Our History > Bluebird Magazine Special Feature
THIS IS A COPY OF A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE REPORTING OUR BLUEBIRD MOVEMENT
In the September 1997 issue of Truck & Van Mart we were privileged to have a special feature regarding the transportation of the bluebird published. Following is the transcript from this feature:
In the time span of over 60 years, haulier of Robert Walker can lay claim to having transported an assortment of cargoes. But by far the most distinguished to-date is that of the world land and water speed record holders of 1964; The Bluebirds CN 7 (car) and K7 turbo-jet
Due to their success in the hands of Donald Campbell, a six venue tour took place in 1965 to exhibit those
From their Cheshire based premises Eric Walker - one of two sons of company founder Robert recalls being
responsible for the safe and secure movements of the Bluebirds for more than two thirds of the tour. Highlighting some of the hurdles they had to overcome handling a
consignment not only worth in excess of £1 million, but one that had captured much of the nations imagination.
"Being associated with the Bluebird exhibition tour is something Walkers have always been proud of" said Eric appreciatively, "though the schedule seemed a littlemuddled in the beginning".
"The first exhibition took place on the 6th of July at the Bingley Hall, Birmingham," he informed, "But due to a communication misunderstanding we still remained to another contract with the heavy haulage vehicles and didn't marry up with the Bluebirds until 27th of that month in Harrogate.
"As it happened, the Bluebird K7 didn't arrive until the second exhibition which took place at the Pavillion Gardens, Buxton, between the 19th and 24th July. However, the CN7 wasn't alone at Birmingham."
"It had been decided to include another world record breaker in its own right and that was of Donald's late father, Sir Malcolm Campbell."
"Thankfully from Harrogate onwards the schedule went pretty much as planned,"continued Eric.
"Transportation for the Bluebirds came in the form of two low-loader trailers, one with a Leyland Beaver under it and the other a Super Comet.Thesunbeam was easily secured to a Bedford R type flat bed."
"The next venue was held at Belle Vue, Manchester and throughout our journey across the Pennines admirers sped past in their cars and waited further on to catch a glimpse of the Bluebirds. A sight we were to become accustomed to over the next few months."
"The weight of the Bluebirds never proved to be a problem but their size did, especially when the place designated for exhibiting them at Belle Vue was the old lion house - a building with limited access leaving little margin for error."
"Although both differed in width and length: the CN7 being 31ft x 8ft 4 ins, while the K7 was 28ft x 10.6ins."
"It was the CN7, though the smallest in width that posed the initial complication when having to negotiate the
entrance. The complication wasn't caused by the extra 3 ft in length of the CN7 either. It was due to the fact that there was only a misery 2° of movement on the steering, mind you, I suppose when someone is travelling at speeds of over 400 m.p.h. it could be classed as
excessive!" he exclaimed.
"Well to address that problem; I had decided to modify four machinery removal skates be welding four stop plates on to the swivel plates."
"This meant that once the CN7 had been (physically) pushed up onto the four skates and the rear of each wheel had been scotched, it could be rotated and moved in any direction we wished. Much to the relief of the crews involved, the idea proved in valuable for the
remainder of the tour."
"The K7, as I suggested earlier, was not really difficult to move, as it had been housed on the back of a purpose-built trailer used to transfer to to and from the water's edge. And it was that trailer that enabled us to guide it in and out of the exhibition areas."
"The exhibition at Belle Vue lasted from the 23rd August till the 11th of September. And from Belle Vue it went to Hanley Park, in Stoke-on-Trent."
"Because of the media coverage the Bluebirds had received, security enroute to and from their varied destinations was always going to be a dilemma, especially when it was time for the crews to stop and eat."
"So the only real answer was for us to double up on manpower and while one group ate, the other remained with the consignment and then vice versa. From the outset we were aware that trophy hunters could be a menace. In fact while the Bluebirds were displayed at Hanley Park between the 22nd of September and the 4th of October, a fuel cap was taken and part of the CN7's tail was broken off."
"Unfortunate incidents, but out of our control. Once delivered the responsibility for the vehicles became that of the exhibitors own security, certainly not an envious task", admitted Eric. "When people have paid to view a spectacle you have to be tactful in asking them to keep their distance."
"The final public showing of the Bluebirds in 1965 - and most certainly the last for the K7 -was at the Hull Sailors Children's Society, Hull, and occurred between the 4th and 9th of October. When the tour came to an end we had been instructed to return all of the vehicles to Beaulieu - now known As the National Motor Museum - in Hampshire."
"Because of the distance involved, approximately 300 miles, an overnight stop was inevitable. It had been decided by all involved to cover as much of that mileage in the first day. An early start from Hull ensured and by the evening we were in the market square at Biggleswade, Bedfordshire."
"Whether or not we had been their most valuable visitor at that time I don't know, but in the views of the some local bobbies we were not necessarily the most welcome. While all the crews slumbered into the night, the local constabulary kept a vigilant eye on the our expensive consignment. And an excellent job they did", added Eric.
"Rested, fed and watered and 180 miles under our belt we set of on the final leg to Beaulieu. Arriving late in theafternoon we proceeded to unload the vehicles. When it was the turn of the K7 to be winched down the ramp we were asked to wait for a short while 'a last minute change of plan' they said. So we waited."
"Eventually, for whatever reason it may have been, we were informed that the K7 would not be staying at Beaulieu and could it be taken to the home of Donald Campbell in Horley, Surrey. We agreed and did exactly that: and the rest became history", concluded Eric.
In a period of just over three months, Robert WalkerHaulage transported the Bluebirds safely over more that 600 miles.
The CN7 to this very day resides at the National Motor Museum in Hampshire, where it can be viewed and is considered by some the flagship of the museum.
In 1967, Donald Campbell attempted to better his own world water speed record on Lake Coniston, England, in the K7. Tragically he died when reaching his previous record of 276.3 m.p.h. the K7 reared up and before it completely somersaulted he is heard to have said over the radio: "She's going-she's going-I'm almost on my back!"