Close-up of the working lights on Alan Berman's dragline Working lights on Alan Berman's model of the Meccano dragline.



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13th June 2008  The story so far…


After such a long break from the hobby a lot has changed, not only to the Meccano itself but in our own personal circumstances. We are now able to visit some of the clubs and exhibitions that for a long time have just been names. It all started again with an idle glance on ebay. There was an old suitcase full of Meccano going for just a few pounds. It had not been photographed very well and the description was rather poor but it looked interesting. The problem was it was listed for collection only and it was located in Nottingham - a good run from South East London.

Ironbridge via Nottingham

The auction was due to finish the following week. Dismissing it as too far away to be worth while I forgot about it. A few days later I was flicking through the Meccano webring and landed on the Telford and Ironbridge Meccano Society’s (TIMS) website. The following weekend was their February meeting. A look at the map and a quick dust off of the abacus revealed that Ironbridge via Nottingham represented only a few quid difference in petrol compared to going directly there.

We had always wanted to visit Ironbridge, now we had a good excuse. What’s more the weekend was free and we had cat sitters in place. There was nothing for it, I placed a bid on the suitcase and low and behold we won it for a shade over twenty quid. I still had very little idea of what I had bought.

We left home on the Friday, late afternoon and fired up the old car, installed the Sat-Nav (wonderful invention) and headed North for Nottingham. Found the seller’s house and did the deal. After a drive over to Ironbridge, in the dark, we found the B&B we had booked into and started to unload the car. As I looked round there was Sue, case full of Meccano in hand heading for the B&B. “I was going to leave that here” said I. Sue's face dropped. “I wanted to see what we had bought” she said… I didn’t need telling twice, and said Meccano was deposited in the room. A quick rummage revealed an unused E15R in its box complete with the little cardboard ‘rings’ that prevent the sharp bits penetrating the box during transit. Other gems included a super tool set and a whole lot of brassware.

Signed up

The following day it was off to Enginuity  (one of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums) - home of TIMS. Here we found the TIMS members setting things up for their February meeting. After introducing ourselves we were given a warm welcome and invited to have a look round. We joined and that was it - back in the game.

Reg Hall's King Gidaroh
Reg Hall also arrived, like us , as a guest and left a paid up member! He showed Sue his model of King Gidaroh not yet available in the UK.

While we were there I also managed to catch up with Dave Taylor and purchase a few bits and pieces. Amongst the list of things purchased were a couple of clock escapement wheels and one of those very nice 12 volt motors mounted between flanged side plates.

I’m back!

Next on the event calendar was a visit to SELMEC my old Meccano club, here in South London, after a break of 20 years. I was greeted at the March meeting with a friendly smile and some people saying they remembered me… I don’t know how, I must be two or three stone heavier, got hardly any hair left and now have to wear glasses to do up nuts and bolts! To my delight and I must admit, surprise, the club was as well attended as it was the last time I visited.

Alan Berman's Dragline
Alan Berman's dragline at the March 08 Etham meeting.

Having built one of the crawler tracks I had been collecting parts for since the last time I attended, I took that along as a starting point. I found a spot sitting between Alan Wenbourne and his huge dive bomber ride and Alan Berman’s dragline, two super models. The time seemed to fly by and I really did not get a chance to see all the models properly. A rummage through Dave Taylor’s one pound bundles and cleaning him out of long bolts, rendered enough parts to finish the second crawler track.

Kew 08

The middle of April saw the Magic of Meccano exhibition at the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. This venue is worth a visit in its own right, the Meccano was like the icing on the cake. This is a great exhibition. Sue and I had a throughly good day out. Spent some more money with the assembled traders and managed to accompany home the holly grail of Meccano parts, a GRB.


Now, after twenty years of Meccano famine we could finally get down to some modelling. First job on the list was to build the second crawler track as I had now accumulated enough parts to build it. However, time marches on and Sue and I had a date with TIMS to show our dealer display windmill at the forthcoming show in May. Sue had managed to acquire some of the 20 coloured bulbs it required. After talking to Mike Rhoades, and buying all the bulbs he had with him at the Kew event, he said that he should be able to supply the balance from his stock. A subsequent Fax order was sent and the bulbs arrived in due course. The yellow plates of the windmill had faded to that horrible creamy-yellow and the ‘silver’ parts were dull and rough to the touch. There was no other choice, we had to strip it and refurbish the parts. Taking each section one at a time we photographed, dismantled cleaned and reassembled it. T-cut (car paintwork restorer) was used to bring the yellow back to it’s former glory. The nickel plated parts were polished using 0000 grade wire wool. All the curved strips were straightened and then reformed using our Meccano-built bending machine. This has improved the appearance considerably. While we were at it, all the wiring was replaced with new 16/02 wire (from Maplin) which is identical to the original. After the bulbs were replace and the moving parts given a spot of oil it was packed up ready for its trip to TIMS.

