Charles Stewart Drewry Julia Fava Wood Maude Stewart Drewry Annie Isabel Drewry William C. F. Drewry Mabel May Hyde Vincent Harold Drewry Julia Theresa Drewry Alfred F. Vere Drewry Barbara Cecelia Drewry Christine Hilda May Drewry Mini tree diagram

James Sidney Drewry

Jim, 1910

19th Nov 1882 - 14th Dec 1952

Life History

19th Nov 1882

Born in London, Clapton

5th May 1883

Baptised in St John's, Walworth

9th Apr 1910

Married Mabel May Hyde in St. Albans, Teddington.

6th Nov 1911

Birth of daughter Barbara Cecelia Drewry in Yardley, West Midlands.

8th Jan 1913

Birth of daughter Christine Hilda May Drewry in Hitchin, Bedfordshire.

14th Dec 1952

Died in Letchworth.


Jim, 1908


Designer/inventor; Locomotive and equipment builder.

"Drewry was described as having the air of a slightly 'absent minded professor' type. He was a greatly respected engineer".
[K of S&D ]

".. 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 ..
[K of S&D ]

Who's Who in the Motor Trade

On the right are the two entries from Who's Who in the Motor Trade for James.

James_1953_Whos_Who_in_the_Motor_Trade.jpg There appear to be only two editions of Who's Who in the Motor Trade, published in 1934 and 1953. They are 'hardbacks' containing pages and pages of detailed information. This information could only have been collated over a long period and through direct communication with the people and companies included in the pages.

It also seems likely that the details in the Who's Who entries would have been provided himself. The 1934 edition was in existence while Jim was alive. The 1953 edition would have been collated while he was alive and published shortly after his death.

I have assumed that the information in Who's Who in the Motor Trade, except for a transcription error, is reliable, particularly since it is echoed and sometimes confirmed by other sources.

It is perhaps interesting to note that the 1953 edition suggests that at the time of his death Jim was 'Technical Consultant' at Hands.

Who is James Sidney Drewry?

Jim is the 5th child, and 3rd son of Charles Stewart Drewry jnr.

Jim's grandfather, Charles Stewart snr., was a barrister and respected civil engineer whose book 'A Memoir on Suspension Bridges ...' remained an engineering textbook for most of Jim's life. His grandmother Laurentia Buschman was descended from a Suriname plantation owner.

Jim's father had been an engineer on a ship that had travelled as far as Australia in the 1870's. His mother Julia Fava Wood was sister to Vincent Wood, who was running a family busines reputed to be "the largest manufacturer of Surgical Appliances in the Kingdom".

In 1891, when Jim was 9, his father Charles was advertising a patent for a 'sprung bicycle wheel' - only 6 years after John Kemp Starley created "the first commercially successful safety bicycle".

Also in 1891, a Velodrome was built at Herne Hill, in south London. By 1894, Charles is the manager of his brother-in-law, Jim's uncle, Vincent Wood's bicycle manufactory in Herne Hill.

Some Dates

In January, 1889, enrollment in the Jessop Road (Lambeth. He had already attended a Private School.

January, 1894, James' Jessop Road (Lambeth) School record.

c. 1897, Apprenticeship with Drewry & Sons, Bicycle Manufacturers, Herne Hill.

1899 - 1900 'Improver' at De Dion Bouton.


In 1900 two adverts in The Model Engineer and Amateur Electrician: A Journal of Mechanics and Electricity for Amateurs and Students (Volume 3) show that James (Jim) is apparrently back in England and into modelling: ... Read more

"To Model Engineers - Drawings and tracings of any description clearly and neatly executed; engines and boilers dedsigned to specifications. Write, stating full particulars to Mr. Drewry, 303, Milkwood Road, Herne Hill, London."

"For sale - Steam Model Torpedo Boat Destroyer; 3 ft. long, 5 in. in beam; as described in The Model Engineer lately; What offers? J. S. Drewry, 303, Milkwood Road, Herne Hill, London." ... Read less

In the 1901 census, aged 18; occupation: Mechanical Engineer

In 1902, Jim travels to South Africa

23rd July 1904, Jim arrives at Southampton, from South Africa on the Armadale Castle

In 1904 , Jim is photographed with his brother Alf on a new railcar in England

In 1904 and 1905, Jim is in South Africa (photos in his personal Album)

A photograph dated 1908 (or 1906?), shows Jim in South Africa.

In 1906, 11th July, a Mr Drewry arrived in London, travelling on the SS Inanda from South Africa - quite possibly (in my opinion, almost certainly) Jim but there is only a surname entered in the passenger list.

In 1908 or 1909, Jim is working with BSA who are building his railcars.

In 1910, Jim marries May.

In 1911, Jim joins Lacre Motor Co. as Chief Engineer.

In his twenties, Jim made his name with petrol-driven railcars. His first 'cars' were influenced by his work at De Dion-Bouton and used De Dion engines.

De Dion-Bouton

From 1883, de Dion had been building steam-driven cars and bicycles.

In 1895, De Dion, Bouton et Compagnie (set up the year previously) created a pretty useless 137 cc one-cylinder combustion engine but within a year a much improved engine was fitted successfully to a tricycle and put on the market.

In 1898, the tricycle became a four wheeler and by 1900 "De Dion-Bouton had turned into the largest automobile designer on the planet, producing 400 cars and 3200 engines." [Carole Nash]

For a year, 1899-1900, Jim was employed with the de Dion company as an " Improver" [Grace's Guide, - Who's Who, 1953] The image on the right shows the sort of vehicle that Jim would have been working on, perhaps improving!

