Sunday, 30 December 2012

No man's land...

Here I am in that gap between Christmas and the New Year and finally I have had a chance to update the website and start this new Blog that will replace the old News pages on the main website. The old archive index can be found HERE.

The past six months has flown by and here is a catch-up on what we have been up to...

A holiday in Scotland and the North of England at the end of May was squeezed in between exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show, the summer club meeting of The South East London Meccano Club (SELMEC) and a club outing. SELMEC is very active in the local community and supports all sorts of other events during the year. Sadly, most of the time we are otherwise engaged on one thing or another. This year an invite came along that we just could not refuse...

A day out at the sewage works...

The ornate ironwork is being restored to its former glory stage by stage
Okay, we are not totally bonkers. Crossness pumping station is the southern outflow of Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s answer to ‘The big stink’ London’s escalating sewerage problem of the 1850s. The government of the time made available vast sums of money to build the extensive sewer system part of which was Crossness pumping station. Crossness boasts the four largest rotative beam engines in the world one of which is fully restored, another is in the process of being stripped down and the other two are awaiting their turn. The place is a palace to Victorian engineering at its most arrogant. The interior was decorated to a standard that would not lookout of place in a grand hotel of the day. Money was obviously no object. Lots more information can be found on the Crossness Engines Trust website

Hummm... That bloke looks familiar. The loom always attracts attention
The event was a steam day and model engineering show. We (SELMEC) were invited to display a selection of Meccano models. We did and a good time was had by all. Sue and I took our partially restored Meccano hand loom and a clock based on some instructions, found in a 1930’s manual, along with a dealer display windmill. As usual, the loom attracted the most attention from children (of all ages), Mums and Dads. For more details of the loom, see HERE

The restored pump engine is spectacular to see
Sue is a steam engine and early architecture junkie. She was in her element there enthralled by the whole event. Not only are the engines really impressive, they are housed in Grade I listed buildings. If you get a chance to go, don’t think twice the place is fantastic and it would make a good day out for the whole family. There are modern facilities and sensibly priced refreshments are available.
For me the trade stands are my nemesis, I can’t resist a bargain. Several visits to the second-hand book sellers, during the day, increased our book collection. A great day out and I am looking forward to next year's event to be held on Sunday 23rd June 2013, 10:30am - 4:00pm more details HERE

The main event - Skegex2012

Skegex12 came and went with the usual round of socialising and time supporting the takings in the New Park Club. Sue made this much easier this year by making sure we were booked into the B&B directly opposite! We had by then managed to get the small hand loom working and it was a big hit with fellow Meccano people as well as the general public. we also had the huge beaming frame that Sue had built along with the skeleton of the SML 16a loom.

Skegex12 - A birds eye view
While we were there, Joe Etheridge told us about a huge loom that was about to be dismantled for spares because there was nobody willing to take it on and get it working again. The loom was built by the late Dennis Weston and had been looking for a good home for over a decade. Less than an hour later the loom had a new home! There was only one small problem, the loom was in Peterlee, County Durham. That is 275miles door-to-door from where we live in London. The other niggling problem was the size of the loom. Too big to fit through a standard doorway and much too big to fit in the back of Sue's Volvo estate, there was nothing for it but to break out the Yorkie bars and go trucking.

Joe is delighted to get his conservatory back!
For a long time the loom had been occupying a good deal of Joe's conservatory as it would not go through the door, let alone up the stairs, to Joe's Meccano room. We arrived about 9.30am (we got up early!) and after a pleasant chat, a welcome cuppa and a tour of the Meccano room, we manhandled the the enormous loom out of the conservatory's wide door and around the house into the back of the trusty Transit.

Time to hit the road back to The Smoke but not before a trip on the Middlesbrough Transporter bridge.  and while we were there a trip back across the river using the Newport Lift Bridge, a model of which Joe had just built, displayed and won a prize for at Skegx12. finding ourselves back on the wrong side of the river again we took a final trip back to the south side via the modern composite road bridge.

