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Midlands Meccano Guild

(Author: Rob Thompson)

91st Model Report

Midlands Meccano Guild

91st Meeting
Saturday 13th October 2012
Model Report
by
Michael J. Walker

 

Changeable weather greeted members as they arrived for the Autumn meeting of the Midlands Meccano Guild. However, the variety of different weather conditions outside was easily eclipsed by the range and scope of models inside Baginton Village Hall, as I hope to describe and illustrate in this model report.

It is always the case that the models deserve much more of my time and attention that I am able to give, owing to the pace I must adopt in order to cover everything on display. Therefore I apologise in advance if anyone feels my report does not do justice to their individual contribution. I trust you will agree that no report, of any length, can hope to adequately reflect such a magnificent showcase of Meccano modelling. Even so, I will do my best!

As usual it is never easy to decide on a starting point, so I took the path of least resistance and began my information gathering near to where I had unpacked my clipboard and pencil.

Although Stephen Jeavons’ Quartz Clock was described as a work in progress, it had very much the appearance of a highly decorative and complete unit. Using a lid from a Tesco saucepan for its bezel and glass, the clock’s attractively styled case accommodated a contented looking Meccanoman relaxing on a deck chair, complete with parasol. “It’s time to relax“, seemed to be the message!

Richard Payn once again demonstrated his painstaking approach to modelling with a rear single axle unit with walking beams, destined to be used in a future 1/10th scale model of a Scammell Explorer 6x6 Recovery Tractor. Smaller diameter pre-war wheel discs were employed in the walking beams and a non-standard spacing was achieved by crossed short strips. (Shown on the right in this photo)

Colin Reid’s millionaire’s wish list display of obsolete Meccano parts came housed in a wooden attaché style hinged case, which opened up to reveal the contents carefully arranged in two layers within. Among the goodies on show was a length of ladder chain reputed to have been supplied with the Water Motor; many MME parts and badges including a Meccano Guild Recruiting Campaign Medallion. Also to be seen was Colin’s own design Sprocket Chain resetting tool and a base board carrying three small tinplate machine tools, comprising a drop hammer, a mortar mill and stamping hammers.

Inspired by Joe Attard’s model featured in a 2007 Constructor Quarterly, Mark Rolston’s American ten wheel tractor unit, based on a Peterbilt original, proudly carried a prizewinner’s cup on its roof.
The cup was awarded for “Best Model in Show” at the Massam Steam Rally. Powered by an electric motor retrieved from an industrial conveyor belt, Mark’s model featured a four-speed and reverse gearbox with splitter. The sleeper cab was accurately represented, looking quite spacious inside.

As we know, John MacDonald’s models are always built to the most exacting standards, and his working searchlight, on a steerable tracked base, was no exception. Among the model’s many attractive features was a Chinese cuisine stainless steel bowl bought from Wilco acting as the searchlight reflector. The searchlight could be rotated and elevated under power and two burly G.I.s grasping steering wheels, represented its operators.

The inventions devised by Wallace, the human half of the Wallace & Gromit duo, have provided a rich source of ideas for Tony Homden. Combining his sense of humour with modelling expertise, Tony showed two complex “Cracking Contraptions” from a Haynes book. The first of these was a “steam” powered Runabout Wheelchair with elevating seat. This allowed a Wallace soft toy to move about under power, and for its inventor to access a high shelf on which resided his favourite food – cheese. A 4” circular plate acted as a round tray, on which sat a goodly slice of Cheddar complete with knife, along with four Jacobs’ Cream Crackers - represented by canary-yellow 1½” square plates.

Tony’s second model was a “Bowl-O-Matic” which featured another Wallace soft toy, holding a shoulder-mounted bazooka-style device for launching cricket balls. A soft toy version of the ever-patient Gromit, complete with bat, awaited the inevitable googlies.

 

Now we know where all the yellow 12½” strip plates disappeared to!