Jim was 17, and working for a highly prestigious company, a world leader in the new automobile industry. We know that he was talented enough to earn such a position, but also wonder whether family connections might have been helpful.

The First Petrol-Driven Railcar?

Jim claimed " to be the originator of the petrol railcar, having run the line from Cairo to the Cape for a time .. [K of S&D ]

He was not the first to use a combustion engine in a rail car / trolley. (Though he may have been the first in England to do so.)

In 1888, a prototype railcar, powered by a Priestman petrol engine and built by Priestman Brothers, was used for a short period In 1894 on the Hull Docks. (Wikipedia, 2020.

In America and the UK others were exploring the idea of petrol (and electricity) driven rail transport. For example, in Hungary J. Weitzer was building 'railmotors', using de Dion engines. in 1903.

See also The Speeder in Wikipedia : " Motorised inspection cars date back to at least 1896, when it was reported that the U.S. Daimler Motor Company created a gasoline powered rail inspection car capable of 15mph.

I wonder if Jim was claiming to be the first to put a petrol driven motor car on a railway track - as opposed to putting a motor in an inspection trolley. It is perhaps notable that all the products of the Drewry Car Co, were always referred to as 'cars'. And the first photo of a Herne Hill produced railcar (1904 below) is certainly more car than trolley

In the 1914 'Who's Who in Business' the Drewry Car Co. Ltd. are described as: "Manufacturers of Railway Motor Cars".
In the 1922 'Who's Who in Engineering' the Drewry Car Co. Ltd. are described as: manufacturers of "Internal combustion railway motor cars, coaches, locomotives and tractors" .

1900 / 1901

After returning from his year with the de Dion company, what did Jim do? Did he already have the idea to put a motor car on rails? specifically a de Dion style motorcar? Could he have brought an engine or even a car back with him?

We do know that in 1901, the Drewry & Sons Herne Hill cycle workshop is referred to as the 'Cycle and Motor Works' in at least one newspaper [The Motor Car Journal, 1901] . Has Jim persuaded his father to move into the motor trade? or has Charles realised that motor cars are the new 'thing'. In any case the Herne Hill cycle works has become one of the first motor car workshops in England.

Christine Jim's daughter, left genealogy notes that include:

"Charles Drewry, my granddad, formed Drewry Cycle Co, later the Car & Cycle Co. Invented Drewry Rail car. Tried it out on the Cape to Cairo railway with James Drewry who was 18 yrs".

If Chris is correct, we must give Charles some credit in the development of the railcar and believe that Jim and his father visited South Africa in 1901. It is easy to accept that Charles was involved in the development of the railcar but there are no passenger list enries to support a 1901 visit. Furthermore it seems unlikely that Charles and Jim went out in 1901 as the second Anglo-Boer war was still raging.

However, I am prepared to believe that Jim built his first, prototype/experimental rail trolley at the Drewry Herne Hill works in 1901.

A possible scenario is that Jim on his return from de Dion proposed a rail motor car to his father. The Drewrys then approached railway construction companies with the idea.

Maybe the Drewrys were successful in approaching Pauling & Co., a company that had been building railways around the world for some time, and who, in 1901, had won a contract for the Wankje Railway, in Rhodesia (as well as a contract for the High Wycombe section of the Great Western and Great Central Railway in England). Or perhaps one of the Paulings or an agent of Pauling & Co. approached the Drewrys.

Graces Guide, (Who's Who in the Motor Trade, 1934 - see above), describes Jim's early career:

"1901/1904 Cape to Cairo Railway Construction".

Graces Guide, (Who's Who in the Motor Trade, 1953 - see above), tells us that he:

"Took an experimental rail trolley to South Africa in the Cape-Cairo railway construction for Daubney & Co.".

[We have found no trace of Daubney & Co. but it seems clear that this is a mis-transcription from hand-written notes of Pauling & Co.]

If we accept the statement that Jim was working on "Cape to Cairo Railway Construction" in 1901 and we do not have him going out to South Africa until 1902 then it seems reasonable to assume that he was working for Pauling & Co. in England in 1901.

In the 1953 edition of Who's Who in the Motor Trade (above), an 'experimental railcar' is listed before the design and production of the first railcar in 1903. The listing appears to be chronological.

If we accept the statement that Jim took an experimental machine out to Africa, then it seems likely that he was working on that machine in 1901 and took it out to Africa in 1902.

1902-1904 - Trolley No. 1 and Africa

A passenger list, shows that James embarked on the recently built ship, the SS Saxon, on the 26th April 1902.

He was not yet 20. When he took ship, the second Anglo-Boer War was only just coming to an end in South Africa.

He took with him an experimental railcar, new technology.

Pauling & Co and the Cape to Cairo Railway

Between 1900 and 1918 Pauling & Co. built hundreds of miles of railway in Rhodesia, Angola and Nyasaland and they were a major contributor to the development of the railways of Southern and Central Africa, including the greater part of Cecil Rhodes' unfinished Cape to Cairo Railway scheme. [Wikipedia]

From 'The Beira Railway' (in Railways of Zimbabwe by Anthony H. Croxton (1982), ps. 34-35

"In May 1899 Duncan Bailey ... related his experience of the Beira Railway ...

"The train consisted of nine wagons, seven full of coal with timber, and a covered wagon full of cases of whiskey. Behind were two carriages and a brake van. There was only one class (1st class) or riding in open wagons. The gauge was 2ft but it varied an inch or so in places."

