Like most of us I was first introduced to Meccano as a child when my parents gave me an Outfit No. 4 as a Christmas gift. I was fairly young then and I think my father had greater expectations of me than I had desires for the Meccano. It was used but not to any great extent. I remember being taken to Meccano's shop, just off Regent Street in London, and having extra parts bought for me. As I remember a boiler and a few of the loaded sacks came from there.
Meccano's marketing was second to none. The ever present desire for more parts and the unreachable height of the ultimate goal, to own an Outfit No. 10 was always there. The back cover of the manual for my Outfit No. 4 set had pictures of models made using the larger sets, "The Military Tank is one of the attractive models that can be built with Outfit No. 8" and " A working lifting shovel that can be built with Outfit No. 10" were heights that I had no chance of scaling as a schoolboy in 60's South London.
For a while the Meccano took a back seat with the invasion of the marketing guys from Denmark. Lego had landed in my life and the next few years were taken over by the plastic brick.
It wasn't until the age of 14 that Meccano featured heavily in my life again. 1970 and Meccano had changed colour. The old red and green had become yellow and silver, with the odd black bit. I had picked up a Meccano price list from the previous year featuring the Power Drive sets. For my birthday in February 1970 I was given the Power Drive set as a present, £6 - 17s - 6d A lot of money then. I had great fun with that set. The motor was, and still is, very usable. What's more with a paper round I could save my hard earned money and add to it. First a 4a to make it into a No 5, and then a 5a to make it into a No.6.
I never did save enough money to buy the Elektrikit or the Mechanisms sets before I discovered girls and the onslaught of homework and then college. The next 15+ years were spent in the normal way, buying a house, getting married to my lovely wife Sue and in our case running a business. In the early eighties we owned a model shop. Here we bought and sold second hand items such as model railway, diecast vehicles, Lego and of course Meccano... the trouble was I could not bring myself to sell the one lot of Meccano that we were offered and I subsequently bought.
The bug had bitten me again. This time I had a bit more money to spend, not that much but substantially more than I had back in the 70's. Through my contacts in the local business community I heard of a No 10 set that had been submitted to the local paper as the subject of a classified advert. This was an old red and green No 10 that had been made up from all sorts of bits and pieces. Not in its first youth but absolutely complete even down to the correct number of nuts an bolts, all in a genuine oak, four drawer chest, with the 'Meccano Outfit No. 10' water slide transfer on the top.
In the late '80s I joined SELMEC (South East London Meccano Club) in Eltham. Here I managed to add to my collection of Meccano and spent a few years getting involved with the running of the club. I even organised one or two of the exhibitions. During this time I was talking to a salesman at work one day and he said that he had an old Meccano windmill in his loft. It was a bit bashed around but would I be interested. Yes I said and a few days later he reemerged with said windmill. It turned out to be a Binns Road made dealers display model. A few new parts and a bit of cleaning up produced an interesting piece of Meccano history.
Trips to other exhibitions and of course the annual pilgrimage way out west to the Henley exhibition, combined with a visit to MW models shop all added to the Meccano experience of the time. I even managed to buy a complete boxed Elektrikit. I had now realised my child hood dream but little did I know it at the time but another period of no Meccano activity was just around the corner.
The recession of the 90's meant that the business needed me to be more involved. That with other more pressing family matters meant that Meccano and other activities had to take a back seat. It would be nearly twenty years before I would be picking up the spanner again.
So here we are well into the new Millennium and I find myself looking at Meccano on ebay. Things are very different now. Twenty years ago there was very little Meccano to be had. The dealers at the shows recycled what second hand parts they could find and every now and then would unearth a supply of old shop stock. Today dealers such as Dave Taylor and his Meccanoman business not only supply large amounts of second hand Meccano but also supply new repro parts as well as parts that Meccano never did make. Modern motors and all sorts of new stuff has really got me exited again.
Here I am just about to embark on another phase of Meccano activity. It is March 2008, 45 years since I first owned a Meccano set and I am still enthusiastic about the hobby. Last month Sue and I took a trip to Ironbridge and joined the Telford and Ironbridge Meccano Society (TIMS) and at the end of this month it is the next SELMEC meeting... I think I will go along and reintroduce myself. You never know they my let me join again.
