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Behind the Scenes23rd May 2022

Milk float (re)delivery: refurbishing our historic electric vehicles

After three years of hard work (necessarily interrupted by two lockdown closures of the Dockyard) this week saw the handover of a second refurbished milk float to Vicky Hazlehurst of our maintenance team.

Float on

For those of a certain age, the early-morning whirring of an electric motor and the clinking of glass bottles brought the daily delivery of milk to many household doorsteps – including those in the Dockyard. However, since the rise of supermarkets in the 1980s, household deliveries by milkmen and their milk floats have almost completely ended. (Why they are called ‘floats’, no-one can recall).

Step forward Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust…

As a charity with a large estate and many buildings and exhibitions to service, the Dockyard has a fleet of electric vehicles to transport teams and materials around the estate. While some of these vehicles are the latest electric commercial designs, we also, as befits a working historic site, use a small fleet of former milk floats from the 1960’s and 1970’s as maintenance vehicles. Our aim is to ensure we use quiet, clean and environmentally friendly vehicles wherever we can.

Whirring into action

Over the past three years members of Chatham Historic Dockyard Volunteer Service (CHDVS) team has completely restored and refurbished every aspect of a Leyland Crompton milk float (c.1971) for use by Vicky Hazlehurst of the maintenance team. This is the second float that has been restored in the past five years.

Three years ago, Q85 JKR was a sorry sight – its rusty 50-year-old chassis having broken under the weight of 1.5 tons of lead batteries, with torn and battered fibreglass bodywork, rotten flooring and ageing brakes and electrics.

A team led by volunteers Mick Manington, Frank Foreman, Dennis Gardiner and Andrew Pincott worked to repair, replace and revive every aspect of the milk float. Their aim was to meet the brief for a replacement vehicle for Vicky and team.

Vicky takes up the story:

“I work for the maintenance team, and I have been doing that for just over six years. Prior to that I worked for the visitor services team for around seven years.

My role is to mainly look after the galleries with AV equipment, but I also fix anything that gets broken. That could be anything from an interactive display to a broken door. It’s very varied.

The float will be used to transport things like ladders and heavy AV equipment meaning I won’t have to carry things between buildings. 

I’m so pleased with what the guys have done to repair and update the float, and I’m glad – at last – to have a revamped vehicle to speed my job!”

With thanks to CHDVS volunteer Andrew Pincott for writing this blog.


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