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Official opening of fork truck heritage centre

Few people realise it, but our convenient and prosperous modern lifestyle depends heavily on fork lift trucks. Without them, the goods and materials we need would be handled less efficiently, would take longer to reach us and would cost more.

To celebrate the vital role of these machines, and to preserve the tremendous engineering heritage that lies behind their development, an important new visitor attraction has been created at Butterley, near Derby. The National Fork Truck Heritage Centre, set up in conjunction with the Midland Railway Centre, has its Official Opening on Wednesday 18th October.

It's been the brainchild – and labour of love – of its Director, Jim Brindley, who was honoured earlier this year with the industry's highest accolade – the Fork Lift Truck Association Award for Excellence – in recognition of his services to that industry.

The Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire, Mr John Bather, will unveil a plaque to commemorate the opening, after which the invited guests will be able to view the Centre.

So far, around 35 historic trucks have been acquired, restored and put on show, alongside displays and working exhibits that will help explain how materials handling machinery works. A further 20 or so trucks are still awaiting more than a little 'tender loving care' before they can be fully appreciated.

The Centre's collection includes a 1926 Yale truck, believed to be the oldest surviving fork lift in the world. One of the latest and most important additions is a 1946 prototype – the only one in existence – of the Coventry Climax 'Godiva' truck ET199, on loan from the Coventry Transport Museum.

Jim's venture has been enthusiastically backed by the Fork Lift Truck Association, whose member companies have also individually donated a total of £30,000 towards it. To that, Jim has added a substantial amount of his own money – not to mention the thousands of hours of free labour that have built up the Centre brick by brick.

“I'd like to thank the FLTA and everyone who has given money or practical help to bring this project to fruition,” says Jim. “Our 'Honours Board' in the Centre particularly highlights those who have donated £1,000 or more to help us preserve fork lift history, and a number of benefactors have signed up to give £250 a year towards keeping it going. But whatever the amount, and whether it's long-term support or a one-off donation, we will be able to achieve a lot more if the funds keep coming!”

The National Fork Truck Heritage Centre is open Tuesday to Friday and Sundays on request from 10.30am to 4.30pm. It can be reached using the Midland Rail Centre's train service: leave M1 at junction 28, join A38 towards Derby, leave at 3rd exit and follow brown tourist signs to Railway Centre.

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