[Hence a need to measure rail deflections.]... Read more

"...About every hour the train stopped for water at tanks, or for wood. ... At 12.30 noon there was a jolting and a stop. We got out and I heard from a driver that he and his mate ... [once] went back three-quarters of a mile to shoot some buck, and nearly all drivers carried a gun.

"...At this stop we found the front wagon off the line with three axle-boxes broken to bits." ... Read less

In 1900, Pauling and Co. had a contract "with the New Cape Central Railway Ltd to construct the line and supply rolling stock" [Grace's Guide]

In 1901, the Rhodesia Railways board and the chairman Cecil Rhodes brought in Paulings & Co. to construct a new section of the Rhodesia Railways: from Bulawayo through the Wankie district - initially to access the Wankie coal mine but ultimately to reach the Victoria Falls.

The first 161 miles to Mambanje were relatively easy going , but the route onward from Mambanje to Wankie and the Victoria Falls was not:

Pauling & Co. were given the contract for this section. Their surveying engineer " Edward Rosher recalls that the heavily graded section between Dett and Wankie was some of the toughest country he ever encountered for survey work and that it was reputed to be Livingstone's 'Valley of Death'. ... in a country abounding with lion, elephant and other game, apart from the malarial mosquito ... " ['The Link with the Cape' Croxton (1982),ps. 60-61]

Pauling & Co. managed to open the section to Wankie by 1 December 1903, reaching the Victoria Falls on 24 April 1904.
['On to the Victoria Falls' Croxton (1982), p. 91]

Jim is working with Paulings and Rosher during this period.

Trolley no. 1

The photo on the right, from Jim's album, labelled 'Trolley no. 1', is dated 1904, and must be of the experimental machine that Jim brought out to Africa.. I guess that it has been enhanced and improved.
If the date is correct it was taken towards the end of Jim's stay. It looks like Trolley no. 1 has been recently serviced and cleaned for this photo.
There are more pictures of this trolley in Jim's album. The trolley also appears in a photo dated to 1906.

The wheels are quite curious. If the original machine was based on a de Dion car with bicycle wheels then it could be that the spokes are protected by a wheel cover.

The photo below, right, appears to be Trolley no. 1 in active service in 1903. The picture is found in Croxton’s ‘Railways of Zimbabwe’ (1982) and captioned:

'Rosher’s inspection trolley, with De Dion Bouton car engine, on Gwanda branch, 1903.'

In the picture, Jim, in his flat cap is seated on the right. The man on the left is probably Edward Rosher, railway surveyor and district engineer overseeing construction work on the Rhodesia railway network, working for Pauling & Co. The Gwanda line, a branch line off the main Bulawayo to Salisbury line, was constructed in 1902/3 and opened for traffic in August 1903.

"For his inspection work, Rosher had one of the first motor-propelled trolleys on the Rhodesian Railways. As can be seen from the photograph, this was a very primitive affair with a driver’s seat in front and a seat for another passenger behind, with a canvas awning on a light metal frame. A petrol engine made by de Dion Bouton provided the power when it worked, but it was somewhat erratic and there were times when the occupants had to get off and push it home."(Croxton, 1982, p.62)

It would seem that the experimental machine needed the presence of its maker. James must have made adjustments and improvements to the machine during his stay, and learnt a great deal about running such a machine on the railway network.

On 23rd July, 1904 Jim arrived in Southampton in the Armadale Castle coming from Cape Town. [Like the SS Saxon on qwhich Jim travelled out, the SS Armadale Castle was a new ship.]

We have no evidence to suggest that Jim returned to England between 1902 and 1904. It seems likely that he had a wonderful time running his car and showing it off. It would have been a marvel and an object of desire to many who saw it. I would guess that he could easily have spent two years giving people rides.

From subsequent events we can surmise that Trolley no. 1 was a success and resulted in orders for more trolleys. I suggest that while in Africa, Jim would have let his father know of orders and Charles started production in Herne Hill.

Herne Hill and the First Rail Car

See also Charles Stewart Drewry

The book 'Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke & Drewry' says that Jim " 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."

The statement in 'Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke & Drewry', above, appears to be a conflation of two pieces of information:

1. that Jim took his first railcar to Africa in 1902; and
2. that Jim built machines in Teddington. [Drewry & Sons did not move to Teddington until 1906 when the Drewry Car Co (not Drewry Rail Car Co.) was offically registered by Charles and James Drewry .]

It does seem that in 1902 Jim has his machine running on the proposed Cape-to-Cairo railway. The trolley, soon to become railcar, is a commercial success and leads to the start of production at Herne Hill.

"Drewry & Sons, originally a family cycle-repair business, became one of London’s earliest garages, by adding motor repairs to their repertoire somewhere around 1900. Their premises were in Herne Hill, and it was here that the first Drewry railcars were put together in 1903 -1905. So popular did these become – by 1906 they had been exported to South America, South Africa, India, Australia and even Hawaii – that a separate firm was set up to take over the business." [Rodney Weaver, 1977]

While Jim is in Africa, Charles has started building railcars in Herne Hill, probably using plans drawn up by Jim.

C&E say: "It is difficult to assess how many cars were produced at Herne Hill but it is unlikely to have exceeded 15 to 20 in either of the probable two years of production. Hence it is likely that the total built would have been less, perhaps a good deal less, than 40 cars."

I suppose this is a reasonable guess, but a photo below, estimated to be in 1908 but possibly earlier, suggests that Jim's designs were also manufactured in other workshops.

The First Rail Motor Car


I believe the photo on the right was taken in 1904.

