Rolling Stone

 

Itnearly 20 years since medical reasons forced Mick Stone to come off the road, but as Bob Tuck discovers, his subsequent involvement with miniatures has literally been a life-saving therapy. And thatnot our opinion, but comes from Pam Stone, Mickwife of 53 years.

We often take our life and health for granted but thatnot the case for 76-year-old Mick Stone. Every new day is something of an added bonus for someone who might not have seen his 59th birthday. The truck driverlifestyle of old eventually caught up with him – in a big way – but after spending something like six weeks in intensive care, the medical folk eventually discharged him in a wheelchair to make the best of the rest of his life.

It was quite a jolt for Mick who had been so active but the therapy that was to save his life, honestly, was modelling. have kept him alive,”says Pam Stone, his wife of 53 years, it gave him something to concentrate on. Without that interest, I donknow what would have happened to him.”

As a youngster, Mick had treasured his collection of Dinkys but it was when Mick and Pam were visiting the local Thoresby Sunday Market that Mick spotted the BRS eight wheeler with drawbar trailer that was to rekindle his passion for days gone by. Since then, the collection has snowballed (Mick reckons he has about 260) but now he doesnjust buy them to display, although he does display them all over the house. Mick likes to personalise them, either changing the configuration or adding a load. Or – and herewhere Pam comes back into the story – repaint them into all manner of different liveries. now suffering badly with arthritis in my hands,”explains Mick, Pam comes to the rescue as she does all the delicate painting which is required.”

Stone work

As the crow flies, Mick and Pam haven t travelled far from the Palais dance hall where they first met during 1958, in their home town of Worksop. Mick was born and bred in nearby Whitwell and after doing his National Service in the army, he came back home to join his father Graham in their modest haulage business.

Graham had been a miner at Manton Colliery until the strike of 1926 but deciding he wanted to work on the surface, he set up a local coal round. The first Stone & Sons vehicles were nothing flash and Mick recalls his father using a Scammell Mechanical Horse (a very small artic tractor unit) converted as a load carrier that could handle a couple of tons.

Sadly no pictures seem to have been taken of the little Horse although another Stone vehicle was the small Bedford ANN 468 Mick began driving as soon as he could reach the pedals. suppose I didnlike school much,”admits Mick – albeit with a big grin on his face, I loved shovelling coal.”

This Bedford did have a tipping body but that was manually operated by rack and pinion.

And after shovelling on a load of coal, Mick loved having to deliver it into the local gas works. That was just across the road although, technically speaking, he was still far too young to drive across the public highway. However, the local policeman was his uncle, Albert Stone, who could be relied on to turn a blind eye to what young Mick was up to.

In 1954, Graham got into general haulage using a small, grey Bedford and Mick recalls regular loads of dried Batchelors peas. These went to various canning plants, with both London and Sheffield being regular ports of call.

Mickbrother Derek was to come into the family business but the Stone workload was to change dramatically, once the company of Steetley decided to create a huge dolomite plant at Whitwell. Mick can recall the first turf being cut for these huge works and as well as being involved in the initial construction, during the 1960s Stone and Sons became Steetley Whitwellbiggest subcontractor. And while they did have their own name on the doors, it was perhaps no surprise that the Stone fleet was painted a similar cream to the Steetley vehicles.

On the face of it, the 1960s was a boom time for the Stone family as their road-going fleet expanded to about 18 vehicles. This included a 10-ton mobile crane of Allen manufacture. bought the old gas works in Whitwell for our depot,”says Pam, who was involved with the office work as well as bringing up their family. Pam and Mick were to have five children – Jennifer, Michele, Susannah, Victoria and Michael – and juggling commitments from both directions was something the Stones simply got used to. Although Pam still has a smile wondering how she managed to cope.

However, rates for the work didnkeep pace with company expenditure and the straw which broke the camelback was when fuel rocketed in price. put in for a 10% rise in rates,”says Mick, we were only offered 2.5%. And while our drivers were being paid good money, we realised we were working for only half their pay so we decided to call it a day.”

The fleet and premises were almost all sold off although Mick kept the AEC Marshal – DKW 552D – to run as an owner driver. This was soon traded in for the bonneted 1418 Mercedes-Benz, SFA 926J, although this was to be Micklast own wagon.

Mick still has fond memories of this motor:

days before sleepers were fitted,”says Mick, cabs were ideal as you could stretch out full length across the bench seat.”The Merc was expected to work hard for its keep especially on the cross-Pennine routes before the M62 motorway was completed.

Stanley Mann RacingMick has always loved the A537 Cat and Fiddle road (between Buxton and Macclesfield) but one day, he recalls, the Merc made heavy weather of it.

couldnunderstand why it was so slow on the hills until I got to the delivery point,”says Mick. guy there explained I was carrying deck cargo of Canadian timber which was then full of moisture. So instead of weighing about 22 tons, I was actually carrying 27 tons so no wonder it struggled.”

Steetley days

Another change of circumstances (including experiencing the first of his many medical difficulties) prompted Mick and Pam to call time on their family haulage business in 1972. Although for the next 23 years, SteetleyWhitwell plant was to give Mick varying employment as a truck driver, a dumper driver and all manner of other jobs around the plant which versatile Mick could turn his hand to.

Generally speaking, Mick enjoyed his life at Steetley although – like any job – there were some days better than others. He was more than content working locals with a Leyland Buffalo artic tipper, although a rare drive of a company Leyland Marathon is still vividly recalled because that motor was far too quick. Like any trucker of old, Mick can tell all sorts of stories and still misses the camaraderie of the guys he used to work with.