Whitby - Fantastic fish and chips!
After our impromptu sight seeing tour we headed back towards the A19 and home only to see a sign pointing to Whitby. A trip over the North York Moors and we were in Whitby trying to find a parking space big enough to part a LWB Transit loom-carrier. Mission accomplished it was time for lunch and we treated ourselves to a slap-up fish and chip lunch in a super restaurant right on the harbour at Whitby. Time to head home and a few hours later we were all home safe and sound after putting 600 miles (exactly!) on the clock of the van!

The loom sat in the van overnight until we could work out the best way to get it ensconced in the Meccano room. Here at Laughton Towers It was no trouble to get it through the front door and we managed to get it as far as the dining room where it sat for a further period while we measured and planned how on earth we were going to get it up the stairs and into the Meccano room.

The late Dennis Weston demonstrating his loom In Darlington, November 1999
Suffice to say it is now sitting on its own table pride of place in the corner of the room. We have got it working but it needs a lot of cleaning and I suspect a complete rebuild to get it back to being reliable, as it has sat around for over a decade with little or no use. Five and a bit months later we have a plan but we are yet to implement it as we have a few other things on the go right now!

We spent the rest of the summer trying to rid ourselves of a stinking cold that meant we missed a couple of events we had intended to attend. The London Olympics took place in London at the time and we did end up spending a lot of time following the events as they unravelled.To my surprise the whole event went like clockwork, the doubters were silenced by the smooth running and the way the whole event was supported. In fact it was much quieter for us residents (we live only a few miles from the Olympic park) than anyone had predicted. We did the trip to Peterlee earlier than we would have done as we wanted to get it done before the introduction of the road restrictions that were to be introduced around London to provide the "Olympic lanes". as it turned out we need not of bothered, there was far fewer cars on the road during the Olympic period than normal!

Ta da! My pusher came third and I won a bronze medal...
By the time we had recovered from our colds the summer was over and we were heading towards SELMEC's annual show. Advance publicity and promotion was working well and we had organised a MeccanOlympics event. The response was fantastic, with lots of people flocking to see the events take place - I even won a medal myself! The rest of the show was impressive too. We had hired the whole venue - a bit of a risk as last year we did the same and just about broke even. This year was a different matter with good gate sales from the general public and lots of kids! Lots more pictures and video can be seen on SELMEC's website HERE.


A selection of models on display at the NELMC show
Our final event of the year was the North East London Meccano Club Show at the beginning of December. I have a vested interest here as I was voted in as Club Secretary in my absence back in May! After a meeting of interested parties, at the beginning of November, some much needed fresh enthusiasm was injected into the club and we are now on our way to building a successful club with a growing membership. The show was a big success and was well supported with space at a premium. A good attendance helped make the day profitable as well.

James Young and me!
To prove that publicity works, we even had a visitor all the way from Canada! James Young from Vancouver has been a frequent visitor to our website and had seen the show advertised there. Realising that he would be in London  at the beginning of December, he decided seek us out and pay us a visit, and very welcome he was too!

The NELMC show has always been a favourite of ours. We would usually attend as visitors but with my new role, as am official of the club, it was time to take part and exhibit a few of our models. Our dealer windmill has been show a couple of times this year so we thought one last airing was in order before it went back into storage for a while. We also showed our Steam Derrick and a selection of steam engines including our refurbished Mamod SP3 repainted in 1958 light red. This fills the gap in steam engine production and gives us an engine to use in models built in our preferred colour scheme of red and zinc.

1958 steam engine. Maybe...

The NELMEC show rounded of the year of exhibiting for us and now it was time to consolidate our Meccano activities and start looking towards 2013. It has been a strange year for us with no big projects completed but a few new ones begun. So that is it, a potted resume of what we have been up to lately and now all that is left is to wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year!