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Sue fixes the little windmill
"Now if I can just get this nut in here..."

Chris Fry's splendid little 1920s racing car making good use of the crazy inventor wheels and tyres

11th October 2008
South East London Meccano Club’s 30th Annual Exhibition

Ralph & Sue at SELMEC 30
Our display at the show - discussing the next project!

Today it is the turn of our local club to hold its Annual Exhibition. This year is the 30th public exhibition held by the club.

We packed the car and headed East – that makes a change! A few miles down the road and we arrived at Sherard Hall. On arrival the usual suspects were all in attendance. Dave Taylor was unloading a mountain of Meccano just waiting to be snapped up by a hall full of enthusiast’s visitors.

A quick ‘shuftie’ around the hall revealed a nice spot to set up so it was back to the car to unload. A couple of cardboard boxes containing windmills and the funicular railway that was back a month after its last visit. This time it is complete with station and staging.

The station building was roofed by Sue and depicts a typical seaside design. Sue also came up with the docking system that allows both cars to dock at each end regardless of how much (or little) the string has stretched.

This was the 30th time the club has held a public exhibition and the first one Sue and I have attended for more than 20 years! I am please to report it was a splendid turnout both by members exhibiting and visitors. There was also a large contingent of children visiting, all were eager to ‘drive’ the funicular railway.

The only mishap was the driving cord being misplaced on Sues little windmill by a rather over enthusiastic operator! Minor dismantling and repair buy Sue put it right.

The order we had placed with Dave Taylor was collected and Sue picked up a couple of replica Meccano name plates and pennants.  The day seemed to fly by and before we knew it the models were back in the car and we were on our way home after a really enjoyable day.

Dealer display Ferris Wheel
George Foard's dealer display ferris wheel - Sue's next project!

There is a video report of the day HERE.


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Our Windmill
Our refurbished windmill puts on a show
Sign od the day "Warning! these models may contain nuts!
Sign of the day! by John Cowdrey

Ralph building steps
Yes dear, nearly finished...

10th October 2008
The night before…

Sue hard at work
Roofer at work!

Where does the time go? It is over a month since I have added to our news! Well it is the night before the SELMEC exhibition and we are getting the funicular railway ready to take to the show along with our dealer display windmill. Since it’s last outing at Eltham we have added a station to the top and Sue designed a system to take account of the stretch in the string. Both cars now dock properly. I tried it out last Saturday at the Runnymede meeting and it worked faultlessly.

For a change it is a really local trip for us - a few miles up the road. As SELMEC is our ‘Home’ club, as it were, we are heavily involved in the setting up and other duties throughout the day. For a change, the models are ready to go apart from a quick check over.

Although I have not been active on the web, we have been really busy elsewhere. A busy few weeks at the day job have been interspersed with sorting the latest bulk purchases and designing the next couple of projects.

For the next TIMS exhibition in Ironbridge we plan to build and exhibit a large scale Ferris wheel. The intention is to build a replica of George Ferris’ original wheel built in 1893 at the World’s Fair in Chicago.

The other project we are contemplating is a narrow gauge loco, again in a reasonably large scale. Having both been Narrow gauge railway fans for more years than we care to remember it is strange to think that we have never built one before. Its all in the melting pot at the moment but we will see. 

It’s now 10pm and I still have to pack the tools and spare parts for tomorrow…

… “Sue, where’s the list for Mr T?” 


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It will fit...Yep that's my spanner...




See the video of the funicular railway in action at the
SELMEC Meeting



Look a 19c in a model!



Sue's Beetle
Sue's Beetle

Cage and Car
See the blue truck?



Delail of traction engine
Traction engine detail

6th September 2008
SELMEC Meeting

My funicular railway
Our funicular railway

The secretaries challenge for this meeting was to build a model using only parts 1-50. That includes strips, angle girders and most of the gears. It also includes the pulleys but not the tyres. All this aside the biggest problem is bolts - no long bolts.

Over the years we have amassed a vast selection of perforated strips in zinc finish as well as a good selection of angle girders and double angle brackets of various lengths. It looked as if we had a good chance of building something of a reasonable size.

