Is it a peculiarly British thing?
There’s trainspotting, which I could understand when there were gleaming Thomas-style tank engines huffing and puffing and spitting out sparks. It’s harder to see the fascination in a dirty diesel with a serial number. But still they stand, men and boys (mostly), at the ends of station platforms, notebooks in hand, butties in bags and a flask of tea to keep out the chill.
But now we have lorry spotting. Have had for a while, in fact.
[I refuse, by the way, to call them trucks. I mean, who can’t twist their tongue around red truck yellow truck red truck yellow truck? It has to be lorry.]
It began with the Stobbies (though I’m sure a nerd somewhere will disagree – there seem to be 750,000 of them visiting lorryspotting.com).
Gleaming green and red machines rolling along the motorways. Eddie Stobart in large letters blazoned on the side and – to those in the know – the name of a woman, in small letters, on the front.
The tradition started with Eddie, who called his first ones after famous women – Twiggy, Dolly (Parton), Tammy (Wynette) and Suzi (Quatro) – but soon lorry drivers’ wives and other names joined the fleet.
Today Stobart is big business – as in BIG – trains, planes and refrigeration and crikey who knows what – but I admit there was a time when I was a bit hooked.
I was doing a lot of driving around as part of my job. A team of us was on the road doing presentations and community PR as part of – well, you don’t need to know that – but we started spotting Stobbies.
Soon one thing led to another and we bought membership of the spotters’ club – and a Corgi model of a lorry – for one lucky team member.
We never got into Nobbies – Norbert Dentressangle – the continental European rival. Which suggests none of us would have made serious lorry nerds.
And many years have passed since I stopped cricking my neck to see whose name was on the front of a passing Stobby.
But it all came flooding back this week on our holiday.
We’re in the far north of Yorkshire, staying in a quiet village not far from a place called Potto.
I’ll confess, when I saw the Potto signpost I was actually excited. Because for years I’ve noticed the super-smart gleaming red-and-gold vehicles that bore the words, ‘Prestons of Potto’ on their doors. And wondered – where on earth is Potto?
Well, now I know. I also know that the company started with steam engines – not the railway kind, the traction kind.
It began, in 1936, as an agricultural contracting business set up by Richard Preston Senior. He used steam engines for threshing and wood sawing.
The transport business took off when they began delivering bricks during the Suez crisis of the 1950s. Diesel was in short supply so a Prestons’ traction engine – called Lightning II – hauled 20 tonnes of bricks between Darlington and Ampleforth, a distance of 28.6 miles, every day for 3 months. When diesel became readily available again Richard Preston bought a lorry so he could keep the contract – and thus the haulage company was founded.
I know that Anne Preston MBE and Richard Preston are Chairman (both of them it seems from their website) and that their gleaming lorries gleam just as much when they’re asleep in Potto as they do on the road.
Not only that, but the company has taken part in ‘Yorkshire in bloom’. And their offices are in the former Potto railway station. Where steam engines used to huff and puff.
I’m dangerously close to becoming a Prestons of Potto nerd. A Prestons of Potto spotter. But that carries with it a serious linguistic dilemma.
Pottie spotting? No, no.
Pressie spotting? Doesn’t sound right.
Tonny spotting? Hmm.
Maybe I’ll stick to birds.
I’m adding this very appropriate (for a blogger espoused to Archaeo-man) picture sent to me by John Kemp from la belle France. Here’s a Nobbie at rest with a menhir looking on! Thanks, John.
Trains, yes, diesels aren’t the same. Down in the southwest we had GWR County Class and big King Class engines, with proper names.- I remember “County of Merioneth”.
Norbert Dentressangle has a site.at Beaugency on the Loire, not far from us. I didn’t realise he was that big. I’ll look out for Preston’s of Potto lorries next time I’m up that way.
Ooh you’re in an ideal place for Nobby spotting then! We’re going on the North Yorks Moors steam train to Goathland today, all being well. Had a loVely week seeing old abbeys and priories of which more anon, though the cottage we rented is small and viewless and makes us feel hemmed now we live in a ‘tree house, with views. Ah well, soon be home with happy sunny memories stored up for the impending winter (if not great photos still learning to use my camera and some very disappointing shots of Rievaulx from the terrace above ho hum).
What a great post!
I too have often wondered where Potto is after passing or being passed by plenty of their trucks on the motorway. I do 20K year mostly up and down the M1/M18 at night when most of the vehicles on the road are HGV’s.
The old Stobart trucks had much larger space on the front of the cab for the name so they were easy to read when we were driving along, my two youngest daughters are big Stobart fans and used to enjoy reading out the names. Sadly the new trucks have tiny names and they are not easy to read from across the other side of the motorway.
By the way, on a completely different subject, we have finally cracked the roast potato hurrah! My wife found some beef dripping in Tesco and we’ve now cooked utterly perfect roasties every time using the beef dripping. We’ve tried it with two variety of potato from our garden, King Edward and Red Rooster. They end up fluffy inside with a thick crunchy exterior that remains crunchy even when cool and have a lovely flavour that takes me straight back to my childhood eating my mothers roasties. 🙂
Ha – thought you might like this one! I’ve always noticed them and never had a clue where Potto was. It’s not the kind of thing you go home and look up, is it? Anyway, more important, glad you solved the great crispy potato conundrum – I could smell the dripping-fried chips in Whitby… We’re doing the steam train on the moors today fingers crossed. Bye for now and safe driving Ian, Mary
Excellent! I have often driven behind Prestons lorries and wondered where Potto is, this post has made my day, thank you.
Glad I’ve made someone’s day! (And it wasn’t April 1 yet!). The vehicles all look so smart in their compound and great care is taken of the site – I had a correspondence with Anne Preston afterwards – what a lovely firm. Did you see my post on the North Yorks Moors Railway? I went expecting steam and got diesel but after the initial disappointment could see the fascination. You might have been there! Here’s the link.
In which we don’t travel on the Hogwart’s Express
Thanks for poppong by and reading.
Reblogged this on Maid in Britain and commented:
Another reblog from one of my other blogging sites
Great reading your article. Prestons delivered Norsk products at my work place near Ripley derbys. Got to know Steve blackshaw.
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Glad you enjoyed it, I was really pleased to find the depot and answer the question of where it was!