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Express Dairy Milk Floats - Remember These ?


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When I were growing up I had a job on the milk, working between 4am and 8am delivering milk to the great folk of Sheffield 5 and Sheffield 6.

I'd work the milk round before school then (after being up from 4am) get off to my school for a days learning

One of the floats I worked on was the Express Dairy milk float which was ace.

Anyone remember these ?

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Yes, I remember driving one of those.

When my family milk business was being sold to the Express Dairy I went with the Express milk man to introduce him to the round.

When we had finished the round I had a drive and found it to rather scary the driver told me not to turn to fast as they had been known to roll over due to only having the one wheel at the front.

However they were much easier to use than our old Bedford van as you could access the load from all sides and not have to go round to the rear every time.

jiginc

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Yes, I remember driving one of those.

When my family milk business was being sold to the Express Dairy I went with the Express milk man to introduce him to the round.

When we had finished the round I had a drive and found it to rather scary the driver told me not to turn to fast as they had been known to roll over due to only having the one wheel at the front.

However they were much easier to use than our old Bedford van as you could access the load from all sides and not have to go round to the rear every time.

jiginc

Electric milk floats are much more efficient for this job than an internal combustion engined vehicle, as well as being a lot cleaner and greener in environmental terms.

Firstly, a milk round is very much a stop - start sort of job, and petrol engines waste fuel if constantly being stopped and started. The alternative is to leave the engine running between drop offs, - which also wastes fuel. However electric vehicles are ideally suited to this sort of work.

Secondly, its all down to torque.

Petrol engines generate little "power" (technically "torque" or turning force at low engine revs, but at higher engine speeds, with more firing strokes per minute this increases

Electric motors generate more torque at low speed with a high load as this almost puts a short on the armature causing a heavy current to flow, at high revs the resistive eddy currents in the armature increase and limit the current and hence the torque.

As a result electric vehicles require no gearbox (they can even be reversed by simply reversing the current to the motor)and can cope with varying loads at load speed with relative ease.

Despite the general opinion people have of these 3 wheeled electric milk floats of them being slow and cumbersome they are in fact ideally suited to the job they were designed for.

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Being electric and running on batteries,

what about the limitation in distance, how many miles could they travel on a full charge ?

What areas of Sheffield were covered by electric milk floats from the Express Dairy depot on Broadfield Road ?

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Being electric and running on batteries, what about the limitation in distance,

and what areas of Sheffield were covered by electric milk floats from the Express Dairy depot on Broadfield Road ?

There was a limitation to range, but as the milk rounds were set rounds this would hardly have mattered as you can set the "round" to match the known range.

People expect their milk delivered early in the morning so the batteries can be charged all through the evening and night giving a full charge and maximum range for the same round the next day.

The floats carried a considerable weight as water, glass bottles and metal crates are all heavy in bulk to move. The floats used several banks of batteries and these were also heavy (standard vehicle lead - acid accumulators). they were mounted low down to keep the centre of gravity low which would overcome, to some extent, the tendancy of the vehicle to "topple over". However, the total laden weight of the float was quite high which would put an even bigger load on those batteries and shorten the range.

Perhaps jiginc can tell us more about their range and also perhaps some of the rounds and the areas they covered.

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Being electric and running on batteries,

what about the limitation in distance, how many miles could they travel on a full charge ?

We had electric bin lorries in the 50s working the slopes of Parkwood Springs and Walkley, The local depot was on Penistone Road, they must have been very heavy fully loaded as most homes had a bin full of ashes in those days. W/E.

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We had electric bin lorries in the 50s working the slopes of Parkwood Springs and Walkley, The local depot was on Penistone Road, they must have been very heavy fully loaded as most homes had a bin full of ashes in those days. W/E.

Again, bin collections are stop - start at every door. Electric motors are much better at this than internal combustion engines so the idea of an "electric bin wagon" is a good one.

Wonder why it has not been more widely adopted?

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As a young child in the early 50's I lived on Clyde Road and we use to love walking up the genel at the back of the Express Dairy and watch the bottles go round on the machine belts.

Later I worked for B&C Woodhouse for a short time in my teens and remember a round that came back down a hill at Normanton Springs, we would knock the switch off, I think, we could certainly get the float up to quite a speed but the bend at the bottom could be quite scary.

On another round the float would regularly run out of power and the roundsman would just wait for another vehicle running in to get a tow.

The electric floats were very powerful and would easily tow a much larger diesel wagon.

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It was the weight of the battery, about 1.5 tonnes from memory, that was slung underneath the flat, cargo deck, together with the weight of a full load of milk, about 400 gallons equivalent, plus the 3,200 odd, 12 oz., or 16 oz. bottles, and of coarse, the crates themselves, that gave these machines their tremendous tractive ability.