The restrictions on the parts used meant that any solid areas had to be built up from multiple strips bolted side by side. It then became obvious that this project was going to be nut and bolt hungry. As I wanted to stay loosely within the late 60s period this meant slotted cheese-head bolts and square nuts. A bit of a sort out produced a good supply so now all we needed to do was build something. Sue and I discussed several possibilities before opting for a funicular railway.

Work on the model got off to a roaring start and the cars and track were built fairly quickly. However, as is the norm in our house, work took over and the model took a back seat. Completion came 2.30am the morning of the club meeting!

To say this model got a bit out of hand is an understatement. Having built the cars first, the scale was set - the rest just followed. The incline plain is 43 inches long set at 45º  making the height over 30 inches.


Some negotiation of transport requirements was entered into and it was decided that I could use Sue’s estate car providing I dropped her first as she was helping out with some flower arrangements for a wedding the following day. Parking a long wheelbase Transit at Sherard hall is not a practical proposition on a club day.

I arrived early, only preceded by Dave Taylor and his copious selection of Meccano ready for us to have a good rummage through. We just started to unload and the rain started - it chucked it down. As Meccano and water don’t mix we waited a while before continuing.

Dave has setting that stand up to a fine art and before long he was ready to trade. The bees were around the honey pot topping up their stocks. Having invested heavily this year already I resisted temptation and purchased the 500 nuts I had asked Dave to bring with him.

The rain stopped and it was all systems go again. I carried my model in to a few raised eyebrows. This was by far the largest model I have taken to any meeting. Last time I had a few starter models and a bending machine.


I also had Sue’s VW Beetle with me as a couple of members had asked to see it. Geoff Carter had made one as well so we compared notes. It is a strange little kit. You can read more about it HERE.

Grub screws!

On setting up my model, Brian Elvidge pointed out that set screws and grub screws are in fact part number 69, 69a,b &c…. Hmmmm…. Is this taking it a bit too far? If a part is supplied with a grub screw it becomes integral in that part - Right?  Well, thinking about the effort that went into it, I decided to change the offending items for standard bolts (P/N 37a) just to be safe. I set up the cars and the model worked fine. Its next outing will be at the Runnymede meet on the 4th October. I intend to build a top station and a bottom entrance. I thought I would extend the challenge and try and use at least one part from all the numbers 1-50. I’ll let you know how I get on.

More challenge models

Chris Fry's Meccanograph

My other model entered into the challenge was a simple combining of a few bent strips that we had made while demonstrating out bending machine. The baby must be the simplest model I have ever entered! It made a few people smile…

It was Chris Fry that suggested the challenge so he could hardly not bring a model. He managed to build a Meccanograph adapted from a Andreas Konkoly model that featured in the November 1972 issue of Meccano magazine. Like my model he has used the 19c pulley, must be the first time that two models using this part have appeared at Sherard Hall!

Pit head gear
Pit head gear

Chris Warrell’s pit head gear made for an unusual model built from reference material found on the internet. The model has a working that is raised and lowered by hand - not allowed a motor within the rules of the challenge. A truck made from blue Meccano rides the cage.

There were plenty of other models entered into the Secretary’s challenge and more details can be found HERE on the SELMEC website.

Other models

There was a very neat traction engine built by Brian Elvidge. The model was originally built with the intention of improving the pre-war SM22 model. It has a modern high efficiency motor built into the firebox, and a host of features including a working winch drum, hand brake, differential and two speed gears.

Traction engine
Very neat traction engine

The Foden fairground lorry will transport John Gay’s Octopus fairground ride. The lorry is complete with generator, and opening lockers. What does not fit inside will be towed behind. 

John Gay's Foden

There were plenty of other models on display and a good turnout made it all the better. SELMEC is my local club and we are holding out 30th annual exhibition at Sherard hall in Eltham, London SE9 on the 11th of October. More details HERE.

Cakes and refreshments were available as usual. I took one of Sue’s Cherry cakes and polished of one of Adrian Ashford’s individual cakes that he had donated - very nice! I almost forgave him for not bringing the Ping-pong ball lifter he showed at Henley but I missed.

Last time I got ‘Volunteered’ to do the washing up, so this time I offered. Just as I was going to help I got waylaid by an interesting model. When I finally got to the kitchen I was too late It had all been done… What a disappointment! Maybe next time.


