention of the bobbies, what the eye doesn’t see!

RKU started to rack the miles up, steelworks at Skiningrove, Scunthorpe, Sheffield and Stavely being regular destinations. The 100 odd miles to the North East was a six hour journey, the 28mph top speed only achieved on downhill or long flat stretches of road. Not many of those in the Northern hills!

The cab of the Foden became second home to Carls young son Mark, born in 1959, Mark was strapped to the bonnet in his carrycot as a baby. His earliest memories of being on the roads to Sheffield and Scunthorpe, later on, if another passenger required his seat then the warm bonnet would again become his perch. At other times to get into a steelworks with a no children policy, the floor would be the place to hide, better than the gatehouse with strangers. Whilst dad drove the real thing Mark sat the other side of the cab changing up and down the box, anticipating the next gear change from the familiar noise of the Gardner. This imaginary driving was a skill he practised back at the yard on an engine and gearbox complete with gear lever, steering wheel and seat mounted in its chassis, devoid of cab, a little like the coach chassis seen being delivered to the coach builders today.

Wagons as they were always called, never trucks or worse still lorries, were to be Marks overriding passion, piles of scrap were to be climbed on and hidden in but of no real interest to a young lad. The ability to recognise any wagon from behind at a great distance was a much practised skill, one he still practises he hastens to add, made difficult these days by the fact that all manufacturers seem to share the same cab! The distinctive shape of the rear axle or even the rear cross member gave the Fodens away everytime. His first visit to Fodens, Elworth works in 1962 is still remembered, a very nice man struck up a conversation with the three year old and gave him a Foden brochure full of pictures of all the models of the day, a brochure he still has 40 years on.

During its half a million miles the Foden was only towed home once, and that after an accident. Carl always insists that no load was too big, no hill too steep, on one occasion on a foundry tip, a separating plant used to screen metal from sand was loaded onto a tank transporter weighing 40 tonnes. The Foden weighing 24 tonnes pulled itself and the trailer up a slope off the tip, with only 112bhp, low gearing was the Fodens secret weapon, many like her were used to tow heavy abnormal loads around the country, albeit slowly.

The twelve hour round trip to the North East in a cab that was hotter than a desert in summer and desperately cold in winter coupled with plenty of handball loading and unloading inevitably took its toll on the driver, staying awake could be a problem, with the window down for fresh air, the bonnet side would be unclipped to let even more noise into the already noisy cab in the belief that it would help stop a weary driver from nodding off. Singing was another ploy to stay awake, the Gardner played a universal tune to sing (if that’s the right word) to, Carl at one side murdering a Joseph Locke song, Mark at the other singing something completely different, neither able to hear the other. Conversation across the bonnet was difficult to say the least, Mark finding the best method being to sit on the bonnet next to dads left ear. The shouting though was hard on the voice and toward the end of the day no one could be bothered to make the effort, a silent journey home, bar for the Gardner hammering away reliably and relentlessly homeward, Marks head against the windscreen watching the road disappearing under the Fodens wheels.

It was on the visit to Fodens with RKU that another wagon was spotted, a 14 ton GVW ex Shipstone Brewery Foden FG with a Gardner 4LW and flat body, enquiries were made and the wagon purchased. Drop sideboards were added to the flat but no tipper for this one, the smaller Schofield vehicles were often used for a variety of haulage jobs, including bagged coke delivery. At this stage scrap was still being delivered to the railway goods yard in nearby Meltham, where the scrap was to handball or shovel from the road vehicle into the railway truck. Only the smaller wagons could get into a suitable position close enough to the rail, the scrap then making the rest of the journey to the steelworks by rail. It is thought that this ceased around 1965. The little Foden as it was always called was eventually parked up in the late 60s and slowly buried in scrap. Later, maybe around 1990 it was uncovered and given to mechanics at a Holmfirth mill to renovate at Holmfirth. After a change of oil and battery the 4LW cranked into life with no trouble and after 20 years under hundreds of tonnes of steel. Drawings for the cab were located but changes at the mill meant the project was abandoned. The vehicle then passed to Edward Sykes at Meltham where it is thought it still sits along with other Schofield vehicles and many more besides.

The journey back from Staveley near Chesterfield often meant an afternoon rush hour journey back through Sheffield. This meant trams, get stuck behind a tram and you could be as Carl would say ‘Be stuck behind the bloody thing for an hour’, so an alternative route home was devised, a scenic one. Heading up to Hathersage and Bamford to Ladybower the 8 wheeler then wound its way up hill and down dale across the Strines to Langsett back onto the road home. Norman at this point, not particularly impressed was informed by the errant son that the journey took no longer than Sheffield at rush hour and the view was far superior, so, father went along for the ride! Well as anyone who has ridden through the peaks, or indeed any place of natural beauty in a wagon will tell you, the higher the view point the better the view. Being able to see over the walls Norman was seeing things never before seen in a lifetime of car journeys. For once father and son saw eye to eye, not a regular occurrence ! Usually a journey with either of his sons in wagon would have Norman flinching away from the nearside window, the flinching coinciding with the passing of lampposts or telegraph poles, much to the amusement of whichever one was driving.

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