Many were used in Alan Covel’s large-scale version of the 1899 Renault Type A Voiturette. The original was powered by a 273cc De Dion air-cooled engine situated ahead of the totally enclosed cabin – an advanced feature for its time. Other features included twin carriage lamps, leaf spring suspension and a wire mesh radiator grille complete with Renault badge. There have been cars about this size, actually used on the roads – for example, the 1950s Peel P50.

A beautifully presented version of SML 19a Steam Shovel or Mechanical Digger was shown by John Hornsby. Although John’s model featured a gleaming brass boilered Tyco reproduction of a Meccano pre-war vertical steam engine, the digger was not actually powered from this unit. Instead, to avoid using (and devaluing) this fine steam engine, John opted to install a small electric motor. This was so discreetly situated that it was by no means obvious to the casual onlooker, that it, rather than the Tyco steam engine, was powering the model. A flat battery held under the base of the steam engine, doubled up as a counterweight.

A firm favourite of Märklin model railway collectors, the Swiss Electric articulated loco named the “Krokodil” has long featured in their catalogues. This iconic design dates back to 1919 when 33 were built and delivered between then and 1922. A further 18 were delivered in 1927. Their “bendy” design was necessitated by the tight curves encountered on the St. Gotthard line. The “Krokodil” locomotives continued in service with Swiss railways until the 1970s. In his beautifully modelled 1/16th scale version, John Rogers used green Meccano parts from 1928-32 and earlier nickel plated parts, plus some black Märklin pieces from before 1930.

The expertly upholstered seat on Geoff Devlin’s 1.5” to 1 foot scale “Suzuki TU 250X Super Classic Motor Cycle” looked so comfortable I could, if (a lot) smaller, have almost sat on it myself. Displayed to perfection on a plinth-mounted turntable consisting of a Geared Roller Bearing rotating once in 3½ minutes, the Motor Cycle with its chain drive, shock absorbers and 2” pulleys with tyres, was accompanied by a smaller scale ‘simplicity’ style version in yellow. Geoff’s other model was constructed out of Meccano “Speedplay” components in grey and red, forming a menacing-looking and highly mobile robot powered by two motors with on-board battery boxes.

As Geoff explained in an email to me a few days after the meeting:- “Speed Play Meccano was on the market from 2005 until 2008. Set 9901, the Robot, was for ages 7+ and upwards The moulding dies were produced late 2004 and early 2005. In September of that year the programme was put onto the internet, for modellers to download onto their computers and transfer to a control unit on the back of the Robot. This controlled the three electric motors giving 'Sound and Movements'. ie the arms and wheels moved, rushing round the floor.

The system used a type of 'Rawlplug' which held two or more plastic pieces together by putting in a self tapping screw. The main weakness was that many children tended to over tighten the screws which distorted the plugs. This made dismantling very difficult. The sets were withdrawn in 2008 and replaced by the 'SPYKEE' ready made Robots in 2008.”

An attractive combination of blue and nickel (or zinc) colours next caught my eye, in the form of Sid Beckett’s version of SML 17 Planing Machine. This was equipped for demonstration purposes with a small electric motor drawing its power from an adjacent battery pack.

Tim Martin showed a mini-exhibition of his own with a variety of seven very different models including a ship in a (milk) bottle. Tim suggested this could be called a ‘Milk Float’?

 

The force of gravity was cleverly utilised in a “Gravity One-way Drive”, in which the direction the handle was turned, determined whether sliding rods held in a cage on its shaft, engaged and drove the adjacent wheel, or did not.

Inspired by a popular puzzle and from calculations attributed to “Dudenay’s equilateral triangle to square geometric dissection”, the “Square Triangle” could be assembled in two ways to form either of the two shapes.

 

There is no doubt in my mind that “Meccano Rocks” and Tim’s next model, carrying that proud title, amply demonstrated that fact. This consisted of a delicately balanced and constantly oscillating “pendulum” formed from a toolbox hammer and a 12” ruler, receiving intermittent re-energising ‘kicks’ from a 12v solenoid.