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Working late to finish - looks like the beer has gone flat!
close-up of car



Ball roller clock.

Generator detail

Ferris wheel
Dealer display Ferris wheel.
Sue looks on
Sue looks on as we discuss 1929 steam engines.
Adrian Ashford's ball lifter.



30th August 2008
The Henley Gathering…

Owen Roberts and his steam display  at Henley 2008
Owen Roberts with his display of old steam engines and acessories.

A trip to Henley is a daunting prospect for a South East Londoner, born and bred. Not only does this mean emulating the arduous and sometimes dangerous trek made by those early American settlers heading into Indian territory (Way out West), the journey also entailed crossing ‘The river’ - a South Londoner North of the river, not something to taken lightly …

We were off to Henley for the first time in over 20 years, Last time we were there The Gathering was held in the Town Hall and we went to Geoff Wright’s MW models for parts! This time we had a reason for going, over and above the lure of Meccano models and traders selling pieces of metal and plastic with 11/64 inch holes in it. We were off to meet Owen Roberts to participate in the first meeting of the unofficial 1929 society. No not a secret organisation with weird rituals, just a bunch of people determined to burn their fingers.

We packed Sue’s Swedish reconstituted fridge estate with Two of the 1929s and the snappy-happy DSLR camera gear, pointed West and set off with ‘Jane’ giving directions she got from her two friends; Tom and Tom. A surprisingly easy journey got us to Henley in good time. As we walked in, there we were presented with Owen’s super display of both original and replica Steam engines the focus being on the 1929 models (…Did I not mention they were steam engines?).

After introducing ourselves, we added our two engines to the display and went off to say hello to a few people. Sue soon got restless and was off looking for something to shoot, photographically speaking that is! The first person we bumped into was Nick Rodgers of the Runnymede Meccano Guild. We stood there chatting for a few minutes (More like half an hour - Sue.) and proceeded to examine the underside of Nick’s superb Foden petrol tanker.

A whiz around the displays revealed lots to see and many familiar faces to stop and chat with. A rummage around the trade stands resulting is some more of my ‘hard-earned’  making its way back East to Essex.

Steam’s up!

1929 engine in steam
Full steam ahead! one of my engines in full flight - look at the flywheel. The camera has frozen the gearwheel as it is revolving much slower.

Making our way back to Owen’s display found him outside, set up on top of the Bar-B-Q preparing to steam one of his 1929s. Well, that was it we all had to get in on the act. The weather was making it a really nice sunny day. The only trouble was we could not see whether the burner was alight or not. Holding a hand over the burner soon resolved the problem!

We were soon joined by Geoff brown, who had driven down from Lincolnshire to join the party. He brought his 1929 engine and we soon had it in steam. My two engines were another story. The scruffier of the two is earmarked for refurbishment and I have had it steam before. This time the pressure valve was leaking and it just would not produce enough steam to get going. Owen kindly offered me the loan of one of his and it was all systems go!

Four old boilers
Four old boilers! Left to right: Me, Owen Roberts, Richard Payn and Geoff Brown.

The earlier  one of my two had not been steamed since I acquired it back at the end of July. We did have a cursory go at building a head of steam but it was looking as if something was amiss and seeing as I have not had a chance to strip it and service it, commonsense prevailed and the burner was extinguished.

On display

Sue managed to find another ‘Pink’ VW model made up in the main hall. Unfortunately the owner was not to be found so the opportunity to swap notes did not arise (was that your VW model? drop Sue an e-mail so we can credit the photograph: Sue@my-meccano.co.uk ).

1937 model transporter bridge.
Malcolm Hanson's Very nice 1937 model transporter bridge built in the blue and gold Meccano of the period.

Fellow SELMEC member, Adrian Ashford built a copy of  Craig Longhurst’s ping-pong ball lifter (based on an original design by Les Pattison). Although Sue got a shot of it I did not get a chance to talk to him about it. I’m hoping he will be taking it to next week’s meeting in Eltham on Saturday.

