Of all the topics I’ve come across in a lifetime of researching architectural and social history, the development of the fork-lift truck is singularly bereft of humour, entertainment or engaging personalities.
In the fork-lift world there’s nobody like Percy Shaw, who invented the retro-reflective road marker or “cat’s-eye” [http://designmuseum.org/design/percy-shaw].
Instead, there’s a simple story of complex machines that can shift and stack heavy loads without overbalancing – machines which we tend to take entirely for granted.
One of the few fork-lift history websites [http://www.ttt-services.co.uk/truck_history.htm] declares, “Everything we eat or wear, and everything in our home, including the materials to build the house itself, has at some stage been stored and handled by materials handling equipment.”
The National Forklift Truck Heritage Centre [http://www.nationalforktruckheritagecentre.org/index.html] preserves the heritage and the archives of these clever pieces of kit.
The Centre’s collection spans from the oldest fork-lift truck in existence, a Yale model of 1926, to examples from the end of the twentieth century.
Who would cross the road to see a collection of eighty-odd fork-lift trucks? Anybody who’s ever driven one, for sure. Engineers, and those with an appreciation of engineering, certainly.
In fact, ordinary tourists, families out for the weekend and railway enthusiasts find their way to the Centre because it’s part of the Midland Railway Butterley museum in Derbyshire: http://www.midlandrailway-butterley.co.uk/home.
In addition, the rental that the Centre presumably pays to the Midland Railway Butterley helps to develop their hugely ambitious transport-museum campus.
It’s a win-win situation. Uplifting, so to speak.