Sunday, 23 October 2016

Big Wheel in action at HTMC meeting

Yesterday we were at the Holy Trinity Meccano Club (HTMC) meeting at Hildenborough in Kent. While we were there, we had a go at videoing the Big Wheel running using Sue's compact camera. I am not versed in the art of video so this rather poor 56 seconds is the result. At least it does show the model running reasonably slowly, and the official fireman/cameraman in action.

There was a lot of interest in the smell! As soon as the engine was fired up it drew a small crowd of People, most of whom were revelling in nostalgia for a bygone age of meths fired steam toys, Sue said it reminded her of Tilly lamps (!? - She obviously didn't have a steam engine as a kid)  and shockingly there was a bloke in his forties who asked what the smell was! Blimey, I must be getting old!

The model was fired up several times during the meeting and once I had straightened out the chain, that had become twisted during transportation, it ran perfectly smoothly without incident.


Friday, 21 October 2016

The finished Big Wheel

Following on from our last two posts, we made it! The big wheel is finished and has been fired up. The chains have been adjusted and the gearing modified so it runs at a more realistic speed.
Finished - The engine looks tiny against it!
Finished just in time for its first outing to the Holy Trinity Meccano club meeting, tomorrow. I am really please with this model. Sue's extra gondolas have improved the look even if we did have to revert to type and use our trademark red/zinc colour scheme I will have a go at getting hold of some more contemporary dark green strips to replace the zinc, but for now they will do the job.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Steam power for the Big Wheel

The Big Wheel built from the 1927 instruction manual shown in the previous post, has been built following the printed instructions as closely as possible. Looking at it, bearing in mind its vintage, it was screaming out to be steam powered by a 1929 vertical boiler engine.

Tatty, yes, but it goes well and has that well used look about it
Rather than build the engine directly onto the model I decided to make it as a sub-assembly that can be easily fitted to the wheel using rods and collars. The also means the engine can be packed on its own, a much safer way to transport it. It may be tatty but it would be hard to replace, not to mention expensive, these days. We do have another engine in nicer condition but that is of the earlier type and still as the Meccano branding transfer on the boiler's outer jacket, something that would have been burnt off with constant use. This later, tatty version has the branding embossed and will survive for the life of the engine.
An overhead view shows the joining rods and gearing
A strip built base (you know how we like a bit of strip-construction!) was built using 9½ inch angle girders bolted to 5½ inch angle girders to make a frame. This was in-filled with 5½ inch perforated strips to form a base. The girders are configured to have the slotted hole sides making the outer walls of the base. A third 9½ inch angle girder is bolted through the centre to add support. Orientating this girder with the slotted holes making the fixing will ensure it will not protrude lower than the outer girders that form the frame of the base, thereby negating any risk of the finished base rocking on it.

Underside showing the third girder
A selection of gears were added, it is only a guess at this stage. I have also included a clutch that is held engaged by a spring. This can be held disengaged by holding the leaver back. The reason for this is with such a large wheel to get turning, a progressive take up of the power can be controlled by letting the clutch engage gently, like when pulling a way from a standing start in a vehicle with manual transmission. The wheel should start moving without the help of a push.  Well, that's the theory.  

The clutch assembly and final drive shaft
I did build a little 'Big Wheel' a few years ago and that could be started from a standing start without the use of a clutch. It was slightly smaller than this one. Below is a short video of it running on compressed air. There is a page about running steam engines on compressed air, for those times when it is not practical or permitted to fire them up, HERE.

I digress (again). The clutch is a simple affair. a gear wheel, as it stands now is a 50t gear,  is secured into one end of a socket coupling. A 1 inch pulley, fitted with a 'rubber' ring is secured in the other end of the coupling. This runs freely on the output shaft. A bush wheel is secured to the output shaft. A three-hole coupling is fitted with two, 1 inch rods and is tightened against a couple of nuts that have been locked together on a ½ inch bolt so it is free to rotate in the centre hole of a 3½ inch perforated strip. This strip pivots on a small  triangular plate, again via a bolt, lock nutted through the end hole of the 3½ inch perforated strip. The bush wheel is locked to the output shaft in such a position that the gear wheel is still in mesh with the pinion when the pulley and rubber ring are hard against it. The lever is biased against the bush wheel with the aid of a tension spring.

