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Mechanical Horses, Scarabs & Ants

Aidan

master brummie
I find these fascinating and are just within my memory. Although there is the Mechanical Horse Club https://www.mechanical-horse-club.co.uk/list_of_contents v3.htm and useful websites like https://www.3wheelers.com but....

I would particularly like to hear stories and see pictures in a Birmingham landscape, ideally with forum members or their family driving them.

Originally for moving horse-drawn wagons about in yards these soon had purpose-built semi-trailers. Three wheeled tractor units for articulated trailers had one advantage over the more conventional four in that they could offer a very small turning circle. They were particularly used on the Railways and local delivery companies (eg Breweries, Utilities etc – see pic1).

I know these have been mentioned on several threads (such as Scarab https://forum.birminghamhistory.co.uk/showthread.php?t=25227 and Aston Goods Station https://forum.birminghamhistory.co.uk/showthread.php?t=3992&p=344293#post344293 ) but thought it worthwhile bringing together on a thread of their own.


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I have been able to find only 3 manufacturers (were there any more?):

Karrier
In 1929, Karrier https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karrier started production of the "Colt" three-wheeler as a dustcart chassis for Huddersfield Corporation. In 1930, this was developed into the "Cob" tractor (both working horse names) to haul road trailers for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Only one is known to survive and is housed at National Railway Museum in York (pic2)

Scammell
In 1934, Scammell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scammell produced the 3-wheeled 'Mechanical Horse', designed by Oliver North to replace horses in rail, postal and other delivery applications. This featured automatic carriage coupling and the single front wheel could be steered through 360 degrees. It was sold in 3- and 6-ton versions. The 3-tonner was powered by a 1,125 cc side-valve petrol engine and the 6-tonner by a 2,043 cc engine. (pic3)

From 1937, a Citroën Traction Avant-powered version was made under licence in France, by Chenard-Walcker-FAR, known as the 'Pony Mécanique'. This continued in production, in various versions, until 1970. (pic4)

In the late 1940s, the 'Mechanical Horse' was superseded by the Scammell Scarab, with similar features but a much less angular cab and now with a 2,090 cc side-valve petrol engine in both models and a diesel version with a Perkins engine. This was the most popular and iconic. (pic 5)

In 1967, the 'Scarab' was replaced by the 'Townsman', which had a fibre-glass cab. (pic6)

Reliant
The last machine of this type to be produced in Britain was not used by the railways, it was based on the small Reliant TW9 'Ant' light truck, introduced in 1967 it lasted 20 years https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliant_TW9 These were used with fixed rear bodies for a number of duties by local councils but one variant featured the articulated trailer of the mechanical horse. The vehicle had a one piece fibreglass cab and a range of bodies ranging from a tip up van to a snow plough. It was powered by a 700 cc alloy engine and whilst the overseas vehicles had a carrying capacity of 10 cwt, British models were sold with a 16 cwt weight capacity. The Ant continued to be made until 1986 and was also produced under licence by the Mebea Company in Greece and from 1978, BTB Engineering in the UK under the name of the Ant. (pic7)
 
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Wendy

Guest
I remeber watching a TV programme about restoring a Scammel Scarab I think it was originally a Cadbury's one but was restored in railway colours for an enthusiast. My husband remebers them well he says they were very manoverable. He was thrilled to see one in the Aston Bus Museum on our forum trip there.
 

Aidan

master brummie
Thanks Wendy, certainly another reason to visit Aston Manor Road Transport Museum which is under threat of closure https://www.amrtm.org/future.html As you say they hold a rare SCAMMELL MH3 from 1937 in GWR livery.

Thanks also for the info of their possible use in Cadbury's.
 
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Wendy

Guest
Michael says there were used at Southall's. It would be interesting to find out what factories used them.
 

Aidan

master brummie
It is a great idea, thanks Wendy. So that's Cadbury, Southalls & .....

I have only been able to find a Corgi model of a Scarab with Cadbury's on the side but the site was in Japanese so I've no idea if the colour is right!

There is also a Shell Lubrication chart for Scammell MHs up for sale on eBay. A bit esoteric & steep for me at £29 but it does show the amazing amount of lubrication and maintenance that were expected of such vehicles (basically every week!).
 

