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Traders 'Rounds', delivery vehicles and mobile shops

Note- Coal deliveries are fully discussed in Railway Company Goods Facilities - Coal, Coke and Heating Oil

The sturdy wicker shopping basket was a standard bit of household kit right up into the early 1970s when the arrival of the plastic carrier bag quite rapidly killed it off, however many shops would deliver to your home, in the days before car ownership had mushroomed this was considered quite a normal part of their business. This is one reason you do not see people burdened with shopping in old photographs. Up to the 1920s a lot of deliveries were done by hand, for example bakers delivering loaves of bread using a deep wicker bread basket, but the Victorians in particular had a penchant for using human-powered vehicles to handle work of this kind.

The common term for a delivery job was a 'round', hence there would be a baker on the 'bread round' or a milk man on the 'milk round', whilst children delivering newspapers and magazines have a 'paper round' and postmen (or 'letter carriers' as they are more correctly called) had a 'post round'. Bread rounds were often associated with the afternoon, at least everywhere I have lived they were. Milk and papers were delivered in the mornings, usually the round would be finished by about eight thirty to avoid the traffic (and ensure people had the milk and papers for their breakfast), evening papers (mainly associated with local papers) were then delivered after the working day, the evening paper rounds usually started at about six in the evening. Postal deliveries in towns might involve four rounds a day up to the 1920s, after which they fell to a standard two a day, both in the morning, one very early before the rush hour, the other after the morning traffic had cleared. By the mid 1980s the 'first post' was often quite late on in the day and in the 1990s the 'second post' was scrapped. The telephone, facsimile and internet all impacted on the quantity of post but the latter brought a surge of parcels traffic as more people purchased goods on-line and had them delivered by the postal system.

The hand cart of 'barrow' was widely used, one common use being for parcels deliveries in towns, and some hand carts remained in use in towns into the 1970's (they were always much less common in country areas). They were used as mobile shops, for example costermongers (selling fruit and vegetables) gathering in designated areas to form an ad hoc market, but also by tradesmen to carry their tools. The examples below are a tea merchants cart used for local deliveries and a butchers cart. The butchers cart is based on a tracing from a photo of such a cart visiting a railway yard in about 1920, close by a row of vans, presumably collecting sides of meat from a frozen meat van. The top is open, once loaded the load would be covered with sacking to protect it.

Fig___ Typical hand carts used for local deliveries

Typical hand carts used for local deliveries

See also Appendix One - Roads and road traffic - Road Vehicles - Hand Carts, Horse Drawn Vehicles and Bicycles for more detail and a selection of illustrations. One common example would be the chimney sweep's cart with its rods and brushes. Up to the 1960s most houses had at least one coal fire so he would only need to push the cart a short distance between jobs. Hand carts were on the wane from the mid 1930s however, increasingly replaced by motorcycle combinations and small three and four wheeled vans. Their main employment by the post war era was associated with street markets but some tradesmen continued using them until about 1980, my local council were used hand carts for their plumbers and carpenters until 1974.

Fig___ Window cleaners with hand cart

Window cleaners sketched from photographs, suitable for in-town scenes from about 1810 until the 1930s

The pedal cycle was an obvious candidate for use as a delivery vehicle and from the very early days examples were produced, the sketch below shows one from the 1880s, it is unlikely that these would remain in use by the time of the First World War as much safer designs were by then in use, however you might justify one in some rural area.

Fig ___ Early traders tricycle

Early traders tricycle

The chain drive 'safety bicycle' proved a winning design and was adopted by the Victorians for trade work, producing the 'trade bike' or delivery bike which had a metal cradle attached to the front to carry the tradesman's tools or the goods being delivered, often requiring a smaller front wheel to accommodate the frame. Often the goods were carried in a large wicker basket, the size of which was set by the design of the carrier. Butchers favoured rather flat baskets, bakers favoured rather deeper types. Some of these bikes included a fold-down two-legged support attached to the under side of the carrying frame so the bike could be left standing and stable in the street. There is a company selling reconditioned examples of these machines, they have a web site at Cycles of Yesteryear that might offer some useful photographs. I recently found a site with more useful photographs of these bikes at Alf Sterling Classic Pedal Bikes that is definitely worth a visit.

