European Boat-MAN – Part 1

I think it started on Instagram and the rest is history! My love of the #littlebigcabclub trucks, is becoming the stuff of legend, so when asked by another member of the club if he could send in a guest blog, what else could I say but yes. George Turner or @european_lorryist as he’s know on Instagram spends a lot of his time driving an LX cabbed MAN TGL collecting house boats from Poland for his business in Portugal. To good a story to miss right?? Over to George for Part 1, Part 2 will follow in due course.

Wednesday 6th January – The truck is always at home with me which is a nice little bonus with this job. I pop out to the little MAN and fire the night heater up, its the first time since living in Portugal its cold enough for an iced over windscreen. Card goes in at 9am and I head off in the direction of Lisbon. A quick pit-stop in Torres Novas to exchange a drop link for my own van, and onwards down the A1 to the capital. My company franchise & transport house boats, and I arrive in the marina in good time without issue. I’m only here to pick-up some paperwork and a few interior fixtures for return to Poland. All this only amounts to around 20 minutes and I’m back up the road and home by half past 1, just a little food prep and laundry to do for the off in the morning. 283Km today.

Thursday 7th. January – Not a particularly early start, loaded the last of my bits and bobs into the truck and I’m on the road at 08:30. Its always quiet on the A23 heading up to the Spanish border at Vilar Formosa, just a quick stop to drop in 50 euros of diesel to last me to the AS24 at Salamanca, AS24 are a bit thin on the ground in PT. Arriving in Salamanca I fill up with 250L worth of diesel, which is not far off what it holds, running a bit close to the wire here! I carry on another hour or so and pull in on 4h29, half way to Tordesillas. A quick bite to eat and back on the road, N/E direction, Burgos, Vitoria-Gasteiz, AP 1, AP 8. Plenty of snow over the hills at Miranda de Ebro, but its all running smoothly thankfully. A few days before this they had been over run with snow and shut the motorway, as they do in Spain. On 8h48 driving and at a quarter past 7, I pull into Itziar Services just before San Sebastian and make use of the empty car park as all truck spaces are occupied. One thing about being in a little truck is not needing to worry about parking, one can manage to find something suitable regardless! 757Km today.

Friday 8th January – 11h off and on I’m the road by 06:30. Cross the ESP/FR border at Irun still in darkness and not bothered by the Gendarmes this time. Usually they’re quite perplexed why an Italian truck with an English driver with Portuguese Documents is heading for Poland empty. I’m usually asked 3-4 times if I’m carrying more than 10k in cash, and then subsequently searched for the said non-existent cash! Carrying on I feel a bit tired, putting it down to having a month out the saddle and a relatively early start, I stopped just after castets for a quick 15 minute snooze. Still dark at this point, but the gendarmes are set up in this particular aire and doing checks on unsuspecting drivers, fortunately again, they left me alone. I clear a traffic free Bordeaux nicely by 10am and head east for Clermont Ferrand. Pick up some more diesel at Perigueux, then over the hills of the a89, snowing at points but all good and keeping at 90ks for the duration! I have to make a bit of a detour to avoid the closed N79 west of Moulins, but then rejoin the n79 for a frustrating 70kmh drive through the road works. I pull in on 10h03 at the last aire before the A6. Loads of space here, but then I suppose its friday night in the middle of france. 833Km today.

Saturday 9th January – Another 11 hours off and card in and I’m away by 05:30. It seems like what trucks are here, are all leaving as well, quite a busy rest area for the time. I crack on for an hour and a half along the A36 heading for Germany, when again like yesterday, i’m feeling pretty tired! I pull in for a 45 minute snooze this time, by which time its daylight again, albeit still white and frosty. Its a fairly long and boring road the a36, but I eventually cross the non existent border and head up the 5 towards Heidelberg. Another road with not much to see on it, as well as being a quieter than normal saturday morning. At Rastatt I pull up for a supermarket sweep, I just end up buying mostly alcohol for home and the lads in Poland though. The supermarket is quiet and i’m back on the road in 20 minutes. A quick AS24 diesel stop at Karlsruhe, then up to the 6 and heading east for Nuremberg. Fairly uneventful drive apart from a small detour north of Nuremberg to avoid an accident. Parked up at half 5, pitch black and again i’m pushing the boundaries on 10h 02. I’m about an hour south of Leipzig. Living the dream on a saturday night so cook some super noodles, hot dogs and had a can or two of Desperados. 856Km today.

