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Midlands Meccano Guild

(Author: Michael Walker)

93rd Model Report

 Midlands Meccano Guild
Model Report
93rd Meeting - Saturday 12th October 2013
Michael J. Walker


Autumn weather had definitely set in as members’ cars and vans rolled into the car park at Baginton Village Hall, for the Guild’s 93rd Meeting. Precious Meccano models were shielded against the light but persistent rain, as they were carefully transferred from the many vehicles and on to the black cloth-covered tables in the warm and well lit hall. Thankfully, any disappointment felt with the weather outside, was as usual dispelled inside, with the rapidly expanding array of delights on view as covers were removed one by one from an increasingly splendid show of Meccano constructions.

One of the early arrivals was Tony Homden with his first ever rail or tramway model. Displaying Tony’s usual ‘off the beaten track’ choice of subject, this was indeed a good example. Many of our generation will, as children, have read the famous ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ books by the Revd. W. Audrey, in which a sweet character by the name of Toby is rescued from an uncertain fate. Although having the outward appearance of a short electric tramcar, with its cowcatchers and totally enclosed firebox and running gear, the prototype was in fact a steam locomotive in disguise. Part of the 1887 Wisbech Tramway which operated along the branch line to the village of Upwell, the train ran alongside public roads with mostly horse drawn traffic, so the ‘disguise’ was part of measures taken to avoid frightening the animals. Besides the Toby locomotive, Tony’s display included some of the quirky rolling stock it pulled, including a parcel van (containing the model’s 12v battery); a passenger coach with open platforms at each end, and a luggage/brake van with hand operated four wheel braking. The whole train ran happily back and forth all day on a short length of track, with automatic reversing switches acting upon the Decaperm motor providing the motive power, concealed inside the loco.

At first glance appearing identical, the two Scammell recovery tractors built in gleaming red and green parts by John Hornsby and red and zinc by Richard Payn, differed very much in detail. Richard’s was based on the Scammell Explorer with 6 wheel drive. Powered by two small 6v Faulhaber motors, it featured a vertical winch, the cable of which could be fed out through the front or rear of the chassis. The famous walking beam suspension on the rear axle was accurately reproduced, with no loading on the half shaft. The extending jib recovery crane was equipped with its own separate forward & reverse gearbox for the winding drum.

John Hornsby’s Scammell was based on the 6x4 Pioneer, and proudly carried his late father’s REME cap badge on its fully detailed radiator, where in my estimation, it looked very appropriate. Scammell’s three-point suspension arrangement was accurately modelled, with a u-shaped yoke at the front to accommodate the sump of the prototype’s engine. The vertical winch was equipped with a laying-on mechanism, to enable neat reeving and hence optimum capacity of the cable. A novel detail was the use of 4mm welding rods (easily curved) to support the front mudguards.

The action and detail of both these Scammell models was a joy to behold, a testament to the skills of their builders who co-operated throughout by exchanging plans and ideas, to their mutual benefit.

A further insight into Scammell’s rugged chassis design was provided by Geoffrey Burgess, with his partly constructed model of a post-war civilian use Scammell ‘Mountaineer’. Massive 1½” x ½” ‘U’ section girders forming the main chassis members supported a finely detailed radiator, the all-important winch drum, and both axles with their heavy duty differentials, sturdy suspension arrangements and all-terrain tyres.

There is no doubt that “the Scammell legend lives on” in the work of these three Meccano modellers!

Richard Gilbert provided much interest with his display of two 1932 Meccano 2A sets; except that one of them was not made in 1932, but twenty years later, in 1952. Almost identical to its 1932 equivalent, the 1952 version was made in Spain, and was apparently available in very similar form right up until 1964. The range extended to other outfits, with the implication that the second hand market in Spain, could be a veritable time-warp of fascination for anyone interested in obtaining original outfits with the equivalent of pre-war contents.

Paul Hubbard is so keen on Meccano modelling that he routinely brings his partly built constructions in order to continue working on them, right in the middle of the hall. On this occasion he could be seen busily progressing with his SML Warehouse model, allowing others to observe it being assembled in expert fashion.

Brian Compton’s Coal Loader/Unloader was one of the ‘greatest hits’ at the 2012 Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition, attracting a great deal of attention from fascinated onlookers. On this occasion the model performed just as smoothly, with its many handling procedures proving an irresistible draw.