The story goes on…
The above was written just over four years ago and since then this website (and our Meccano collection!) has grown somewhat. We have travelled hither and yon either attending shows and exhibitions or in search of more building stock. We say we are not collectors but there are a few exceptions. We are very interested in dealer display models or Meccano built (or commissioned) display models. If you read through the News pages of this site you will find several examples of such finds. The most notable being the French Meccano built exhibition models of large automatic cranes.
Sue has developed a rather worrying leaning towards collecting the odd item. I think it all started when she saw a fine collection of blue/gold Meccano at Meccanuity 2010. She is now the proud owner of a 1930s Meccano Lighting kit and a yellow box full of loaded sacks, neither of which seem to be destined for use.
One of the most popular of our early models was born from a SELMEC club challenge to build a model using only parts 1-50. Usually challenge models are fairly small but this one got out of hand and our all zinc (well almost) funicular railway was born. Meccano building seems to have gone in themed phases. We has a spell of Meccanograph building which Sue was particularly keen on after seeing some of the fantastic machines built by Mike Fallows, of the North West Meccano Guild, and many others seen on the club and show circuit. Another theme that seemed to be self-perpetuating was a collection of miniature fairground models inspired by the release of Meccano’s short lived ‘Nano’ models. The first model built was a kiddie’s roundabout featuring all six Nano models as the ride-on features. Our latest theme seems to have developed from a chance buy at a Meccano club auction, a small model of a handloom in a rather poor state. Originally bought as scrap, with the intention of stripping it for useful parts, it became evident that it might be possible to get it working. A few hours work and it became evident that it would work and produces some fairly decent looking cloth, not the usual “loose bandage” as it was described by a visitor at a recent show. Since then a larger loon has been embarked upon a beaming frame has been built.
In between our building and attending shows we have the odd excursion to collect Meccano items that have won on ebay or been offered to us through the pages of this website. Road trips, often in one day, to Blackpool, Frinton-on-Sea, Exeter, Derby, Newport (Wales), County Durham and even Anglesey have all been made in the pursuit of acquiring more building stock.
We also went through a period of considering refurbishing large quantities of rough old Meccano that just builds up as time goes on. It soon became clear that this is fruitless toil, as far as we are concerned, as we would be spending all out building time refurbishing parts we may never use. Now we just refurbish what we need, as we need it. We are in the process of looking at building some zinc plating equipment to refurbish a large amount of strips and girders we have acquired in rather poor cosmetic condition. Apparently all you need is a heater, a fish-tank pump, some control circuitry, some bespoke fibreglass or acrylic tanks a bunch of lethal sounding chemicals and some zinc… we will see if it is that simple (I fear it may not be) and I will post the results on the website.
Meccano storage has become an issue as, when I wrote the first part of this waffle back in the early part of 2008 we were only interested in Binns Road Meccano that is manufactured prior to 1979. As you will see, if you read the news posts of this site, it didn’t take us too long to discover the advantages of embracing the new parts. Now we have a vast stock of modern parts built-up chiefly from bargain ebay purchases over the past few years. All this has been religiously sorted and stored in a system of drawers, dealer cabinets and plastic storage boxes keeping a good selection at hand with back stock available to replenish the draws where parts are plentiful.
I doesn’t seem to matter how much of the stuff we acquire there is always a part we have not got enough of or, now on very rare occasions, a part we do not have. The balance of what was scarce when I was a nipper and now has been destroyed by the selection of parts supplied in the new kits. The corner brackets part nos. 133 and 133a, for example, were a part that was not very common at all. Now they are in lots of the modern kits in multiples – we now have drawers full of them!
A lot has happened over the past four and a bit years since I originally wrote this introduction and it just keeps getting better. The Internet has made a big difference to this hobby, as it has with many others, making communication with other enthusiasts and sellers of parts so much easier than ever before. I have also started a general workshop blog that covers all the goings on in my workshop, including some Meccano. I am now looking forward to the next few years to see where it goes from here.
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