Film: 8677

Road Transport | 1950 | Sound | B/W


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A well-made film about the work of British Road Services, the nationalised long-distance road haulage service that had been set up by the post-war Labour government in 1940's

It includes good footage of lorries and lorry drivers, of cargoes being lifted by cranes and ropes, and lorries being loaded in depots.

We look down over Liverpool docks. Barrels or rolls are lifted by rope, while a few dockers stand by. A man in a waitcoat and cap works a manual crane. Barrels of motor diesel oil are lowered down. We look towards the Northumberland ship, bound for Melbourne. The hook of a crane hangs in front of the ship. A view of the ship's hold, next to which stand the captain and two officials in long overcoats: a valuable part of the cargo is missing.

Two views along lines of lorries. A small van belonging to the 'Port Control Organisation' passes right across the picture, as we hear that British Road Services (BRS) keep vans that are in radio contact with Liverpool Port Control. A man enters a door marked 'Liverpool Teleprinter Station'. Female hands type on a keyboard, as we hear that a message goes back from Port Control to the 'Forwarding Depot'. A message is torn off from a teleprinter machine. Hands flick through a pile of forms until the correct consignment and corresponding vehicle registration number are found; a telephone is picked up and a voice states that the number is '62E 450'. A man on the right of the picture jots down the number, presses a switch on a radio set and speaks into a microphone, asking the Port Control to find the vehicle and take it to the Northumberland.

The driver in the van receives the call, then drives rightwards, the camera following it a short way. The van approaches us to the right of a row of lorries, as we hear the driver repeating the registration number. A close-up of the number, before the camera moves right to show the van stopping to the right of the offending lorry. The driver gets out and takes some papers to the driver inside. A view of the Northumberland ship. The Port Authority van moves across the picture, in front of a warehouse marked 'Gladstone Graving Dock', followed by the lorry loaded with various packages. The van and lorry park alongside the ship. The captain and two officials on deck look round. The captain looks out over the ship, as the lorry positions itself below.

The camera moves along a line of BRS lorries, then left to show a man transferring a BRS logo onto the side of one lorry, while a driver, in double-breasted coat and cap, looks on; we hear a voice recalling the 'revolutionary' takeover by British Road Services in 1947 and the scepticism that greeted it. A close-up of the lorry driver watching. The other man, in cap and spectacles, peels away the transfer sheet to leave the BRS logo. The driver looks on. The two men chat briefly.

Several shots over fields of lorries moving along roads; we hear that it was decided that long-haul vehicles would travel overnight, to allow smaller vehicles to deliver during the day.

The camera moves along a line of five besuited officials, one smoking a pipe, ('all road haulage men with a great deal of experience between us', we are told) who met to decide on the changes. A finger moves across a timetable. Three of the men look at papers, then the other two. A pen moves over a timetable.

A lorry moves away from us, then turns left into BRS Brentford Depot, one of the new intermediate depots that were set up. A barrel is rolled along the ground. A wooden box being lowered is lifted down. Rolls of matting are placed on the ground. What look like propellers are laid down. Small packages, bearing stickers saying 'Please Do NOT Throw Or Drop', are stacked by a worker in a cap. A barrel of metallic paint is rolled into place among some others.

Hands close a folder of documents, then reach for another. Three of the officials look down the table. The two others, one with pipe in mouth, ponder the timetable. A close-up of one of their faces. Hands use a large and a small paperclip to demonstrate how a heavy vehicle could make the journey in one direction, then a small vehicle could take over at the depot for the return journey. The two officials ponder the solution.

A line of lorries move towards us along a street at night. One is waved through the entrance to a depot. A driver in a cap climbs down from his vehicle; the camera follows him to the vehicle alongside, in which he leaves his bag. The driver walks away from us towards a window, where he signs a book. A lorry passes across the picture, with the lit windows of the office building behind. The driver receives his book again, then joins a gathering of lorry drivers standing by, talking. A number of lorries pass away beside the lit office.

A close-up of a dial inside a lorry showing 85409 miles. A distant, then a closer, shot of the engine being removed from a lorry. A sequence of views of engine and brake parts and wheels being removed, worked on and replaced, as part of the ongoing process of 'preventive maintenance'.

A lorry moves away from us, seen from the position of a driver in a lorry behind; windscreen wipers are being used and snow is visible outside. A side-on shot of the driver. Back, then front wheels move along a snow-covered road. We look out of the front window of a lorry overtaking another on the left. Two lorries pass across the picture from right to left, a sign indicating that they are heading towards Doncaster. We look along a road through a snowy wood.