Not all such bikes were so complex however, there were some that simply had the carrier frame attached to a standard bike and with no fold down legs for support. At least one of these was used by a small local dairy company for bottled milk deliveries. This sketch below left was made from an advert for Humber bikes dating from about the time of the First World War, similar bikes remained in use into the 1950s. The example below right is a Co-Op bike from 1935 (originally built by and used for the Hudersfield Co-Op), this has the dropped diagonal cross-bar associated with a ladies bike (it allows the rider to wear skirts) however in this case it was used because the delivery person would often wear a long apron.

Fig___ Trade bike and delivery boy and Co-Op bike

Delivery boy with his bike and Co-Op bike

Modeling the basic bike-with-frame is easy enough using a standard model bike, for an empty frame use 5 Amp fuse wire bent up to shape and soldered, the solder will stiffen the wire, then super glue this to the bike. Alternatively you can make the basket from 10 thou card and add the frame from 10 thou rod although painting the rod afterwards is not that easy. The plate set into the frame to carry the owners name seems to have been very standard on delivery bikes and should be included in a model. The type with the smaller front wheel as shown above right is a little more work as You need to add a new front wheel and forks (the standard forks would be too short).

The big name in this kind of bicycle is Pashley, who are still in business and still build 'industrial' pedal powered vehicles (bikes and tricycles) for use in factories, airports and the like. They supply the post delivery bikes used by the Royal Mail and you can buy from them direct (I know of at least one very satisfied customer who didn't want a mountain bike but did want a solidly built shopping machine).

The next size up was the trade tricycle, equipped with a rectangular carrying box between two wheels at the front with the rear end of a conventional bike behind. These were used by a range of tradesmen including plumbers and bakers as well as the more familiar 'stop me and buy one' ice cream trike (discussed below).

Fig ___ Tradesman's Tricycles
Traders tricycles

As bicycles developed into motorcycles the same idea was tried using the engine and rear end of a motorcycle to produce a range of delivery machines, these are described in Appendix One Road Traffic - Commercial Vehicles. The development of the motorcycle is considered in more detail in Appendix One - Private Motoring - Motorbikes, Scooters and Cars. The illustration shows two common types, a fairly small machine with an open frame carrier and a larger machine with boxed in carrier (a type favoured by the GPO for postal work).

Fig ___ Tradesman's motor tricycles
Traders morotised tricycle delivery vehicles

Horse drawn vans, both two and four wheeled, were used by the more prosperous firms. The two wheeled type were more common for local delivery work but for some firms, such as builder merchants or laundries, the size and weight of the goods to be moved required a four wheeled vehicle.

Fig ___ Horse drawn delivery vehicles
Traders horse drawn delivery vehicles

A specialised delivery and collections service was the 'carrier' who would operate a horse drawn vehicle running between village and town, taking local produce to the town and bringing back shopping for those unable to make the journey themselves. Carriers operated alongside the railways, serving communities where the railways did not run, and were a feature of life from the time roads improved in the 1830s right up to the 1920s. The country motor bus services killed this trade as they reached out to villages enabling people to make the journey at reasonable cost and in reasonable comfort. Carriers usually employed a four wheeled vehicle, pulled by two or four horses, the liveries they employed seem to have been rather subdued (from the photographic evidence I have found), generally a plain dark coloured van with the company name (mentioning the term carrier) on the sides along with a list of the places served and the days the service operated. Something similar re-emerged in the later 1990s, as the pay differential between the well paid and poorly paid increased dramatically, bringing a resurgence of the 'domestic servant'. The modern equivalent of the carrier is the 'personal shopper', who goes out and does the shopping for you, covering everything from food to clothing. In the 1970s the wage differential between the wealthy and the lower paid was about three times, following a shift in government policy in the 1980s this had widened to as much as twelve to one by the first years of the twenty first century. Presumably if the pay gap continues to widen the wealthy will increasingly provide accommodation for such people, who will no longer be able to afford to live in the area where they work.