In the photo Jim is sitting with his brother Alf. Alf (the furthest from the camera) said he was sixteen when the photo was taken, which would make the year 1904. The raicar is clearly a later development of the car that Jim took to Africa. It was probably built at Herne Hill, and precedes a probable second trip to Africa. Jim's grandson suggests that the photo may have been taken on or around Jim's birthday in December, 1904. The smart clothes suggest some occasion. Alf would have turned 16 in August.

On the back of a photo, Mary (Alf's daugher-in-law) has written:

"Jim & Alf in Rail Car invented by J. D. to measure Rail deflections over S. African railways - probably about 1912"

The '1912', is an incorrect attempt to date the photo. (Although, interestingly, the '1912' could just possibly be read as '1902'). The inscription was only found some years after Alf's death when I took the photo out of the frame to scan it for this web site. Mary was also dead by then.

The phrase: " to measure Rail deflections over S. African railways" is also interesting because it has almost certainly been given to Mary by someone knowledgeable, perhaps Alf.

I believe that in the photo Jim may be 22 (if the picture is taken on or after his birthday in November) and Alf 16, and that the photo was taken in 1904. The railcar is a car that Jim has made or completed on his return from Africa. He certainly looks pleased with himself. The railcar is possibly one of a number that are being built to fulfill orders obtained in Africa (and possibly elsewhere).

Perhaps this is Rail Car no. 1? It certainly looks like a protoype for Drewry Car Co's (DCC) later machines. It would be interesting to see if it features in the DCC 1906 catalogue (if we can find one). Interestingly, this car appears to still be in the Drewry's Teddington factory in 1908, with its engine and panels removed, and an awning attached. [See both images here]. Or the 1908 photo could be of another car in process of production.

[Note: Civil & Etherington, to whom I lent the photo, incorrectly suggest that Alf was 18, possibly because they wish to date the railcar to the start of manufacture at Teddington in 1906, or they believe that Alf is in the foreground.]


November, 1905

In Allen Civil & Roy Etherington's book (C&E) 'The Railway Products of Baguley-Drewry Ltd.: and its predecessors, 2008', the image on the right has the following description (my emphases):

"The earliest known published image of a Drewry car appeared in The Engineer magazine dated 10th November 1905. Built at Herne Hill and of 6hp. it was destined for 'service in Africa' and may have been the first Drewry of all."

If it was the first production model, then it was preceded by a number of prototypes.

In the accompanying discussion C&E state:

"Our knowledge of the products of Herne Hill relies entirely on two features in the trade press. The first, which comes from The Engineer, dated 10th November 1905, illustrates and describes a ‘Permanent Way Inspector’s Car.’ This vehicle was 42in gauge for service in Africa (we are not told exactly whereabouts). ... Read more ... The open body had four fixed seats with folding luggage racks at each end, and a flimsy awning. Controls were reversible. The top speed was 27mph and the designer seems to have been pre-occupied with stopping it. Normal braking was via the clutch pedal which, when depressed to disengage, also applied the brake. A second brake pedal was provided to operate ‘if the clutch gear entirely breaks down’ and there was a third independent brake (presumably hand operated). A novel feature was an allowance of 3⁄4 inch side play on the axles, controlled ‘by strong spiral springs’ to take side shocks when the car entered a curve. " ... Read less

October, 1905

Civil & Etherington missed the photo on the left which appeared in J. H. Knight's 'Recent Progress On The Cape-To-Cairo Railway' in The Engineering Magazine, Vol 30, October 1905. The caption reads:

"Six horse power Di Dion gasoline motor car on the Rhodesia Railways. Pauling and Co. "

This is a Drewry railcar, and an early one since it has a de Dion engine. It is owned by Pauling & Co. and it even looks like Jim is the driver. Note that this railcar is already in Africa while the railcar put forward by C&E (the photo from The Engineer above) is still in England. Is it possible this railcar was built in Africa with an imported engine?

Jim in Africa, 1905-1906

Currently (Dec., 2021), the only evidence we have for Jim's presence in Africa after 2004 are a set ofphotos in his family photo album, dated 1905 and 1906. We have one record of a 'Mr Drewry' triving from Africa in 1906.
It is always possible that dates assigned to family photos can be wrong, however, it does seem likely that Jim made at least two trips to Africa, one in 1902 which lasted into 1904, and one from 1905 to 1906 or later. And there is a photo which appears to be as late as 1908.

It does seem that Jim was in Africa between 1905 and 1906.The only questions relate to his journet out to Africa. Could he have travelled out through a European port after a visit to de Dion's factory to get the latest technology, perhaps engines or spare parts? One imagines that spare parts or the latest engines would not necessarily be readily available in Soutrh Africa.

' Trolley no 1' is photographed in South Africa in 1903 and 1904. Analysis of the photos by an expert on de Dion engines suggests that the machine has a part that only went into production in 1902. Since it is extremely likely that Jim took Trolley no 1 with him when he went out to Africa in April, 1902, I suggest that he must have kept up with developments at de Dion.

I suggest also that in 1905 and 1906 Jim was in Africa fulfilling orders for Drewry rail cars that he had taken in his earlier visit, He may have brought with him a machine or machines built at Herne Hill (or by subcontractors) as well as parts to maintain and perhaps build cars in Africa. (See the 1908 photo.)

At the Falls, 1905

Another Railcar ? - At the Victoria Falls

The image on the right shows a railcar with the Victoria Falls in the background in May, 1905.