A slightly blurred, close view of the distinctive chimneys of the Potteries, a district in North Staffordshire. The chimneys rise over a street, silhouetted against the sky. A lorry moves towards us alongside some brick buildings. The driver gets out of the vehicle, some men standing by to meet him. The driver signs a book held by one of the men. A lorry passes rightwards across the picture, then another, carrying a number of large wooden barrels, turns out of an entrance opposite. A man stands on a lorry facing us, as a barrel is lifted by a crane, and a man with his back to us helps the load along. A large bespectacled man in overalls looks on. The barrel (marked 'Dunen Anne China') is eased into place on the lorry, and the man there jumps down and signs the book held out by the bespectacled man.

A large pallet packed with straw fills the picture, until it is lifted away from us by a crane, two men looking on in a depot. A man in a duffle-coat and cap checks the consignments against a document, while a small crane is driven past behind him. A crane carrying a large wooden chest is driven towards the back of a lorry on the left, where a man on the lorry and another on the ground receive it. A view from behind the chest as it is released and the crane moves back, the camera moving down to its wheels.

The first driver that we met, wearing a double-breasted coat, scarf and cap, turns his steering wheel. We see several trailers, detached from the driving part of the vehicle, as we hear how the 'quick release articulated vehicle' was brought into greater use. The driver reverses his lorry, looking back out of his side window. The camera shows the trailer, then the driver reversing towards it to attach the vehicle to it. A side-on view of him, as he stops and gets out. Another lorry driver in a cap looks on. The previous driver moves across in a lorry. He reverses again. The end of the trailer moves backwards. We look along the vehicle, as he looks back out of his window while reversing, before opening the door.

A ship moves away from Preston docks on its way to Ireland. Our familiar driver reverses back across the picture. We now see that he is reversing along a ramp onto a 'tank landing ship' which can carry up to 80 vehicles. The lorry crosses the screen towards us. We see it from within the ship, as it enters. A hand secures the vehicle. Several shots of a man in a cap securing another vehicle with chains to the deck of the ship. An official in a hat signals down. A cargo is lifted down onto the dockside, as a ship is unloaded. The captain is followed rightwards to the edge of the ship. A small steamer approaches.

A BRS lorry comes down the ramp of the 'Empire Cymric', having left its trailer there. A closer shot of it moving towards us. Some of the fifteen 'checkers, dockers, drivers and the man on the crane' involved in the work pass away from us along an aisle by the edge of the ship, then turn left down some steps. The steamer moves away from the ship. The captain looks down from the ship towards us, as a man pulls in a rope to the left of him. Flags flap beside the mast. A radar turns.

Several close shots of a teleprinter being constructed. A view along the BRS teleprinter centre in London, with several female staff working at teleprinters. We pass over several teleprinter machines until we reach one in use. Two shots of messages being printed out. The clock shows twenty past four. A woman works at a kind of switchboard. A close shot of her hands disconnecting and reconnecting at the switchboard. Two female staff at work on the switchboard. Hands on a keyboard are followed by several messages being printed out. A longer view of staff at work in the centre.

A line of lorries move away from us along a High Street at night. They pass rightwards across the screen. The driver is seen side-on. The markings on the road recede rapidly. We look through the driver's window at the lights of vehicles ahead.

A large metal mould is moved into position. A resin is poured from a barrel into a container. A roll of fibre-glass is rolled out. It is cut against a ruler. A workman looking towards us fits the fibre-glass into a mould on top of a coating of resin. A close-up of the workman. His hand dabs the glass-fibre with colour pigment. His hand brushes the glass-fibre down over the mould. The glass-fibre, having been removed, is trimmed with an electric saw. A close-up of the worker's masked face, before returning to the previous shot. A section of a new fibre-glass 'cab' is lifted away from us by two engineers, who add it to the front of the new cab. Close shots of parts of the cab being fitted, before the camera moves left to show a line of such cabs; two men carry a part across the picture in the foreground.

We look down upon a number of lorries parked outside. A group of 'night truckers' walk through the entrance to the Hampstead depot. They walk away from us towards the parked lorries. Others walk in through the entrance towards us, terraced houses visible behind. Night drivers stand about, talking in the yard. We watch drivers queue at the office window, receiving their papers. Our familiar driver comes to the window, side-on to us. The man at the window passes out his papers. The driver receives and examines them.

Drivers walk away from us towards the lorries, some of which are being washed. Our driver puts his bag inside the cab of one of them. He walks along the outside, checking the ropes holding the cargo in place. We look along the driver's side of a cab, as he leans out. A man with his back to us checks the lights at the front of a lorry. Drivers walk between two lorries. Our driver now sits in his cab, speaking out of the window. Another driver looks out towards us and adjusts his wing mirror. A lorry begins to move out. A side-on view of one cab, as the vehicle starts up. Two lorries move towards us, then pass beyond the right of the picture. They move away from us, in front of some tall Victorian buildings.

A sequence of night-time shots: lorries pass left across an iron bridge; a lorry moves into a tunnel in a city, perhaps London; a lorry moves towards us with the Potteries in the background; another passes leftwards in front of an old city gate. The End.

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