Electric delivery vans gained in popularity in the 1930s and motor vehicles were increasingly used from the mid 30s, although horse drawn vans are well suited to local delivery work and remained in use into the 1950s. See also Appendix One - Road Traffic - Horse drawn vehicles and Bicycles and also Road Traffic - Steam and Motor Commercial Vehicles.

After the Second World War deliveries were less common in built-up areas although the small vans and cheap ex-army lorries were a regular sight into the early 1960's. In the 1950s I lived in a relatively rural area where we had a fruit and veg traders lorry once a week and Mr. Green the greengrocer used to drive round in his Morris Minor van collecting orders and a day or two later dropping off the goods. Bread, milk and coal were all delivered to the house and I remember seeing the 'Paragon' laundry van driving round dealing with domestic laundry. Traders deliveries using a motor van continued at my parents home into the early 1970s, when a sudden and dramatic increase in the cost of oil coupled with the growth in car ownership and the growing trend to buy food in supermarkets made them uneconomic.

The local bakery, as well as selling bread from the premises, would also usually have a delivery round. The bottom end of the scale was the bread basket, a large wickerwork open topped basket, some bakers owned a delivery bike of the type shown above, this allowed the use of a larger but shallower basket. Hand carts were often used in towns, the example shown below is typical of the enclosed type.

Fig___ Bakers hand cart

 Bakers hand cart

This sketch is based on a preserved example in the Northern Ireland Transport Museum although similar carts were used throughout Britain, the livery is not from the preserved example, liveries were often more elaborate than this but some were very plain. In less densely populated areas, or where a bakery was large enough to supply a wider area two wheeled horse drawn vans were used for delivery rounds and a larger bakery might operate a fleet of four wheeled horse drawn vans, but these were associated with supplies to shops, hotels and restaurants rather than households.

Steam delivery vans were used by some town bakeries, the example shown below was photographed at a steam rally at Astle Park (Cheshire) in 2007, it dates from about 1902.

Fig___ Bakery steam van

 Bakery steam van

Motor vehicles were used by bakeries from the later 1920s but only became the norm for household deliveries in the 1950s. Typically by the 1950s the 'walk through' van was used for bread, these had a high rear box section with a rear door and also a large side door, internally they were fitted with racks for the bread trays. There were a lot of these about, this class of delivery van was known colloquially as a 'bread van' regardless of the work it was doing.

Sliced bread appeared in 1930 but the plain unwrapped bakers loaf remained the most common type consumed into the 1950s. Up to the 1950s the bulk of the trade was the plain 'one pound' (0.45 Kg) loaf, there being three standard types - White (with no bran at all), wheaten (with the larger bran removed) and household (with all the bran still in it). Cakes and pastries were a feature of the Christmas period but otherwise seldom made although there were occasional seasonal goods such as the Hot Cross Buns made for the Easter holiday.

One odd point of no particular relevance here is that most people did not have the facilities to cook a large bird such as a turkey so at Christmas many people took their bird to the bakers to be cooked in his oven. Chicken and turkey were expensive prior to the introduction of battery farming in the 1960s, for many families (probably most) Christmas was the only time they were eaten. Chicken sandwiches were considered 'very posh' and were only available at the more up market restaurants.

Milk and milk rounds

The first delivery of the day has always been the milk round. Milk deliveries began no lather than dawn, some set off as early as midnight, the last leaving by about 6am. Milk floats would often be seen as late as 10 in the morning, rapidly disappearing thereafter and seldom seen after 12. Since the 1980s there has been a cultural shift and milk men on their rounds in the early hours of the morning have been increasingly targeted by drunks emerging from nightclubs in certain areas.

