Albion back to life
Before being found in a scrapyard in 1977 this 8-legger Albion had served the Guinness brewery on both sides of the Irish Sea. Powered by the 6-cylinder Whispering Giant, it has, since being restored, carried the Guinness name through the streetscapes of a number of movies.
|Nearly every British maker of premium lorries built eight-wheelers, such vehicles being for years their almost exclusive preserve. Albion was not a prolific builder of eight-wheelers, but those they made were very durable. By the early fifties their offering was known as the HD57L, one of the few Albion types not to be named. It was powered by a 9.9-litre six-cylinder diesel engine (120bhp at 1,700rpm), known as the Whispering Giant.
Following Leyland's acquisition of Albion in 1951, some Albion models with competing Leyland equivalents were discontinued, but the HD57L was continued for some time.
Because they were relatively rare, few Albion eight-wheelers have survived into preservation. RLV 154, the HD57 model in the Museum collection, is a vehicle of great historical importance - mechanically, socially and commercially.
Woebegone and anonymous, it was spotted in a scrapyard in July 1977 by Museum personnel who realised its importance and bought it for the collection. We were initially unaware of its service history, but got our first break when the vehicle was examined closely; the reversed headboard panel revealed the name Guinness and rubbing down unearthed the fleet number 4.
Before they moved to Runcorn, Liverpool was the British terminal for the Guinness shipping service from Dublin, road transport used for onward distribution being frequently provided by contractors. In 1954 some Guinness-liveried Albion Rigid Eights, including No. 4, were placed in service by a contractor whose name we have not yet been able to establish. Later, the vehicle appears to have passed to another operator in the Merseyside area, following which its history is obscure.
It certainly ended up with a showman or amusement caterer in the Irish midlands and when he had finished with it, the Albion was sold to the scrapman with whom we found it. The lorry was in good mechanical condition and when Guinness staff in Dublin heard about it, they inspected it and generously offered to have work carried out on it.
No. 4 was brought to Victoria Quay on the 24th of February 1979, where it received much attention. The brakes were overhauled, new tyres were fitted and the exhaust system was renewed; any other defects found were also attended to.
The Albion was completely repainted, and the traditional Guinness Dublin livery of blue with the harp on each door was chosen after much discussion - everybody agreed that this is the only colour making sense in a Dublin historical context.
The Albion left Guinness's on 24th July 1979 amid great goodwill and with much publicity - it appeared the following evening on RTE television news and was widely featured in the technical press. It was on display at the Society's Castleruddery museum until the autumn of 1985, following which all front-line exhibits were moved to Howth which opened in June 1986. Over the years since then the Guinness Albion has appeared in a number of films, including The Tales of Kilnavara and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne.