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Part 131: Dredger Bucket / Cam

This is interesting – one of the few part numbers to have been reused, part 131 was a Dredger Bucket from 1921 for twenty years.  It didn't make it back into production after the war, but the new Cam was introduced as part 131 in 1970.  This page covers both parts.

131Dredger Bucket1921194155
Dredger buckets of the three main types, and the 1970-on Cam
Loading picture Dredgerbucket

The parts

As with the Eccentric (part 130), the Dredger Bucket is first mentioned in the January 1921 Meccano Magazine as a reader's suggestion, but this time the response is that "we already have this in hand and hope to introduce one very shortly".  In fact it took until July 1921, announced at the same time as the Eccentric, and with the next part number.

The dredger bucket was dropped from outfits with the start of the numeric outfits 1-10 in 1937, and production was not restarted after the war, although it appears in the back of Meccano Manuals right up to 1952.

In the March 1970 issue of Meccano Magazine, a new Cam was introduced, and surprisingly given the part number 131. 

Dredger bucket clips, including one straightened out (don't do this!)
Loading picture Dredgerbucketclip The dredger bucket clips are shown in the picture to the right, one flattened out to help anyone who would like to make some replacements (they are very often missing).

The clip is a simple piece of 31 gauge steel (0.30mm or 0.011'' thick), cut into a strip about 21.8mm (0.860'') x 3.35mm (0.132'') overall.  The ends are rounded off, and the strip bent such that the end profile is approximately square, which makes the overall clip just under a centimetre long.  I would suspect that any soft metal strip would do, perhaps cut from a tin can? These are painted after bending (from the examples I've seen), but before assembly on to the dredger bucket.

Chronological variations

Plain and shaped slots for the clips
Loading picture Dredgerbucketslots

Initially nickel-plated, the dredger bucket was later produced in dark red.  You will notice from the picture to the right that the slots for the clips are plain and straight on most of the nickel-plated versions.  Later on, the slots changed to a shaped form, as shown to the right.  I have no idea why.  It looks at first glance as if these semicircular holes might hold or support parts of the sprocket chain, making the buckets more stable, but the holes aren't even remotely in the right place for this.  The only other reason I can think of is that the punching tool could be made stronger if the hole was this shape rather than a thin slot.  Has anyone else got any thoughts about this shape?

Clive Weston tells me that both the plain-hole and the shaped-hole version appear in 1926 light red, which would date the change in design late 1926 or early 1927.  However, we don't yet have an example of the second of these.  All examples of plain-hole dark red dredger buckets found to date appear to have been repainted over nickel plate.

Folded (left) and 1929-on stamped (right) dredger buckets
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Please do not download or copy it for any purpose. It has been
kindly provided for use on this site by the image owner,
Staffan Kjellin
Loading picture Dredgerbuckettypes The major change came in January 1929, when a new design of dredger bucket was announced in the Meccano Magazine.  Instead of a thin steel part folded into shape, this new bucket was stamped out of much thicker steel, with the same type of clip for attaching it to sprocket chain.

A most interesting variation is shown in DMS/EMP as being "Red over gold" and dating from 1934 to 1937.  The dates are definitely incorrect, but the report had a basis in reality: these are in fact painted red over brass dredger buckets.  A magnet provides the answer! We don't have an easy way of dating these, but all examples found so far are dark red.  Indeed, the paint appears to adhere to these parts better, and many people will find the dredger buckets they thought were in good condition are in fact brass ones.

Dredger bucket in stamped brass, painted dark red.  Use your magnet!
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Please do not download or copy it for any purpose. It has been
kindly provided for use on this site by the image owner,
John Nuttall
Loading picture Dredgerbucketbrass

I'm going to put forward a hypothesis that these are the earliest of the stamped-out dredger buckets.  Perhaps Meccano thought that the deep stamping of one part would have to be made from brass, and only later on discovered that they did have the ability to stamp out the same shape from steel.  Pure guesswork, but it does explain why the brass ones are all dark red, and gives a good reason for the change (making them from steel would be cheaper, of course).

Cam show in the 1970 parts listing
Loading picture Campicture

The Cam, introduced in 1970, appears to have been consistent (in zinc with a brass boss) from its introduction.  A substantial number of cams are left-handed (i.e. they have the boss on the opposite side).  I am defining the "correct" way around as per the example at the top of this page – with the boss upwards the 'cutout' section is at the top left.  This is the version shown in the Meccano parts listings (from 1970 through to 1982).

At the moment the counts are showing 'standard' cams as being about twice as common as 'left-handed' ones, or perhaps slightly more.  The stamping can appear on either side, as can the sharp edges of the zinc plated part.  This would seem to suggest that Meccano had two tools (or a two-hole tool), and produced the flat section both ways round, but they were mounted more often than not in the 'standard' direction.  Perhaps they were intended to be like this for a period, and then later on (or earlier) were made randomly either way.