The larger dairies always issued their staff with a uniform, and as laundry was a weekly drama even in well to do households aprons formed a standard part of working clothing for many trades including milk men. Certainly by the 1930s United Dairies and Express Dairies were both issuing their delivery men in London with a military style single breasted jacket, a flat peaked cap and an apron bearing blue and white horizontal stripes. Farmers and dairy companies often supplied long white coats for delivery workers, the example in the electric perambulator sketch below worked for the Co-Op and had a blue and white striped apron underneath the coat.

The notes which follow will eventually form part of the section on Lineside Industries dealing with Dairies and Creameries, where delivery vehicles might serve to identify the nature of the industry. They are included here pending the completion of that section.

Milk has been sold on the streets since before the time of the railways. Up to the 1860s 'milk maids' (often they were actually men) carrying a yoke with two milk pails suspended from it were commonplace, a single person could distribute about 20 gallons a day in this way. People went out with their milk jugs to collect a pint, measured out with a long handled tubular metal ladle.

The original farmers 'milk float' was a horse drawn two-wheeled contraption with large wheels, say four or five foot in diameter, but mounted on a U shaped axle allowing a lower than normal floor on which the churn was carried. These remained in use in country areas into the 1940s (possibly beyond).

Fig___ Farmers two-wheeled milk float
Horse drawn Farmers two-wheeled milk float
As the quality of the roads improved in the mid 1860s small hand carts were introduced, known as perambulators. These enabled a single person to distribute up to 30 gallons a day and they remained in use into the 1930s in some towns. Bottled milk appeared in the 1880s, the earliest reference I have found quotes 1884 in Northern Ireland and several references quote 1900 for England, this being for pasteurised milk only. The bottle making process was only partly automated at that time, fully automatic bottle making was developed by an Irishman called Michael Owens in 1903 and this provided the impetus for the rapid expansion of the bottled milk market. Up to the 1930s milk sold direct from the churn remained a feature of British life in the country and in smaller towns. The milk bottle altered the appearance of the perambulators as they acquired a 'roof' often with a frame to hold additional crates of milk on top. The photographs below show two preserved examples held at Tatton Park Farm in Cheshire.

Fig___ Milk perambulators

Early milk perabulator

The open topped type, shown on the left, would carry one or two churns and prior to the 1930s there might be a large number of small (roughly one pint) silver tins suspended from the top rail, hanging on the outside of the frame. These were sealed tins of milk for feeding infants, sometimes referred to as 'nursery milk', however I am not sure if this milk received any special processing (possibly pasteurisation) for this market. The increasing use of milk bottles seems to have killed this trade off as although the perambulators remained in use non seem to have had the small tins hanging from the frame. The churns carried on these perambulators had a raised top, rater than the inset top used when they were shipped by rail. As they were not stacked one atop the other on the perambulator this was not a problem and may have helped keep dust and dirt out of the milk on the round. A short tubular container was sometimes suspended from the rear of the perambulator, roughly ten inches (25cm) in diameter and perhaps a foot (30cm) high with a wire handle, I think this may have been for selling cream. Modeling these perambulators is not too difficult, a 'hand wheel' can be used for the front wheel, with small cart wheels for the side wheels (you might get away with small press-studs although these have only four 'spokes'). The body can be made up as a simple U shaped box of 10 thou card with additional framing from 10x10 thou strip. The handle and the support for the front wheel can be 5 ampere fuse wire (coated with solder to make it rigid before gluing to the body). The churn(s) would be white metal castings, the ladles would be 1mm lengths of 20 thou rod with a 3mm length of 10x10 thou as the handle, hanging toward the rear and 1mm lengths of 20 thou rod glued to the top rail of the body sides would serve for the 'nursery milk' tins.