Other models of interest were there in abundance. I particularly liked a model of an 0-4-0 fireless loco that made an unusual subject and the ball-roller clock was interesting. Sue is still on the lookout for Ferris wheels and spotted Frank Paine’s Dealer display red and green model.


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Five in a row
It's not often you will see five 1929 steam engines in a row.


Not Sue's
A Beetle - not Sue's
Fireless loco
Fireless loco.
Ball roller clock
Ball roller clock.
Ball roller clock.


Dished side


The hub assembled using the smaller 'cheese-head' bolts near the boss allow the strips to move slightly closer to the centre. This will reduce the circumference slightly allowing the side to be assembled without stress resulting in a flat side.

20th August 2008
Ferris wheel - Sorted

Ferris wheel set
The finished wheel - at last!

Back at the last TIMS meeting at the end of June, it was muted that large models would be the order of the day for next years exhibition to be held over the bank holiday weekend at the beginning of May.

Sue and I decided that it might be a bit of fun to build a large Ferris wheel of some kind. The basic Idea is to have a central hub with spokes supporting an outer ring into which the gondolas would be suspended. I digress because neither of us have ever built anything like this before and that is way we thought we would start off small. The current production Ferris wheel set seemed like a good starting point - little did we know at the time how much hassle that decision was going to be!

Flat or not...

I found a set on ebay and duly won the auction. The set arrived and Sue set about building the Ferris wheel. She had not got very far when she discovered that it was impossible to build the sides of the wheel flat. It seemed that the geometry was wrong. I had a go and got the same result. Hmmm… A post on Spanner II led to a small debate. Some were saying that they had no problem with it, other were offering ‘fixes’.

You can see just how much paint is on the new stuff. The yellow in the hole is the paint on the strip below.

I decided to build one from ‘old’ Meccano. Guess what? It worked. The powder coating was the first suspect. This was underpinned by the guys on Spanner II who also felt that this could be the culprit. I ‘reamed ‘ out all the holes in the end of the curved strips (Part 89’s) and proceeded to put the thing together again. Still no joy.

It was then pointed out that the holes in the strips should be 11/64 inch (4.365mm) the drill I had been using was only 4.1 mm. In round figures that is about 1/4mm too small. That’s it! Problem solved. I rushed out to the workshop and found an 11/16 drill bit. That is too big to fit into the boss of a standard wheel so while I was out there I set the drill in the chuck of the pillar drill and opened up the hole in a 1 inch diameter pulley wheel (Part 22) so that, with a tyre fitted it, would make a convenient 'handle'.

Should I get out more?

Back to the Meccano and feverishly put the side together with high expectations of success, only to find that the side, although less so, still had to be dished to get the last bold in place. Well, to say I was devastated was an understatement, all that and it still did not want to play the game and lay flat. (At this stage even I am thinking I should get out more…) This is really bugging me now. In fact it was bordering on obsession.

I decided that life was too short and put the whole lot to one side. It was still bugging me and I think the guys on Spanner II were getting bored with me going on about it…

… a couple of weeks elapsed and I had nearly let it go when I saw a new Ferris wheel set listed on Amazon for a reasonable price and they were offering free next day delivery. That was it. I could not help myself. Tap tap, click click, … bought another one.


The new one arrived today. I opened it up and proceeded to build. By now the instructions were irrelevant, I know how to build those sides with my eyes shut.  It went together fine. No dishing just fine…

OK, so what is different? At first glance nothing. Then on closer inspection I noticed that the new one had the cheese-head hex bolts and the original one had round-head hex bolts. So what?

The heads of the bolts are different sizes - 7 or 8 thou makes all the difference.

Well, call me obsessed but I decided to measure the diameter of the screw heads. The round heads are (give or take a couple of thou.) 7 or 8 thousandths of an inch larger than the cheese head ones. Using the larger headed bolts will hold the strips fractionally further away from the boss of the face-plate when all eight strips are bolted to it. This means that the curved strips have a greater distance to span than they should have resulting in the wheel side becoming dished.

I replaced the bolts on the original wheel side and eureka! It worked… I can now sleep at night!


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A flat side - at last!




Box art showing the lamp.




Beetle or 2CV?