Ralph & Sue at Meccanuity 08
Two No.3 set Windmills completed and our refurbished dealer display windmill at Meccanuity 2008.

Meccanuity 2008

Before we knew it, it was May and we were off to show the windmill at TIMS annual exhibition, Meccanuity 2008. In the mean time we had been working on our entry to the annual challenge. This year the challenge was to construct a ‘square wheeled racer’ and compete against each other in the arena.

Square wheeled racers
The competition

First attempts were dismissed as unworkable due to the flex in the design. Rigidity meant weight. As the ‘racer’ had to carry it’s own power supply It became apparent that this was going to be a tortoise and hare type of event and we were building a tortoise! The final version was in the super heavy-Weight class. Powered by a couple of 6volt lead-acid batteries our lumbering machine was more of a plodder than a racer. To our surprise we won our group and came runner-up in the final!

Our racer
Square wheeled racer

We did show the windmill and it was viewed with interest but the bending machines, we had built to form the parts, were creating far more interest.

Janet had asked members to bring along some small models to build during the show to demonstrate Meccano building. After a look through the small set instructions we settled upon the nice little windmills from the ‘60s number 3 set.

We thought it might be a good idea to build one in red/green and the other in yellow/silver/black.  Having never built this model before I assumed we would be able to build it several times over the two days of the show that we were attending. As it turned out we only just managed to finish the models due to excessive (or do I mean extensive) discussions on all things Meccano with fellow members and the visitors.

An interesting observation was made while building the windmills. The formed strips Part No. 215 needed to be tightened to make the curved base. This was easily achieved using our new bending machines it would have been hard for ‘Meccano boy’ of the sixties (like me) to bend those strips without kinking them and making them more like 3d bits (remember those) than nice smooth circles.

New Meccano

One thing that became evident at the show was our lack of knowledge regarding all the new stuff that has appeared over the past few years. The square wheeled racer challenge was won by a ‘hare’ taking advantage of the new lightweight parts and more efficient motors.

That was it, a new spending spree was called for here. Our first venture into the ‘new’ stuff was made  by Sue when she purchased a couple of the design starter sets. The helicopter and the motorcycle combination. These looked interesting but were devoid of things like tri-axels, new wheels and so on. The only way to find out what was what necessitated the purchase of one of the sets. We opted for the Design 30 model set.

On arriving home the next week or so was spent researching just what we had missed. My old bible, John Westwood’s Meccano parts illustrated was now 20 years out of date. I put a post on Spanner II list and was referred to Oscar Felgueiras  superb website that can be found HERE. Now we had the information we knew what we were looking for. The sets can be found on ebay and at boot fairs for a fraction of the new cost and it did not take long for us to amass a fair quantity of parts. The most useful acquisitions were the manuals. These show how the new parts interface with each other giving rise to lots of new answers to old problems. Sue's new take on the drive sprockets of the crawler tracks are a good example (see the story HERE).

I am sure that we will make good use of all this new stuff but it is early days for us.

Another club

Last Saturday saw the June meeting of the Runnymede Meccano Guild in Ottershaw, Surrey. Having been invited to join by Nick Rogers, President of the guild, I decided that an hour around the M25 was not too far into Indian territory (as in way out west - get it?) for this South East Londoner to venture. So I hitched up the wagon (Sue’s Volvo) and headed west.

On arrival I paid my dues and partook in a very pleasant few hours of Meccano talk, tea, sandwiches and cake (don’t tell Sue about the cake).

That’s it so far, a quick account of the past six months we will add more to news section as and when something is worth adding.

Ralph and Sue Laughton   


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E15R Motor
Unused E15R.
Alan Wenbourne's dive bomber 200
Alan Wenbourne and his huge dive bomber ride.