One of our 1929 engines in full steam. Note Owen's patent biscuit tin wind break - crude but effective. All the paraphernalia in the foreground is required just to keep these old boilers going

Blackpool Tower
Alan Esplen's Blackpool Tower

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Henley Gathering 5th September 2009

It’s that time of year when the nostalgia for Sue and I kicks in. Back in the 80’s we were in the process of trying to establish our business as well as cope with the household bills. Although it would be wrong to imply that we were struggling we were not exactly flush with spare money to spend on Meccano. The annual trip the Henley Meccano Exhibition was not only a good day out but an opportunity to visit MW models and stock up on the parts we could not get elsewhere. It has to be said that in those days Meccano was not as plentiful as it is now, partly due to the amount of replica parts available and the vast stocks held by the second hand dealers.

Map in hand and ready for the inevitable ‘discussion' on which way the map should be held or if we had missed the turning or not, we would set off on the trek West to Henley. In those days the exhibition was held in the Town Hall and for us, other than the SELMEC exhibition in October it was the outing of the year. As far as Meccano went – it didn’t get much better

1912 Meccano steam engine
Geoff Brown brought along his newly acquired 1914 steam engine shown here in full steam. Not bad for something that is nearly 100 years old!

All that was a very long time ago. Now we have Satellite navigation, Dave Taylor, Mike Rhoades and the Henley Gathering. It still means a trek into Indian Territory (way out West) but you can’t have everything!

As the crow flies it is not that far, in miles, from where we live to the venue in Henley. The only trouble is that means driving from East to West London straight through the middle. Not only does this mean venturing across the river, it also means having to negotiate London traffic. Although not so bad on a Saturday it is still hard work to make speedy progress. That said, we managed to get to the venue in good time and set up our display models we had brought with us.

Briam Write's SML19a
Tony Brown's SML19a
Allan Burman's SML19a
Three SML19as were in attendance. Built by, top to bottom: Brian Wright, Tony Brown and Allan Burman

Following the success of last year’s steam up, the old boilers gathered again and this time we had some interesting exhibits. Re-built 1929 engines were in abundance. And Tony Brown arrived with his recent e-bay purchase built into the SML19a steam shovel.  Also in attendance was Allan Burman with another SML19a, this time fitted with a steam engine of his own making. And a very nice job it is too. Old Boilers!

I had a bit of a steam up before lunch but so popular was the event this year I did not get to steam again as there was so much going on. While I was sitting down having a chat with Alan Esplen regarding his super model of the Blackpool Tower, Sue came rushing back, rather excited, saying “Come quick, you just have to see this, Owen is steaming a Meccano 1912 engine!”  Puzzled I went to investigate only to find Owen beaming as he fired Geoff Brown’s original Meccano 1912 vertical steam engine.

BIG wheel!
John Molden’s Giant wheel

Big Wheel

For us one of the most interesting exhibits was John Molden’s Giant wheel. Assembled it is 8ft 6inches high and the wheel has a 7ft diameter. Although the model has been around for a while this is the first time we have seen it in reality. It is huge! John says it takes three hours to assemble – he must have been at the Gathering early as it was assembled when we arrived just after 9AM.

After seeing Johns wheel we now have some idea of what we have let our selves in for  with our Ferris wheel project. Although ours is only 6ft diameter it is not collapsible and the wheel will have to be transported in one piece. Because ours is an observation whee,l as apposed to a fairground ride, it is fitted with observation cars – 36 of them (John’s wheel has 24 gondolas) It is going to be interesting as well as heavy. We will let you know how we get on over the next few months.

Dealer models

We were intending to have a steam up so we decided to take a couple of our display models as this meant we could leave them running unattended. It worked out well as Alan Esplen was next to us with his splendid model of the Blackpool Tower based in the Meccano display model.

Before we knew it the day was over and we were packing up again ready for the journey back to the comfort of home – we had survived another expedition way out West and even crossed the river several times without incident! Next week I will be on home turf at the autumn meeting of SELMEC in Eltham – almost walking distance!



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1965 steamer
This 1960s Meccano steam engine was showing the oldtimers how it should be done!
Going strong
Close up of our 1960s engine really giving it some... This little engine is really going even the camera flash didn't freeze the action!