Mark Rolston’s American Peterbilt 10 wheel tractor made an impressive showing, with its recently completed log trailer in tow. The sleeper cab is now equipped with comfortable furnishings, which in the prototype includes a wall mounted TV – making it quite a home from home on those long road trips. Its compact but powerful 12v motor had formerly been employed on a ‘Colgate’ production line but had been discarded during routine maintenance. It was still full of life though, and had found a new function concealed inside the simulated engine block, under the ‘hood’ of Mark’s Peterbilt.

At the forefront of modern exploration is NASA’s ‘Curiosity Rover’, which was successfully landed on the surface of Mars in August 2012. The mobile laboratory has since then, trundled considerable distances across the red planet’s rocky surface, in a painstaking study of its geology and climate. The prototype’s 29 separate motors were not reproduced in Keith Way’s detailed model, but most of the other features were. These included various antennae, sensors, scoops, and a complex interlinked six-wheel suspension arrangement, enabling ‘Curiosity’ to make steady progress, even over quite formidable obstacles.

Aircraft have traditionally provided a rich source of inspiration for Meccano models, and many fine constructions have graced the history of our hobby. One of the early Meccano versions of the 1909 Blériot Type XI monoplane was shown by Roger Marriott. In authentic nickel plated parts, and with an attractive stringing layout also lending structural strength, the model accurately emulated the version depicted on the cover of many early Meccano manuals. Continuing the aircraft theme, Roger showed a rotating aeroplanes dealer display model. Four biplanes in different colour schemes, all built from the pre-war No. 1 Aeroplane Constructor sets, provided a visual treat as they ‘flew’ alternately ascending and descending, around the central tower. An illuminated base attracted more attention and the whole structure was finished in blue plates and gleaming gold girders and strips.

Dave Phillips’ Steam Crawler in red and green displayed many authentic details, including finely proportioned coal pieces in the hopper and a flywheel made from a Mamod steam roller back wheel. Bearing the respected name of Hornsby, the prototype’s crawler tracks enabled it to proceed over difficult terrain, and steering could be effected by stopping one or the other track independently. Dave’s version incorporated a powerful 12v motor, which was purchased from Mike Rhoades.

“One of the most basic designs I have ever built!”

was one of George Illingworth’s comments, when referring to his RAF Crossley Q-type Foam/CO2 Tender from 1941. Built to 1/12 scale, George’s model displayed his usual attention to detail and innovative use of recently introduced Meccano parts. The prototype’s basic outline was obvious, with its drab army green colour scheme, no roof, hardly any bodywork and only enough chassis to carry the large canister of foam or CO2, quickly to the fire. Still, it did the job back in those dark days of WW2, and no doubt many a brave flier trapped in a crashed aircraft, owed his life to its prompt arrival on the scene.

Moving on in time to 1969, George’s second model was based on the Merryweather Marquis Pump Unit, which was available in a Dinky Toys version during the 1970s. Again to 1/12 scale, the model sported a bright yellow livery which contrasted well with the gleaming zinc plated ladders, radiator grille, bumpers and other fittings. The cab interior had a matt grey engine cover which again looked well alongside the yellow bodywork.

Meccano enthusiasts aim for the highest possible standard of construction in all their models,

and it was this sense of peerless build quality which characterised the output of theformer Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company, which was taken over by British Leyland in 1983. Dating from 1950, the prototype for Brian Edwards’ 31 seat coach exemplified the finest traditions of craftsmanship in its construction, with its ash frame being labour intensively and exactingly contoured, much in the way that Morgan sports cars are today. No less painstaking in his own pursuit of excellence, Brian’s model, despite using (in his own words) “all orthodox stuff!”, displayed much of his own advanced skill. This was seen in the model’s beautifully smooth outline, sliding side door, neatly engineered mechanicals and cleverly executed details, such as the use of pawls without boss to finish the curve of the coachline on each side, parallel to the ‘dip’ in the front side windows.

Geoff Wright brought along his fine Leyland TD1 double deck bus, which was the deserving subject of a full constructional feature in the recent special 100th issue of Constructor Quarterly. A lifelong bus enthusiast, Geoff has built many excellent examples of these hard-worked vehicles, with every one capturing the unique atmosphere of the prototype.

