Electric trucks bring home the milk

This is an interesting sight if ever I saw one. The year is 1924 and this scene is cropped from the centre of a panoramic photo by a Wellington photographer.

The original shows sheds and fields to the right and houses to the left. It is no easy task to sort out the orientation of this photo so I’m not going to hazard a guess. Too much changed at Waitoa in the meantime. Of course what is interesting is the line of milk lorries. These are Walker Electric trucks which were manufactured in Chicago in the early part of the twentieth century into the 1920s.

According to an article by Christchurch Libraries, these trucks had ‘an optimistic range of forty miles’ (64kms) but that was dependant on load and road. They also say the fleet in Christchurch in the 1920s numbered about 200, so you could have called them ‘ubiquitous’ without too much fear of contradiction. We also know that Pomeroys here in Hamilton had a Tai Tapu Dairy Co (just south of Christchurch) Walker in their workshops. One has to wonder why – so far from home! Could it have been on loan for evaluation? What were they like to spend a day driving? Solid rubber tyres and primitive suspension.

Oh yes! Men were men in those days – hard riding trucks and churns full of milk – no easy jobs here!

What this photo does indicate is that these vehicles were cheap to buy or cheap to run or both – they must have been or companies like NZDC would not buy so many. They had vast banks of batteries which were charged overnight – you can see the battery boxes between the wheels. But, as these are short range trucks, a farm had to be reasonably close in to Waitoa to have milk collected in those days. This squares with the fact that over a vast rolling landscape between Matamata, Morrinsville, and to the north up highway 27,  there were, for many years to follow, only large sheep farms – dairy herds were yet to arrive in the hinterland.  Later developments in roading and transport saw sheep disappear and the cows come home.

It is thought only one of these lorries survives in Christchurch – does anyone know of another?

Email Perry by clicking here.

Hamilton Central Libraries


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4 thoughts on “Electric trucks bring home the milk

  • November 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

    If you can find one they are decent money now – on the net there is a 1909 version on sale in the UK – a snip at US $127,500. An ordinary home in Auckland in the 1930s was about US$ 600. And my Dads 1959 Austin Cambridge was 800 pounds brand new and now 60 years later goes for about 5000 pounds if you can find one.

    Some things do get better with age…but not money.

  • December 5, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Qutie right Peter! Money never has been a hedge against inflation. Who would ever have thought something like an electric lorry would! I wonder how the cost of those Walkers compares with modern milk tankers in relative terms??

  • September 25, 2023 at 8:24 pm

    Re The electric trucks ,My grandfather maintained the electric truck fleet in the 1930’s at the Waitoa dairy company I have a photograph of one of the trucks after it got stuck on the railway track and was hit by the Rotorua Express train ,

    • September 26, 2023 at 8:45 am

      Thanks for getting in touch Dennis, would love to see the photo!


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