The photo appears in issue number 26 of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (October 1905) in the Rhodesian Study Circle
The caption beneath the photo reads:

" Extremes Meet. The native Prince, Litia mounting a motor car in front of the Victoria Falls Hotel. The new Bridge in the background. "

In the photo, the railcar is rather indistinct but it does not have the profile of Trolley no. 1 or 'Rosher's Trolley'. It looks more like the above photo from The Engineer magazine (November 1905) "destined for 'service in Africa'". Though the wheels look to have the same wheels as the above (October 1905) photo.
Could these be trolleys that Jim has made while in Africa?

We thank Pete Roberts for his discovery of the two 1905 railcar photos ('October 1905', and 'At the Falls 1905')
The October 1905 photo appears in the book: To the Banks of the Zambezi and Beyond - Railway Building from the Cape to Cairo (1893-1910), Roberts, P. (2021). p.177
In the book Roberts notes that the 'October 1905' photo is one of a number illustrating an interview with Sir Charles Metcalfe, published in October 1905; and that it is indicated that the car is for Pauling and Company. Roberts references Knight J.H. (1905) 'Recent Progress on the Cape-To-Cairo Railway', in the Engineering Magazine, Vol XXX, no. 1, October, p. 15-31.
The 'At the Falls. 1905' photo is mentioned but not included in the book. Roberts generously shared the photo with us.


Given that there is a photo of Jim in Bulawayo dated 1908 (1905 is overwritten with 1908), it looks like he may have made a third trip in 1908. The image on the right is thought to have been taken around that time. The photo shows jim with six railcars made to his designs. On the back of the photo Jim has written:

"From left to right: Buchan’s Alldays, ‘Little Drewry’ reconstructed Alldays on ‘Drewry’ plans, Buchans new Drewry, B.R new ‘Drewry.’ Foreground - me and rebuilt ‘Drewry.’"

Another possibility is that this photo depicts Jim towards the end of his second visit to Africa. On his first trip he got more orders for railcars than the Herne Hill works could cope with. Here Jim is standing with imported Drewry railcars that have been manufactured by a number of small companies to fulfill those orders. Perhaps these cars have been built in South Africa. Given the amount of engineering needed for the railway, the resources and facilities were there. Perhaps the engines would need to be imported?

C&E, discussing a car sent to India in 1909 and reviewing Drewry Car Co. advertising say:

"An interesting note on the standard cars refers to their designer having spent some years running them on various railways."

Does this imply that Jim visited other countries than Africa?

The Drewry Car Co.

More information about The Drewry Car Co. and images of early cars can be found in Charles Stewart Drewry's page.

In The obituary of James S. Drewry in the Letchworth & Baldock Citizen (19th December 1952 - above right) Jim's work in South Africa is described as experimental. It is also noted that "In 1903, at the early age of 21 he designed and manufactured the Drewry railcar .. which he later sold to the B.S.A. Co. of Birmingham".

The short cv produced in the 1934 'Who's Who' (above, left) has Jim as " 1904/1908 Dir. Drewry Car Co., manufacturing railway cars"

The longer entry in the 1953 'Who's Who in Engineering' (above, top left) says that Jim " In 1903 manufactured the original Drewry Rail Car and later formed a Limited Company with that name .. "

While actual production of railcars was started in Herne Hill and a number of rail cars were produced there, the Drewry Car Co. itself was registered on 27th November 1906 with works in Teddington. Jim was one of the Directors.

We do not know what part Jim played in the management of the company. It is possible that for much of the time he was overseeing delivery of cars in South Africa. When it was desided that Teddington could not cope with demand, and production was outsourced to BSA in Birmingham in 1908, part of the contract with BSA was that Jim would be employed by them as engineer and designer.

Jim retained his directorship of Drewry Car Co. when the company allied itself with Baguley - even when he was chief engineer at Lacre. It is easy to see him as being involved, not full-time or hands-on but as the designer and problem solver in the background. We suggest that management was never his forté.

1910, 1911

On the 9th April, 1910, James married Mabel May Hyde.

The witnesses were May's father, Charles Hyde, and Jim's brother Alf.

Jim's address is 138, Oakwood Road, Birmingham and May's is in Teddington..

In the 1911 Census at 138, Oakwood Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham.

James DrewryHead28MManager of Motor Manufactoryb. Hackney
May DrewryWife22Mmarried under one year b. Kingston, Surrey
Cecilia Pinckneycousin14b. Walthamstow

Cecilia Pinckney is the daughter of Ann Easton Wood, James' aunt, and Thomas W Pinckney.
Ann Easton Wood is sister to James' mother: Julia Fava Wood.

In November 1911, James' and May's first daughter, Barbara, is born in Birmingham. Shortly afterwards the family moves to Letchworth.

In 1913, James' and May's second daughter, Chris, was born in Hitchin, Bedfordshire.

Lacre Ltd.

Jim joined Lacre in 1911.

"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)" [Source link broken]

1913 Patent: 'Instrument for Measuring Accelerations and like Quantities and also Gradients, by Displacement of Liquid within a Container'. [Inventor: Drewry James Sidney. Applicant: Drewry James Sidney. Published: 14 Sep. 1914]

1914 Patent 'Improvements relating to Motor Vehicles.' [Applicant: Lacre Motor Car Company Ltd, Drewry James Sidney. Published: 8 Oct. 1914]

1914 Patent 'Improvements in Apparatus for Proportioning, Vaporising and Carburetting the Constituents of the Explosive Mixture for Internal Combustion Engines.' [Applicant: Lacre Motor Car Company Ltd, Drewry James Sidney. Published: 25 Feb. 1915]

1917 Patent 'Improvements in or relating to Tractors and Trailers for Carrying Long Loads.' [Applicant: Lacre Motor Car Company Ltd, Drewry James Sidney. Published: 26 Sep. 1918]

At Lacre, in 1918, he designed and built their famous three wheeled sweeper. (While he and Harry Shelvoke were working there.)

