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  WEB NEWS 58  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief at The Challenge of Steam Propulsion, Glover & Uglow and Charabanc for Bristol.

  The Challenge of Steam Propulsion - In today’s world of alternative power sources like compressed natural gas, hydrogen cells, electric hybrids and all-electric systems recharged from patches under the road or overhead wand, not to mention regenerative flywheels, exciting experiments continue in the quest for the most economical and best environmental form of motive power. Some of these applications are not entirely new, having been tried many decades before but abandoned due to cost or the lack of technical advancement in materials. However, one alternative not being considered today is that of steam propulsion which, had it not become uneconomic and deterred by legislation, may have had chance to succeed. One man who believed in this and stood firmly by his convictions was Thomas Clarkson, and one town in Britain continued to operate his steam buses longer than anywhere else. This was no great city far away but right here in westcountry, in Torquay.

Clarkson was born at Salford in 1864 and after a grammar school education went on to study mechanical engineering and emerged in 1885 as Whitworth scholar of the year. In 1886 he attended the Normal School of Science, moving to the Royal School of Mines in February 1887 to study practical metallurgy. He then became a Government student at the Royal College of Science and acted as a laboratory demonstrator under the auspices of Professor Huntingdon. The following year Clarkson obtained a lectureship at King’s College. Playing around with natural minerals, liquid fuels and Bunsen burners led him into thinking how road transport could benefit from fossil fuel. The railways were already performing with heavy steam locomotives, carrying tons of coal and water to generate steam, but the sheer weight - size ratio was unsuitable for road vehicles, as discovered by inventors such as Hancock and Gurney whose vehicles were penalised at toll houses. Clarkson needed to design something that was lightweight, simple to operate and, most importantly, capable of raising working steam pressure in a very short time. His main challenge was the internal combustion petrol engine that had already emerged at the end of the 19th century but still unreliable and lacked power on hills and required some form of gear box to overcome gradients.
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  Glover & Uglow -  Glover & Uglow (pronounced Yuglow), haulage contractors of Kelly Bray, Callington, joined English China Clays (ECC) in 1961, bringing with it a fleet of 78 road haulage vehicles. With depots at Launceston, Liskeard and Holsworthy, it had long been a haulage contractor to the Group’s china clay and quarrying interests. The history of G & U extends back to forty years before joining ECC, having been founded in 1921 by Walter Glover and Philip Uglow, as engineers and haulage contractors. For operating premises in those years just after the Great War they bought the former army camp at Kelly Bray. There the company was established as electrical engineers and motor trade machinists, body makers and coach builders, the latter activities in the main having been set up to provide the company itself with tailor-made vehicles for the road haulage business.

Tailor made is right! One of the first vehicles, a Crossley, spent a work-a-day week as a general carrier vehicle but with a change of bodywork at the weekend became a charabanc, an open-topped passenger coach. The first six vehicles employed in the business were all government-surplus ex War Department types. Despite their unpromising origin the G & U business soon gained a reputation for well-presented vehicles as well as punctuality in operation. By 1930 the fleet had grown to 17 vehicles, comprising 8 AEC trucks and vans, one Daimler van, one Chevrolet truck, two Morris and two Peerless trucks, one Ford truck and two steam lorries of Foden and Garrett make. These vehicles met customers’ requirements, including specialised livestock carriers, flat and tipper bodies for general work and more specialised types for the Glover & Uglow furniture removals service. At least one of these had originally been a tipper lorry but with body removed became a tractor unit with fifth wheel coupling. The artic van trailer for furniture included a sleeping compartment at the front and above the coupling where customers could sleep with their household possessions when on a long journey.

Electrical engineering was prospering too. By the late ‘twenties a number of villages and small towns had been equipped with generating stations, or power houses as they were called, and the areas wired up, all by G & U engineers. By 1926 the road haulage fleet had grown significantly, with Glover & Uglow having become the largest haulage contractor in the county of Cornwall. Walter Glover, the driving force behind the engineering side of the business, was a pioneer in the introduction of the technique that today is known as preventative maintenance. He was a stickler for detail and ever-ready to take pains, something which he expected from all who worked in the business – as evidenced by the following.
It is told that one Saturday, at the end of the morning just as all drivers were preparing to leave work, he called them all together and lectured them on the spot about the possible faults of a magneto. Then he proceeded to dismantle one into its 53 different parts, to describe the function of each and demonstrate how to reassemble it! All in the interests of roadside first aid repairs. There must have been some cold dinners on the table that day when the drivers eventually got home, and perhaps more than a few wifely words spoken on the subject.
  New Charsbanc for Bristol - “The Bristol Tramways company have built three charsabanc at their works at Brislington to the designs of Mr Challenger, their Traffic Manager. They are uniform in appearance, the front and sides being open with a brougham shaped back, lighted by a large window, which back will act as a protection from dust and adverse weather, as well as to support the roof which extends from the back to the front, well beyond the driver and passengers who sit beside him. The seats are across the vehicle, with the faces of passengers towards the driver and are sufficiently high from the ground to bring the view of passengers above walls and hedges. From front to back the floor slopes somewhat so that the view of the hindmost passengers is not obscured by those on the front seats. It carries from 27 to 32 passengers. The entrance is at the side and near to the rear and there is a convenient passageway down the centre for the ready ingress and egress of passengers. The same arrangements for lighting, as have proved so successful with the buses, have been adopted – five electric lamps being employed, each of 5½ candle power. The cars have been designed with a view to be run in regular service at all seasons (except possibly in winter) on the town and the suburban bus routes, but primarily for the conveyance of excursion and private parties during the summer from Bristol to near and distant resorts. The Somerset roads, on account of the steep gradients are most trying to horses and, consequently, it is seldom that excursions by road are undertaken to places exceeding in distance that of Weston super Mare, situated 23 miles from Bristol. It is hoped that such places as Wells, Glastonbury, Burnham, Frome, Longleat, Gloucester and Cheltenham will be visited”.  

Just the ticket 25

Colin Shears Obituary

Points of view

Ten years ago

Future Activities



After nine years being on loan to the Trust, Exeter City Council

has now agreed to formally hand over the vehicle to WHOTT ownership.

Seen here on 16th June 2009, taking part in BBC's The One Show filming near Broadclyst


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Web News 57

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Web News 59


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