An Albion A24 lorry (CRS 248) and a 1954 Albion Tipper (KAV 395) seen at a rally.
© John G. Fender 2011
The Scottish Region Meeting of 10 October 2006 heard the story of Albion Motors, one of the major vehicle manufacturers whose products enabled many logistics companies to develop both between the two world wars and after it.
The contribution that Albion made to the early development of road haulage is now often overlooked. The company's products were renowned for reliability and were exported to many countries, notably Australia and in Africa and today the company is still making automotive components.
John L. Murray, a farmer, architect, surveyor and agent for a number of estates in the Biggar area. He was responsible for building Hartwood Hospital, near Shotts and as he had difficulty in getting to the site so in 1895 he bought the second car in Scotland, a Panhard. At this time cars had to be preceded by a man with a red flag, so it's progress was somewhat limited. His son, was Thomas Blackwood Murray, who was a qualified, engineer having studied at Edinburgh University went into partnership with and Norman Osborne Fulton to manufacture cars and this resulted in the founding of the Albion Company in 1899.
The new company's first premises were in on the first floor of a building in Finnieston Street, Glasgow and completed vehicles had to be lowered to the street outside using a winch. Sales of cars enabled the company to grow and in 1903 the company moved to new premises in Scotstoun. Mr. Lambie told the story of the epic journey undertaken from Biggar to London via the coast, a journey of some 1,500 miles. As there were no petrol stations in these days, it was necessary to send crates of petrol cans to various stations. This enabled the car to be refuelled and the empty petrol cans were then sent back by rail.
New models were introduced including 16hp and 24 hp cars, these often being finished as solid tyred shooting brakes. Around 1909 the company decided to specialise in commercial vehicles and the last cars were built in 1912. Many of these commercial vehicles were bought by some of the best known household names, for example, Harrods's of London acquired some 150 Albion vans and Cadbury's was also a major customer.
With the outbreak of the First World War, the War Office ordered large numbers of 3 ton trucks. These had a 32hp engine and chain drive to the rear wheels. By the end of the war some 8,000 had been built. In addition to building these trucks the company also produced shells for the army and torpedoes for the navy.
After the war there was a slump in orders for new commercial vehicles as many of the surplus military vehicles were sold off and the government introduced a subsidy scheme to help get Britain's vehicle manufacturing industry back on it's feet. Before the war there were some 70 different vehicle manufacturers in Scotland, but after the war there were only 5.
The company's first buses were built in 1914 and these were based on truck chassis. It was not until 1923 that the first specially designed bus chassis was produced and Glasgow Corporation Transport bought it's first Albion buses in 1924, going on to purchase many more. The first double deck chassis was produced in 1932. The last double deck bus was the "Lowlander" introduced in 1961. Underfloor engined models appeared in the 1950's.
In 1929 Thomas B. Murray died and in 1930 the company's name was changed from the Albion Motor Car Company Limited to become Albion Motors Limited. The company was acquired by Leyland Motors Ltd. in 1951 and business continued as normal for a time. However, by 1968 when the British Leyland Motor Corporation was formed, only one truck, the "Clydesdale" and one bus, the "Viking" was in production. In 1980 production of these models was transferred to Leyland's Bathgate plant.
From then on the Albion factory only produced automotive components, and continues to do so to this day under ownership of the American Axle & Manufacturing Company. It manufactures axles, driveline systems, chassis systems, crankshafts and chassis components.
Report by John Fender.
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