Aidan

master brummie
So that's Cadbury, Southalls & Railway Stations...

https://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/hockley_goods_part1.htm has a couple of interesting pics in Hockley Goods Yard c1940. The first looks like a Scammell MH, the second a Karrier Cob (note the white paint on the mudguard, the underneath edge of the cab and bumper were safety features to help make the vehicle more visible in the blackout)
 
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Thylacine

master brummie
Fascinating pictures, Aidan. I rather like the refuelling (shire?) horse, next to his mechanical rival!
 

Thylacine

master brummie
I couldn't resist posting this fine Aussie picture (courtesy of State Library of New South Wales) of a Scammell MH owned by Australian Glass Manufacturers. The street sign on the Hyde Park Obelisk (also known as "Thornton's Scent Bottle" as it serves as a sewerage vent!) enabled me to identify the exact location: Elizabeth Street, Sydney, opposite the intersection with Bathurst Street. No date is given, but the photographer is tentatively named as Sam Hood (1872-1953).

And Here is an interesting page (mentioning Birmingham this time) from the delightfully named "Biglorryblog: Trucks, vans & more: A diesel-powered miscellany from Brian Weatherly and the Biglorryblog anorak army" (lots of pictures and diagrams).
 
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chocks2

master brummie
Interesting thread Aidan.
I remember the Scarab being used by the GPO in their goods yards and Highgate Brewery using them along with British Rail well into the late 60's.
The Royal Navy used the Scarab into the late 70's (They were too tight to replace them) in Dockyards and some shore establishments. I passed my test in one in 1976 it required the old HGV Class 4 licence. They were always fun to drive but very unstable on cornering.
I have an excellent diecast of a scarab in M&B livery (Will try to post a pic' later) but I don't actually remember them being used at the brewery.
Chocks
 

Aidan

master brummie
Thylacine - you've hit a honeypot of a site there and I share a copy of the pages from the "Scammell Mechanical Horse and Trivan Instruction Book". The company is shown as Scammell Lorries Ltd and the site asks the question when did we start calling Lorries Trucks?

The word Trivan is interesting too and I attach a pic of an LDV Trivan but as these were plainly not articulated and motorcycle base I think they probably deserve a thread of their own.

Thanks also for sight of the "New South Wales Mechanical Horse Formation Display Team and the official drive-past of 'Miss Mechanical Horse'! (Note the white-helmeted Aussie Policeman on the right keeping the hysterical crowds well in order...)". Brilliant. The first pic of Hockley is almost a Darwinian progression with Horse, Mechanical Horse and Lorry (not truck!).

Chocks - Thanks for sharing your experience and fancy passing your HGV4 test in one! Thanks also for confirming their instability as well as that they were fun to drive (they do look like it). I commented elsewhere that one would think them very stable on the Trivet or 3-legged stool principle but in practice much-decreased stability (as recently exposed by Jeremy Clarkson's attempt to drive a Reliant Robin on a recent BBC Top Gear programme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YRZdfCdlu8 ). & thanks for the pic of your M&B model, I'd love to hear any other recollections you have.

So that's Railway Stations + Cadbury, Southalls, GPO, Breweries (inc Highgate & M&B)...
 
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chocks2

master brummie
Frothy.
Railfreight had yellow Scarabs and Townsmen and you would have seen quite a few in Brum. They used to run them out of their depot in Curzon Street. I seem to remember they carried local adverts on the side of them like the buses do today. I recall adverts for Cadbury's, Chad Valley Toys & The Beehive amongst others

Chocks
 
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Aidan

master brummie
Thanks Frothblower - perhaps they were the M&B delivery vehicles or Railfreight (model pic attached) that Chocks suggested or the RAF seemed to have had a khaki livery according to your link?

So that's Railway Stations + Railfreight, Cadbury, Southalls, GPO, Breweries (inc Highgate & M&B), maybe RAF...

I would particularly like to hear stories and see pictures in a Birmingham landscape, ideally with forum members or their family driving them...
 
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Frothblower

Lubrication In Moderation
I seem to recollect they may have been National Carriers which I believe belong to British Railways.
 
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