Ebenezer Scrooge would have been proud of this one; a toilet roll dispenser with an analogue decade counter, which keeps a running total of the sheets used. In these times of cutbacks, such a device would find a ready market in homes and workplaces throughout the nation. The readings from the meter could be recorded at the end of each day, and entered into a spreadsheet. This would allow statistical analysis to take place, correlated to specific events such as family visits to the curry house the previous evening, or the office party during which those dodgy meat pies were served.

As a final gesture towards the ultimate lavatorial experience, Tim incorporated a Boiler End ‘bell’ which sounded its sonorous note whenever another sheet was dispensed; thus alerting one’s colleagues or other family members as to who the heavy users are.

Moving on from the miserly to the hedonistic, Tim demonstrated a motorised ‘Lazy Susan’ Fruit Bowl Turntable which incorporated a three speed system to “ensure that the fruit bowl is positionally optimised to facilitate fruit removal.” This being the de-luxe version, it had a twin-differential automatic-type gearbox with worm/nut control. The fruit bowl contained a selection of non-Meccano (real) fruit which looked so fresh that it could not possibly have been pre-war!

Tim’s seventh model was a gear teeth counter. With the pointer zeroed. the number of teeth on any gear wheel can be counted by mounting it on the axle behind the dial. The motor is then started and when it stops, the needle points to the appropriate number.

Tom McCallum showed a board-mounted Horizontal Steam Engine in red/green parts. This model could be actuated pressing a button on the front, thereby making it ideal for exhibition purposes.

 

Hugh Doody showed a small Gantry Crane made largely from yellow/zinc parts, and a neatly constructed “Red Arrows” plane,

Sir Hiram Maxim invented the ‘Captive Flying Machine’ amusement park ride for which he is recognised in Meccano literature. However, the same man also invented the machine gun which also has been represented, for example as model 6:12 in the 1928 outfits 4-7 manual. Another larger version was described as a set 7 model in the 1938 Outfits 7/8 manual, and this formed the basis for Clive Kingston’s version in the blue/gold colour scheme of that time. Using Spring Clips as ‘ammunition’ the model could be rapid-fired by turning a crank. As these clips are rarely all recovered afterwards, a plentiful supply would be helpful in maintaining a constant ‘rate of fire’.

Meccano’s window display models have always attracted attention due to their movement and colour. In this respect Jim Gamble’s restored Helicopter scored highly on both counts, all the more for being recently and carefully restored from a rather battered and care-worn original. With its gleaming red and green parts, shiny brassware and eye-catching illuminated base, the helicopter’s now working rotor and stabiliser added the finishing touches to a fine restoration.

Howard Somerville showed a model of the complex Tumbling-Beam Engine, in red/green/zinc and standing on a yellow base. The original was patented by Norman Wheeler in 1867 and offered an advantage in size compared to other engines offering similar power. However, it was never put into production owing to its greater complexity increasing manufacturing costs, and its non-compound cylinders and slide valves being less efficient than conventional designs.

In operation, Howard’s model was a delight to behold, with its complex linkages operating smoothly and offering a glimpse into what might have been, if Norman Wheeler’s design had been produced.

A large scale version, in red and green parts, of a WW2 Canadian Military Pattern 4WD Army Truck was shown by Geoff Burgess. Among the model’s many features were a clutch, 4-speed & reverse gearbox, a two-speed transfer box, internal expanding brakes at the rear operated by handbrake or foot pedal, and an additional 4:1 reduction in both axles using 13 and 26 tooth gears. Exterior features included opening cab doors and roof, big heavy-duty tyres on built-up hubs, a two-part split hinged windscreen, a beautifully crafted radiator grille and a host of details including windscreen wipers, rear view mirrors and even mudflaps. A small electric motor concealed within the engine unit, provided ample power for demonstration purposes.

It’s not often we see two articulated locomotives displayed at the same time by the same modeller, but David Hobson did just that with his Shay narrow-gauge loco built with Stokys, and a Climax Class “A” loco in Meccano. Both models had notable levels of detail resulting in an imposing and realistic appearance. The brass and aluminium Stokys parts lent the Shay an impression of machine-like efficiency, while the red and green parts of the Climax gave it that intangible ‘Je ne sais quoi’ quality of all similarly finished Meccano constructions.