The clutch assembly and lever
The idea is the clutch is disengaged, when the engine has a full head of steam, and the flywheel is spun to set the engine running. once the engine is up to speed, the clutch can be gently let out and the wheel should slowly pick up speed - We will see tomorrow.

Another view of the clutch assembly
I have yet to design the final drive and chain tensioners, but it is almost there. I should have it finished tomorrow. In the meantime Sue has been building some extra gondolas to make it up to eight.

Sue is busy making and fitting more gondolas
Can you believe with all the blooming Meccano we have in this house we can't find another thirty two 3½ inch perforated strips in pre-war green? Well, we can't. So rather than use a lighter green, which would look horrible,  we have opted for zinc strips for now.  We should have it finished tomorrow and it will be ready for steaming. We will let you know how it goes.


Monday, 17 October 2016

Pre-war BIg Wheel

A while ago we acquired a 1930 pre-war No.6 set housed in an original 'enamelled' (painted) wooden box. I have already built the steam lorry, from parts in this set, that appeared in the 1929 steam engine instruction manual. That worked out fine and complimented the the vertical boiler steam engine of the same period perfectly.

The Big Wheel - finished as the instructions - As far as possible

Looking through the old contemporary manuals I found lots of models that I fancied having a go at there is a mass of interesting subjects to chose from. They all would have been things familiar to children of the period. I had often thought about building something from the manual even before we had acquired the set, now I had the perfect excuse.

As can be seen the illustration in the manual is not very clear in places
Recently  I have been building the Big Wheel from the 1927 instruction manual for sets No.4 -7, only to discover that the 1927 set has a lot more parts than the 1930 set. Comparing the contents two sets is interesting and somewhat baffling. I can see the point in reducing the number of strips and other parts that are included in good quantity in the earlier set, but why reduce the number of 3½ x 2½ flanged plates (Part No.53) from eight to seven? I am sure the Meccano accountants of the day made the decisions purely on cost. Even though our set is the later (smaller) set, I decided to build the big wheel from the earlier instructions as I could make up the extra parts from our building stock. I have been collecting odd bits of dark green/dark red, as they turned up in lots we have bought, for years. Where I have not been able to do this I have used some mid red and mid green parts. Amazingly they do not stick out like a sore thumb and in fact are hard to spot even when you know they are there. Interestingly they show up more in the photographs than they do in reality..

It looks very flimsy in this view - it is not!
I started to build the main frame. This is reasonably straight forward except where the gearings are for the wheel itself. The illustration is impossible to decipher and I abandoned the final stages until I had completed the wheel. This way I could use the wheel to determine at what height the bearing needed to be fitted and then finish off the top of the towers.

What a lot of struts
I have no idea how a kid in the thirties would have been able to build this model without some kind of strip rolling machine. Trying to bend the outer strips for the rim of the wheel to a smooth curve would have been nigh on impossible. No indication as to how this is achieved is even hinted at in the instructions. For me here, getting on for ninety years later, the gentle curve required in the 12½ inch perforated strips is easily formed by running them through a set of our rolling bars.

The chain drive works really well
 Once the model was fully assembled and all the nuts and bolts tightened it was an easy job to rig the chain. The wheel turns effortlessly as the gearing down is imminence. A small amount of lubricant made everything run smoothly. If you are wondering how the hub goes together here is a close up picture just to prove that sixteen struts will fit around a standard face plate.   

Close up of the hub arrangement.

That is the model built as close to the original instruction as possible. It is screaming out for a power source to drive it and I think the 1929 vertical boiler steam engine is just the ticket. Four extra gondolas would improve the look too. Watch this space...


Friday, 14 October 2016

Well, I did not think it would be this long...

I have no idea where the past nine months have gone. Sue and I have been preoccupied with a pending house move. After the best part of 40 years in the same house, it is a real challenge just clearing the clutter. Although I have seen a lot worse, we do seem to have collected a lot of 'stuff', Meccano making up a good percentage of the afore mentioned stuff!

In the late 1970s and early 1980s Meccano parts we not easy to get hold of and if they were available, they were not cheap. For years Sue and I would buy any odd box of meccano we found at boot fairs, auctions etc. When eBay came along we managed to increase our building stock considerably. Over the course of a decade or so, we amassed a huge collection of traditional and new parts. Those parts were diligently sorted and 'filed' away into our storage system providing a readily available building stock and a substantial back-stock.