1919 Patent 'An improved water spraying device' [Applicant: Lacre Motor Car Company Ltd, Drewry James Sidney. Published: 6 Sep. 1919]

1919 Patent 'An improved road and other surface sweeping machine' [Applicant: Lacre Motor Car Company Ltd, Drewry James Sidney. Published: 6 Sep. 1919]

1919 Patent 'Brush suspension for road sweeping machine' [Applicant: Lacre Motor Car Company Ltd, Drewry James Sidney. Published: 25 Nov. 1920]

A 1920 version of the Lacre Roadsweeper (right) is at the Museum of Transport at Stondon, near Henlow, Bedfordshire. The vehicle was in use in Scotland until 1952.

See 'The Lacre Motor Car Company' in Grace's Guide to British Industrial History.

(Left) A 1938 Lacre Road Sweeper in the East Anglia Transport Museum.

1921 Patent 'An improved tipping means for vehicle bodies [Applicant: Lacre Motor Car Company Ltd, Drewry James Sidney. Published: 23 Mar. 1922]

First World War

During the first World War James designed and produced pontoon equipment for the Belgian Army and was later decorated by the King of Belgium.

Lacre provided many vehicles to the Belgian and British armies, as did the Drewry Car Co (with James as consultant engineer) .

The Obituary, above left, observes that James designed "much special equipment for the British Army."

See Charles Stewart Drewry's Page and A Drewry Car Co, Gallery for pictures of some of the cars and carriages (almost certainly designed by James) that the Drewry Car Co provided before and during the First World War.

For example: (right) an ambulance car destined for the French Government and Mesopotamia. Baguley workers are demonstrating the loading of stretchers.

1921 Census

In the 1921 census, the family is living at Woodville, no. 5, Baldock Road, Letchworth.

Jim describes himself as: "Automobile Engineer and Assistant Works Manager" at "The Lacre Motor Car Coy. Ltd., Motor Car manufacturers" in Works Rd, Letchworth

James Sidney DrewryHead38yrs 7mthsMMarriedAutomobile Engineer etc.b. Camberwell, london
Mabel May DrewryWife31yrs 8mthsFMarriedHome duties b. Kingston, Surrey
Barbara Cecilia DrewryDaughter9yrs 7mthsFfull time school b. Birmingham, Warwickshire
Christine May DrewryDaughter8yrs 5mthsFfull time school b. Letchworth, Hertfordshire
Ethel Harriet HydeSister-in-law36yrs 11mthsFSingleHome duties b. Kingston, Surrey

SD.png Shelvoke & Drewry

In 1922 James Drewry and Harry Shelvoke left the Lacre Motor Car Co and in October, 1922 Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd.

Already, on the 6th July, 1922, they had filed first of 35 patents associated with S&D : 'Improvements in or relating to motor vehicles'. The first patent describes the vehicle the company had been created to manufacture: the Freighter.

Later the company would become famous for the refuse collection vehicles used throughout the UK as well as, for example, heavy duty fork lift trucks, and other specialised commercial vehicles.
In 1927 and 1928, patents demonstrate James's interest in the aviation industry.

The Freighter

The turning radius is only 10 feet 6 inches, and the Freighter can, therefore, easily be manoeuvred in confined spaces;
and it is so well sprung that it rides as smoothly as many a touring car over even the roughest roads.

General Description

"The S-D Freighter is an entirely new type of motor-lorry designed especially for local work up to a radius of 25-30 miles. For this kind of work it is much cheaper to run than the ordinary type of motor-lorry.

Its loading capacity, exclusive of body, is two tons, and its petrol consumption is only 15 miles per gallon, as against 10 miles per gallon on the ordinary lorry. It is very light on oil, and as there are no greasers anywhere it is impossible to forget to fill them. It is only necessary occasionally to replenish with oil, and then in two places only, the engine and transmission.

Its controls are simplicity itself; besides the steering tiller and footbrake there is only one control handle, and this gives three gears, both forwards and backwards, and also controls a second brake and throttle. The system of control is absolutely foolproof, and it is impossible to damage the transmission by faulty driving; thus the Freighter can be driven by a labourer and no expensive skilled man is required.

A Full Description of the New Design from The Motor Transport Magazine, May 1923.

A Remarkable Two-Tonner

"THE S.D. Freighter can certainly claim to have originated an entirely new type of road vehicle. It takes its initials from its makers. Messrs. Shelvoke and Drewry, Ltd., of Letchworth. who have christened it the Freighter on the grounds that the new type is to the 3- or 5-ton motor waggon what the freighter is to the liner. In its conditions and requrements, road traffic varies so widely that development undeniably is pointing more and more towards specialised types, and, recognising this, the aim of the Freighter's originators has been the production of a vehicle easily handled in traffic by the most unskilled to the finest speed gradations, and lending itself in general to improved loading facilities.