Fig___ Milk perambulator with churn and tins
Early milk perabulator showing typical load

For more on milk churns see the section on Freight Operations - Non Passenger Coaching Stock - Milk. Dairies and Creameries are covered in the section on Lineside Industries - Milk Related Industries

The farmers milk float remained a common sight in country areas and smaller towns into the 1930s. By the mid 1930s a typical load would be a single churn and a stack of crated milk bottles (the churn for raw milk, the crates for pasteurised, the difference is discussed below). The example shown below is typical of the type of vehicle in use in towns in the later 1930s and 1940s, it is similar to the standard farmers float but note the pneumatic tyres on the wheels.

Fig___ Milk round - Hemel Hempstead 1946
Photo of a typical milk float in the 1940s

This picture is courtesy and copyright Val Bennett (who is in fact the little girl in the rear of the cart). The woman in the picture is Val's mum who was 5 feet 6 inches tall and her uniform was khaki coloured. Up to the 1960s, in some places the 1970s, there was a strong sense of community and local traders were a key element in that. One regular feature was the May Day parade, in which traders would dress up their delivery vehicles and participate and this milk float always appeared decked out as Boudecia's chariot at such events.

Horse drawn four wheeled floats for bottled milk had appeared by the First World War but these were more expensive (at least one dairy company used the horse drawn floats to open up an area, switching to the perambulators (or barrows) once the market was stable). The early four wheeled horse drawn milk floats operated by town dairies resembled the perambulators and carried only bottled milk (as far as I am aware). The norm was a simple box body with an outside seat at the front,sliding doors covered the sides but crates of 'empties' were stacked in the rack on the roof as the round progressed. The sketch below shows a fairly common standard type suitable for periods from about 1935 to the 1950s.

Fig___ Horse drawn milk float
Horse drawn milk floats

Matchbox produced a model of this type of float but their version was much larger than any prototype I know of and had the driver sitting on the roof rather than on a lower seat as shown in my sketch.

By the mid 1930s the increasing use of bottled milk and the increasing industrialization of milk production saw more electric and horse-drawn milk floats to carry the crates of bottles. There were even a number of electrically powered perambulators, a three wheeler type operated by United Dairies was used to deliver milk to the House of Commons at least into the 1940s. One such machine, operated by United Dairies had a single front wheel with two wheels at the rear and was fully enclosed (although crates of empties were carried in a frame on top), livery was pale blue with white markings as shown. These machines required two 'tax disks' and as they were classed as motor vehicles they had to carry L plates when operated by a driver with only a provisional licence. Express Dairies operated a number of similar sized four wheeled electric perambulators with open sides, they were painted dark blue with the lettering confined to the ends. There are a number of good views of the Express Dairies float in the final scenes of the 1955 film The Ladykillers. Various local milk distributors operated similar vehicles, often brightly painted and not always mentioning the location in the lettering (an opening for a kit manufacturer there). Various Co-Operative societies operated similar machines although the livery was generally more ornate and difficult to replicate. Having your own local dairy (for example Hygienic Dairy, of which there were several) makes lettering much easier. The wheels can be discs cut from 1 or 2mm rod, the body can be made using plastic strip and card with 20 thou bras wire for the handle. The Preiser 'N' range of accessories includes a packet of 'goods' which includes a set of beer bottles in crates. These are moulded in green plastic but a coat of white paint with some aluminum on the crate frame would serve well enough for milk crates. Crates of empty bottles were commonly stacked on top, in the sketch below the vehicle on the left has no provision for this but that on the right had a recessed roof in which crates could be stacked. Unfortunately I know of no way of painting the Preiser bottles to represent empties.

Fig___ Electric milk perambulators
Electric milk perabulators

There were a number of unusual vehicles used, not all milk rounds were operated by the large dairy companies and in the 1930s there was at least one round operated using a motorcycle and sidecar carrying a single milk churn. This was for a round in a country town delivering only eight gallons each day, which is less than a churn full.

