© Science Museum/Science and Society Picture Library
Edwin Foden's prototype F1 flat-bed lorry of 1931 launched the first commercially successful range of diesel-engined lorries in Britain. At this time, most other truckmakers favoured the petrol engine, but the newer diesel was more economical to run. Steam-powered lorries were also still being manufactured at this time, but motor lorries were cleaner and simpler to operate and were claiming an increasingly large share of the market.
The Foden company started to manufacture steam traction engines in Cheshire in the late 1880s. They also became renowned for their steam wagons and were the world's largest makers of steam road vehicles. The final Foden steam vehicle was made in 1934. This F1 lorry had a similar chassis to the last steam wagons, but Foden married a Gardner 5L2 five-cylinder diesel engine to it. The Gardner company, in Manchester, pioneered the high-speed diesel engine for road use in Britain and had an outstanding reputation for quality.
When introduced, the F1 and similar motor lorries would have been used for short to medium journeys, largely complementing the railway for freight transport. However by the 1960s articulated diesel lorries, with large-capacity trailers, were using the developing motorway network to travel across country and even across continents, supplanting rail for much long-distance haulage.