A brace of Meccanographs were shown by John Bland. The first was inspired by an Eric Baldwin design which was featured in the April 1991 Midlands Meccano Guild Gazette. This was described by John as, “Very complicated with various hole settings.” The second Meccanograph came from a 1932 design which John had built many years ago, and described by him as, “Simple but works.”

Meccano’s infra-red system has its limitations when used with wheeled models, as I have discovered for myself; but for stationary models it offers many advantages, as was proven by Brian Compton’s rail-carriage mounted version of Bert Love’s Level Luffing Crane, which was featured in his ‘Meccano Constructor’s Guide’. Four 12v DC motors separately controlled the movements of the crane, with three being programmed to use a ‘soft-start/stop’ feature to minimise juddering. As it must always be in line of sight with the (TV remote-control) transmitter, the infra-red receiver was installed into the non-rotating carriage of the crane, with slip rings carrying the electrical control up to the rotating column. Operating with watch-like precision, the crane amply demonstrated the advantages of level-luffing whilst requiring Brian only to press a few buttons on his TV remote.

“This is its final incarnation!” said John Reid, while I was examining his 1/10 scale version of a 1926 Threshing Machine. Accordingly, it was worth all the closer a look as it must be one of the best of its type I’ve seen. Built to complement the Meccano outfit 10 Combine Harvester, the Threshing Machine was powered by an electric motor concealed in the Number 1 fan, located between the main frames just forward of the rear axle. The model is to remain in skeletal form to show the relationship and workings of the many individual components which go to make up a threshing machine. Standing nearby and to the same 1/10 scale, was a ‘Man with Flail’ described as ‘The forerunner of the threshing machine and the combined harvester.’ The flail, consisting of two pieces of wood fastened loosely together, was used to separate the grains or seeds from their husks or pods, in a labour-intensive operation of 30 to 40 blows per minute. John’s highly detailed version depicted a well-built Meccanoman with stout arms made from couplings, a flail made from two loosely joined axle rods and ... fashionable patterned socks, formed from blue/gold hatched flexible plates!

John also showed a large scale version of a 7”/7 tons R.M.L. Gun on Moncrieff Carriage – 1888. This gun was intended for shore-based defensive installations and its design allowed for the force of the gun’s recoil to be stored by raising a counterweight, which is then used for raising the gun from its lowered (loading) position under a solid protective parapet, back up to its elevated firing position. John’s model, although stated to be a work in progress, was substantially complete with only a few minor details yet to be added.

Regular exhibitor Paul Hubbard showed his 48” diameter Fairground Roundabout which is so big that a full circle of 24 Flanged Sector Plates forms only the inside half of the total deck area. As with the original version, Paul’s roundabout was well supplied with kit-based transport-related models including Red Arrows’ jets and quad bikes.

“I’ve spotted the Meccano part!” exclaimed Richard Payn,

with a note of triumph, after examining the radiator grille of the American style car I (Michael Walker) had on display. Of course I had to laugh, as its body shell was made up largely of Märklin and Metallus, plus a few repro and compatible parts. As such it was very much a product of today’s wide range of parts sources. Radio-controlled and powered by a brushless motor, the car can travel at a high speed, free of trailing wires, where conditions permit. Other features include ten LED lights, soft wallowy suspension, tyres of realistic profile and tread pattern, and a redesigned floor pan allowing for a deeper passenger compartment whilst retaining the car’s low profile.

The post-war series of Meccano manuals have long been a favourite on account of the quality and variety of models described, and John Palmer displayed a slightly less well-known model from the Set 6 book, the Electric Articulated Lorry, model 6:12. John’s version was in the mid red and green colour scheme of the time, with flexible plates having round end-holes.

Roger Burton’s 0-4-0 Narrow Gauge Loco was described in an article by Mike Beadman in the Sheffield Meccano Guild Circular of September 1988. It was a delight to the eye with its neat red and green parts, except for the smokebox which was in black. With details such as bright brass couplings for the tall smoke stack and conveniently located handrails, the model traversed a short length of track, powered by an electric motor.