By the 1940s a horse drawn float resembling an electric float was in use, complete with cab and windscreen. The vehicle employed Ackerman steering and the reins passed through a rectangular hole under the windscreen into the cab. One of these might be made using an electric float kit but it is probably easier to build from plastic card with a set of shafts added from wire. The electric milk floats appeared in the mid 1930's but a horse drawn milk float was still in use in South Manchester in the late 1980's. These are not difficult to model using plastic card, with a strip of clear card for the front (only painted at the bottom to leave the 'windscreen') and with loops if fine wire to provide the side posts (stronger than plastic strip).

Fig___ Modelling a 1930s horse drawn milk float in N
Modelling a 1930s horse drawn milk float in N

The horse drawn four wheeled milk float was probably the most common vehicle in use up to the 1950s, electric floats were seen in towns by the later 1930's but horse drawn milk floats remained in widespread use (one was still in use in South Manchester in the late 1980's). The example described below is one of the older designs but the drawing is based on an example seen operating in the 1950s, by which time roller-shutter doors were used on the box type body.

Fig___ Modelling a 1950 horse drawn milk float in N
Modelling a 1950 horse drawn milk float

By the 1960s most milk rounds were operated using electric milk floats, although motor vehicles were used (mainly in less densely populated areas). South of Birmingham there seem to have been a large number of three wheeled floats, north of Birmingham the four wheeled design seems to have been more common. Electric milk floats are much of a muchness to the untutored eye and a 'generic' model is not difficult to make although finding suitable eighteen inch diameter wheels would be a challenge.

The example shown below a Smiths 'Cabac' float, it dates from the 1970s and was still in daily use in 2006 in Hale South of Manchester. Our local milk man, Mr Davies, called by after his round to allow me to photograph it, the two sides are the same other than for the sliding section on the near-side side window. The design is interesting in that the entrance to the cab is in the rear bulkhead, opening onto a walkway with access to either side, many milk floats had cabs with no doors, which must have been cold in winter.Incidentally the worlds largest collection of restored electric milk floats is based at the Midland Museum of Transport at Wythall, Birmingham.

Fig___ Electric milk float in 2006
Electric milk float in 2006

Electric floats have to operate from a depot, they are not simply plugged into a 13 amp socket, a typical depot will have either a large building with the ground floor reserved for charging and loading the floats or a set of sheds in which the floats are charged with a small sub-station for controlling the power. The example below is the Urmston depot of the Express Dairy company, photographed in the mid afternoon with all the floats on charge in the sheds. The bottled milk is delivered to a platform in caged trolleys to be loaded onto the floats.

Fig___ Electric milk floats in depot in 2006
Electric milk floats in depot in 2006

The motor floats were mainly standard vans with the sides removed from the rear section but retaining the roof, common choices included the Commer flat fronted type and the Bedford CA. In 2007 I saw a very small Japanese van modified with an open rear serving as a milk float in Northwich (Cheshire).

Fig ___ Japanese van type milk float
Photo of a Japanese van type milk float

A study in the 1970s showed that being a milk man was the healthiest job in the country, factors involved included being up and about in the fresh air before the rush hour and getting a healthy amount of exercise.

In the towns there were a number of smaller dairy firms, receiving milk in churns and selling their produce over the counter or via a small local delivery round. The dairy itself was often no larger than a standard high street shop. The milk could be sold directly from the churn or it might be bottled at the dairy, this did not involve complex machinery, the bottling was originally done by hand, the bottles being sealed with a cardboard disk that popped into a groove on the inside of the top of the bottle. The foil top, which appeared in the early 1930s, replaced the cardboard stopper as it was more hygienic as there was no 'well' at the top of the bottle to collect dirt. By the 1940s simple bottle filling machines were cheap enough for these small dairies to use, but the tops were still put on by hand. In the 1930s and 40s there were several different sizes of bottle, half pint, pint, one and a half pint and two pint, but by the later 1950s only the one pint type were in general use.