Just a few of the boxes and boxes of traditional parts collected over several decades
I have said before that our early collecting of stock parts was all about traditional Meccano. By this I mean mainly the Binns Road production. By the early 1980s Meccano had all but disappeared as we know it. Under the ownership of Airfix, Frank Hornby's Binns Road factory had been reduced to rubble, manufacturing had been moved to France and the toy that we had turned into a hobby had all but disappeared. When Airfix went to the wall, in January 1981, a management buyout was rejected by the receiver and the company was eventually sold to General Mills to be operated here in the UK by its toy division based in Coalville, Leicestershire trading as part of the Palitoy Company.

Early 1980s sets contained these yellow boxes
This was the point at which I had decided that modern Meccano (of its day) was not for me. The horrible sets of that time were full of stickers and very little else. From that day on I barley gave the current Meccano a second glance, even though it was changing for the better. It is ironic now to think that the only things of use to come out of that period were the yellow storage boxes with their metal lids that are now so sought after. Indeed, we have several stacks of them, being used for storage, ourselves. Our personal life was going through a period where Meccano was not a priority. We had been a victim of the Airfix collapse as I was owed several thousands of pounds for freelance work I had done for the company that, as it turned out, I was not going to see one penny of. All our efforts were concentrated on keeping our heads above water.

As time went on we were able to drag ourselves out of the mire and in time became available to indulge in our hobbies once again. It was at this time I managed to fulfil that childhood dream of owning a No10 Meccano set. This was a rather used 1950's red/green set in the iconic wooden chest. For a few years, Meccano was back in the forefront of our thinking. In the mid 1980s Meccano was not so easy to come by and it took a lot of finding but I was still not interested in anything other than traditional Meccano. By the end of the decade we were involved in our business to the exclusion of most other things and again the Meccano was mothballed.

our return to Meccano - still using traditional parts but that was all to change
Over all this time, although we were not actively building, we still managed to buy Meccano whenever we had the opportunity. This was all traditional Meccano having decided the all new Meccano was rubbish. This period of buying greatly enlarged our stock, especially of the more common parts. We eventually got back to Meccano building nearly twenty years later after we had sold our business and again found we were able to indulge our interest. By this time Sue's casual interest had grown and she was a full on builder in her own right. It was not until Sue decided to buy some current Meccano that it started to dawn on me just how much we were missing. It was at that point that we looked at the new Meccano in a new light.

Modern parts from pre Spin Master ownership have many uses
Since then we have amassed a huge collection of the post Binns Road parts made during the 1990s through to the current day. Most of this has been sourced via on line auction sites, boot fairs and auctions as well as private sales where people have contacted us through our on line presence.  It has now become evident, due to our monumental clear out of our house that we will never be able to use the vast amounts of Meccano we have amassed. For this reason, over the coming weeks and months we will be reviving our on line lots list at and selling off our surplus Meccano.

Our absence from the building scene over the past couple of years has sparked a few rumours  that we have lost our interest in the hobby. Nothing could be further from the truth.  For the recent past we have been very closely involved with Spin Master, the current owners of Meccano. This has meant we have been building and designing models behind the scenes. Most of which we have not been able to talk about at the time, for obvious commercial reasons. As time has gone on, the design team based in Los Angeles that we have been working with, have developed the system into a toy for the current market. Unfortunately this has moved today's products a long was from where they were three years ago. We were involved in the traditional period, working on contemporary models using existing parts across the ranges. The move back towards the toy market has been a huge commercial success for the Meccano company. So much so that I am having to wait for supplies of the current models as demand is outstripping supply on the worldwide stage that the modern global companies of today have to perform on.
The current sets are full of new plastic parts, that although generic in design are more like sub-assemblies than components. This reflects modern engineering and manufacture of today as well as making use of contemporary materials. Our hobby is based on a world that does not exist today in the same way that it did when Frank Hornby conceived the system. He looked around and saw constructions made from steel parts with holes in and joined together with rivets or bolts. Today it is all high-tech materials and sub assemblies - just like Meccano is being presented today.
Meccano has once again moved out of our comfort zone. Some will embrace it, others will reject it with gusto. At the moment I am wavering on the centre ground. Because of our relationship with Meccano, over the past few years, we have had a lot longer with these parts than most of you reading this today. I can report that I am no more in love with them now than I was over a year ago when I first saw them. Sue is of a similar mind albeit a bit more open then me. Meccano are moving on, out of our world and into the cut-throat world of the global toy market. Our involvement with the new stuff is becoming less and less as we get left behind, stuck in our world of how we want Meccano to be. That is fine by us as it should be by most of our fellow enthusiasts. Our world is getting smaller as the days tick by. More and more Meccano is filtering back onto the second-hand market and the dealers and reproduction part makers can supply most if not all the parts we require making the need for Meccano to make stuff we like far less significant. I should think today the worldwide community of Meccano enthusiasts is down to hundreds and how many of them buy any amount of Meccano, very few I suspect.