Roger Marriott’s ‘O’ Gauge version of the Fishguard 40-ton Block-Setting Titan Crane more accurately represented the dimensions of the prototype, than the model described in Super Model Leaflet 4. This was achieved by careful reference to the engineering drawings from the contemporary publication, “Engineering”. Roger’s model travelled in prototypical fashion on 32 flanged wheels on two sets of rails, with slewing effected by pinion gearing to a large circular rack/ring allowing for one revolution in three minutes. Two hoist speeds are provided as in the prototype. A third set of Hornby rails carried a fine Hornby 4-4-4 tank locomotive, which gave a good impression of the overall scale of Roger’s model.

A “Snow Cat” or, more precisely, a Swedish design Hagglunds BV206 based on an original by Stefan Tokarski, was shown by Dave Phillips. This two-part vehicle looked as though it was made of new components, but in fact all the red and green pieces had been refurbished to a very high standard by Dave. Powered by a Marx Hectaperm motor drawing 4 amps on full load, the model was powered by a rechargeable battery and incorporated spur gear differentials in both units.

The Ruston Hornsby No. 300 Dragline by Ken Senar was among the larger models on display, and was a rebuild of SML27; a “rather spindly” model of the original, depicted in the pre-war Meccano Book of Engineering. Use of the wider range of parts presently available allowed Ken to incorporate an increased level of detail in an altogether more soundly constructed version. Ken also pointed out that apart from electrical items, cord, and the use of two large axle system components just for appearance, only today’s accepted parts had been used without mutilation, filing or panel beating. For further details of this model please refer to the comprehensive write-up in the MMG Bulletin Supplement published September 2012.

Ken’s other large construction was a French Knitting Machine, reflecting his other long-standing hobby.
This had been designed, constructed and brought to its present state since April 2012. The only non-Meccano parts in this machine were the four latch hooks, the electrics and the wool. The output of this complex and beautifully presented machine was a seemingly endless knitted ‘rope’ which could then be formed into useful items including place mats, tea cosies and even clothing accessories.

In my distant past I seem to recall making a similar product using a wooden bobbin with four headless pins around the hole at one end. We called it ‘corkwork’, (I think).

Terry Wilkes succeeded where, many years ago, I had failed. This was in building the Outfit 8 Conveyancer, the design of which I could never translate into a finished model, largely because I could not make sense of what it was, or even what it did. There were of course no accompanying written instructions so. like everyone else, I was left to scratch my head in puzzlement. Of course since then I have been able to discover more about this container-handling machine, and although Terry’s wasn’t the first completed model I’d seen, it was very well built in yellow and blue parts.

Terry’s next model again emanated from the Set 8 model book, and this was the Breakdown Lorry. Again in predominantly blue and yellow parts, this effectively captured the imposing appearance of the original.

 

Another model from the set 8 manual, but this time from the earlier post-war series, was the Road Sweeper. This example was built in correct period red and green parts by Michael Bent. With its short wheelbase creating quite a long ‘overhang’ at the front, this must be one of the most distinctively shaped wheeled models of that era.

One of my favourite pictures of any Meccano model, is that of the Tower Crane from the 1950s Models of the Month (M.O.M.) series, depicted on the front cover of a 1961 products leaflet. Mei Jones’ version was all the more authentic for being presented in red and green which was the colour scheme at that time. Mei also showed a ‘Road Roller with a difference’ from the July 1969 MM, plus another model from the same magazine, a commuter mini car, and “Something for the Coronation Year for the over 60s Club”; the Sports Car model 4:17 from 1953. This well-proportioned model has become something of a classic and Mei’s version was indeed resplendent, with its flawless red and green bodywork and the correct tinplate road wheels, part 187.

Terry Pettitt’s models always demonstrate a high standard of modelling expertise, and his AEC Mammoth Major lorry, originally built 15 years ago, was no exception. This four-axle 12 wheel flatbed was notable for many reasons, including its red and green colour scheme and a beautifully made radiator grill with two pawls without boss forming the AEC motif at the top. Terry’s second construction was of a Walking Beam Rear Axle, as used on Scammell and Thorneycroft vehicles.

