In the early 1950’s the company was involved in the design of a machine to recover surplus chippings following road dressing. The chippings could then be ‘recycled’ and used elsewhere.This development led to a commitment to produce a sweeper unit which operated on the principle of high velocity air conveyance suction.
At the end of the 1950’s Johnston developed a new prototype sweeper design.
By mounting the complete suction sweeping equipment on the back of a lorry (where a tipper body would normally be) the first truck mounted sweeper was created.
The brain child of RFC Gray, rubbish no longer passed through the fan, therefore giving higher suction due to its increased horsepower.
This provided a single mobile unit with all the maneuverability of the then widely used mechanical sweepers.
Only five of these prototypes were built but with the experience gained, a production based machine, the Mk1 was produced.The first commercial Johnston truck mounted sweeper had been created.
The Mk1 was launched at the 1960 Public Works Exhibition in London and proved a success from the start.
This was the first ever suction type lorry mounted road sweeper to be marketed successfully in the U.K. It created enormous interest and was a major milestone in road sweeper development.
The company was soon involved in demonstration programs all over the country and deliveries of completed sweepers began in 1961 from the Vincent Lane factory.
The first Mk1 exported – a dual sweep machine was shipped to Denmark in June 1961 and invoiced at £3950.00.
The expanding Johnston Group became a publicly quoted company in 1964.
Technical development continued at pace and by August 1965 Johnston had delivered its 500th sweeper and supplied 80% of the UK market.
January 1968 saw the introduction of the Johnston 200 Series which represented a major step forward in sweeper design.
Earlier single engine Johnston models required the installation of a purpose designed gearbox. This arrangement split the engine power between road wheels, suction fan and sweeping brushes.
The 200 was the first two engine or ‘dual’ machine. A separate engine to drive the fans and brushes gave constant suction and brush action.
During its 11 year production run a total of 3,956 machines were built.
By the mid 1970’s, production had out grown the Vincent Lane site and main production moved to a larger site in Cutis Road, Dorking.
Sustained export success in1975 resulted in Johnston Engineering achieving the Queens Award for Export.This award coincided with annual production exceeding 500 machines for the first time.
Launched in November 1978, the 400 Series introduced the new concept of ‘skid-unit’ manufacture.
The skid unit contains all the sweeper components above the vehicle chassis frame.Mounted on its own sub-frame, with lifting points built-in, the unit can be stored ready for mounting on any chassis without dismantling. Skid units can also be shipped overseas for local assembly.
Other improvements on the 400 Series included an in-cab control system of all sweeping operations and a significant reduction in noise levels.
A popular variation of the 400 was the 450 Series Airport Sweeper. Outrigger brushes and broom-assisted nozzles very quickly swept large areas.A large magnet for retrieving ferrous objects, such as nuts and bolts, was also produced as an option.
In 1983 the Spares and Service Department relocated to a new building in Curtis Road opposite the main production site entrance. The building comprised a warehouse for over 10,000 spare parts, together with a training area, trade counter and administration offices. Four additional UK Regional Service Centers were set up at Sudbury, Avonmouth, Warwick and Livingston in Scotland.
1986 saw the company widen its product range into the small compact sweeper range, with the acquisition of Babcock Sweepers Limited at Sheerness in Kent, and production of the 2000 Series Compact sweeper began at the Sheerness plant in 1989.
The company’s development of the 600 Series, with its significant product innovations were recognized by achieving a British Design Award in1988. This high capacity machine, with its wide range of options, became the standard Johnston production vehicle.
In 1992 the Vincent Lane site in Dorking finally closed after 60 years of Johnston activity, and all remaining production and staff relocated to Curtis Road.
New offices were built, together with development of the site to include a skid shop and testing facilities.
Another milestone was reached in the summer of 1995, with the production of the 15,000th Johnston sweeper – a 2000 Series Compact.
In 1996 Johnston purchased the Danish company Beam, which produces bespoke specialist runway sweepers and airport stand cleaners.
In 1997 a new office and production facility for the Compact and 5000 Series, was opened at Sittingbourne, replacing the Babcock factory in Sheerness.
Production of the new 5000 Series Compact Sweeper began in 1998.
In 2000 Johnston acquired the Canadian based company MadVac.
Established in 1986 MadVac specializes in the design, construction and distribution of litter collection systems and pedestrian operated sweepers.
In recognition of its core business, in 2003 the company changed its name to Johnston Sweepers Limited. 2003 also saw the introduction of the new brand identity. This included a redesigned logo, Johnston ‘swirl’ and vehicle liveries.
The new V Range was launched in September 2003 – a replacement for the best selling 600 Series, but with more features and improvements.
In 2005 Johnston Sweepers was sold to the Swiss company – Bucher Industries, along with Johnston’s European and Australian engineering interests.
Following on from this change in 2005, Johnston’s product range expanded with the addition of the VT550 Truck Mounted Sweeper (7.5t chassis).
The launch soon after followed of the new generation of Compact Sweepers – the fuel efficient C200 replacing the Compact 40 & 50 and the larger C400 which took over from the 5000 Series.
In 2011 Johnston Sweepers opened Johnston North America, a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnston Sweepers Ltd., as our North American hub based in Mooresville, North Carolina.
Johnston’s global reach provides Johnston North America with unique insight, knowledge, and experience gained in a range of international environments that we can use to provide even better sweeping solutions for our customers.
Read more about Johnston’s history from 1904 to 1949.