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The Telescopics Arrive 1959 - 1972
By the time F. Taylor and Sons joined Coles it had gained more than a decade of experience in hydraulic mobile cranes. It was in two of their machines which the Steel Group saw most potential: the Series 42, with 4 wheel drive; and the Series so, a general purpose mobile. Both machines had telescopic booms, and to both a considerable amount of design attention was given.
During the early 1960s a team of young hydraulic engineers joined the Sunderland design staff. They were brought in by Bob Lester, who had joined Coles at Derby in 1935 and was now Design Director. With his lifelong involvement in diesel electric technology Lester recognised the need for new minds on the subject, minds which knew hydraulics and could learn about cranes.
Between 1960 and 1966, Lester's team worked with the staff of Taylor to develop the hydraulic concept along three parallel lines. The first, and probably easiest to develop, was from the Taylor Series 50 machine. This small general purpose crane had a one man chassis mounted cab, with a telescopic boom extending to give 3~ ft height of lift. By 1962 this concept had been refined into the Taylor Jumbo (later Coles Hydra) Speedcrane.
This line of general purpose machines had been refined over the years since their introduction into some of the most popular machines of their type in the world. The characteristics of front wheel drive/rear wheel steer, which give it excellent manoeuvrability, compact overall dimensions and automatic hoist-rope compensation, have remained fundamental to the design of Speedcranes to the present day.
The second line of development in the use of hydraulics was their application to the fast travelling truck cranes which had developed enormously in popularity during the 1950s, particularly with the crane hire operators. By now, this was Coles' major market, and the need to ensure that a hydraulic truck crane met hirers' requirements was paramount in the company's ambitions for future growth.
One problem about which both hire companies and their customers had complained was the need to provide supplementary transport to carry jib sections for even small trucks. Before the introduction of hydraulic machines, some attempt had been made to circumvent this problem with the development, during the late 1960s, of `jib carriers'. As their name applies, these machines carry their full jib potential on the superstructure decking, and were designed to be entirely one man operated. These had proved extremely popular, and when the company came to apply hydraulics to truck cranes, it was to the jib carriers that design attention was turned.
During the early 1960s, hydraulic jib carriers were developed with capacities of 7, 8 and ii tons, with Taylor's hydraulic expertise wedded to the Sunderland designed chassis and superstructure. The name Hydra, which had been a Taylor trade name, was utilised for the machines, and remains the mark for all Coles hydraulic machines.
There were clearly limitations on how far the jib carrier system could be taken, and during 1965 the Coles design team began working on a telescopic boom crane for showing at the following year's Mechanical Handling Exhibition. This machine, the Coles Hydra Truck 10 T, used the chassis of the 11 ton strut jib crane with an entirely new superstructure and boom. It had many novel features. The boom telescoping was automatically synchronised (using a system devised originally for mining machines which Taylors had built during the 1950s) and for many years this remained a feature unique to Coles telescopics. In addition it had power extended outriggers, a considerable advance on the manual type previously fitted to all cranes.When the 101 was first exhibited in May 1966, it created an immense amount of interest. Upwards of 200 orders were taken at the exhibition, with more following shortly afterwards. It had been planned to handle all production at the Glazebury factory, but it was quickly decided to transfer manufacturing of the machine to Sunderland, with its vastly larger sources.
The machine was soon up rated to a 12T (12 ton), and Glazcbury factory then developed the 70T (a seven-ton crane), which proved just as popular. Production of the jib carrier strut jib hydraulics was eventually dropped altogether, and rapidly newer and bigger telescopics were developed. Crane hirers found that their customers appreciated the reduced time and costs involved in handling long boom lifts, while the crane hirers themselves quickly found that hydraulics can be just as reliable as electrics, as well as being more profitable.
This time there was no need for a military order to provide the push towards improved capacities. The market demanded new and bigger telescopic trucks. By 1968, a 30 ton Hydra truck was available and by 1972 plans were in hand for a 100 toner; the path which had taken a quarter of a century from EMA to Centurion was to take less than a decade with the Hydra trucks.
The third line of hydraulic development was in the area of rough terrain cranes. Taylors had some success during the late 1960s with their four wheel drive Jumbo cranes, particularly in military markets. During the early 19605 they continued to sell these, enjoying particular success in the civil engineering market which their amalgamation into the Steel Group had opened up to them. In 1966, following the success of the TOT truck crane, the Glazebury factory began work on a rough terrain telescopic which would have the truck crane superstructure mounted on an entirely new chassis. Utilising their own knowledge of high-power 4 x 4 drive systems, they adopted the American inspired system of 4 wheel steer to produce the first Hydra Husky, launched in 1967. Like the Hydra truck, the Husky was immediately popular, and production of this was also transferred to Sunderland. With the increasing demand for telescopic trucks, however, facilities here were not ideal, and in 1969, Husky production began at the Grantham factory, where it is now concentrated.
All this development work was matched by a vast increase in sales effort. At the beginning of the 1960s, more than 8o per cent of the output of Coles cranes was sold in the UK. By the end, the proportions were almost reversed. In 1966, 1971, 1972 and 1977 the company won the Queen's Award for Export Achievement and the cranes themselves gained half a dozen international medals for technical excellence.
By the late 1960s more than 40 different types of crane were produced. Development was also taking place with the diesel electric machines: while the telescopic took over at the lower end of the capacity range, at the top end the 200 ton barrier was breached with the launch of the Coles Colossus 6000 in 1971, only 8 years after the Centurion was introduced.
The growth rate was not without its price. By 1972, the company was manufacturing cranes using production facilities which were more wedded to an earlier generation of product. Just as hydraulic cranes require fresh design thinking, so they require new manufacturing techniques. In the overwhelming rush for its products since the introduction of the new machines in 1965 67, the company simply had not the time to revamp the factories accordingly.
Moreover, the company was facing considerably increased competition from other manufacturers in the crane business. In order to maintain its position and to build on its unique reputation, the Steel Group had to look towards an association with other manufacturers within the construction industry. Approaches were made and introductions effected between the Steel Group and the Acrow Group, and in July 1972 the former became part of the latter and was renamed the Coles Cranes Group. Once more a change in ownership was to spur Coles to greater heights.