12t bevel gear from the new helicopter set. This is 3D printed prototype,
the production version is black in colour
It is not all bad news, those of us who still enjoy the noble art of bolting bits of metal (and plastic!) together to build models and mechanisms that, at best, are caricatures of the reel thing, have a vast inventory of parts to choose from and a never ending supply. Even some of the current sets have something to offer such as the new ultra-small bevel gears found in the latest (Autumn 2016) 20-model helicopter set.

So now you know where we have been, you can all stop worrying about us and get on with some serious building now the nights are drawing in and the days are getting distinctly cooler. As I have said, we are awaiting a delivery of current models and as soon as we get them we will be building them, exploring the potential for other modes and the use of their new parts, where applicable.

We also have a few new projects under way. I still have to tell you about the pre-war Big wheel build and my intentions to steam power it. All this mixed in with some vintage builds from decades ago when Meccano was red and green... 


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

It has been a few months...

You may have wondered what happened to Part 2 of the toy fair report.  Well, It contains details of models being produced under licence and we were asked not to disclose the details without checking with the guys at Meccano. So far I cannot get an answer. So for now I will just let that one lie and get on with other matters...

As some of you are aware, we have been working closely with Spin Master to help promote the Meccano brand and to pass on any juicy information. In the beginning there was a lot of activity and it was all looking good. Enthusiasm was there and I think they over-estimated the commercial worth of the enthusiast market. Now we are closing in on the end of the third year of Spin Master ownership and I think some of that enthusiasm has waned somewhat.

The kids love this set
There is no doubt that Spin Master have injected new life into the brand. They have now produced a complete new range of construction toys. The younger user of Meccano is not using it in the same way as we did. Most models are built (if at all) to the instructions and stood on a shelf. The next purchase may be another Meccano model, but it is just as likely to be from another manufacturer, and I don't mean just Lego.

Meccano is a totally different product today and that is the only way it will be successful. Spin Master have made it a success in the toy trade, modern Meccano sells for what it is - a toy - and all the time it does that the brand will stay alive. For us, there may be some parts that we can make use of such as those new brown ball and socket parts that make up the T-Rex dinosaur's spine. Some of the sets are appealing but we are so far away from modern thinking that what Meccano sell today has very little interest to the established enthusiast.

The Meccano we turned into a hobby was a different product, as far away from today's Meccano it is possible to get without abandoning the BSW thread, imperial hole spacing and square nut - the DNA of Meccano, if you like. We still talk to Meccano and get the odd snippets of information on what is happening but so much of it is outside the scope of our hobby it starts to become irrelevant.

It is not unusual for us to go a bit quiet from time to time, it does not mean we have gone away or that we have left the hobby. We have been Meccano enthusiasts most of our life and the way we keep it fresh is not to live and die it. To prove the fact I have been plying with our pre-war No.6 set and have built my version of the Big Wheel, model number 6.5 from the 1929 4-7 manual. It did not take long to work out that the 1929 set was a fair bit bigger than the 1931 set that we have. Here is a picture of the finished thing.

Big wheel from the 1929 instruction book model No. 6.5
It makes a pleasant change to be building with familiar parts. As much as we embrace the new plastic parts there is something very satisfying about building a traditional model that will never be replaced. Now, where is that new dinosaur set?


Friday, 29 January 2016

London Toy Fair 2016 and...

Olympia calls - The London Toy Fair
Yes, it is that time of year again when the toy industry launches its range of products for 2016. As usual, Sue and I attended the press day earlier on this week to see what is new and what Meccano are offering us for the future. But that is not the whole story, there are other places where Meccano show new product and do not necessarily release it at the London Toy fair. Last year we were all sworn to secrecy regarding the smaller G15 Meccanoid until after its d├ębut at the New York Toy Fair. Again there are Items that I cannot talk about just yet but something I can show you, as it is in the public domain even if it was not on show in London, is The Meccasaur T-Rex.