Variations and oddities

Very strange holes in repainted nickel dredger bucket
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Please do not download or copy it for any purpose. It has been
kindly provided for use on this site by the image owner,
Staffan Kjellin
Loading picture Dredgerbucketvariation

Staffan Kjellin has sent me this picture of a light red folded dredger bucket, which I originally discounted as it looks like the part has been repainted over a nickel-plated original.  This is the case, but what's odd about it is the holes.  These are plain semicircles, without the side slots of later parts.  Anyone got any idea where these fit in?

Spare parts box of six dredger buckets
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Please do not download or copy it for any purpose. It has been
kindly provided for use on this site by the image owner,
Greg Rahn
Loading picture Dredgerbucketspareparts

Dealer spare parts boxes

Greg has helped us out again, with this lovely box of six dredger buckets, dating from probably 1929-1932 (stamped out shape, but still in dark red).  This blue box style appears for many parts of this era, although mostly these are for single parts (Geared Roller Bearings, Digger Buckets, and most of the motors appear in these boxes).

The parts listing of 1929 shows that the price of a dredger bucket changed from being shown as 2d each to 1/- for half a dozen.  We can assume, therefore, that this box was the standard package of dredger buckets that could be bought from your local friendly Meccano dealer.  A good investment for your original shilling!

I have seen an old-looking brown cardboard holding nine dredger buckets, but I'm not as convinced that it's genuine as it is unlabelled.

And below, Jaap has sent us an alternative box of six dredger buckets in a red box.  This is similar to the spare parts box for the shuttle shown on page 104, and these red boxes are certainly less common than the blue ones.  Are they earlier?

Dredger buckets in red spare parts box
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Please do not download or copy it for any purpose. It has been
kindly provided for use on this site by the image owner,
Jaap Wieman
Loading picture Dredgerbucketspareparts2

Individual part numbers

Part numbers for the parts on this page are as follows:    Unique part numbers
For identification, each variation has been given a suffix to the main Meccano part number. These suffixes consist of a two-character code for the colour, and if there are many variations, a further number and sometimes letter code to identify each variation. See the bottom of the 'Parts' page for further details.

You don't need to worry what the codes are, just click on any one for a photograph.

The button above turns on and off the display of DMS numbers (where they are known). The DMS (Development of the Meccano System, Hauton and Hindemarsh) published in 1972 and added to in 75 and 82, suggested part numbers for every variation of every Meccano part. These numbers aren't perfect, but they are recognised and also referenced in the EMP (Encyclopedia of Meccano Parts, Don Blakeborough).

More about bosses More about stampings More about paint colours
Nickel plated, folded steel with plain slots for clip21.ni
Light red (pea red), folded steel with plain slots for clip26.re
Dark red, folded steel, shaped slots for clip27.dr1
Nickel plated, folded steel, shaped slots for clip (special order) †27.ni1
Dark red painted brass, stamped out bucket29.dr2
Dark red painted steel, stamped out bucket29?.dr
Nickel plated, stamped out bucket (special order) †29-40.ni2
Medium red, stamped out bucket34.mr
Cam, zinc plated with brass boss70.zn
Cam, zinc plated with brass boss, 'left-handed'70.zn1
Cam, matt brass78.mb

Note:  As usual, there are conflicting reports about these parts.  DMS/EMP reports an early version where the lugs are stamped out of the body of the bucket, instead of with a separate clip.  It seems to me that the launch picture of this part has the clip, so dating a prior part will be tricky.  On the other hand, it doesn't include the common nickel-plated version of the dredger bucket at all! There should, by rights, be a nickel-plated version out there with the shaped slots (available by special order throughout), and a stamped version in nickel (now found by Jaap!).  Neither do I understand the mention of "light red" as another variation.  All will become clear, no doubt, as reports come in thick and fast from our regular contributors...

Please send us pictures of missing parts! Hints and tips for pictures
Take a picture of the part in very good light, preferably on a plain yellow background, without a flash but with a tripod.
Ideally, trim the picture to about 150 pixels per inch of the Meccano part (unless the part is particularly big or small), save it as a reasonably good quality jpg file with a filename of exactly the part number, for example 19b.ni1.jpg, and email it to us by clicking on 'Contact us' at the top of the page. Thanks!

Further information

Total number of messages on this page: 11.  This is page 1 of 2.   Next

NP      (at 7:11pm, Sun 17th Jul, 22)

I can add tin-plated examples of the first type.
Also, the plain semi-circular slots on red (over tin-plate, I think) examples.

Cassandra      (at 10:37am, Mon 18th Jun, 18)

I have a few variants of dark red dredger buckets with a pair of holes spaced 0.5" apart ahead of the clip which would enable them to be screwed to a lifting arm instead of sprocket chain.

RICHARD HIRE      (at 1:19pm, Fri 23rd Jan, 15)


RICHARD HIRE      (at 12:56pm, Fri 23rd Jan, 15)


r.bailey      (at 8:22pm, Tue 16th Jul, 13)

the cams are also not left or right handed but made front to back or back to front by the person putting then in the die!!

r.bailey      (at 8:18pm, Tue 16th Jul, 13)

I have a set of 5 buckets ,nickel , but the "meccano" name is on either the back and the front . ?? !! presumably the plates were stamped withe the name then bent to shape either upside down or downside up!!

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