Show to recall bikes and sand

Sands and Motorcycles event in Leighton Buzzard. Picture: Neil Cairns
Sands and Motorcycles event in Leighton Buzzard. Picture: Neil Cairns

Three hard-working motorcycle-riding employees of the world-famous Leighton Buzzard sand industry are to be remembered next week.

The Leighton Buzzard Railway is again setting its annual Sands and Motorcycles event in Pages Park on Sunday, September 27 to celebrate the lives of Harry Lathwell (known as George), Reggie Webb and Freddy North.

This is our fourth year and the Royal British Legion Rider’s Branch, Beds Group assist in the running of the show and club and charity stands are free, as is entry to the show.

This year will see Fiona Harrison singing rock & roll and war songs, and ‘Retroflections’ band with more live music.

In the 1940s when the local sand industry was working flat out to supply London to rebuild the WW2 bomb damage, a local sand quarrying company Garsides Sand purchased three second-hand motorcycles from Camden Motors who were then in Lake Street. Garsides bought very few things new, even their Simplex diesels you see in use on our railway today were second-hand; in fact the whole railway system was built from second-hand WW1 equipment in 1919, from the front line France.

The three motorcycles were two 1937 BSA M20, 500cc side-valve machines and one 1937 P&M Panther M100, 600cc ohv machine.

The M20s went to Leighton Buzzard residents and Garsides employees Harry (George) Lathwell and Reggie Webb; the Panther went to Freddy North. These three were Garsides maintenance team with Harry as the foreman. They kept all the sand quarrying equipment up and running, much of it in deep pits inaccessible for anything else other than a motorcycle, or the sand trains. These three bikes were ridden very hard every day, out in all weathers up until about 1961, when, totally worn out they were thrown into an unknown disused pit. This motorcycle show is in celebration of their motorcycling exploits; more of the story can be read in Dobbers & Loco Drivers in the Sand, a book available from the railway shop. Visit the show and ride on the train and see the working museum the other end at Stonehenge Works.

On the same day the railway will be running the old Simplex diesel locomotives that the local sand industry used to evoke the nostalgia of that era and possibly a steam loco. Visit and