Friday, 30 May 2014

Meccano SkegEx14

Don't miss the biggest event of the year...
More infornmation from the ticket office - Click HERE  for details!


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Bring back the 52!

Never again will Meccano be retailed as the a system toy of its heyday, nor are we going to be able to buy single parts from the local toy shop. Like a lot of the parts themselves, the toy shops of my youth will never be resurrected.

Although the market and expectations have changed, there is one part from the  original range that still has just as much importance today as it had back them, yet for reasons that escape me, it is seldom seen. This part is still in production, it has been seen in a few new sets, and yet it is not given the kudos it deserves. That part is the 5½ x 2½ inch Flanged Plate, Part No.52 or as it is labelled today, A852.

A pair of 52s
It has appeared a couple of times lately, it was included in the Tintin Unicorn and the Rabbids Catapult sets, both now discontinued. It may have appeared in other sets but I can't bring any to mind, off the top of my head. It is still available in what is now called the Super Construction set. This set has been around for a while now, first appearing in 2001 as the Special Edition Anniversary (crane) set. The flanged plate in this set is finished in a very acceptable, crinkle finish, dark grey.

The 52 used to form the basis of every set since it's introduction in 1911 (and the addition of the end flanges in 1913) with the exception of the pocket Meccano set, until the demise of the 'progressive' sets in 1980s. The part has now been in production, in one form or another for over 100 years! Its rigid construction was ideal to use as the basis of small models and I believe could do so again.

We can't just look back at those old models with rose coloured spectacles wishing for a rebirth of the old sets, but what is reasonable is to look forward and campaign for that part to be included in some of the new wave of sets due to be introduced in the coming years.  Not only will that plate re-introduce a starting point for something to be built on, it will also give the rigidity to models that is so obviously missing in the current crop of set models.

          ...Come on Meccano, bring back the 52 
          in more of the smaller sets!

To prove the point, Let's show Meccano what can be built around that plate using current production parts only. That is, Meccano that is available in the sets listed in the product section of the official Meccano website, HERE.

Manuals for all the sets shown can be downloaded from the website and these list the parts available in each set. The number of parts is irrelevant, so long as the part it current. If anybody wants to have a go, you can send me a photograph of what you have built and if I get enough reponse I will post a page of models and we can add to it.

I'm off to have a go and I will post my efforts here, on Rust Bucket, The Spanner II list, Meccano's Community website, Facebook and anywhere else I can find. Come and join in - you never know, Meccano do read stuff posted on the internet - Even this! If you do post stuff head it 'Bring back the 52!' and we can keep pushing, you never know, it might just work and we can have some fun in the mean time!


Friday, 16 May 2014

The same but different!

85 years apart but from the same family...
Having just completed building the model of the Steam Wagon from the 1929 steam engine manual (see HERE), It struck me how similar the 'look' of the model is to the current 10-model, Multimodel set models. The skeletal construction and the use of braced girders to 'fill' areas that are solid on the prototype is common to both.

...and from a lower angle
There have been periods in the life of Meccano when all seemed lost. The product was going off in a direction that I was not very happy with. In the early 1980s, after the closure of the famous Binns Road factory, in Liverpool, and the subsequent offering from the then owners, Airfix, I thought the brand was dead. Fortunately for the Brand (but no so much for me - I was a creditor) the Aifix empire collapsed and after a short period of uncertainty Meccano was revived by the Meccano factory in France who had managed to gain control of the brand.

Today, the current sets are vastly different from those made and sold decades ago but the models still show amazing similarities and are totally back-compatibility, using the same hole spacing, diameter and thread specification. Change whatever you like, Mr Meccano, but do not ever change these specification and Meccano will live for ever with granddad's Meccano being compatible with today's offerings.


That bike again!

Builder Simeon Oakley astride the Meccano bike
This week the Meccano bike, built for the BBC programme The Motorcycle Diary, has joined the latest display at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu; The Motorcycle Story.  The Meccano bike will be there for the duration of the event, apart from a short period between the 2nd and the 7th of July when it will be the star attraction at Skegex14, details can be found HERE.