New for 2016 Meccasaur T-Rex
This interactive, programmable robotic dinosaur is set to be a kid's best friend. It is fully-programmable and comes with a security mode function, to guard and protect a user’s things! I am sure parents and kids will love this one! RSP is $109.00 in the US and the UK price is likely to be around the £100 mark meaning it is priced somewhere between the G16 and G16-KS. Yes I did mean '16'. New updated versions of the Meccanoid are to be released later in the year. These are essentially similar to the G15s but with "faster voice recognition, twice as much memory and improved programming capabilities". We have not actually had hands on any of the new Meccanoids yet, but as soon as we do we will give you the low-down.

G16 and his big brother G16-KS. You can play spot the difference by clicking HERE
to see the previous models
Also new and fighting among themselves on a table at the London Toy Fair were the new Micronoids. These are the much smaller interactive, reconfigurable and programmable robots based on a common processor they can be built and rebuilt using the parts supplied or adding any parts from other sets as you choose. Priced at under £40.00 they are bound to be popular and a great introduction for any child into the world of programming. Again, we will bring you more on these little fellows once we can get hold of some production models. 

Micronoids interact with each other
Another new set is the Boeing Dreamliner 787 This is a new type of set featuring some bespoke parts. My first thought of this were negative as I am against the use of these sort of parts but then it dawned on me. This is not new, it is just a modern version of the pre-war aeroplane sets that featured bespoke parts and were assembled with nuts and bolts. The parts were compatible with classic Meccano and the models could be modified by adding standard parts. This new model is a halfway-house featuring bespoke cockpit and fuselage sections as well as standard parts. I am not sure about this myself but time will tell.

747 - Today's aviation, yesterday's idea
As usual a whole new range of sets to replace the current sets have been unveiled. Starting with the Starter sets (where else!) and running through the themed sets. This year the emphasis on vehicles and aircraft has been complemented with animals, dinosaurs and insects, in fact all the things that kids love. There is a move towards more plastic parts and in doing so opens up the option so make evermore complicated parts, actually 'components' might be a better description of many.

Love it or hate it, Meccano is moving into the twenty-first century - See Meccano in 2016.

There are far too many new parts to list here, but a couple that need pointing out are the 'new' rubber rings that fit ¼ inch pulleys and the new caterpillar track. Before you all start shouting at the screen and raising your blood pressure, I do know that Meccano had a small rubber ring in the system before the war. However the guys in the design office probably think they invented it so I am not going to be the one to burst their bubble. The rubber ring has been around for a while in one of this year's starter sets, but as they have not exactly been readily available, and it only contained one, I am choosing to ignore that too!
Digger - I like diggers!
The new excavator set, however, not only comes with tracks, it appears to have eight of those small rubber rings too. This is a very nice little set that offers the choice of being made up as the digger or a bulldozer.
The alternative model
This should be a popular set with the kids as well as the enthusiast, providing the plastic parts are accepted as they should be. After all, we all loved the original plastic tracks and these should be even more useful with the ability to bolt parts to them.  We will be exploring a few possibilities over the next few weeks.

Tracks have ½ spaced standard holes
On the model the tracks run on the ½ inch rubber rings
Now for the news everybody was asking about last year...

The next Thunderbird

"What is the next after Thunderbird 2?" - Thunderbird 3! No other details yet, not even a mock-up box. We will let you know more details as soon as we get them.

Ralph and Sue.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Meccano in 2016

Meccano, but not as we knew it!

Meccano have moved on a leap, again this year, with the introduction of lots of new parts and a complete new range of sets. Aimed squarely at the toy market (where it should be) the new range may have less appeal to a lot of the traditionalists. The use of more plastic parts may also put a lot off too, but don't be too hasty to condemn this move.

If you are a traditionalist and want progressive sets and standard parts, as made by Meccano until the demise of the Binns Road factory in Liverpool,  then you can have it. It is all available in abundance. There is plenty of good quality second hand stock around and it is still being manufactured by third-party suppliers, with Meccano's blessing. Meccano, on the other hand, have turned the clocks back, in marketing terms, and set about making the brand a market leader once more. This transition is not going to happen in a day, a week or even a year, but it will happen.

