James Drewry
Home James (Tree)

In his book 'Municipal Refuse Collection Vehicles', Barrie C. Woods suggests that James had "risen to fame with his petrol-driven railcar." (Is this the railcar?)

Derived from Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke & Drewry by Nick Baldwin & William Negus, 1980, Marshall, Harris & Baldwin Ltd. ISBN 0906116 17:
Drewry James (1883-1952)
– met Harry Shelvoke when Chief Engineer of Lacre.
Earlier he had founded the Drewry Rail Car Co., and claimed to be the originator of the petrol railcar, having run the line from Cairo to the Cape for a time, and having built his first machine at Teddington in 1902 (Is this a picture?).
Subsequent designs were built by BSA, where he worked until 1911. At Lacre he designed their famous three wheeled sweeper. Drewry was described as having the air of a slightly ‘absent minded professor’ type. He was a greatly respected engineer.
A 1920 version of the Lacre Roadsweeper is at the Museum of Transport at Stondon, near Henlow, Beds.
Drewry was honoured by the Belgian Government for work on pontoons.
" James Drewry would come to the assembly benches to mull over design and production problems with favoured workmen over a four ounce tin of his favourite Afrikander tobacco." The development of a power broom is thought to be the cause of friction between James Drewry and Harry Shelvoke. In the mid 1930’s Drewry left for a senior position with Hands Trailers (also of Letchworth). His place as Chief Engineer was taken by Charles K. Edwards.
For a while in World War II, James Drewry crossed the road to act as technical consultant on the tank trailers S & D were producing. James Drewry designed one-man counterbalanced loading ramps for these trailers.
After the war he helped design the successful Lacre T type road-sweeper.
He died in 1952 aged 69.

Some of the machines

My brother tells me that during the second World War, James was involved in the design of mini-submarines. (picture)

The Unofficial Shelvoke & Drewry Site is authored by Brian Carpenter, who sent me the above extract from 'Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke & Drewry'

Brian writes: "A web search reveals a lot of references to Drewry railcars, and I am interested to learn of the connection to James, and whether it is correct that he founded the Drewry Rail Car Company." (I believe that he did.) Brian would particularly like to know the connection, if any, between James and later Drewry railcars.
Brian can be contacted via The Unofficial Shelvoke & Drewry Site.

"The S & D company ceased trading in 1991, but the company is remembered with great affection". In the 'News Update' in Brian's S & D site, there is information about an 'S & D Remembered' gathering in Letchworth (September, 12, 2004).


Following derived from UK Electoral Roll 2000 - SHELVOKE

Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd of Letchworth - makers of refuse collection vehicles, heavy duty fork lift trucks, and other specialised commercial vehicles. Harry Shelvoke (1878 - 1962) and James Drewry (1883 - 1952) were employed by the Lacre Company that moved to Letchworth Garden City in 1910. (Harry Shelvoke as General Manager, and James Drewry as Chief Engineer) They set up SHELVOKE & Drewry in October 1922. The company merged with W. P. Butterfield in 1966. In 1971 a merger with G. A. Harvey formed the Butterfield - Harvey Group of Companies. S & D was the largest subsidiary of the group.


Some of the machines invented and built by James Drewry and Harry Shelvoke. A Web search (e.g. using 'Drewry' as criterion in an image search) will uncover a large number of Drewry machines and give an indication of the many countries in which those machines were operated.

Tony Drewry, March, 2004