Now in the process of construction is his 1:14 scale London Transport Interstation ‘C’ motor coach, with its distinctive elevated rear observation deck, hinged rear luggage doors and a sliding side door. The central portion of a crank shaft part 134, neatly forms the handle for this sliding door.

Roger Auger showed three models which looked as though they had just been made out of shiny, brand new parts. In fact all the parts had been recovered from a blue/gold No. 10 set which was damaged in a fire, and reconditioned to such a high standard they were indistinguishable from new. A testament indeed to Roger’s skill. The models themselves comprised a London Taxi in black/silver from the 1954-61 Outfit 7 instructions manual, a Steam Wagon from the earlier Outfit 8 manual, and a set 7 Army Lorry towing a trailer loaded with beer kegs; enough (says Roger) even for an Aussie BBQ!

Michael Bent brought two models in red and green; an airfield tractor and a red/green version of the Taxi from the 1954-61 Outfit 7 manual.

Sid Beckett exhibited his version of Pat Briggs’ Nuremberg Clock, in an eye-catching colour combination of Binns Road dark blue, mustard yellow and zinc. Accompanying this was his version of Bert Love’s Dentist’s chair, in yellow and zinc parts. A boiler end with a 142c rim made a convincing rinse bowl, and a length of spring cord represented the dreaded drill!

A comparatively recent returnee to his childhood Meccano hobby, Hamish Ross chose to build the attractive Liner model from the 1938 Outfit 6 manual. As many may already be aware, the original manual version was not equipped with a motor or even wheels, and so constituted a static display model when completed. Not content with this state of affairs, Hamish incorporated not just wheels, motor and a battery, but infra red control also. To retain the outline of the original, Hamish decided that all this equipment would have to fit within the model’s 3½” wide hull. As one can imagine, this was a considerable challenge, but Hamish succeeded so well that, from the outside, it is impossible to tell that the model is motorised, let alone carrying its own battery and controlled by infra-red. The sensor for the infra-red control is so discreetly hidden under the overhanging bridge superstructure, that it can only be seen by the most determined observer. At a touch of the remote control, the Liner makes stately progress, evoking memories from a long-lost age of glamorous transportation.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Hamish arranged to photograph his model so the resulting picture would be identical in angle and perspective, to the original manual illustration. For many technological reasons this must have been difficult, not least when taking into account the likely disparity in focal length of lenses used between the original camera in the 1930s, and Hamish’s modern equipment. Nevertheless, success was achieved, and Hamish proudly printed a photograph of his Liner model to stand comparison with the original manual illustration. So confident was he that the two pictures were in every particular the same, (apart from the new one being in colour, of course), that he confidently asked a friend, Jane Young, to search in vain for any discrepancy. Guess what? She pointed out that the two 2½” strips at the prow of the deck, were in Hamish’s model, overlapped the wrong way!

Sorry about that Hamish, but all Meccanomen know we can’t ever win when the ladies get involved!

John and Cynthia MacDonald did not bring a model with them on this occasion, but of course they were no less welcome for that. Their keen interest in all the models, plus their cheery demeanour and a smile for everyone, were as well received as any supermodel would have been.

It’s not often I get drawn into discussions about art, but Terry Allen’s progress with his Bugatti is like watching Leonardo working on the Mona Lisa, it just gets better all the time! Reminiscent of motoring’s golden era when the roads were empty and cars had personality, Terry’s partly built Type 57 SC Atlantic takes Meccano modelling into the realm of sculpture, with its exquisitely rendered sweeping outline suggesting the very summit of style, elegance and speed. Recent additions include windscreen wipers, which actually work and are mounted at the top of the windscreen. Apparently only three Bugatti Atlantics were built, of which only one survives today.

Terry Pettitt brought along a beautifully made model of a Showman’s Traction Engine which was built by the late Dennis Perkins. Displaying the highest standards of construction, the model looked so realistic that when I first saw it I wondered if it was actually made of Meccano. Terry’s own Leyland Martian front and rear axle assemblies were no less impressive though, as his usual top quality modelling standards were evident throughout.