A Perfect Spring day (raining!) as the bike arrives at Beaulieu
More pictures of the Meccano bike can be found HERE, HERE and HERE 


Thursday, 15 May 2014

1929 Steam Wagon

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge!

My version of an 85 year old model
In 1929 Meccano Limited produced a steam engine that had a vertical boiler and, for the first time, a baseplate designed to allow it to be physically built-in to a model. A book of instructions and suggested models was supplied with the engine. Most of the models shown are very basic and it looks as if the manual was hurriedly put together in order to make it ready for Christmas 1929. The new engine was announced in a full page advert that appeared in Meccano Magazine of September that year.

A lot of the models show were machine tools that could be combined to make a steam powered workshop, indeed, there was also instructions to build a small workshop in its entirety. Other plans included a capstan and several cranes, some better than others, but all built from relatively small sets. Given the price of the engine being One Guinea, That is 21/- (21 Shillings - £1.05) at the time this was a huge amount of money at the time and way beyond what most parents could afford. In today's money that is about £200.00. It stands to reason the any child who was given one of these engines would also have a much bigger set of Meccano than was needed to build the manual models.       

In order to take account of this, in the back of the instruction manual were two models that used more parts. One was the steam powered SML19, Steam shovel. The full building instructions for this model were published as one of the Super Model Leaflets (SML 19a) in December 1929. Since then it must have been built many times. In later years it has also been built using the, horizontal boiler steam engine that first appeared in the 1965.

The other model shown in the back of the instruction manual is a steam-powered version of the SML 6, Stiff Leg Derrick. Unlike the other model, although promised by Meccano at the time, no plans were ever published before the engine was withdrawn in the early 1930s. However plans were published decades later and I have built this model using both the 1929 and 1965 engines. An article about the building of the models and reference sources for the plans can be downloaded HERE (Approximately 4.8Mb)

This is the extent of the plans - click on the plan to enlarge
From the other models in the book I decided to have a go at building model No. S 27 Steam wagon using 'modern' parts and fixings. When I say modern, I am talking about mainly post-war parts and in our preferred colour scheme of red and zinc.  

This view show the coal bunker slung under the rear
Taking a leaf out of Sue's book, I selected the parts as per the parts list. This was the first mistake. The list of parts bears only a passing resemblance as to what is actually needed. I reverted back to my usual plan of selecting parts as I go. The written instructions only tell part of the story and the rather confusing pictures are of limited help. To some extent, I enjoy this sort of thing. It makes the built far more interesting than just following a perfect plan. Maybe that is just me, but I am a Meccano builder, not a modeller who uses Meccano, if you see what I mean. I have said this many times, once the model is finished I can't wait to take it apart and build something else. If it was too easy to build I would not be interested.

Looks OK from the right hand side
After several hours of messing around I eventually got going on the principle that it was better to start building something than sitting here trying to work it out first. I started with the cab and soon worked out that the chassis rails are comprised of two 12½ inch girders overlapped by 15 holes! Then it is a case of finding girders that will work together, that is, are square (ish) and have the holes punched in such a position that a bolt can be passed through the round holes, taking full advantage of Meccano's hole-to-bolt tolerance.
The crude steering is a bit sloppy but it works
I gave up on the written descriptions and simply continued to build what I could see in the pictures. Most of the build was reasonably straight forward once I got started. The one thing that didn't work for me was the way the steering was arranged. A single fishplate bolted to the 'spring' and the rod left to find its own centre in the slotted hole was never going to work very well.

The 1 inch strip added - see text
I decided to swap the fishplate for a 1 inch x ½ inch bracket and take advantage of a modern 1 inch narrow strip bolted across the slotted hole to give a round-hole for the steering pivot rod to journal into. A washer is placed between the 1 inch strip and the bracket to prevent it binding when tightened - work a treat! That is, until I came to fit the steam engine and found the lugs on the bracket fouled the cylinder. Sharp eyed readers will have noticed they are up the other way on the finished model - didn't you!

More on this model HERE  and see the video HERE.