Steam Wagons 1929-1935
The Foden steam wagons Clark and Butcher used were ‘overtypes’, which had a locomotive type boiler situated lengthways in front of the driver, and a traction engine type motion work mounted on top. Amongst other things, it gave the driver a poor view of where he was going. It was a fast engine, given that the speed limit was only twenty miles per hour, but it had a small payload.
Observing the success of a rival engine, Clark and Butcher decided to stop using the Foden and change to the proven Sentinal. Sentinel steam wagons were ‘undertypes With a compact vertical boiler and the engine and mechanical gear under slung in the chassis. This enabled a lager payload. Sentinel introduced two-speeders in 1927, which were much more efficient and successful than their single speed wagons. Clark and Butcher purchased their first ‘Sentinel Steam Waggon’, a ‘DG6’, in September 1929. ‘DG’ signified ‘double gear’, the ‘6’ referred to the number of wheels. The Sentinel Steam Company decided to put an extra ‘G’ in their ‘Waggon’. The Clark and Butcher ‘DG6’ carried loads of 15-16 tons of flour to London, and brought back 15-16 tons of wheat from the docks, taking roughly 16 hours for the round trip.
In 1932, Sentinel supplied standard vehicles with pneumatic tyres, the ‘DG4’. Previous models had been fitted with massive cast steel wheels shod in solid rubber. The ‘DG4’ purchased by Clark and Butcher was the first all pneumatic-tyred wagon and trailer in the district. A small fleet of DG4’s regularly made the trip from Soham Mill to London and back carrying eight tons on the wagon and seven on the trailer. The ‘DG4’ could complete a round trip in 14 hours. On its’ outward journey, the engine, starting from Soham with a full tank of water, would take more water on at Great Chesterford and again at Woodford. On the return journey, water was taken on at Buntingford. The engines did the whole journey on approximately seven and a half hundredweight of coal at a cost of 1s 9d per hw. The coal was purchased from a small colliery in South Wales called Wyndber at 35s per ton.
This system was so economical that it continued in use until long after the introduction of petrol and diesel vehicles, lasting until 1945 before it was replaced with a fleet of Bedford lorries.
The Swimming Pool
There was at one time a swimming pool located beside Clark and Butcher's mill. The changing rooms as can be seen on the photograph below left were in an old railway carriage. Swimming sports galas were held there and there was a strong swimming club. Soham Swimming Club was particularly flourishing between the wars. In 1930 membership for adults cost 4/6 a year with under eighteens paying 2/6. There were strict rules for the club and all members had to provide their own 'university' costume while the club provided a free badge with the letters S.S.C. in white on a blue background. Mr Aspland kept the pool clean and was a rigorous custodian of the separate sessions for use of the pool by each of the sexes. Just before a gala, the pool would be filled up, but as the day went on, the water would gradually drain out into the river. The pool was in use before 1914 and eventually closed down in the early 1930's.