Michael Walker (that’s me) brought along a rebuild of a Maserati Khamsin model which was originally constructed in 1979. The rebuild incorporates a number of improvements including proportional radio control, allowing the car to be steered, and run at any speed, even from the other end of the hall. The rebuild originally incorporated Meccano infra-red control components, but these proved to be impractical in a fast-travelling model and so had to be replaced. From this experience I concluded that infra-red control is better suited to static or slow-moving models.

Supermodel 11a Horizontal Steam Engine was given a modern interpretation by David Hobson, who modified it for pneumatic operation using components from the German Orsta Modelltechnik system. Two more horizontal steam engines were shown by David, one of which was built from brilliantly shiny Eitech components. As a complete contrast David also showed his early Japanese clock with double verge and foliot escapements. The fascinating mechanism in the clock allowed for the different lengths of daytime and night time hours, which were a feature of Japanese time keeping before 1874.

Colin Reid brought some of his original Meccano, Märklin and Bing vertical steam engines, which made a distinctive display with their gleaming cylinders and tall chimneys. The earlier examples showed high standards of workmanship which must have made them very expensive toys in the early 20th century, and of course no less valuable today as collectors’ items.

Jim Gamble showed a beautifully restored and smoothly operating dealer’s window

display model on an illuminated plinth. The subject was one not often seen; a platen printing press similar to the one featured on page 560 of the October 1955 Meccano Magazine. Capable of actual printing using rubber type from the former ‘John Bull’ outfits or similar, its action was compact yet entertaining, but in a less overtly showy way than some other dealer models. Continuing the printing theme, Jim displayed a collection of advertising blocks which were loaned out from Binns Road in support of dealers’ local newspaper publicity initiatives.

Scoring a very high rarity and ‘envy’ factor was Tom McCallum’s Outfit 9, which looked as if it had just arrived through a time warp from 70 years ago. The blue and gold finish looks stunning in good condition, and this outfit had everything needed to make it perfect, including original instructions manuals and small parts boxes. Even the clockwork motor had a cardboard ring around its winding shaft, and the whole kit was stored most elegantly in its original green painted wooden chest. The ‘wow’ factor continued with Tom’s Lifting Shovel in gleaming mid-red and green from the Set 10 leaflet 6, incorporating subtle modifications which improved the model’s operation without detracting from its original purposeful appearance.

“No-one knows more than Ken about Welsh railways!”

was the well justified accolade bestowed during the model tour upon Ken Wright, who brought along his fine 1:12 scale model of “Blanche”; a distinctive Hunslet 0-4-0 locomotive from the Festiniog Railway. Running smoothly on realistic ‘G’ gauge track, the loco was crewed by two highly competent-looking engineers suitably clad in blue overalls. Made from factory mint condition red and green parts, the model displayed exquisite detailing including decoratively edged porthole windows, finely crafted handrails and a gleaming brass dome.

To find Mick Burgess’ models we never have to look further than the top of the piano,

because this is the space that Mick has made very much his own, and why not? Among the goodies on show this time were the Lorry, model 6.8 from the 1954-61 series. Probably based on the Leyland Comet, it carried a blue/gold Sports Car from the pre-war Outfit 4. This latter model differed from the manual version in having working steering and being powered by a ‘Magic’ motor. Shorter and lower than the original version, the car was partly constructed from pre-used damaged flexible plates that were cleaned, cut up and shaped as required. This was certainly preferable to scrapping the parts, which would otherwise have been their fate.

Mick’s improved Double Deck Bus, model 22 from the 1954-61 outfit 7 manual,

looked very much the part with its detailed interior including seats and a stairway. The forward elevation of the bus was also modified to give less of an incline to the upper deck frontage, increasing realism. Other models by Mick included an Army Lorry inspired by a 1940 Meccano Magazine project, and a Searchlight which was originally featured in the October 1938 MM and again in December 1957. Both these military models were built using 1970s Army and Combat Multikit parts.

Alan Covel impressed his audience once again, this time with a 1:2 scale model of the Dutch ‘Pal-V’, Flying Car. The prototype is a two-seat hybrid car and gyroplane, using a non-powered auto-rotating rotor to generate lift. A foldable push propeller on the back gives an air speed of up to 110 mph, with a range of up to 315 miles. On land, drive to the two rear wheels allows for a similar top speed and up to 750 miles range. Alan’s 60” x 19” version of this innovative vehicle incorporated the long rotor and push propeller blades of the original, and the cockpit outline showed Alan’s usual attention to detail.

