Feature story

LONG LOAD SOLUTIONS: PART ONE - GENESIS

Thursday, 15 April 2004 ( #153 ) - WASHINGTON, DC, United States
Welcome to part one of Forkliftaction.com News's special features on long-load solutions. This month you will receive two feature-length articles about developments and news from this increasingly popular segment of materials handling.

This week's article focuses on the genesis of the side-loading forklift, using excerpts from a study authored by Lancer Sideloaders founder GN Bowman in the 1980s. On April 29, Forkliftaction.com News will feature news on the current state of the market, including interviews with manufacturers, and outline developments in this market niche.

Excluding names incorporating the manufacturer, over the years, side-loading forklifts have been know as:
* Travelloader (Lull)
* Long Goods Forktruck (Irion)
* Side Operating Forklift Carrier (Irion/MHE)
* Sideloader
* Side-Operating Gallows Forktruck (Cleco)
* Sidelift

The first Sidelift, or Travelloader, was conceived by American Henry le Grande Lull in the early 1950s when he received a contract from the US Air Force to develop a machine to load the Globemaster freight aircraft.

He realised he had developed a machine of commercial, as well as military, value and took out a series of patents, almost exclusively based on the fixation that the machine was ideal for loading telegraph poles into high-sided railway wagons. However, he did not grasp the possibilities of using forklifts for handling concrete, steel and timber, indeed most long loads and some cube loads.

Unfortunately, Lull never developed the machine for commercial use. His company was bought out by the Baker Truck Company, which became Baker Lull Co, and was subsequently taken over by Otis Elevator, which dropped the Travelloaders because of limited volume and the fact that they required a large floor area for manufacturing.

All current side-loading forklifts were probably influenced by the original Lull concept.

Although a late starter in the 1960s, Shinko, of Japan, was heavily influenced by Lull. In common with other manufacturers, it advertised a range of machines, but it is a matter of conjecture as to how many were actually manufactured, let alone delivered.

In 1954, Albert Irion, of Stuttgart, was almost certainly the first company to make a commercial success of the Side Operating Carrier, as the company called it. Initially, it made a three ton (2.7 tonnes) diesel, powered by Mercedes-Benz, and over the next decade offered machines with capacities up to 10 tons (nine tonnes). Colonel Hartman, who served in the British Army in Germany, saw the machine and took on the agency for it in Great Britain through his company, Materials Handling Equipment (Great Britain) Ltd.

MHE, as the company became known, sold half the Irion output, which is probably why the UK has the biggest population of sidelifts in the world today. The Irion was more reliable and simpler than the Lull and, above all, small in relation to its capacity. A patented feature was its two oblique cylinders, used for traversing the mast, which was a reliable simplification of the complicated Lull "filing -cabinet-drawer" system.

MHE began manufacturing its own version of the Irion, known as the Kestrel (three tons/2.7 tonnes) and the Falcon (six tons/5.4 tonnes), but the venture was never financially successful, and when MHE was bought out by Hunslet, of Leeds, the models' production was stopped.

Although the Irion bore many similarities to the Lull, MHE was reluctant to admit to having known or seen one. In the same way, Hendre, of Holland, produced a three to four ton (2.7 to 3.6 tonnes) sidelift in 1956, which looked like a few good ideas had been added to a cross between the Lull and the Irion. Hendre vehemently denied knowledge of both the Lull and the Irion.

Many Hendre machines were sold by Lancers Machinery Ltd, and were known as Lancer sideloaders. Hendre later entered into a manufacturing arrangement with Metro Camel, a venture which eventually failed.

By the late 1950s, much interest was being aroused by the early sidelifts, which had yet to be properly developed because of unreliability, slowness or limited production capacity.

One example was DAM, of Holland, which was formed to produce a better machine than the Hendre, but failed due to a lack of marketing ability. Cleco, of Leicester, was and remains a prolific inventor and designer. In 1960, it released a one and two ton (900 kilograms and 1.8 tonnes) cushion tyred, jackless, electric, side-loading forklift gallows truck. A complicated name, but the ideas were good.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of Forkliftaction.com News's special focus on long-load solutions on April 29. Did you enjoy this article? Let us know.
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