The Mechanical Horse Club archive was set up to collect and preserve records and photographs. covering the production and operation of the Mechanical Horses from any manufacturer. The records include manufacturers publicity material, handbooks, manuals, photographs and fleet lists. We are particularly interested in obtaining fleet lists of the pre-Nationalised Railway Companies and also British Railways, for which we have some information.
The archives will also attempt to produce a list of the surviving Mechanical Horses. We are keen to learn of the whereabouts of any Karrier Cobs, apart from the example at the National railway Museum at York. Likewise any Ford Tugs; we only know of one, which is located in the Ford Motor Company collection. Also of interest is the Scarab Four as we are not aware of any survivors of this type of vehicle.
A glimpse into photographs taken by the Club founder, and now archivist, Geoff Arnold in the 1970's and 80's when Mechanical Horses were still in regular use.
HNK 960 Scammell MH6 Chassis 14002/6 Built 1944 for the Ministry of supply. Photographed at Doncaster Station Sept 1980 when owned by member Bill Aldridge, it was later owned by Paul Norris, and then by the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.
CKH 653C Scammell Scarab 6 ton. Chassis Number 32955/6 Built 1964. Photographed at Beverley on the 6th July 1981 when in service with BTP Cocker Chemicals Ltd
AYN 204B Scammell Scarab 3 ton. Chassis Number 32746/3. Built 1964 and originally owned by Selfridges the London store, and still carried their fleet number 426. At the date of the photograph (September 1981) it was owned by Marsden Vanplan Ltd, the trailer builder of Warrington. It had a fifth wheel above the Scammell coupling and was used to move newly built trailers. (Is it still there?)
DBU 368C Scammell Scarab 3 ton. Chassis Number 33319/3 Built 1965. Photographed September 1982 at United Glass at Flintwick, Bedfordshire, presumably owned by them at the time? Later Passed to Robson's Border Transport, repainted in their colours and renamed "Border Bygone" This vehicle had been owned by John Lumb & Co of Castleford.
Scammell MH6 Chassis Number 14039/6 Built 1944 for the Ministry of supply same batch as HNK 960 . Photographed September 1984 at Skellingthorpe near Lincoln, when owned by Skellingthorpe Saw Mills, Later acquired by Tinker Bros from Cumbria. (Nothing further known)
174 BM 76 FAR Chassis Number 75017 Built 1938. FAR obtained a license from Scammell to build Mechanical Horses in France. This one is owned by read 'Association des Amis du Musée du Poids Lourd' and was photographed at their museum at Pontlevoy, near Tours in central France in May 1986 during a visit by the Mechanical Horse Club.
SYF 934F Scammell Townsman Chassis Number 3560 Built in 1967 and originally supplied to the GPO and later owned by Bright Steels Ltd at Norton near Malton. Photographed at the Farming Museum at Murton near York September 2002.
Unusual Mechanical Horses
As well as the railways and delivery companies many City and Borough Councils used Scammell Mechanical Horses with a variety of specialised trailers for duties including street washing, rubbish collecting, cesspool and gully emptying as well as with drop side or flat trailers for collection and delivery purposes. The manoeuvrability of the Mechanical Horse being particularly useful in this work.
Scammell and Karrier also developed long wheel base three wheeled rigid lorry's based on their Mechanical Horses. These found favour in various applications especially in the Municipal area where a number were bodied as dustcarts. The Borough of Barry in Wales purchasing a number. Scammell marketed theirs under the name "Tri-Van".
The Romford Brewery Company re-created one of these rigid vehicles in the late 1970s using the remains of an ex Grimsby Ice Co mechanical horse whose chassis was too far gone for restoration. It was done using the original Scammell drawings and specifications and represents one of several of these vehicle operated by Benskins, one of their constituent companies. After being rallied for several years, and with the closure of Romford Breweries the vehicle was taken over and is now on display at the Bass Museum of Brewing at Burton on Trent.
When the first road tunnel under the Thames estuary at Dartford was opened in 1963 it was realised that specialist recovery vehicles that could turn in the 21ft width of the single lane each way carriageway would be needed. Scammell Scarab was the answer for vehicles up to 7 tons. Developed by Scammell these vehicles were the basic Scarab, devoid of coupling gear, fitted with 600 x 20 twin rear wheels, crane and 3 winches. A towing ambulance and a great deal of extra ballast weight was fitted at the front of the vehicle giving a total weight of nearly 4 tons. Two of these vehicles were built and were stationed one on the Kent side and one on the Essex side ready to respond to any emergency. Both of these vehicles have survived. One is now owned by an enthusiast in the Leicester/Derbyshire area. The other is owned by The Mechanical Horse Club and is currently in Sussex undergoing restoration
Fire engine bodies were also fitted to Mechanical Horses, especially the long wheelbase was rigid and were ideal as factory appliances where their small size and manoeuvrability meant that they could get to places the larger engines couldn’t. Scammell themselves had one of these for their own factory fire protection. One is known to survive but when last seen was in need of total restoration.
Many Mechanical Horses ended their days (before being preserved and restored) as shunter's, ballast tractors and tugs. The very qualities that made them useful as articulated tractor units also made them ideal for this type of duty. Most were worked to death and scrapped, when no longer serviceable.
If you have any records or photographs you wish to dispose of, or even to allow the club to view, or know of any Mechanical Horse anywhere, we would be very pleased to hear any details from you.