Cambridge District Scout Archive
Used as Scout powered transport since the earliest troops Trek carts began to fall into disuse with the growth of motor transport.
Hand carts were not an exclusively Scouting vehicle and several references are made to hiring hand carts. The main difference may have been the pulling rope anchorages that enabled several scouts to haul simultaneously, enabling heavy loads to be moved over longer distances.
Some were collapsible and the parts used for other functions on camp.
Originally they were called transport carts or transport wagons, as used for a Trek. By 1912 ‘the famous Scout trek cart’ was advertised and the name Trek cart had come into popular use.
They were used to walk to camp directly from town or from a railway which carried kit and cart to a starting point further afield. On camp they were used for collecting wood, water and provisions. The detachable parts were used for many roles. One advertised itself as being able to sleep six when upturned.
In 1946 of 48 named camps used by Cambridge groups 35 sites were near enough to be reached with a Trek cart. The work involved in reaching many of these the sites was perhaps too great for many weekend camps but the recorded figures suggest many camps were about a week long. The 1918 weekend camp described below was 30 miles in total and ‘most memorable’ for the distance.
With the rise of motor transport vans became readily available and the roads busy. The Trek cart slipped into irregular use. Many of the quotes from 1939 onward concern secondary uses for the trek carts; it may be that the trek to camp was taken ‘as read’. Weekend Patrol camps were reported by several troops in 1946, but the bare figures do not state how they got there.
1947 Three covers of The Scouter, around this year, showed Trek carts and articles alluded to their use but the actual camps described or practical plans suggested did not speak of trek carts but of railways. In 1948 a lightweight trek cart design was printed using invalid chair wheels but for roads not tracks. Trek cart ‘drill’ was encouraged, but the use for actual camps rarely reported. The local archive reports give a better notion of use post WW2.
Little is directly recorded in the Cambridge Archives although Trek carts were owned by Groups for over 100 years. The following references give a notion of the longevity of their use, length of journeys and function. It reflects historically successful groups, but also those whose history has been retained. Cambridgeshire is not countryside with many off road tracks.
1912 1st One of the leaders built ‘a very sturdy Trek Cart’ George Black -recollections
1913 5th ‘a third patrol “wrought divers miracles” with a scout trek cart’ – (a display event)
1915 At a Prep school linked to the Leys (but out of District) the Wolf Cubs were recorded fund raising for their trek cart.
1915 5th Annual display included ‘the rapid dissolution and resurrection of a trek cart.’
1915 District P/L camp ‘DSM and industrious scouts collected weighty logs for the Council fire. Collapsed 14th Cambridge Trek Cart’. (the form of this report was curt sentences)
1915 5th ‘the cyclists went ahead (to Fen Ditton) with the two trek carts and the white force followed up’ (Field Day exercise probably with an empty cart)
WW1 17th The trek cart, donated by the Catholic Women’s League, was used to collect gifts for the Belgium Refugees
1917 6th The Scout (12th May 1917) reported on the 6th Cambridge collection of 5 tons of waste paper. The DC promised them a Trek Cart in recognition of this act.
1918 9th ‘ the Troop had done its most memorable trek-camp ;–Friday evening, Cambridge to Hemingford; Saturday afternoon, back to Oakington (where I took Sunday Services in Scout uniform, and HORACE PETTITT lost his bacon to the bantams); Sunday evening, back home: total, thirty miles, and three of us,… were eleven years old .’ C T Wood
1920 9th (Queens’ Choir) The Trek-Camp last Easter was great fun
1920 The Jamboree will be held at Olympia ‘Displays may illustrate any of the following subjects… physical training, cycling, and trek cart gymkana, hut building…‘ (presumably trek cart, gymkana, rather than trek cart gymkana)
From Reveille 1920 Post War Review single copy Newsletter
1925 13th We arrived on the Saturday afternoon at Lowestoft station and had to push our gear in a hired handcart Ken North
1928 ‘The 8th Harvey Goodwin troop demonstrated the manifold use of a handcart’ ‘It is a fine instrument for weekend camps taking to pieces to provide table, form, bed, stretcher – a neat contrivance this’
1928 5th At the Annual Display a Trek Cart competition was held ‘They dismantled and carried their carts over and through obstacles, all in a lovely drizzle, then marched off,’
1929 7th Trek Cart £7/10/0 Carriage on Trek cart 2/9 1939 repairs to Trek Cart 2/6
1932 – 1939 55th A number of items from the accounts book suggest that this troop were building a trek cart. Some entries were specific ‘bolts for Trek cart 1/-, some less so: ‘car axle and wheels 10/-‘ and later ’motor cycle wheels (2) 5/- ‘ Tyres, tubes, tape, paint, hinges, screws spring, wood, draw bar and brackets, appear in one year for ₤1/12/1.