11th August 2008
The new pink beetle…

Me the beetle and Smokie!
Me and Smoke finishing the Beetle at home

This week we are away from home. The news on Spanner II was that there was a new set available from Argos. Ralph went off, located the nearest Argos and relieved  them of one Meccano Beetle. “It’s Pink!” he said. “I don’t do PINK” he continued. I do, so we decided that I should build it.

The first thing I noticed on the box was that it had headlights. There’s a thought, working headlights… Imagine my disappointment when the headlights turned out to be stickers. I was not happy and on closer inspection of the box found a sticker that said something like “the contents may vary slightly from the illustration.” Yeah right, they missed out MY headlights!

The bits
All the bits

On tipping the contents out I noticed that we were presented with a new design of spanner. The new tool looked like a cross between the old box spanner (P/N 34b) and the standard spanner (P/N 34) . The centre ‘square’ and the cranked end are the same as a standard spanner but the other end resembles an open box spanner. On closer inspection the ‘jaws’ are slightly tapered enabling it to grip a nut for difficult placement. The fact that it is open means that it can be withdrawn after the nut has been tightened.  Looks too useful to lose, I think Ralph has his eye on it… Well he’ll have to buy his own Pink Beetle!

New Spanner
New spanner

It goes together reasonably easily although it is  left-hand-drive if you follow the instructions to the letter. I ‘converted’ mine to RHD. The wheels are a novel combination I have not seen before. It uses those silver conical discs (P/N 187q) sandwiched between a 1 inch plastic pulley and the tyre. It seems to work quite well.

The really strange thing is the lack of floor reminiscent of Fred Flintstones car! It’s a funny model, the shape is sort of beetle like but It does have some 2CV-like features. Not the best set I have ever had the pleasure to put together but it filled a gap while we were away from home. 

I will give it to Ralph to take to the SELMEC meeting on September 6th.


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Where's my lamps?

Beetle and Box
Finished beetle in front of its box.



Original gear
Got the original gear with this one!

Light use
A bit dirty but in great condition


20th July 2008

Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Bangor…

The second 1929 steam engine as found in its original box

…Well almost, Anglesey actually. It all started a couple of weeks ago. I received an e-mail via the feedback form on the website from a chap in Anglesey who had rediscovered his Meccano during the clearance of his late mother’s house. Amongst it was a 1929 steam engine. After doing a google search he was directed to my website, amongst others, and got in touch. To cut a long story short, I agreed to swap the afore mentioned Meccano and steam engine for a fair quantity of pound notes.

Another Steam engine

Hmmm…. Deal done, me in London, said Meccano in Anglesey. To save you all rushing to Google maps, give or take a bit, that’s a 500 mile round trip. “Sue, fancy a trip to North Wales next week?” after a bit of journey planning the trip was on. A pleasant drive up through Wales taking in the scenery on the Friday with a Little Chef breakfast on the way. Arrive at Anglesey by lunch time for a pub nosh before getting to the Meccano at the prescribed time of 3PM.  Had a good long chat with Dave, the man with the Meccano, and set off back to Ironbridge to get to our favourite B&B to drop off our bags before walking to the ‘Jockey’ for supper and a pint.

As usual we couldn’t leave the stuff in the car so before supper a rummage through the latest haul revealed some interesting bits and pieces including a brass hook that I did not realise was a Meccano part. A similar hook is featured in the article by Frank W Weber, describing his model of the Deutz tractor in the June 2008 issue of Constructor Quarterly (CQ 80). On reading the article the hook is not mentioned and I just assumed it was a ‘compatible’ part. To find one in a box of Meccano that dates from the 1930’s suggests it was originally a Meccano part. Can somebody tell me its origins?

After a nights stay and yet another cooked breakfast, we decide that as it is not the nicest day of the year, we will point the recycled Swedish fridge to London and get on the road home.

The oiler was attached and complete

The new engine is duly unpacked and photographed in its ‘as found’ state. I posted a couple of pictures on the Spanner II list and at my NZMeccano Gallery last night. Geoff Brown confirmed that the oiler you can see in the photographs is a Bowman oiler. I also understand it was available, at the time, for one shilling (5p). You will also see from the photograph that this is the type with the transfer ‘Meccano’ name applied to the boiler cover as opposed to the embossed name subsequently adopted.

