Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Unusual 'modern' sets are hard to find...

A lot of modern sets are only available for short periods. In recent years some of the sets specially commissioned by the big retailer such as Marks & Spencer are particularly hard to find and when they do appear on the market they tend to sell for premium prices. The Harrier and Stephenson's Rocket spring to mind. There are plenty of others but it is the not so common that I have been looking for as they often include hard to get parts. Shortage of supply usually means the price will climb but persistence can pay off - eventually.

Two types of part B006
It all started when I was experimenting with some tracked vehicles a year or so ago after discovering, from a post on the Spanner II list, that the 19-tooth plastic pinions will fit inside a strange looking part that I first came across in a job-lot of modern parts Sue and I bought a few years back. A similar part can be found in the Crazy Inventors Rattle Trap and Time machine. The part in question is described as a 'sprocket for crawler tracks' part No. B006 in Oscar Felgueiras's New Parts Listings. The green part comes from the Rattle trap or the Time Machine, Crazy inventor series. There is only one in each set, making it hard to get hold of any amount of them as both sets are very sought after these days.

Future Master Drilling Machine
The grey part looks a bit more promising as the Drilling machine from the Future Masters series has six of them. The trouble is trying to get hold of this set is proving difficult to say the least! None of the future master sets seem to appear for sale on the second hand market very often and I have never seen this particular set for sale anywhere in recent years. It was only that a fellow enthusiast, George Roy, happened to have a spare set (that he let me have for a very reasonable price) that I managed to get my hand on one - Thanks George! So if you see a set kinking around grab it - you may not see another!

The tracks being driven using the drive sprockets
Apart from the set I bought from George, I have managed to find a few of these drive sprockets over the years and, to my surprise, they drive the rubber tracks very smoothly. My first attempt at building a working model was a simple single motor vehicle shown here. The drive is via tri-axles and plastic tri-axle,19t pinions, part No. A326.

As a next stage, I built a steerable chassis using two motors. This time the drive was via bossed yellow plastic 19t pinions with brass bosses. The yellow plastic ring of teeth fitted to the brass boss often split rendering the pinion useless. This gave this part a bad reputation and a lot of the remaining brass push-fit bosses were turned down as collars. I have always saved mine as they were, using them as stops on my drifts or other odd jobs.

The steerable chassis
This was not because I was being cleaver - I don't own a lathe (yet!). In this model, they proved their worth by providing a matching free-wheeling hub. One end of each axle uses one of my many split, plastic pinion fitted into a drive sprocket, while the other end is secured using the brass boss only, from a split pinion. This arrangement is repeated in reverse at the other end of the chassis making it possible to drive each track independently - worked great! I have yet to build a model that uses this idea but I am sure I will one day.

A Find...

The search for unusual modern parts was made much harder, in the UK, when Meccano UK hit a rough patch at the end of the '90s and sold off their entire stock to raise funds. I presume this also meant for a period they were not buying new stock. The current sets, of the time, have since become scarce as collectors start to take an interest in an area that was not so popular previously. For the builder, this means there are some parts that are very thin on the ground and it is a case of buying the sets as they become available, which is not that often.

It is all still out there - somewhere
This week, purely buy fluke during an internet search, I was directed to Germany's eBay site where I was delighted to find an unused, still wrapped, Master Connection set 0030. As I investigated further it became clear that this was for a current auction and not, as is so often the case, an expired one. The listing was a buy-it-now and the price was reasonable - Click! A few days later and the set was sitting on our Meccano room table awaiting attention. It just goes to show that these sets are still around, we just have to look a little further afield.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

January 2013 Toy Fair - The all-new Evolution sets...

POS Display

Is this the best news for years?

I think so. What is there not to like? Meccano have added lots of new generic parts to the range and released some sets that make models that look more like the real thing rather than a futuristic fantasy.

The old instruction books for the classic progressively numbers sets are full of models that to our eyes look very dated but in their day they were mainly of contemporary subjects. Of recent years, Meccano have produced some very dubious looking models that I am sure did not appeal to the kids or their dads (who are usually pres-ganged into helping ‘little Johnny’ build the thing) Consequently these models end up on ebay, or the like, and sell for a fraction of their original cost to the part hunters.

The new Evolution range of models feature a selection of smaller parts with holes spaced at ¼ inch. There are also a host of new parts including plastic bevel gears and a very compact universal joint, designed to work with the tri-axle system. OK, I will not take the load of its metal counterpart but the whole idea of these kits is to build smaller models with more detail achieved by using the greater flexibility of the ¼ inch spacing and narrow strips. There are also plenty of plastic components that will add to the growing armoury of modern parts that have been expanding the range for the past decade and a half or more.
Plastic universal joint
Most noteworthy after the gears and universal joint has to be the new mini-strip that has gear teeth moulded at the ‘standard’ 38dp (ish). I can see these being very popular and there are four of them in the Mobile Crane set. There is also a 3 hole, 1 inch plastic mini-strip similar to the existing 5 hole example. Several other parts appear to be new such as the floatation tanks on the rescue helicopter that appear to be AA battery holders.

There are a few bespoke parts creeping in like the rotor blades, which look to be made of rubberised plastic, the handlebar unit on the quad bike and the driving mirrors on the crane. There are a few more you will spot in the pictures. The Mobile crane picture shows a comparison between the new model and the best you can get using conventional Meccano.

Click on the pictures to enlarge:

Quad bike
4x4 buggy
Tow truck
New and old Meccano - Mobile crane

The five new Evolution models are:

Helicopter - orange/white/black                RRP £89.99
Mobile Crane - yellow/black/zinc              RRP £69.99
Tow truck - orange/white/black/zinc          RRP £49.99
4x4 Buggy -red/black/zinc                       RRP £34.99
Quad bike - Yellow/black/zinc                  RRP £29.99

The new range are not expected to reach the shops in the UK until the end of the summer 2013. The on-stand video at the Toy Fair this week is saying they will be available August 2013 – If past experience is anything to go by then September/October is a more realistic date.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

Ralph's new shop is now open!

Our new internet shop is now open and although we will be selling some Meccano, the emphasis will be on steam. We have several Mec1 engines going through the refurbishment process and these will be available soon. In the mean time you can go and see what it is all about by following the link: http://ralphsshop.com/

Paint me please!
More interesting items will be added on a regular basis so keep checking back to see what's new!