Imagine a Trevithick loco but without wheels, mounted on a plinth, and you have Brian Edwards’ version of the Trevithick High Pressure Steam Dredger Engine of 1806. As with the locomotive, this engine was a delight to see in operation, with its large flywheel deeply inset into the base of the unit.

Moving on some 130 years brings us to the heyday of Brian’s second large construction, a Handley Page Hannibal 4-engined air liner of the 1930s. This large unequal-span biplane could carry 38 passengers and was the first air liner to have a totally enclosed crew compartment.

Tony Knowles showed three models from “other constructional systems”, the first of which was a Tractor in yellow and red made from 1990s German Trix.

The second was of a threshing Machine made from red and green Tekno, a Danish system compatible with Trix, which continued into the 1970s.

The third was a ‘Golden Hind’ sailing ship made from pre-war Australian “Ezy-Bilt” parts. This last system was very similar to Meccano and the ‘Golden Hind’ could easily have passed for a Meccano model. To add to the ‘Hind’s’ evocative appearance, Tony rigged up some sails, each carrying motifs from that great age of discovery.

Geoff and Elizabeth Wright came to the meeting, travelling for the most part by rail, carrying Geoff’s model of the ‘Thames Valley’ Leyland TD1 double-deck bus. Built from the contents of a Set 9, the bus is one of a series built by Geoff, all with highly realistic proportions and to the highest standards of modelling. This particular type, the TD1, was noteworthy for its lower overall height, making it possible for the prototypes to go under bridges that were too low for other, taller types.

Roger Auger brought a selection of wheeled models including a blue/gold Set 7 Amey Lorry Stake Truck built from a fire-damaged outfit 9/9a. Other models included an improved 8701 kit radio-controlled 6-wheel truck; the 8700 kit 4x4 and the 8950 ‘Tuning’ kit car.

Roy Whitehouse’s blue/gold Fire Engine from the Set 8 manual was one more demonstration of how good that colour scheme looks when the parts are in good condition, or restored. With a design very redolent of its time, having prominent mudguards, running boards and no roof, the model created an authentic impression of its prototype. Also shown by Roy was a beautifully restored outfit 8 of the same vintage. This had two trays of parts in perfect condition and carried a very high ‘maybe one day’ factor – at least so far as I was concerned!

George Illingworth can always be relied upon to represent the fire-fighting profession, and on this occasion a charmingly executed 1/12 scale 1929 Morris Eight Fire Engine did sterling service. The prototype, a heavily adapted but still recognisably a Morris car, was used by the Morris Motors Cowley Works Fire Brigade. This was augmented by a 1928 Dennis No. 1 Trailer Pump, to the same scale, carrying a wealth of detail and running on 1½” pulleys with tyres.

Purposeful’ and ‘impressive’, were two words which immediately came to mind when viewing

Terry Allen’s Fowler ‘Superba’ Type 30 Ploughing Engine in gleaming nickel/brass finish. With exquisitely-wrought detailing throughout, this was surely one of the most accurate models of its type I have seen.

 

The Touring Coach, Model 8 from the post-war outfit 9 book, was shown by Mike Burgess. In the contemporary red/green finish, the bus sported seats made instead from blue/gold hatched flexible plates, lending that luxury look to a finelyproportioned outline.

Mike had three other small models including a superb Simplicity Dragline.

 

 

Three boxed and strung French Sets 0, 3 & 7 were shown by Richard Gilbert, and

Ken Wright brought his “TinTin” Float Plane in yellow parts, derived from the recent movie.

 

 

A simple Martian Lunarium was displayed by John Armstrong. Based on a design using only seven gears, by John Nuttall and Pat Briggs , the model demonstrated the motion of Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos, in their near-circular orbits around ‘the red planet’. Several other orreries were shown by John as well as two Decimal counters.

With a meeting as choc-full of goodies as this was, any report can only attempt to do justice to the quality and variety of Meccano excellence on display. Therefore, as always, I apologise to members for any of their models I may have overlooked.

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