Saturday, 19 April 2014

Kitchen, Bismarck or Bagger?

Bagger 228 Finished - 1¼ ton in weight and the best part of four years building
How many times has the other-half asked you to do something, just as you were about to start building a model, to which you answered "I'll just finish this dear" and got away with it? Remarkably there is one guy who did, and he got away with it for years!

A retired mathematics lecturer in Grahamstown, South Africa did just that; only his project took him the best parts of four years to complete. In mid 2009 Graham Shepherd was facing retirement and decided to dig out his old Meccano set with the a view to looking for a suitable project to tackle.

Initially  he thought about building a model of the battleship Bismarck, something he had contemplated doing since seeing the pictures of the sunken vessel taken by Roger Ballard and his team when they found the wreck in 1989. As Graham was short on Meccano plates he started making replicas of his own. He wanted enough plates to build an18 foot long model. 

"Can you put that away now dear - supper is nearly ready" ..." Er, No"
By June 2010 he began to reconsider the Bismarck project, as a Meccano ship was not all that exciting from a mechanisation point of view. I tend to agree with those thoughts myself, I have never built a Meccano ship. Even as a kid, I always thought a ship full of holes was a silly idea.

Graham's thoughts turned to an excavator, he had seen, that worked in open-cast coal mines in Germany.  Time spent on the internet researching these huge machines resulted in a decision being made. The machine he decided to build is known as Bagger 288 - a bucket wheel excavator built by Krupp of Germany.

To give scale to the model, here is Graham standing next to it
Nearly four years later when I 'spoke' to him this morning via e-mail, I asked him what the next project was to be, he said:
"What's next is that I have got to turn my attention to all the things that got neglected due to my preoccupation with Bagger 288! I was on the point of renewing the kitchen of our home for a start. Not to mention the jungle that our garden has turned into!"
 "I'll just finish this dear" Yes, I really do think this model has elevated that phrase to new heights and there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of Meccano builders everywhere referring to Graham's story to justify the fact that they will not be that bad! Thank you Graham for a fantastic model and the best defence against domestic discord yet!

The story behind Graham's remarkable model can be found on his blog HERE.

Graham has just written another article for Constructor Quarterly and this will be published in the September (actually on sale in July just after SkegEx). All pictures used in this post are reproduced here with the kind permission Graham Shepherd.



  1. Thanks for your lighthearted look at Bagger 288, Ralph!
    I have made a link to your website on my blog

    1. Thanks Graham, I am pleased you appreciated my take on your model. You certainly made an impression on the whole Meccano community - even Meccano themselves were impressed!


  2. Wonderful work! Have you some plans for this huge model? I'd must to change scale, cause I've not enough parts, LOL
    I love your website and works.

  3. Hi Rick, Thanks for your kind comments. I am afraid I do not have plans for building the model. I built it from looking at pictures on the internet. As far as my plans for the future of this model go - I am happy to give the model to a suitable person/organisation in exchange for a substantial donation to Gift of the Givers, a charitable organisation based in South Africa - see their website -
    Graham Shepherd