Over a hundred years ago, when Frank Hornby sat on that train looking out of the window at all the new and interesting things happening around him, the seed of a system that would enable his children to replicate the cranes, vehicles, trains and any other new and interesting subject of the day, was born. It used the materials and construction methods of the day, namely steel and nuts and bolts.

Meccano are now doing exactly that, but in the 21st century. As far as the youth of today are concerned, steel has largely given way to plastics and mechanical engineering has given way to electronics and computer control.  The steel and the mechanical engineering are still there, they are just not the focus of attention and are certainly not as appealing, in isolation, as they were when we were first excited by the Meccano of the mid 20th century.

New for 2016
Today's Meccano and especially the 2016 range has developed into the toy of the future. It has happened slowly, over the past two or three years, but now it it is here, providing a construction toy that will appeal to today's playing and buying generations. One hundred years ago this year, the first edition of the Meccano Magazine was issued, eighteen years after Frank Hornby's original concept was born . The children who had played with his invention created a burgeoning new pastime that was to continue into adulthood and became the adult hobby we know today.

The original system became so ingrained, into the minds of those who grew up with it, change was always going to be a delicate subject. The harsh fact today is that the adult hobbyists that perpetuated the hobby (and the sales of Meccano) in the latter parts of the 20th century are no longer the buying force they once were. What's more, we have not been able to  propagate the hobby to the younger generations over the years. I am sure the hobby as we know it is time-limited and that clock is running out rapidly.

The new Meccano of today bears very little resemblance to the red and green progressive sets we all know and love and that is how it should be if Meccano are going to encourage a new generation of enthusiasts who will take the hobby forward into adulthood. This new hobby will be all about development into the future, not so much about replicating the past. The Meccano clubs and societies will eventually disappear and be replaced with 'Maker' groups, while the Shows and exhibitions will evolve into 'Maker' conventions.

Meccano have embraced this change and are slowly reinventing the product so It will fit into this new tide of creativity while still retaining the DNA that is Meccano enabling all new parts to be totally back-compatible with what has gone before. Over the past year or so Sue and I have had the chance to see and work with these new parts that are just starting to appear in some of the 2015/16 sets. The new sets shown at the London Toy Fair this week introduce a lot more new parts to the system. The fact that they are all totally back-compatible means that they can be incorporated into our 'traditional' model making.

Just remember Meccano always was a toy first and it was that toy that appealed to us as youngsters that we developed into a hobby. The toys of our youth have no appeal to today's kids and that is why we have very few younger members of our hobby today. The new 2016 range is designed to appeal to kids and I am sure it will.


Thursday, 17 December 2015

New Race Car!

About time too!
If like me you have been eagerly awaiting this one, your patience is about to be rewarded. It is now in UK distribution and should start appearing for sale any time now. I don't think you will be disappointed, it is a really good portrayal  of a generic Formula 1 car. Not aligning itself with any one team, there are even extra parts that can be used to change the look of the finished model by swapping some of the more obvious silver/zinc parts for black ones.

New cam fits onto the axle nicely
The first thing I always do is hunt for new parts and this set has it's fair share. New cams are supplied to lift the 'pistons'. these are driven from the back axle and are reasonably effective, if not at all prototypical. I guess the kids will like them - it is doing something and it does not need batteries...

The new cams slide onto the tri-axle rods with ease. I am really pleased that Meccano have resolved the problem of 'fat ends' to the axle rods. They have also made sure the rods are the correct length, or even slightly longer. This is one of the main reasons the small gripper washers, used to hold parts on the rods, got so much bad press. I agree that they are not the best solution, but they do work better now that have some length to grip and are not right on the end of an over-thick rod.

New large pin
The other new part that nearly sneaked in under the radar is a new larger securing pin. The original pins were first seen securing the nose cone to the Rocket in the Space Quest set. They have since been used in the Mountain Rally set, where as here they have been used to secure the new fabric body 'panels' in place.

I know there was a lot of talk about these little bits of stretchy fabric when they first made an appearance when the new models were shown at the 2015 toy fairs around the world. I am undecided myself. I hated those red triangles and squares introduced in those horrible 'space' sets that came in the yellow plastic boxes, back in the early 1980s. It only took me about thirty years to accept they could be useful... It was only about twenty years to get to appreciate the yellow boxes.