1932 13th Trek Carts mentioned in Court of Honour minutes
1932 Trek Carts taken to pieces and loaded in the Guards van accompanying Boy Scouts to and from camp, will, in future, be conveyed free of charge. HQ notice The Scouter
1933 60th Took a Trek cart to Luxembourg on annual camp.
c. 1934 5th ‘Douglas and I on our bicycles held the handle. ‘Granny’ Dunn tied a rope from his cycle to an iron fitting on the handle and two responsible (or strong) scouts each had a rope from a hook on the wheel hub, which acted as the brakes. Up over the Gogs we went – and never had an accident’. Douglas Brown memorial 2004
60th Took their named trek cart when camping in Luxembourg
1938 13th W/e camp for PLs and Seconds at Abington ‘Campers hauled their own gear on a Trek cart’. In that it was noted at all this does read as if it were unusual, but the Troop was rebuilding at this point and it may have been the first such camp for several years.
Pre 1939 7th ‘Most camps before the war (WW2) used Trek carts’
1939 55th Camped on Mr Brown’s Estate at Chittering and recorded journey times of 45 and 60 minutes pulling a trek cart. The 45 minutes was from Union Lane Chesterton, a distance of 7.4 miles, the road flat, the pullers probably 16 – 18 year olds. The 55th were Arbury Road Baptist Church but it is not known where they met.
1939 5th ‘Three times a week parties have taken the trek carts out on this mission of salvage’. Paper collection
WW2 42nd Writing Miss Longs (Longey) obituary in 1979 ‘One of my most vivid memories of miss Long, was seeing her with her Cubs, with her Trek cart, during the war, collecting newspapers, earning money to help many a poor child to go to camp and also helping the war effort.’
1943 7th Account of Trek cart camp which ended ‘We finished the packing of kit, and packed the trek-cart, which tipped over as we were roping it up. This tipped out everything. However, we repacked it and dragged it to the gate of the field. We started out but owing to a wind on our starboard bow we had to walk with it to the main road where we saw gliders towed and released above us.’ We now had a back wind and got a move on. We met N. Tuck and another Curlew on their way back from Cambridge. We went fast to the top of Madingley Hill, where we had a drink of water. We sped down the hill and got back to Cambridge without incident, and finished at the den and went home.‘
1944 7th Trek Cart £5/0/0 (Account book entry)
1945 5th Relay race with trek cart
1946 Chief Scout visit 26th offered a Trek Cart display
1948 40th Anniversary Rally Trek Cart Drill by the 26th
1948 60th report on Summer camp ‘All good things come to an end, and on a warm August morning a trek-cart could be seen bumping and squeaking its way into Ipswich. Pushing it, or sometimes being pushed by it, were a number of happy, smiling scouts.’
1949 60th ‘Two weekend camps have been held recently at Toft so that everyone has now slept under canvas ; some excellent teamwork in handling the trekcart has lowered the record for the 6 and 3/4 miles (fully loaded) to 42 minutes.’