Sunday 10th January – Its a half past 4 start on a Sunday, but i’ve only just over 600km to do, so it wont be a particularly strenuous day. 1H30 drive down, I top up the tanks again, plus remember to fill the separate night heater tank this time, its been working over time the last few nights! Onwards and up to Berlin, then east across the border into Poland at Frankfurt-Oder, never any police or problems here. 20Km along the A2, a quick interval for a ticket at the toll booth, then onto the hugely uninteresting drive to Poznan. A little snow in the air again, but solid KM covered, I head north after Poznan on the S5 and stop at Marathon Int. Transport for a final diesel top up, then just 1hr30 left up to Bydgoszcz. A little detour for the new motorway roadworks and I’m outside the boatyard nice and comfortably at 13:30. I Start my 24h rest and immediately set about changing the drivers front wheel as a previous small crack in the alloy has developed into a crack across two of the wheel nuts! Its a quick 30 minute job with the use of a long bar, it takes longer to get the spare wheel off its hanger! I stay put for the evening, cook some more dinner, a few cans and an early night ready for loading in the morning. 662Km, 7h48 drive today.

MAN and Machines

It’s been a fair while since I have been able to do a good blog on the logistical magician that is Steve Marsh of Express fame. Recently the Marsh MAN has been seen frequenting the A55 and the green roads of Ireland, in fact this week he has two trips to the Emerald Isle booked. Last week however it was a different story. A lovely little bit of logistical excellence with minimal empty running. Load Northern England, tip and load Italy, then back to Northern England.

Marshy is based near Warrington in the North West of England, not a million miles from Liverpool. The job started on Thursday, with the loading of a transformer housing from Sherburn in Elmet in Yorkshire. The little MAN TGL was built to Marshys own strict requirements and although it added a fair amount of weight, the importance of a sliding roof on the 12 tonner has been proven over and over. The truck has everything required to load a large but sensitive item through the roof and transported over 1200 miles to its destination. Once loaded it’s off down the A1, A14, M11, M25, M2, A2 to Douvres. Boat to Calais and then off down through France, up and over Mont Blanc and into Italia.

Break time in the Alps

Once into Italy, time was ticking for Marshy to take a weekend break. Having got most of the way down towards Subbiano in Tuscany, Steve parked up Saturday afternoon in the last services before the delivery point to take a well earned rest through to Monday morning. Up and away Monday to Subbiano, tip the transformer housing off for testing and then straight on to the reload. What a nice little reload it was! So a little empty running from Subbiano upto Comezzano-Cizzago near Brescia, just the 246 miles, to reload a small aeroplane back to the UK, loading Monday evening.

Loading finished Monday PM, then it was back onto the autostrada and head towards the Blanc and a full retrace of his steps back to Calais. A couple of stops along the way to make sure the plane hadn’t moved were required by Mr Conscientious as you can imagine. The plane was only 300kg all in, made from carbon fibre and fitted with a litre 2 litre engine. The hardest part of the load were the wings according to Marshy as they were so light and couldn’t rub on each other.

#volvogate

Another Calais Dover crossing and then back up North to Kirkby near Liverpool. The plane was delivered on Thursday last week to a flying school on a farm, so the final stretch was probably the hardest part, down through a farm track, plenty of bumps and pot holes and not to mention the low trees! All said and done, it’s all in a days work for the little MAN and it’s pilot. Another round trip complete and another couple of happy customers. The trucks capabilities, the sliding roof, the tail lift to load and unload the plane…..experience is key people, experience… is… key…

A little mileage breakdown just for fun? Yea go on then, why not!

  • Empty – Warrington to Sherburn in Elmet = 72 miles.
  • Loaded – Sherburn in Elmet to Subbiano, Italy = 1230 miles.
  • Empty – Subbiano to Comezzano-Cizzago = 246 miles.
  • Loaded – Comezzano-Cizzago to Kirkby = 1002 miles.
  • Empty – Kirkby to Warrington = 19 miles.

To sum up then;

  • Total miles = 2569 miles.
  • Loaded = 2232 miles.
  • Empty = 337 miles.

Italian MAN of Mystery

There is a bridge in Kent near Junction 9 of the M20, that has been known to have one of the longest serving truck photographers in the UK on it doing his thing. Mr Neil Jarrold has been photographing trucks since the 1980’s up and down the UK and across Europe, he is one of the originals and most of us at some point have seen or unknowingly shared some of his photos. I have known Neil for about 10 or 12 years now I guess, since my days at HC Wilson Transport when he used to call in to take a few photos, believe it or not. Realising Neil is a bigger truck perv than myself we soon became well acquainted. Here we are so many years later and Neil is still sending me awesome photos of my favourite kind of trucks…. #littlebigcabclub members from across Europe.

