The Park Lane works consisted of a machine
shop with modern machinery, an assembly shop, stores and
offices. In 1951 a light engineering shop was built to
manufacture mechanical handling equipment and agricultural
machinery that were mainly built from steel.
The mechanical handling equipment included
a range of pallet trucks and stacker trucks that were designed
to operate in confined spaces. There were battery powered, mains
electric, petrol driven and hand models. Large numbers of metal
pallets were also produced.
The agricultural machinery was a potato
harvester manufactured under licence from R. Crawford of Boston,
Lincolnshire. The Wota-Crawford Potato Harvester was a disaster
for the company. The machine was unable to cope with heavier
soils after being developed on the light Lincolnshire soils.
Read about the
Also on the Park Lane site was an extension
that had "lately been erected for the use of one of the
subsidiary companies which operates a machine tool business in
Sheffield as agents for some of the leading makers of machine
tools and deals in high-class reconditioned machine tools".
This is not as clear as it might be but it seems that someone (a
subsidiary company of ABC Coupler or of a Sheffield company) was
reconditioning machine tools somewhere on the site.
1953 Wolverhampton Handbook.
|View a WOTA N.C.
bypass valve catalogue
By the late 1950s the company had developed
some new products including a railway wagon side-buffer and
industrial lubricants sold under the name Jet Lube (Jet
Other products included regulator valves and
by-pass valves for locomotives, and thread compounds for oil
well drilling equipment.
Michael Painter records that when he worked there, from 1958
to 1961, the company was described as the ABC Group of
Companies, which consisted of ABC Couplers, Matling, Jet Lube
and Star Metal Stampings.
Matling made fork lift trucks,
stillage trucks, sit-on floor sweepers and floor cleaners.
All the vehicles made were drive tested for about two hours,
normally by the apprentices.
An advert from 1957.
The following is a list of the some of the management team as
compiled by Rowland King:
Managing Director of both ABC and
Finance Director: possibly Mr. Strudwick
General Manager – Wota-Crawford Potato Harvesters:
J. A. C. Scales
Wota Sales Manager: Bill Pawley
Production Manager of both ABC and Wota: Fred Hawley
Potato Harvester Production: Malcolm Curry (younger
brother of the M.D.)
coupler. From the 1953 edition of the Wolverhampton Official Handbook.
||The disappearance of the company from Park Lane
seems to have been a sudden one.
Michael Painter recalls that everyone turned up to work one
Friday morning in 1961 to find the gates locked. They were
then allowed in for about 15 minutes to collect their personal
belongings. They waited many years for their severance
It seems from this that the company had ceased trading,
presumably because it was in financial difficulties.
|Paul Collins mentions in his book “Rail Centres:
Wolverhampton” that the company was undermined by behind the
scenes share dealing that weakened the company’s financial
position. Ex-employee Maureen Hunt remembers that ABC sold some
of its patents to overseas customers who then arranged to have
railway components manufactured in their own country, so
overseas sales fell. It appears that several causes contributed
to the company’s demise.
ABC was formally wound-up on 7th June, 1962. The
buildings were sold to next door neighbour Guy Motors and were
used as an extension to their works. Later that year the assets
and patents were acquired by F.H. Lloyd & Company of Wednesbury.
F.H. Lloyds exported couplings to South Africa, East Africa,
Malaya, and Burma, etc., and in 1976 alone sold over £1 million
worth of couplings.
In 1969 Ken Foster joined the ABC Coupler Division of F. H.
Lloyds at their Park Lane, Wednesbury site. F.H. Lloyds closed
in 1982 and were acquired by Triplex.
The site was eventually sold to Ikea for their new store and
production moved to Wednesbury Trading Estate, Darlaston Road,
Wednesbury. This was followed by a final move to the Triplex
site in Upper Church Lane, Tipton.
Eighteen months later, in January 1997, the company closed
when Triplex sold it to a firm of French railway carriage
makers, Les Appareils Ferroviaires, 87 Avenue de L'Aerodrome,
Pallets being loaded by means of a pallet
stacker and a hand truck. From the 1953 Wolverhampton Official
ABC couplings ready for despatch at F.H.
Lloyds. From 'The Steel Casting' magazine.
A batch of ABC rolling stock couplings,
seen at F. H. Lloyds in the 1960s. Courtesy of Ken Foster.
| Ken Foster then retired but not before he had
moved all the firm's property to LAF in France. LAF is
still in active existence, making railway equipment, mainly
couplers, including those used on the Channel Tunnel trains.
I would like to thank David Westwood who worked for Guy
Motors in Park Lane. He is interested in ABC Couplers because
they occupied the premises which Guy had taken over. He
wrote about it in The Black Country Bugle and asked if anyone
had any further information. This produced informative replies
from Kenneth Foster, Graham Hughes and Michael John Painter. I
would also like to thank Rowland King who joined ABC as a
demonstrator/salesman for the ill-fated potato harvester and
Maureen Hunt who worked in the Shipping Department in 1958/59.
If anyone has any further information on the company please
contact the webmaster.
The Railway Engineer – November 1906, July 1911, March 1912,
The 1953 Wolverhampton Official Handbook.
Rail Centres: Wolverhampton by Paul Collins. Pub. Ian Allan.
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