Recently Marcel Romijn made a short stop at the Scania Museum. That’s when it occurred to him that driving a truck not just meant long hours behind the wheel.
At Scania’s headquarter in the Swedish city of Södertälje I wander into the factory museum. Initially attracted by the display of beefy diesel engines I kind of get lost in a world of heavy transport. And although I like Scania’s characteristic six and eight pot engines very much, the sheer massiveness of vintage haulage is wat strikes me most. These huge, no-nonsense machines, conceived to perform their one duty, carry loads from A to B. Don’t get me wrong, Scania trucks don’t look like cardboard boxes, their design is wonderfully balanced and characteristic, but imagine what it would have been like to spend your working hours behind the large hoop that directs these mastodons? This sure wasn’t a task for the feeble.
For instance, the procedure needed to get behind the wheel of the blue 1966 Scania-Vabis front steer model is a sheer balance act. With two little steps just behind the front wheel, one needs to climb up first, followed by balancing on the door sill while trying not to hit ones head in the door frame when you maneuver yourself on to he seat. So much for the stereotypical overweight truck driver, as there would be little chance to perform that exercise multiple times a day when not in great shape. The thin but large steering wheel that welcomes you in, is the next step of the exercise. Forget power steering, this is all you. The circumference of the wheel is all you get to help you direct your load in the right direction. You might need two hands to handle it, but there is also a question of shifting through the gears with the long lever protruding through the cabin floor next to the drivers seat. Double declutching, shifting up and there you are, ready for the next bend. The brakes? It’s all legwork here too. In these kind of trucks the only power you get is from the engine. People line up in the gym to have this kind of exercise these days.
Another great example of down to business engineering is a bus. The driver can easily rest his left arm on the sheet metal engine cover, while conducting his vehicle from a small operating area right next to the engine. The noise and the heat must have been excruciating for both driver and passengers. The excessive noise of the diesel engine hammering away underneath its metal cover, multiplied by the vast volume of the busses’ inside, the radiating heat of that same engine, especially in Summer conditions, it would have been hard on the passengers, but even more on the driver in front of them. Still, at least this time they would have had a door at street level to make it inside.
If you ever find yourselves in Södertälje with a little time to spare, do make a stop at the Scania Museum. It’ll be worth your while just to remember or learn about the hard labour truck driving used to be like. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.