The batteries had a life expectancy of roughly five to six years, after which, they had to be replaced. The batteries consisted of a series of individual battery cells, which I recall as being roughly 9" x 9" x 24" deep and these were contained within a timber, battery box, which to me, always seemed to have been constructed to a very high standard. Certainly better than most furniture than you see today.

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My Dad used to drive one of these for Express. He worked out of the Norton Depot and delivered around the Norton area.
He used to tell a story about one of the roundsmen checking the levels in the battery. It was very early on a cold, dark winter morning. He unscrewed the cap of one of the cells, and looked in. It was too dark to see, so he decided to use the light from his cigarette lighter. I think he lost his eyebrows in the resulting blast :rolleyes:

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Electric molk floats are still around in some places. They can have an incredibly long lifespan and often get refurbished and returned to service with 'Q' reg plates.

 

I'm told that Park Hill flats were built the way they were to allow an electric milk float to travel on the walkways and access every door. Ive never seen the float that did this though. I'm guessing it was probably a specially designed one.

 

Milk float @ 0850 mts.

 

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Talking of milk floats, I used to work at the plant that made many of the milk float motors. Metro-Vick V66's from memory.

When I worked on test bed it was a bit of light relief to be able to go the other side and test float motors for a change. They didn't explode in sheets of flame like some of the loco motors did. We used to couple two together and test them "back to back". one of them acting as a motor and the other as a generator to provide a load. The output of the generating machine was fed into a set of reostats to dissipate the power. One very cold winter I arranged a compressed air hose to blow over the reostats and warm me up a bit. Did I invent the fan heater ?

We would then swop over the roles and test two for the price of one.

I saw the end was coming when the management obtained a Japanese motor with a permanent magnet stator and although it was only half the size it out-performed our motors with ease. We were testing it and discovered that it rotated at speed with the tiny bit of current from the test instrument.

I was instructed to hold the shaft to prevent it rotating. Like a fool I did and got a nasty injury from the rotating keyway on the shaft.

I also had the privilege of driving an early AEI electric vehicle, based on a Minivan with two V66's driving the front wheels and a load of batteries in the back.

It took off like a Porsche but rapidly ran out of revs at about 60 mph running around the Greenland Road works. There was no difficulty with people hearing you coming, the early thyristor chopper controller made a noise like a banshee. I've heard quieter motor bikes !

HD

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Milk float @ 0850 mts.

I miss-read that, I thought it said 0850 metres. I thought it was an early attempt to put a milk float in orbit-----------------Sorry :wub:

HD

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I miss-read that, I thought it said 0850 metres. I thought it was an early attempt to put a milk float in orbit-----------------Sorry :wub:

HD

lol

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Then was this? I didn't think chopper controllers came along until the late 70's. The first one I came across was fitted to a rebuilt Blackpool tram around 1980-ish. They made a horrible screaming / whining noise, especially when accelerating.

I left AEI late 1968. The Greenland Road works was my final workplace at AEI.

I would think it was either 1967 or 1968.

Chopper type controllers ( Pulse Width Modulation ) were certainly around at that time because I used to repair the controllers of Lancing Bagnall trucks and small fork-lifts that used that technology.

As an aside I also got to sit in the "cockpit" of a DeLorean car which was brought to BSC Stocksbridge works where I later was employed.

The stainless steel for the bodywork was made there. It had a brushed finish and I thought it looked a mess.

HD

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Seeing the name Express Dairy, just wanted to ask, dose anyone know what happened to the black and white 'DISPLAY COW' that used to be in the front upper window of the Dairy after they closed. I often wondered about it, as it had been there for years, we used to call it 'Daisy'

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I was just thinking that the other day, I'm fairly certain it was still there 'recently' but whether that's five or ten years ago is beyond me at the moment

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As a kid we lived in CoOp land and I never remember ever seeing anything other than a Brightside and Carbrook milk float ( apart from Mr Cutts, who in the late 1940's still delivered milk from a milk churn by pony and dray. ( I wonder whether it was unpasteurised?)

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Electrically powered vehicles? Bottles which are recycled? Gosh, how very old-fashioned.

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Yes! That picture was taken at 8a.m. on the morning I posted it on this site ( Tuesday 6th April 2021), quaint isn't it ?lol 

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I didn't know that there were any still in service. It must be five years or more since I saw one.

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This is even more topical today than it was ten years ago, what could be better for door to door light deliveries? Leaving a diesel/petrol vehicle ticking over while the delivery is made is costly, I can envisage an updated version on our streets, however I recall them being so quiet that they were a danger, IMHO they should be heard instead of running you over quietly.

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