Book Review: JCB Scrapbook
Published on Mon, Jan 25, 2021
By: Doug Stokes
This comprehensive book chronicles the history of one of the world's greatest heavy equipment companies: JCB.
Celebrating 75 years of Engineering Innovation
Author: Martin Port
Forward by Lord Bamford
Porter Press International
144 pages, soft cover 9 1/2” x 11 3/4”
Over 400 color and b/w photos
Price: £20 UK
Beautifully laid out and (more than) fully-illustrated, the term “Scrapbook” seems here a bit too easy-going for the sort of highly visual and informative history of one of the World’s great heavy equipment companies found printed in this celebration of its silver anniversary on the 23 of October, 2020.*
The Bamford family has every right to claim its place in the industrial world. The family very proudly traces the craft and its name back to the 1820’s when the family trade was blacksmithing in Uttoxeter.
It evolved to H. (Henry) Bamford & Sons’ (as the Brits call it:) Ironmonger’s Shop in 1844 from whence all manner of pumps, cheese presses, and an ever-improving catalog of mechanical farm machinery was produced.
This machinery was all aimed at increasing productivity in the era that’s now called “The Industrial Revolution”. And that it was.
Henry’s grandson Joseph Cyril Bamford (right … the “JCB” in JCB), was born in 1914 and began his work in the industry by joining one of the largest tool makers in Britain. Like many men his age, the Second World War intervened.
He served a year in the RAF and returned to civilian life managing “several bauxite mines in the Gold Coast (now Ghana)”. He eventually came back to England and worked for a while for English Electric and his family’s company.
In October of 1943, the then 29 year-old struck out on his own, building and repairing machinery. At the war’s end he brightly gathered up a cache of scrap steel from no-longer-needed bomb shelters and using some decidedly second-hand welding equipment, he began to start building small trailers that were far more durable and sturdy than the pre-war wood-framed ones that were still in general service at the time.
Besides being tough little workhorses, in a time of wholesale rebuilding of cities and towns, Bamford’s trailer had a screw-type mechanism that made dumping heavy loads of bulk materials an easier task.
England, slowly but steadily recovering from being bombed almost back into the stone age, took a shine to Bamford’s little trailers and JCB got a start that has kept it close to the hearts of many for nearly eight decades now.
JCB (the man and subsequently the company that bears his initials) never looked back, bringing out new and better products on a regular basis. Seventy-five years later, we have a book that not only relates the company’s highly successful past, but that gives a picture or two of the future as well.
READING NOTE: Yeah, right, it’s OK … take a day or two just marveling at the gear depicted here. Brilliant yellow sturdily intricate devices, mobile (friendly) giants and the just-as-hard-working tightly-compact machines that have been essential to virtually every modern industry in Great Britain and beyond at one point (or more) along the way. Never fear though, after a lap or two of the pictures, the relatively spare text will put all of fascinating equipment into historic perspective for you, with very little effort.
Lifting, excavating, dumping, farming, transporting, tunneling, and a myriad of other jobs, these JCB machines at work almost look like play. Spread that across a hundred and forty pages and with than 400 illustrations of the breed and its lifestyle.
But, this is not just a picture book, there’s enough history in the photo captions, and (relatively) short pieces chronicling the highlights of the past 75 years of this marque to satisfy the need to know the stories behind the machines and learn of their amazing innovation and power.
The book would not be complete without some classic examples of JCB advertising materials from across the years that portray an ever-increasing (and well-placed) sense of pride in the product as JCB improves and innovates in its product line often and with great success.
Over the course of this company’s first 75 years, just about every young lad in the country had to have at least a couple of JCB scale models to play with for hours on end. Those boys, who have long grown up, will surely feel a special bit of warmth viewing this book’s six full color pages of photos and descriptions of their JCB-logoed playthings of long ago.
Many such mini-depictions of the mighty JCB machines are now also treasured collectors pieces and still more have places of honor on desks and bookshelves in the offices of construction and development companies around the World.
As bill-boarded earlier there are what seems (actually the aforementioned 400+ photos of you-know-what) an endless parade of very colorful heavy-duty devices, but wait … these lumbering, heavily-muscled earth-crawlers have also sponsored some of the very fastest, high-tech racing machines in the business like the Williams Formula One Team.
Their own assault on the diesel-powered land speed record with the JCB DIESELMAX car registered just a tick over 350 miles per hour (!) and captured the World’s Record in the process. The sleek machine was powered by a specially-prepared pair of the JCB’s own 444 engines.
Along the way, readers will find a number of one-page profiles of the people who made and have kept JCB a world leader in this business of designing and building the innovative, hard-working machines that we’ve been marveling at.
Don’t miss reading each as they tell the real story of JCB in human terms with good lessons for all. It’s all there in this wonderful paean to three-quarters of a century of manufacturing excellence and design leadership.
Pardon … but I must say (and without my tongue in my cheek) that I really dug every page of this super scrapbook.-DS
*with which, we must note that something actually happened in 2020 that could be celebrated.