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Track link from above
A single link
Makin' Tracks
 

When I first saw the pictures of Meccano-made track in Bert Love’s little book, Meccano Constructors Guide, I was fascinated. I sat down and started to produce a parts list. My! I am going to need to go shopping! Apart from the 2½ inch flat girders (Part No. 103f), of which I would need 48 to build a pair of the smaller tracks shown, all the other parts are common. It is just the numbers required that is causing a problem.

 
 

How many fishplates do you own? Each track uses 96 of them! Double angle brackets, OK, you only need 48 of them… for each track!! To say I was short of parts was an understatement. This was in the mid eighties - yes, I know, over twenty years ago - the supply of Meccano was very sparse. Although there were traders around large numbers of parts were not that easy to get and even if they were available they would have cost more than my budget could have stood at the time.

Not to be put off by this I started to collect as many second hand 2½ inch flat girders as I could find. Before I could go any further life caught up with me and the Meccano was heading for a back seat.

Track link from below
A single link from below
  Track
The first atempt proved that some extra support was needed...
 
Track Track
...Extra track bearings were added to the top of the frame.
 

20 years later…

It is now February 2008. A grotty day, some free time and that Bert Love book gets a few more thumb marks. I had been reading about Meccano clocks on the internet and wanted to build a clock of my own. After messing about with some winding mechanisms I spotted the photographs of the caterpillar track again. A bit of a root through the ‘standing stock’ rendered enough girders to make one track. A few ebay wins assembled enough of the common bits to complete one track, albeit a mixture of colours.

I decided to build a single track to test the idea’s validity. After a couple of attempts I managed to build a working prototype. Not the prettiest piece of Meccano building but it has proved the design. 

A few more visits to shows and a rummage through Dave Taylor’s boxes of bundled lots and cleaning him out of 1⅛ inch cheese-head screws, I had enough parts to build the second track.

It is now May 2008 and I have two tracks assembled. I have added extra guide rollers to the top of the frame (more like the original design in the book). The net stage is the chain drive and joining them together… What’s the finished model going to be? … er, Don’t know yet I just wanted to build some tracks. I’ll add to the story as the model grows.

 
  Trach assembly
Hmmm.... That seems to work OK

Second thoughts on drive sprocket assembly

Another wayAfter some thought I tried using nuts instead of washers to space the strips between the pulleys. This made assembly easier but I was still not happy with the result. Sue then suggested that some of the more modern components may hold the solution and came up with the assembly show.

Open
Sue's 'improved' design

Instead of using the traditional cheese-head bolts, nuts and washers, Sue has  opted for the 15 mm (37/64 in) hex head pivot bolts. Instead of washers or nuts Sue used the little plastic grips (intended for use on rods) as spacers. To keep it all together the pairs of standard nuts locked together, are replaced with single lock nuts.

Closed
The assembled drive
sprocket

The big advantage with this design is that by careful adjustment of the lock nuts the pulleys can be ‘tuned’ to run perfectly parallel to each other while a drift inserted though the pulley bosses will retain their coaxial relationship.

 

 

Construction

After all the main parts had been collected, the track assembly was embarked upon. With nothing more than the small pictures in Bert Love’s book to work from the first track was assembled. Initially I used washers between the double bent strips and the fishplates. Not only did this involve using eleven washer for each link, but it turned out that the assembly was too wide to run nicely on the flanged wheels. The track was subsequently dismantled and re assembled without the inner washers.

In order to test the newly assembled track one of the frames was assembled and the idler wheel tensioning mechanism installed. The tricky bit is assembling the driving wheel. This is made up from two 20a pulleys, bolted together sandwiching a pair of  2½ inch narrow strips. The strips are spaced away from the pulleys using washers on either side. Trying to hold all the screws in place while fitting the washers and strips, then fitting the second wheel is fun. It is worth noting here that the end of these strips have been finished with two different profiles during its time in production. The more rounded type seem to work the best. Assembly is carried out with a drift passed through the bosses of the pulleys to ensure that they remain coaxial.

 

The rest of the frame assembly is straightforward construction. All the plates should be assembled with the girders using drifts dropped into vacant holes to ensure perfect alignment as the rods that carry the flanged wheels need to rotate freely. A close look at the pictures will show the detail. Six fishplates are used as spacers to enable the spring rod springs and washers to travel freely without fouling the heads of the bolts holding the triangular plates and slotted strip together.

Assembly and testing

The last link of the track is assembled by folding it in half and arranging it so that the open link is accessible at one end, passing the last bolt through and fitting the washers and nuts - after the experience with the drive sprocket maybe lock nuts would be the answer here, I’ll only need … err… 96 (48 per track).

Assemble the track

 

The track now feels like a really heavy Goth necklace! Place the idler wheel in the track and compress the springs. The other end can now be wound onto the drive sprocket. After a bit of sorting out, a 3/4 inch pinion is fitted to the drive shaft so the assembly can be tested.

I was surprised how smoothly it runs both in both directions. Now it was time to build the second assembly. At this point I added the extra guides that had been omitted from the first track. I now have two working tracks, the next step will be joining them together and designing the drive system….

May 2008

 
   
 

UPDATE 15th February 2009

I started building the tracks at the beginning of last year when I first got back into the hobby. The thought of being able to complete something I had wanted to do twenty years before ran away with me and after completing them I realised that, as far as I was concerned, the challenge was met. The problem was that I did not have a model in mind to use them on.

Scrap!
Time to go back into stock...

After having them sitting around for the best part of a year, no enthusiasm for building a model had surfaced so it was time to make a decision. They were built using anything I could lay my hands on, at the time, and would need stripping and rebuilding with restored or nicer parts in any case, so they have now been stripped down and the parts put back into stock.

I had fun building them and it got the old Meccano juices flowing again so I do not regret it. Nor do I regard it as a waste of time but just another step on the ladder of Meccano experience.

Ralph.

 
     
 

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