Neil sent me the above photo after his first visit to his beloved bridge for some time. This was two weeks ago today, so the little Italian MAN in focus is still a regular visitor to the UK. What a great photo and what a cracking little camion. This Italian company having been coming to the UK for a number of years now as Neil has sent me photos of this truck and others on the fleet before.

All three photos are of CT168JF and have probably been taken over the last 3-4 years. Very slight changes to the cab over that time but it’s still in great condition and well look after. According to the company website, Trea Á Trasporti are specialists in hanging garments and clothing. Bearing this in mind where do they go to in the UK? Does anyone else regularly see this little Italian stallion in the UK maybe at it delivery point? I’d guess it’s probably a regular job so hopefully one of you bloggers can tell me a little more. Maybe someone can even tag the Italian driver, Biondo, on Facebook. This truck is definitely worth a #littlebigcabclub sticker!

Neil keep the awesome photos coming and keep updating your Facebook page with your sightings; View from a Bridge Junc Nine Bloggers get hunting for this little MAN TGL while it’s here in the UK.

Mountain MAN

…..and he’s back! The MAN always in the mirror, the MAN of quite a few moments on the blog, the MAN about most European towns, the MAN that MAN should be rewarding with the amount of publicity this MAN gets them! Still the best truck on the MAN range and possibly the best 12 tonner on the market (it has a built in fridge unlike the rest).

So it’s been a been a fair while since top blogger Steve Marsh of Steve Marsh Express fame has felt he has done a job worthy of another blog. From what I can work out he’s been busy keeping the Irish Express routes alive and kicking. Plenty of work from the North West out to Ireland, well enough to keep Marshy busy most weeks. Imagine my surprise when I saw the SME availability email come round advertising that he would be empty all the way down in France 74. Now even with my basic knowledge of Europa I knew this is down in the mountains heading for Swiss.

I love Marshy’s emails and I love the fact he still loves his job and getting out and about. Please note even this trip started with a Shamrock Express! Here we go then…….

Bring on the blogs…. Blogtastic !!!!

Mon: Load a full load of shop fittings from Manchester to tip Ireland Tuesday ASAP.

Tue: Deliver to a card shop in Dublin centre. Tried to load a 96” screen from Facebook, Dublin for Telford but security wouldn’t let me as no one had told them I was coming. Had to leave empty handed and no back load. 😢

Wed: Load a full load of assorted building supplies from Lichfield, GB.

Thurs: French travel day!

 Fri: Deliver to what will be a very nice ski apartment renovation in Les Gets, France 74.

 Mon: Loading a sliding roof job in Bourges, France for Preston, GB.

 Like the old days for me too 😊!!

Quel agréable voyage mon bon homme. Nice to get out to mainland Europe I’m sure and not just quick one either. I’m sure a sunny trip to the alps is always near the top of a good trip to France. Hopefully we won’t have to wait to long for the Marsh MAN to appear back on our screens with voyage Europeén.

Retro Show – The Social Part

Another weekend and I’m back at Londra Camp or perhaps even the Hotel National in Belgrade. Loads of the best retro trucks in the UK and a growing number from Europa and all the kings of the road you could ever hope to meet and listen to stories from. The shows this year have become more and more social but combine this with trucks from my childhood and once again an awesome weekend was had by all. For me meeting these Kings of the road is what it’s all about, the stories they can tell, the places they have been and the trucks they have driven, my generation can only dream. To name a just a few people I stood and chatted/listened to this weekend;