Love 'em or hate 'em they look as if they are here to stay. I am sure we will find some useful purpose for them in time. It has already been muted that they might be of some use in a Marble bouncer, not so much as the bouncer pad but as part of the catcher mechanism.  As far as the Race Car is concerned, they are used to make an indication of bodywork. Does it work, I suppose it does but I must confess I struggling with this concept myself. This is irrelevant, of course, as it is the target market that have to approve and for the most part are not shackled with my preconceptions of what Meccano should be.

The Build

This is a simple build, a reasonable amount of it but clearly laid out and if there were any mistakes I did not see any. I say that because it is very easy to get ahead of yourself as the instructions are very comprehensive building left and right constructions one after the other bolt-by-bolt. I found I was building the other side before the instructions got around to telling me to.

The building begins - note the new cams
The build starts with the interesting part, building the fake engine and moving 'pistons'. That all goes together well and actually works as it should. This is built into two of the new (this year) plastic flanged plates that make up the chassis. The shape of the car is then 'outlined' using mainly the straight and curved narrow, ¼ inch hole spacing, strips and lots of brackets of all shapes and sizes. There are an awful lot of small parts used in these modern sets. The set also includes two pair of bevel gears and three cams.

Taking shape
Almost there
The construction continues by bolting on a few more strips, straight and curved. The spoilers are fabricated as sub-assemblies and bolted in place. all of a sudden the the models has become instantly recognisable as a slick streamlined racing machine.

Elaborate front spoiler detail
 Now for the wheels. Probably the most fiddly bit of the job is getting the tyres to sit nicely on the rims. There is a bit of a knack to this. I managed to get is worked out after I had fitted the forth one! The new wheels look really good with the red rims.
Now all that is left is to fit the bodywork and its is off to the track. The wait was worth it. One of my personal favourites of all the 2015 models I am sure this will be popular with the buying public and enthusiasts alike.

Finished - Click to enlarge!
The new models really have evolved from the nondescript fantasies of a few years ago. The system has evolved and some will like the new direction, others will not but Meccano have simply gone back to its origins - building the world we see around us today! The parts may look different, to our eyes, but the fact the DNA is still there means that every new part is generic, based on imperial hole spacing and 5/32 BSW threads are used throughout. That means it is all compatible with every Meccano part ever produced.

Finished - Click to enlarge!
 If you look closely at the finished pictures you will see that the new larger clip referred to above, used to secure the rear of the 'body' panel,  has a hex socket moulded into it. Not only does this look better, but it will enable it to be positioned, using a hex driver, into usually inaccessible places.

Is it a bolt - No!
Finished - Click to enlarge
There is a even more to come next year so look out for our Toy Fair coverage in January and, if we can, we will let you know a bit sooner. The future is looking good for the brand and it looks like will end up with a lot of new and interesting parts to experiment with in the coming months.


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Did you miss us?

Like most of us, Sue and I have other interests and commitments outside the our passion for Meccano. Sometimes this takes us away from the mainstream and we can appear to have dispersed. Well, we have not! This year, yes we have been active in some of our other interests, but we have also been working hard, behind the scenes, on various Meccano projects like this one...

The Meccano Community website was launched back in the Spring of 2014. Although we were involved with it from day one, we were not in the driving seat and were following the initial concept. The site was plagued with problems and it was getting to the stage that nothing was getting done. Eventually, by this time last year, we had given up and resigned from the project. The site lay all but dormant until the late summer of this year when after some negotiation with Meccano we agreed to be involved in a relaunch. The main difference being that we are now running it and it is hosted in-house by Meccano's IT team giving us a direct link with the people responsible for the platform. In a nutshell, we should be able to get things done. We have already given the place a lick of paint to bring in visually in line with existing the Meccano presence and are slowly working on getting it running as it should.

You can check out what we have been doing by visiting the new-look site HERE.  If you like what you see join in and post your builds or send me material and I will use it on the MC blog if it is appropriate. There are various form on the site for uploading material but if you would rather just send it to us by e-mail, click HERE.

Enough of that, I have just received the latest Meccano set, the long awaited Race Car. Several pictures of the prototype were seen at the beginning of the year but due to production problems the launch had to be delayed and has now reached the UK distribution centre. It should start appearing in the shops and on the internet for sale any day now - if it is not out there already!
Here at last, the eagerly awaited Race Car
 That's enough waffling, I've got a Race Car to build - I will show you how I get on and let you know what I think tomorrow - hopefully...