You could always rely on your mates to help out although one tale Mick recalls was on a day when he had to be self-sufficient. In the days before tippers had sleeper cabs, Mick recalls spending the night at Abington, on the A74 in Southern Scotland: discovered later that the temperature got down to -23°C so itperhaps no surprise that when I went out to the wagon, it was completely dead. There wasnthe slightest glimmer as even the electrics were frozen solid.”

It was a regular run for the Whitwell based vehicles to take loads of Steetleyhighly refined products to the steel works in Glasgow, then back load with scrap out of Beardmores for the Firth Brown works in Sheffield. Back then, Mick was driving a Foden eight-wheel tipper with a Gardner engine.

Mick naturally contacted the local breakdown service but was given short shrift as there was something like another 150 drivers on the list ahead of him waiting for attention. spent another night at Mrs Robertson s B&B,”says Mick, when things were just the same with the breakdown people the next day, I knew I had to get myself going.”

Raking round the hedgerows, Mick pulled together all manner of wood and combustible materials and set three small fires going under his motor. There was no danger of the truck catching fire but the slow sources of heat gradually did the trick. And once the lights came on, Mick knew he could soon fire himself up. So no surprise that once he got the motor into motion, he didnstop until he got back to the yard at Whitwell.

One thing Mick didnenjoy was being made redundant in 1995 when new owners took over the Steetley business. However, worry about what he was going to do for a job (at the age of 58) was soon replaced by worry about whether he was going to survive all the problems that complications with the surgery (following his heart attack) generated.

Stone miniatures

For someone who had led such an active life, the discovery of the truck model world was to prove excellent therapy at a time when he was both physically and mentally at rock bottom. And one look at Mickhuge and varied collection shows he has a natural eye and ability to recreate a variety of scratch built and modified build creations.

Mick admits that he has very fond memories of days of yesteryear but that doesnmean henot interested in 21st century outfits, as a large number of his collection is made up of modern (locally based) concerns like Wilkinson, B&Q and DHL. These all look superb but I must confess, I was more interested in the golden oldies, starting with – of course – the old Stone & Sons fleet.

No surprise that Mick has made a model of the first ever Bedford four wheeler (in its original drab paint job) that he used to run to London carrying dried peas. However, more eye-catching is the variety of models in the cream livery once the Stone family became involved with Steetley.

Like many local tipper operators of the early 1960s, the Stone fleet included a large number of Thames Traders. In addition to four wheelers, Mick has recreated both a Six,’twin steer version and a 6×4 double drive, six wheeler. While the addition of a mock load of baled straw (made from a chunk of wood) just finishes things off. Great.

It s the addition of different loads which makes a huge difference to the effect of looking at Mickmodels. Itperhaps no surprise that on Mickbonneted Merc model therea load of cut timber. Although these lolly sticks donweigh anything like that saturated Canadian timber Mick well recalls. had to convert a Berliet cab to make this model,”says Mick,

I also made the trailer to extend.”Strangely, when he bought the original bonneted truck new in January 1971, the York semi-trailer he bought had to be cut down by 2ft 6in so he didnoffend the overall length limit for artics then in force.

Therenaturally a profusion of Steetley models on show. I can vividly recall seeing the mouth organ front Leyland Octopus eight wheel tippers the company ran in my native North East, as they had a number of these working out of the Steetley works at Hartlepool where they operated a seawater magnesia plant, and from Steetleyquarry near Coxhoe. However, Mick is naturally proud of the special bin type containers he made for the back of a 1960s style Ergomatic cab Leyland in Steetley colours.

Like any modeller who enjoys the craft, Mick uses all sorts to come up with the desired effect. He has naturally recreated one of the famous Scammell Highwayman artics run by Sid Harrison of Sheffield. This has included the Harrison mod of adding an extra axle to the Scammell (to save on excise duty) although even better is its mock load of steel: used 6in nails for the load with their ends cut off,”explains Mick.

Mick admits that he doesnalways get things right – especially where the livery is concerned. I love the low slung Foden herecreated with a mock load of steel girders but the Bulmer colour scheme it carries is all wrong. ,”he says, all I was working from was a black and white picture.”

Mick never saw that vehicle in action although strangely it was later converted for recovery work and in the late 1980s did take up residence at the yard on the end of the A1 (M) Doncaster bypass which is not far from Mick s home.

The biggest model of Mick s collection must be the 6×6 Scammell Constructor now painted into Laing Ocolours and carrying an impressive set of girders that are supported on a tri-axle bogie. The original Corgi model Mick bought was a ballast box unit in Siddle C Cook colours. And while it seems a mite insulting to cut up a Cook model, Isure Siddle would have loved what Mick has done. The late Siddle Cook always told me he hated carrying ballast weight in his box tractors and preferred to use the weight of the load (like Mick has done) to ensure traction. Nice one.

That generally sums up what Mick (and donforget about Pam) has achieved. Obviously the likes of Corgi has made some superb models and Mick loves to admire those he has on display. However, to us, iteven better seeing the special one-offs that have been crafted by the Mick and Pam combination.

Both still share a huge enthusiasm for their ongoing projects even though Mick – as heoften reminded – is only four years away from being the ripe old age of 80. Although something else henever forget is the passion generated by this modelling pastime which probably saved his life.