The very original S.D. Freighter, though in appearance possessing much in common with the works truck, is destined for road work at speeds up to 14 m.p.h., and its careful springing and weight distribulion afford exceptionally easy riding, even over 'pot-holey' roads

On Unconventional Lines

The result has been something which, though introducing no altogether new or untried mechanical principles, is entirely different from accepted practice. At first appearance the newcomer impresses one as very like a large electric works or yard truck, but in actuality it is driven not electrically, but by petrol, and though it certainly possesses great possibilities for work in yards or on wharves, it is essentially a road vehicle, and as such promises to be remarkably efficient to judge by a short trial which we recently experienced in the vicinity of the makers' factory.

At the front, behind the dash, is a casing recessed towards the centre for the driver's seat (see drawing). At either side, projecting through the substantial aluminium top of the casing is a handle like that of the controller on an electric vehicle; that to the right controls the steering; that to the left the speed-changing, braking, and engine control, while additional braking is afforded by a pedal operating in drums on the front wheels, for all four wheels are braked."

The rest of this description is in the three images on the right. Click on any of the images to enlarge it in a new browser window.

At S&D, James was known as 'Jungle Jim'.

"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." [Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke & Drewry]

The Patents

Both James Drewry and Harry Shelvoke are named as applicants in the first thee patents - filed in 1922 and 1924.

After 1924, the applicants listed on the patents are generally James and 'Shelvoke and Drewry Ltd.'. Sometimes James is recorded as sole applicant or 'Inventor'.

Interestingly perhaps, after 1934, in the last 4 patents, the order of the listed applicants changes from 'James Drewry and S&D Ltd.' to ' S&D Ltd. and James Drewry'.

Show patents

1922 Patent 'Improvements in or relating to motor vehicles' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Harry Shelvoke. Published: 01 Jan. 1924]

1924 Patent 'Improvements in or relating to motor vehicle frames' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Harry Shelvoke. Published: 06 April, 1925]

1924 Patent 'Improvements in or relating to driving gear, brakes and engine-controlling gear of motor vehicles' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Harry Shelvoke. Published: 05 Jan. 1925]

1924 Patent 'Improvements in or relating to motor vehicle frames' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Harry Shelvoke. Published: 06 April, 1925]

1926 Patent 'Improvements in methods of and means for the delivery of gases and liquids' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 02 May, 1927]

1926 Patent 'Improvements in motor-transportable lifting devices, suitable for the handling of aircraft and other purposes' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 26 May, 1927]

1926 Patent 'Improvements in transportable compressors, pumps and the like' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 26 May, 1927]

1927 Patent 'Improvement in side tipping and demountable bodies for vehicles' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 23 July, 1927]

1926 Patent 'Improvements in methods of and means for replenishing fluid supplies on aircraft and removing fluid supplies therefrom' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 01 Dec. 1927]

1927 Patent 'Improvements in or relating to jointed pipe lines' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 20 Sep. 1928]

1927 Patent 'Improvements in apparatus for lifting and towing aeroplanes' [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 07 Sep. 1928]

1928 Patent 'Improvements in the construction of internal combustion engine cylinder heads [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 11 Oct. 1928]

1927 Patent 'Improvement in construction of vehicle body covers [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 10 Jan. 1929]

1927 Patent 'Means for operating doors by foot pressure [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 11 Feb. 1929]

1928 Patent 'Improvements in construction of demountable bodies [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 06 July, 1929]

1928 Patent 'Means for lifting and towing aircraft [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 20 JLune, 1929]

1927 Patent 'Mécanisme à pédales pour la commande des portes des camions &grave ordures ménagères et véhicules analogues [Inventor: James Sidney Drewry. Applicant: Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 10 Oct. 1929]

1927 Patent 'Perfectionnements aux portes ou autres obturateurs pour camions &grave ordures et applications analogues [Inventor: James Sidney Drewry. Applicant: Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 29 Oct. 1929]

1930 Patent 'Improvement in or relating to ratchet detents or holding devices [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 20 March, 1930]

1930 Patent 'Improvements in construction of vehicle brakes [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 03 April, 1930]

1930 Patent 'Verschlussklappe fuer Muellabfuhrwagen [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 26 July, 1930]

1930 Patent 'Improvement in operation of vehicle doors [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 14 Aug., 1930]

1930 Patent 'Improvement in flexible bushes for bearings [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 06 Nov., 1930]

1931 Patent 'Improvements in or relating to vehicle bodies with detachable containers [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 05 Feb, 1931]

1931 Patent 'Perfectionnements aux caisses de véhicules supportant des récipients amovibles [Inventor: Drewry James Sidney Published: 22 July, 1931]

1931 Patent 'Improvements in vehicles for transporting goods [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 12 Nov., 1931]

1931 Patent 'Improvement in methods of cleansing refuse bins [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 23 Nov., 1931]

1932 Patent 'Improvements in and relating to refuse-collecting systems and other installations involving a number of bins or containers fitted with lids or covers [Applicants: Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd., James Sidney Drewry Published: 03 March, 1932]

1932 Patent 'Appareil pour le transport d'ordures ménagères ou autres déchets semblables [Inventors: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry (GB). Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry (GB). Published: 15 March, 1932]

1932 Patent 'Improvements relating to brushes for road sweeping and like machines [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 06 Oct, 1932]

1933 Patent 'Improvements in apparatus for sweeping roads or the like [Applicants: James Sidney Drewry, Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. Published: 20 April, 1933]

1933 Patent 'Vehicle body with detachable containers [Inventor: James Sidney Drewry Published: 18 July, 1933]

1934 Patent 'Fejeapparat til Gader og lignende Applicants: Ingenioer James Sidney Drewry (GB), Shelvoke & Drewry (GB). Published: 12 Feb. 1934]

1934 Patent 'Improvements relating to movable floors for vehicles [Applicants: Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd.; James Sidney Drewry Published: 09 Nov, 1934]

1935 Patent 'Improvements relating to lift valves [Applicants: Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd.; James Sidney Drewry Published: 11 Oct., 1935]

1935 Patent 'Apparatus for the removal of supernatant liquid from solids in containers [Applicants: Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd.; James Sidney Drewry Published: 29 Oct., 1935]

1936 Patent 'Improvements in apparatus for the reception of sludge [Applicants: Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd.; James Sidney Drewry Published: 11 March, 1936]

The Last Horse

The new vehicle was an ideal repkacement for the horses and carts that were still being used in towns and cities. The S&D sales representatives gave solid brass paperweights to their clients, depicting the 'Last Horse' and bearing the Shelvoke and Drewry logo.


