The haulier from Hellifield
Peter Walton, Director of JC&I Walton, wasn't really looking for a Scania V8, but now says it's the best truck he's driven in three-and-a-half-decades behind the wheel!
The dramatic June photograph in the 2019 T&D Scania V8 calendar was taken in front of the Ribblehead viaduct. Also known as the Batty Moss viaduct, this important and historic quarter-of-a-mile-long structure forms part of the Settle-Carlisle railway as it weaves its way across north Yorkshire towards Cumbria.
"He wasn't in a good mood that day, y'know – the photographer," says Peter Walton, director of JC&I Walton, whose truck gleams out from the frame. "There we were, in a windswept place in the middle of nowhere, and the sky was black. It took him five hours to get that shot, but I think the result was worthwhile."
'Worthwhile'? – we should say so! Of course, you have to remember that as a born-and-bred Yorkshireman, Peter Walton, a second-generation member of the Hellifield-based family firm, is naturally given to understatement. So when he says 'worthwhile', we reckon what he actually is means is something more like, 'It's a cracking picture, isn't it? – probably one of the best truck photos you'll ever see!'
And we'd have to agree, for that shot was taken by Bryan Winstanley, who's been photographing Scania trucks for as long as Peter has been driving – and that's 35 years, so he should be pretty good at it by now! Incidentally, apart from producing every shot in the T&D Scania V8 calendar, Bryan is the man responsible for those inspiring ad photos Scania used to run back in the day – you know the ones; the big double-page spreads featuring Scanias in fabulous, big wide open space landscapes. For our money, his shot of JC & I Walton's is right up there with his best.
"I've been driving it for 18 months now, and to be honest I can't believe the difference," he says. "The power it has, the smoothness of the automated gearbox, the quiet, comfortable, safe interior; it's got everything. And the bed is the best I've ever slept in inside a truck."
But back to our story, and it is fitting that part of the Settle-Carlisle railway should be chosen for this particular calendar shot. For Hellifield, situated just six miles from Settle, is also on the line and was once an important transport hub due to it being the junction where the Midland and the Lancashire & Yorkshire railways intersected. With road transport now having taken over from the railways as the prime mover of freight, the station is a shadow of its former self. But that notwithstanding, Hellifield still has an impressive transport industry player located within its parish boundary…
JC& I Walton was formed in 1973 by husband and wife team, Cameron and Irene Walton. Serving primarily the agricultural and construction industries, both were keen to drive the business forward – literally, as both worked behind the wheel as well as devoting their energies to running and building up the firm. Cameron started off with a brand new AEC four-wheel rigid and before long Irene, who sadly passed away in January of this year, was driving a 10-ton Bedford.
Today, the four-strong Walton fleet is in the safe hands of Cameron and Irene's two sons, Peter and Alastair. Peter takes up the story:
"Our parents were dedicated to the business," he says. "And today, we stick to what we know – which is doing what our customers ask us to, and delivering on time, every time. It's not rocket science, it's all about commitment and taking pride in the job."
And having decent trucks and drivers to do that job with, of course. On that front, Peter and Alastair are ably assisted by their three Scanias and a Renault ("the Renault is an experiment," says Peter with a grin) and drivers Chris Close and Stuart Walker.
"To attract the best drivers, you have to have the best equipment. We keep our trucks around three years, so they're always up to date. The Scanias come with a three year repair and maintenance contract, and that suits us down to the ground as it means we can run for three years worry free before selling them on for a good price."
While today Alastair specs the company's trucks and trailers and Peter looks after the office, both, like their parents, are very much hands on.
"We both started driving when we were 18, on the Young Drivers Scheme," says Peter. "We cut our teeth on farm work, with lots of hand balling, roping and sheeting. My first truck was Dodge, after which I moved up to a Leyland Freighter. Then we got our first Scania, a P92, which I remember as being fairly luxurious at the time."
Walton's move to the Swedish brand happened when the British truck building industry was in terminal decline. Which, from what Peter told us about his father's first truck – that AEC rigid – comes as no surprise.
"When that truck was just six months old, it needed a new piston," remembers Peter. "Trouble was, you couldn't get one. It nearly put him out of business before he'd started! The industry was in a right state at the time – there was something like a two year wait for a new Gardner engine, apparently. So to keep himself going, my father had to fit a second hand piston instead!"
The introduction of the Scania changed everything. As well as being well appointed, it was reliable too. In common with all Walton's other trucks it was a rigid which hauled a drawbar trailer, the ideal combination for farm work as the trailer could be left to be loaded while the truck carried on delivering and collecting from some of the tighter spots farm trucks have to get themselves into.
But then the law changed, with top weight for artics rising to 38-tons while drawbars got left behind at 32-tons.
"As a consequence, customers began demanding higher payloads," says Peter. "So we purchased our first tractor unit, a Scania R112. That became my truck. I'd gone from the old Dodge to a big Scania, and I was still just 22 – I really thought I'd made it!"
But, of course, Scania 112's had an 11-litre, six-cylinder engine. So despite being chuffed with his new wagon, Peter still had some way to go if he were to reach the pinnacle that is the Scania V8.
"We carried on buying Scanias – we've had about 20 to date – but I have to say we never really wanted a V8," says Peter. "The six cylinder models were good for us; they did the job well and the residual values were high. We didn't see the need to change. But then, in 2014, we were offered a good deal on a new V8 and decided to give it a go…and we've not looked back since."
Today, the truck Peter drives is YD67 OPW, the S 580 in our calendar.
"I've been driving it for 18 months now, and to be honest I can't believe the difference," he says. "The power it has, the smoothness of the automated gearbox, the quiet, comfortable, safe interior; it's got everything. And the bed is the best I've ever slept in inside a truck.
"In fact, I'd say that over the years the thing that's improved most within the transport industry are the trucks – and this one in particular!"