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My introduction to Meccano

(Author: Ralph & Sue)

Like most of us I was first introduced to Meccano as a child when my parents gave me an Outfit No. 4 as a Christmas gift. I was fairly young then and I think my father had greater expectations of me than I had desires for the Meccano. It was used but not to any great extent. I remember being taken to Meccano's shop, just off Regent Street in London, and having extra parts bought for me. As I remember a boiler and a few of the loaded sacks came from there.

Years went by and a few more parts were acquired along the way, a gearset and the obligatory 'Magic motor' seem to ring some bells. There was a radio shop in Forest Hill, South London. The proprietor there was a brown-coated friendly man who sold Meccano parts out of one of those old dealer cabinets that are so sought after by enthusiasts, like us, today. Looking back at it, he must have been an enthusiast himself as he sold nothing else that interested an 8 year old boy with a few pennies of pocket money to spend. A couple of short braced girders and some long rods came from that dealer cabinet.

Meccano's marketing was second to none. The ever present desire for more parts and the unreachable height of the ultimate goal, to own an Outfit No. 10 was always there. The back cover of the manual for my Outfit No. 4 set had pictures of models made using the larger sets, "The Military Tank is one of the attractive models that can be built with Outfit No. 8" and " A working lifting shovel that can be built with Outfit No. 10" were heights that I had no chance of scaling as a schoolboy in 1960's South London.

For a while the Meccano took a back seat with the invasion of the marketing guys from Denmark. Lego had landed in my life and the next few years were taken over by the plastic brick. It wasn't until the age of 14 that Meccano featured heavily in my life again.

1970 and Meccano had changed colour. The old red and green had become yellow and silver, with the odd black bit. I had picked up a Meccano price list from the previous year featuring the Power Drive sets. For my birthday in February 1970 I was given the Power Drive set as a present, £6 - 17s - 6d A lot of money then. I had great fun with that set. The motor was, and still is, very usable. What's more with a paper-round I could save my hard earned money and add to it. First a 4a to make it into a No 5, and then a 5a to make it into a No.6.

I never did save enough money to buy the Elektrikit or the Mechanisms sets before I discovered girls and the onslaught of homework and then college. The next 15+ years were spent in the normal way, buying a house, getting married to my lovely wife Sue and in our case running a business. In the early eighties we owned a model shop. Here we bought and sold second hand items such as model railway, diecast vehicles, Lego and of course Meccano... the trouble was I could not bring myself to sell the one lot of Meccano that we were offered and I subsequently bought.

The bug had bitten me again. This time I had a bit more money to spend, not that much but substantially more than I had back in the 70's. Through my contacts in the local business community I heard of a No 10 set that had been submitted to the local paper as the subject of a classified advert. This was an old red and green No 10 that had been made up from all sorts of bits and pieces. Not in its first youth but absolutely complete even down to the correct number of nuts an bolts, all in a genuine oak, four drawer chest, with the 'Meccano Outfit No. 10' water slide transfer on the top.

In the late '80s I joined SELMEC (South East London Meccano Club) in Eltham. Here I managed to add to my collection of Meccano and spent a few years getting involved with the running of the club. I even organised one or two of the exhibitions.

During this time I was talking to a salesman at work one day and he said that he had an old Meccano windmill in his loft. It was a bit bashed around but would I be interested. Yes I said and a few days later he reemerged with said windmill. It turned out to be a Binns Road made dealers display model. A few new parts and a bit of cleaning up produced an interesting piece of Meccano history.

Trips to other exhibitions and of course the annual pilgrimage 'way out west' to the Henley exhibition, combined with a visit to MW models shop all added to the Meccano experience of the time. I even managed to buy a complete boxed Elektrikit. I had now realised my childhood dream but little did I know it at the time but another period of no Meccano activity was just around the corner.

The recession of the 90's meant that the business needed me to be more involved. That with other more pressing family matters meant that Meccano and other activities had to take a back seat. It would be nearly twenty years before I would be picking up the spanner again.

So there we were well into the new Millennium and I found myself looking at Meccano on ebay. Things are very different now. Twenty-odd years ago there was very little Meccano to be had. The dealers at the shows recycled what second hand parts they could find and every now and then would unearth a supply of old shop stock. Today dealers such as Dave Taylor and his Meccanoman business not only supply large amounts of second hand Meccano but also supply new repro parts as well as parts that Meccano never did make. Modern motors and all sorts of new stuff has really got the interest going again.

As most of you know Sue is also a builder in her own right and you can follow our Meccano story on our website: www.my-meccano.co.uk

Ralph & Sue
December 2009.
London, England

Martin van Creveld      (at 2:19am, Fri 19th Feb, 10)

Sir:

I am an Israeli retired professor of history (you can look me up on google or google.scholar) and was introduced to Meccano by my father when I was six years old.

Now that my grandson has reached the same age, could you please let me know where in London I can get him a set?

Thank you for your attention.

Martin van Creveld


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