Related in 2022 we have
‘In the 50’s 4 Senior Scouts from the 23rd lost control of their trek cart on top of the Gogs when returning from a weekend at Abington. Found intact somewhere near Shelford Road. No names available, but luckily there was not much traffic on the A604 in those days!!‘ from Rob Farrington
‘I remember towing a trek cart while riding a bike with a couple of other scouts helping. Mill road bridge was a challenge going down‘ from Tony Claydon. Mill Road bridge is no more than a railway bridge on a flat street, but markedly steep for Cambridge, the Gogs (above) are genuine if small hills, notably so in flat country. The A604 is now the A1307.
1950 5th Trek cart drill
1951 Association Hand cart The cost of repairing the cart was ₤27/18/0. The term used was ‘hand cart’.
1952 44th Cambridge (Trumpington) CoH expressed the desirability of owning a Trek cart and considered building and later buying one.
1952 7th The 7th Log book records the use of a Trek Cart to Longstowe. One of the two, having been recently repaired, failed and a motor lorry was called in as backup. The SM/ GSM at the time, John (Flea) Woolfenden, recalls (2019) frequent trips to Abington with Trek carts in this decade. This required travelling over the Gog Magogs – a most significant obstacle, in Cambridgeshire terms; that is, a small hill.
1952 County Camping Competition “A trek cart or similar transport will be available on arrival at Wisbech to take gear to Scout HQ Oldfield Lane about 1/2 mile away”
1953 Sandringham Coronation Camp 26th Cambridge made a gateway from a trek cart handle and a two tier table from the wheels
Two troops had enquired about being permitted to use collapsible trek carts to move gear from the station to the camp site (2½ miles). A British Rail lorry had been arranged.
1954 Grafton Street Gazette drew attention to the Scouter piece on lights on Trek Carts
1954 5th ‘It is very easy to lose ones way in thick fog. At a recent meeting a trek cart and team set off on a straight course over the school field and went right round in a circle’.
1955 54th Cambridge Court of Honour ‘Skipper and Bosun will finish the woodwork of the Trek Cart and the patrols will paint it.’
1958 54th Cambridge Parents evening Trek Cart race and ‘New floor for camp gear and shelter for Trek Carts.’ Both entries suggest more than one cart. This troop had six patrols at this time.
1959 From a Sheffield based questionnaire, receiving replies from seven Crew, only two Trek cart camps were recorded in the previous few years.
1959 – 62 11th had a Trek Cart on the Insurance (£10/5/9) but not in 1963 or later.
1968 13th Cambridge recorded a ‘Don’ (donation) of 10 shillings for the use of cart by Dr Recordon.
1971 44th with probably a camp site Trek Cart in evidence. The Troop went to this camp by coach with all their gear.
1978 Cambridge Rangers selling a Trek Cart by auction with a starting price of ₤40
2014 Vintage Trek Cart sold by 14th Cambridge (see below) which was in use in c. 1966.
It should be recognised that the term ‘trek cart’ was a Scouting one. A lease agreement from 1955 allows for access ‘by foot (or with
truck trek cart)‘ suggesting a lack of familiarity with the term.
Not Cambridge but reported in the Scout Column (2nd April 1915) of the local paper was the use of a Trek cart to transport the coffin of CM Miss E R Long. The wreaths were carried on Scout ‘staves’.
The end of the road
Cambridgeshire is largely flat and if easy ground for a trek cart not, perhaps, a setting for the glorious treks of the collective Scout memory.
The second chapter in the Senior Scout Handbook of 1954 is on Trekking and the Trek cart. It gives the cost of traditional carts (£10 – £20) and describes the construction and use of new style, lightweight, engineered, one wheeled versions.
It describes the benefits over hiking; not having to carry the weight on your shoulders, ‘the stronger fellows’ can take a bigger share of the work and that the cart becomes the centre of the life of the patrol and welds it into a team in a way not possible on a hike.
The first chapter was on camping and hiking, light weight kit and framed rucksacks. This possibility, that Scouts of all ages could carry their gear, heralded the end of the Trek cart.
JWR Archivist Jan 2019