Up to the Second World War most milk was sold raw, that is it was not 'pasteurised'. Pasteurisation has nothing to do with 'pastures', it is a process named after its inventor Louis Pasteur, the chap who also invented vaccinations. In pasteurisation the milk is heated to kill bacteria, it makes the milk more stable (less likely to 'go off') and is a valuable protection against various disease carried by cattle that can infect people. It was introduced in the 1890's but took a long time to become the norm. One problem was determining the time and temperatures required, if these are wrong it actually starts the spoiling process in the milk. Modern practice uses temperatures of between 80 and 88 degrees centigrade maintained for a period of between 20 and 40 seconds, this is called 'flash pasteurisation'.

Sterilised or UHT (Ultra Heat Treated) milk is heated at higher temperatures and greater pressure for a longer time and will last longer without refrigeration (several months in an unopened bottle). Sterilised milk has a distinctive taste because the heating causes a reaction between the sugars and protein in milk. By the later 1930s sterilised milk was being sold in a distinctive bottle, taller and with a longer neck than the more common type. By the early 1950s these had a brass coloured cork lined 'crown top' (invented in 1890) in place of the foil tops (invented in 1934) seen on the conventional milk bottles. The foil tops had replaced a cardboard disk top.

Mobile Shops

There were large numbers of horse drawn mobile shops used by traders and some of these continued in use into the 1980's. These would either tour an area, stopping occasionally to ply their trade (usually from the rear of the vehicle), or (mainly on market days) they would park in the street and open the side of the cart to form a kiosk. Some of these vans or waggons simply had poles to push up and hold the canvass top as an awning, others had folding doors which could be opened to produce a tidy 'shop front'. One occasionally sees photographs of these vehicles with the side facing the road opened, however I suspect this was done purely for the photo as by the early 1930s standing in the street was a dangerous proposition. All the photographs I have seen of these vans and carts actually trading have only the pavement side opened.

Fig ___ Horse drawn 'mobile shops'
Horse drawn mobile shops

In the post world war two era (possibly before) some traders began using electric vehicles as mobile shops, these are well suited to the stop-go trade in the suburban estates. Most electric mobile shops were based on a recognisable 'milk float' design, the sketch shows an example photographed in the 1950s. Modelling one of these is not a difficult proposition although finding wheels sufficiently small in N Gauge is always an issue.

Fig ___ Electric 'mobile shop'
Electric mobile shop

Mobile vegetable shops in panel sided lorries with a pale yellow translucent fibreglass roof were still seen into the early 1980's in some rural areas and even in 2004 I have a local fish merchant who sells fresh fish from the back of his van outside the local library on certain days of the week. Incidentally the translucent fibreglass roof was developed in the mid 1960s, by the early 1970s they were common on larger motor vans.

In the 1950s (possibly earlier but I haven't traced any references) firms operating motor lorries would tour the area selling stoneware jugs of ginger beer and bottles of other 'mineral waters' (more widely known as 'fizzy pop'). The jugs were glazed on the lower part of the outside but unglazed inside and at the top, this allowed water to filter into the stone and evaporate keeping the contents cool. In the mid 1950s the British discovered they could make their own ginger beer and this fad lasted several years, during which time the lorries selling the ready made stuff faded away and the demand for ginger from British homes distorted the economies of entire third world nations. The sale of 'frizzy pop' from lorries continued into the early 1960s although in later years the stoneware jugs disappeared and everything was sold in glass bottles. A common brand of the time (in England and Wales) was Tizer whilst in Scotland Irn Bru was (and remains) popular. Several firms such as Barrs produced a range of drinks, many based on traditional soft drinks such as Ginger Beer and Dandelion and Burdock. The standard screw topped 'pop bottle' was about ten inches tall and tapered toward the top, each one had a deposit, a penny in the 1950s rising to perhaps three pence (one and a half new pence in decimal currency) in the 1960s.

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