Tony Wakefield’s 1:4.4 version of the iconic Mini 1275 S looked almost ready to

drive away, such was the level of detail built in to his much admired model. With hinged foot pedals for the clutch, brake and accelerator, a realistically modelled unitary body and transversely mounted engine, the plinth-mounted construction reproduced every complex curve of the original’s instantly recognisable outline. Recent enhancements include a cooling fan that now spins, and the engine can now be quickly removed in order to better show the additional engine bay detail.

Mid-red/green parts were used to tasteful visual effect in Roy Whitehouse’s model of a single-cylinder Metropolitan Vickers Gas Engine, built from an original design by Terry Pettitt. Curved strips resprayed in red were employed as the spokes in the two flywheels, making for an elegant colour contrast with the resprayed green plates used in the main structure and cylinder. Intriguing detail in plenty was to be found, including ‘grease cups’ made from Chimney Adaptors sitting neatly upside down inside ¾” Flanged Wheels, highly effective gold lettering on the blue base plinth and one of the smallest centrifugal governors I’ve seen.

Like many Meccano modellers I have little knowledge of Meccano’s 1964-67 ‘Cliki’ brick building toy, so it was all the more interesting to see Geoff Devlin’s construction of a small house, made with plastic snap-together parts from from the smallest set, the C1. Competing with Airfix’s ‘Betta Bilda’ and the rapidly expanding Lego system, ‘Cliki’ had an uphill struggle from the start with its half-hearted marketing; reflecting perhaps, Meccano’s own pessimistic outlook for Bayko’s successor. Nevertheless, Geoff’s display gave us all an idea of what was on offer at the time, making for an interesting sideline in the Binns Road story. Two ‘Speedplay’ models consisting of a motorcycle and a crane, developed and updated Geoff’s ‘plastic from Meccano’ theme.

The ever-popular Railway Service Crane from the Outfit 10.1 leaflet was given a welcome showing by its builder, Terry Wilkes. Although at first intending to build the model exactly according to the instructions, Terry identified certain flaws in the design as he progressed, and made discreet modifications to address them without changing the model’s unique character. One of the changes was to the front of the cab roof, which in Terry’s version has an aperture or ‘cutout’ into which the jib and hoist ropes can descend when the crane is being configured for its travelling mode. Despite this and other modifications, Terry assured me that the model is still within the scope of a 1970s Set 10 – except for the motors, wheels and a home-made hook.

Alan Scargill has a lot of flanged sector plates, or rather, he did have a lot, because

he used fifty of them to make his eye-catching Water Wheel ‘fun’ model, with forty eight of them, painted black, making up the wheel itself. The supersized list of parts continued with eighty stepped curved strips, forty eight semi-circular plates and twenty four 3½” x 2½” flanged plates being required to complete the wheel alone. This revolved in a stately manner, driving a pair of flour grinding wheels at the base below. The overall red, green and black colour combination, plus the wheel’s almost sunflower appearance, combined to create a unique visual effect that could not be overlooked.

HMS Windsor, or Destroyer D42, was launched in 1918 and not broken up until 1949. During the latter part of its life the gallant ship built up a long and proud service record on convoy and other arduous duties during WW2. It was this particular vessel that formed the subject for model 20 in the pre-war Outfit 9 instructions manual, and which John Rogers reproduced in original blue and gold parts of the period. In his notes John commented that “the model represents the profile quite well, but the tapered design of the plan view of the hull differs from the prototype. However, it is a model which is unusually accurate - from any period of Meccano.” I am sure all would agree that his model captured the grim and purposeful outline of the original very well indeed.

10 mm hole pitch systems seem more prevalent these days, with Eitech,Merkur, Nuts

& Bolts and other brands offering cheap kits in pound stores and other outlets. It was not until I saw the unpowered 1:16 scale Axion 850 Tractor built using German Tronico components and brought in by Tony Knowles, that I became aware of that system’s innovation – square holes! The model itself was of a modern outline tractor with big chunky wheels and a roofed cab, and well detailed too, especially considering its size.

I conclude my report with the usual apology for anything that I may have missed, on account of the large number of models on display, and as always, too little time in which to gather the details.






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