  • Charles Russell
  • Roland Simey
  • Nick Bull
  • Karl Skilton
  • Andrew McDevitt
  • Kevin Mackin
  • Paul Rowlands
  • Baz (if you know you know!)
  • and of course one of my true hero’s still out and about on the road………
  • These men all need dictaphones and books written about them or by them, Mr Coghill you need to get on with it! As I said in my Truckstar blog, sadly I wasn’t able to enjoy the golden era but chatting to these knights of the road you can get a real idea of the adventure, hardship, bad times and of course good times they endured. For any young drivers of the current modern generation, can you imagine being told to go to Pakistan from London?? No? just to add to the adventure there was no sat-nav, no road maps or readable signposts once past Turkey, for that matter not many “roads” either. One of the best quotes of the weekend from a certain Charles Russell went something like this;
  • “When I was a young owner driver with just one truck, my pal Ralph had his own truck too. I met him on his way back from his first trip to the continent and do you know what he said?? That continental work isn’t for me.”
  • – The Ralph in question was of course a certain Mr Davies. Just brilliant but unless you take the time to talk to these men then you never get to hear such awesome tales.
  • The show itself was once again a triumph. Lee Herbert and his team put on what was the best retro show I’ve been too, that said next year is the 10th anniversary so I can’t wait for that already. Get the date in your diary, next years Retro Truck Show is from September 11th to 13th 2020. There seemed to be more restored/retro trucks than ever before. The quality of these trucks gets better and better and there is definitely more types of truck, not just Volvo and Scania. Renaults, ERF, Iveco eight wheels MAN’s and even a Fiat all being restored back to their former glory. As it goes there was only one Transcon that was at the start of its new life and very much need a good polish! I’m sure there are more Transcons about that could come along next year but after one of Roland Simeys stories I’m not so sure….
  • If you are a truck enthusiast then the retro show is for you. It’s run by truck people for truck people. Evident that the man who runs the show is a gas engineer but grew up with trucks and loves trucks. All who attend are truck mad and as there are no prizes to be won it just shows that all trucks are there as their owners are proud to show them and just do it for the trucks and love of diesel! Not a lot of feed back from those I spoke to other than more trucks the merrier. Perhaps the one thing I did hear from a few people was, there were a lot of new trucks there again. Don’t get me wrong I love seeing them and being able to compare the same make 30 or 49 years apart is a pretty cool concept. I am guessing there is an element of a few new trucks make up the numbers but then again what do you class as a retro truck?? I fine line for the organisers to think about but for me personally I don’t think it is far off perfect at all.
  • Irish Flyer – Empty

    Off the boat 1750hrs.

    Empty Parnell Park, Dundalk – 1920hrs.

    Job done then! A good days work done by us all, Marshy was just the chauffeur but we were all there for the ride and supporting role. So empty back to Dublin and back in the dock and all the boats are buggered due to the weather. Looks like Marshy may have an early night or even a lazy Sunday morning. Currently number 2 on the waiting list for the 0810hrs sailing back to Holyhead. Anyone else had just as a productive day?? Well done Marshy, a mother quality example of proper service by a proper good old boy. If you need service then Steve Marsh Express is your man!

    Irish Flyer – Off The Boat!

    Arrived in Dublin and off into the Irish darkness. At this time of day in Dublin I’m guessing it’s only an hour or so up to Dundalk, according to Google maps it says 56 miles, depending on final delivery address. I am assuming that Marshy will resist the urge for a pint of Guiness at least until he is empty. My thoughts at this stage would be; “Is someone going to be there?” – We’ve all been there, it’s all organised driver, just turn up and they will get you tipped. Well seeing as he’s had a good day so far, let’s all keep our fingers crossed 🤞🏻

    Irish Flyer – Check In

    Arrived at Morrison’s Holyhead – 1150hrs.

    Arrived at Port and checked in the lanes – 1230hrs.

    For those outside the UK you can see Leeds in the East, the journey takes you across the infamous M62 to Manchester, round the M60 (Manchester’s version of the M25), then carry on West on the M56 and then onto another of my favourite roads, the A55 which literally runs all the way along the North Wales coast into Holyhead. The 248 miles is how far away I am from Marshy as it’s a WhatsApp location map!

    From Holyhead it’s about 3hrs 15mins across the Irish Sea to Dublin, then north to Dundalk which you can also see on the map, on the border between the north and south. Having checked in, GB14 STE will be sailing on the nearly new WB Yeats, a new ship to Irish Ferries which I think will eventually be based on the Ireland France route but is covering the Holyhead Dublin while one of the other older ships gets a refurb. Unless anyone has a quick reload on Saturday evening from Dundalk, the airport or Dublin, Marshy is hoping to get back to Dublin port if he can this evening. Next instalment will come once arrived in Dublin.

    Irish Flyer

    The challenge is on. Same day Dundalk on a Saturday, loading Leeds. Our man Steve Marsh of the Express fame has just loaded and left on a fresh card from Leeds at 0840hrs. Marshy is the number 1 member of the #littlebigcabclub and it is his little MAN TGL 12 tonner cartoonised on the above tshirts. The tshirts are for sale by the way, message me for details if you want one. Now loaded Marshy is heading west for the 1410hrs sailing from Holyhead on Irish Ferries. Hopefully another update when he arrives at port. By the way, when we say he’s loaded…….