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T-Line Story Logo

When Thomson hit on a good design he tended to stick to it!

Daniel Thomson's son David, who grew up playing around the yard and running messages, joined the business in 1924 at the age of 14, serving a full apprenticeship as joiner and coach-builder, attending night school and later technical college to gain his diploma.
"When I started work," said David Thomson, "there were eight of us, men and boys, and we already had six caravans for hire. They were timber boxes mounted on old car axles and they could be towed by a car. The door was in the rear end. Some had curved roof with a pro­jection at each end.
"I don't think they were given a name. They were just Thomson's caravans. They had a sink and cooker, a paraffin stove with wick, and a carved mirror."
Later models were made with a plywood body sheathed with aluminium, the framing being in ash.

The Kelvin 1946-47

In 1931 the joinery business moved from Skaithmuir Mill to Carronshore, and a year later Daniel Thomson linked up with three local business men to form Thomson Caravans Ltd. Its function was to hire and sell the caravans made by Daniel Thomson, and this company has the same duty today, the marketing of T-Line caravans.
In those early 'thirties, a 13ft. Thomson caravan with four berths was £110, which seems cheap until you remember that Herbert Austin was working on a £100 car.
Fashions in caravans were chang­ing dramatically, even weirdly. The aim was to get away from the wooden box. Competing with plywood and aluminium was stretched and coated canvas on a frame -not a very practical solution.
The long-established end door, a useful and functional feature, had to go because everyone wanted a sloping roof. The first efforts at streamlining produced some odd shapes, like "the pear drop on its side."
Experiment, exotic as it was, was useful because it brought a lot of new thinking to the design, parti­cularly the internal lay-out. Thomson did not go to the same extremes as other pioneers, and when he hit on a good design he tended to stick to it.
Undoubtedly the first classic Thomson caravan was the Almond, introduced in 1936. It became the longest-running model in British caravan history, the last Almond being built in 1956-57. It was immediately identifiable by its "V"-shaped roof, clearly the ancestor of today's T-Line.
The early 14ft. four-berth Almond was a little gloomy inside by modern standards, but after the war the glass became deeper and wider the lay­out was much as today-1 double settee in front, at the back two single beds with table between, and kitchen and wardrobe amidships.
Some of the early Almonds are still around today. Like vintage cars they could be appreciating in value.
A few years ago one of the Thomson sales managers bought back from a minister a pre-war Almond, allowing him more than it cost new.
When war came in 1939, the hiring fleet of 42 Almonds and other Thomson caravans were called into active service never to return to Carron.
David Thomson took over management of the factory, which switched to making aircraft-type trailers, bodies for ambulances, ammunition boxes by the thousand. Part of the premises was occupied by a vehicle maintenance unit of the Polish R.A.S.C.

Experiment in Streamlining around 1930.
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Reproduced from a 1970 publication by Thomson T-Line Caravans Ltd called The "T-Line Story"
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