See also the S & D entry in Wikipedia.

click to go to site The Unofficial Shelvoke & Drewry Website.

"A website created to preserve the name and history of Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd., of Letchworth, Hertfordshire. U.K. who were manufacturers of municipal vehicles for almost 70 years."

The The Unofficial Shelvoke & Drewry Site is managed by Brian Carpenter
The site is very informative with news items and details of 'S & D Remembered' gatherings in Letchworth.

Brian would particularly like to know the connection, if any, between James and later Drewry railcars. He can be contacted via The Site.

Hands (Letchworth) Ltd.

"In the mid 1930's Drewry left for a senior position with Hands Trailers." (Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke & Drewry). The Hands factory was in the former green field opposite the SD factory.

The cutting on the left implies that when he went into partnership with Mr. H. Hands, James came with plans for a new type of trailer and that the factory had been extended to manufcture that trailer.

"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."

"During the Second World War, like most British manufacturers, Shelvoke and Drewry's entire output was devoted to the war effort, producing aircraft parts, equipment for landing craft and tanks, and even a miniature submarine (the Welfreighter) at their Letchworth plant." - Wikipedia

1940 Patent 'Steerable turntable for trailers [Applicant: James Sidney Drewry Published: 23 Oct., 1940]

1945 Patent 'Extensible trailer frames [Applicant: James Sidney Drewry; Hands Letchworth Ltd. Published: 24 Jan., 1945]

1946 Patent 'Steerable turntable for vehicles [Applicant: James Sidney Drewry Published: 06 Feb, 1946]

1951 Patent 'Refuse collecting from road surfaces [Applicant: James Sidney Drewry Published: 11 April, 1951]

1951 Patent 'Rubber elevator buckets [Applicant: James Sidney Drewry Published: 11 April, 1951]

1951 Patent 'Gully sweeping brush mounting [Applicant: James Sidney Drewry Published: 11 April, 1951]

1951 Patent 'Improvements in road sweeping machine brushes [Applicant: James Sidney Drewry Published: 11 April, 1951]

The Welfreighter

" .. production was contracted out to specialised engineering firms already engaged in production of war material. In mid-1944, the Letchworth company of Shelvoke and Drewry Ltd. was awarded a contract to produce Welfreighters," [Wikipedia]

Vince, James' brother, said that during the second World War James was involved in the design of a mini-submarine, called the ' Welfreighter'.

A surviving worker from the Welfreighter project has denied Jim's involvement. However, given the secrecy surrounding the project, it is quite likely that a person working on the project might not be known to others. Furthermore, shop floor workers would not need to know who was involved in design and consultation.

It seems very likely likely that an inventive engineer of Jim's standing (and renown) would have been called in to help with the project. He had been the design-engineer partner in S&D and was now managing director at Hands Trailers, contractors to the armed forces, as well as working as a consultant in the design of tank trailers across the road from Hands Trailers Ltd. at S&D. During the first World War, Jim had designed special equipment for the army.

It is reported that the Welfreighters "used to leave the Icknield Way works at 3.00 am. covered by tarpaulins designed to look like tanks." It is likely that a trailer used to transport a Welfreighter would be specially (secretly) designed and manufactured for the task.

Lewis Falk Ltd.

In the obituary, above, passing mention is given to Jim's employment at 'Lewis Falk'. The only information I have gleaned so far is that Lewis Falk Ltd. designed and produced embroidered badges and patches for the armed forces. Jim's grandson remembers seeing many brightly coloured badges in his grandfather's house.

The Drewry Instrument Co.

In Letchworth – before S & D. Located at Jim's home?

The Testometer

There are 25 pages in the instruction booklet including sample test report sheets. The booklet is not dated but I am informed that there is a reference to a Test carried out in May 1919 and a statement that the instrument has been perfected over 5 years. This ties back nicely to Jim's first patent, registered in his own name in 1914 – patent No GB1913 20676.


Some pages from the Testometer Instruction Booklet

Is this another version of the testometer?

Baptism Record

I cannot find a birth record in FreeBMD. However, there is a Baptism record:

From freebBMD:

Marriage: Jun 1910, Drewry James Sydney, Kingston 2a 739

In the National Register of September 29th, 1939, James and family are shown living at 11, William Way, Letchworth.

There are four others in the house: Frederick Dainton, an ARP Warden aged 30; and three whose records are redacted.

James is described as: 'Designer Transport Machinery M.I.A.E Company General Manager'.




Jim died in Hitchin, aged 70, in 1952.
and 45 years before:

Death: Dec 1907, Drewry, James S. - 70 - Hitchin, 4b 104 (born abt. 1837)
and another James died in London that year:
Death: Dec 1907, Drewry, James - 67 - Camberwell 1d 517 (born abt. 1840)