Belhaven lorries

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Sir,

These vehicles were made by Messrs. Belhaven Ltd., Wishaw, Lanarkshire. My grandfather, Col. R. R. Mellor, bought this firm about 1910 from Messrs. Robert Morton & Co. Ltd. (now Morton Machine Co. Ltd), Atlantic Works, Glasgow Road, Wishaw. Both these firms were engaged in making bakery and confectionery equipment and Belhavens also had a cast-iron foundry at Morningside capable of casting up to 30 tons at any one time.

Belhavens produced a range of vehicles in the 2-3 tons capacity class; those of the 1900s were steam powered and the boiler had steel tubes coiled round the outside and was fitted with a drop ashpit for quick and easy removal of the ashes. A contemporary sales card describes the lorry as follows:

Maximum speed: 12 m.p.h.

Cost of coke fuel and oil: halfpenny per mile.

Carries 2 to 3 tons.

Steam can be raised in 15 minutes.

Rubber tyres guaranteed for 10,000 miles.

Steam was supplied at about 150 lb./sq. in. to a 2-cylinder compound engine mounted under the platform of the body, and the single-speed drive was taken to the rear axle by differential and chains to each wheel. The rear springs were attached to the chassis by being bolted direct at the rear and allowing the forward ends to move via a sliding block instead of the more usual shackles.

Later on, Belhavens turned to petrol-engined wagons and these were fitted with Aster engines which had a 4-cylinder alloy block and two separate cast-iron heads. The drive was transmitted by a cone clutch-operated, 3-speed constant-mesh gearbox; the differential was at the rear of the gearbox and chains were used to transmit the power to two sprockets, one attached to each rear brake drum.

In 1928 this arrangement was altered to the more normal propeller shaft drive, with the differential mounted in the rear axle. Pneumatic tyres were also fitted. It is thought that only two or three examples of this type were constructed as, by this time, the firm was in financial difficulties, and it finally closed down late in 1929 or early in 1930.

Our firm bought its first of three steamers in 1908 and this was scrapped in 1933, although it was not in our possession then. We also ran a petrol lorry from 1921 and this was kept until as recently as 1937 or 1938, when we got our first Morris Commercial. Bentley’s Yorkshire Breweries were for some time owners of a fleet of Belhavens but, owing to the size of the firm and the numbers they turned out per year (almost certainly under 100), there can be very few survivors of this make now—indeed, does anyone know of an example that is still in existence ?

GORDON R. MELLOR.

Holmfirth.

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