IT WAS NOISY, IT WAS ECCENTRIC, BUT IT WORKED! JON HARLE RECALLS THE DAYS OF AIR CUSHION EQUIPMENT, WHEN HEAVY HAULAGE MET THE HOVERCRAFT!
PHOTOGRAPHY: WYNNS FAMILY ARCHIVE
The idea of moving heavy loads by road using a jet-powered hovercraft sounds like something from the sort of gaudy fantastical future envisaged by 1950s comics. It’d be right up there with flying cars, and interplanetary spaceships. But the heavy haulage hovercraft actually happened. For more than 20 years, starting in 1967, air cushion equipment, or ACE as it was known, was a regular feature of the country’s ultra-heavy haulage industry. The equipment was owned by the Central Electricity
Generating Board (CEGB), which was responsible for power generation and distribution in the days before privatisation. Electrical plant was becoming progressively bigger, and heavier. For example, Ferrybridge C Power Station, in Yorkshire, opened in 1966. The stator cores of its 500MW generator sets weighed 210 tons each. When Drax Power Station opened a few years later, and a few miles away, it operated 660MW generator sets, with each inner core weighing in excess of 300 tons.