COMING SOON - The 1929 gallery, a collection of Facts, theories, photographs and interesting links relating to the 1929 steam engine... 

...If you have any information that you would like me to include contact me here OK, that’s enough travelling and collecting, now it is time to do some building…

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Original funnel and could this be the original wick?

Small Hook
Meccano hook. I am not sure of its orign - can you help?....
Thanks to Spanner II I now know that this is a train coupling part No. 121





6th July 2008

Skegex 2008

Skegex 08

OK, this little tale starts at 4am Saturday, yes, that is 4am! When you live where Sue and I live, if we can get on the road by 5am we stand half a chance of missing the London traffic. The idea is to drive, flat out (not exceeding the speed limit, of course…) until 7am. Two hours can get you a long way at that time of the morning, then all five of us ( Me, Sue, Jane, Tom and Tom) will stop for breakfast at the next Little Chef we come across. Yesterday we got as far as Boston. Jane got the hump as we entered the services and repeatedly started muttering “Turn around when possible” so we locked her in the glove compartment with Tom and Tom while Sue and I went off and consumed a hearty breakfast.

Jane was much happier once we returned to the main road and directed us faultlessly for the completion of the journey finally announcing “You have reached your destination”. We managed to park the trusty chariot and made our way to the Embassy Theatre. We had arrived at the biggest event on the Meccano calendar. This was our first visit to Skegex and we were not to be disappointed.

The place was thick with Meccano people. Before we got to the venue we had already met two ‘Meccanomen’ - even if one of them was a woman!

Faces and names

Wearing our name badges was a great idea. Having several badges we decided to wear our TIMS badges as they had our names on in clear bold type. This of course had nothing to do with the fact that there is a rule at TIMS that if you do not wear your name badge you will be fined a pound! - Mary, I won’t tell anyone you were not wearing yours…

We have been posting on Spanner for a few months now and thanks to the name badges several Spanners took the time to introduce themselves to us. It was great meeting you all and being able to put faces to names.

Big Yellow Digger!

The variety of models being shown was vast. From the smallest ‘simple’ model to some extremely complex and enormous works of art or labours of love. By far the most striking was Eric Champleboux’s 1:12 scale model of the Liebherr R966 Litronic (or Big yellow digger). 9000 nuts & bolts hold together 3000 parts. This is ‘Meccano’ modelling taken to the extreme. 

Personal favourites

I was taken with the dealer display models, particularly Jim Gambles display of 50’s models that included a compressor and men using pneumatic drills. Sue was taken with the ball rollers and I must admit to being fascinated by the complexity of some of these machines.

We stayed overnight in a B&B a few mile south of Skegness and returned for a few hours this morning before heading for home. All in all a thoroughly bracing experience.

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Ping-Pong ball roller.

Matchbox Manipulator model and photograph by Chris Shute
A matchbox being Manipulated. photograph by Chris Shute.

1st July 2008

Back from Ironbridge

After a crack of dawn start we pointed the car North West and set off for Ironbridge. After sailing through a barely awake East London and navigating the M1 road works at a painfully slow 50mph, we made it to Telford in record time and were tucking into a full English before 7.30am… Yes, I know, we should be eating high fibre this or healthy that… maybe tomorrow!

Crawler track
Crawler tracks. Click on photograph for more details.

Sue and I had decided to show the crawler tracks we have been working on. We also took along a collection of the small design starter kits that we had made up over the past few months. Being away from the hobby for the past 20 years or so these little models have been a good source of new parts for us to experiment with.

The meeting was not as well attended as it might have been, I suspect this being due to its proximity in the Meccano calendar to the Skegness gathering, only being a week away. This also meant there were no dealers present, which I think is totally understandable. Next year this meeting has been rescheduled to take place in August.

Matchbox Manipulator model and photograph by Chris Shute
Matchbox Manipulator. Model and photograph by Chris Shute.

There were some interesting models there, as usual. Chris Shute’s matchbox manipulator was fascinating. Built from the contents of a No.8 set in response to Michael Denny’s writings, in the last issue of QC, where he asked “What can you create with a No.8 set. I would have thought of a crane, or maybe some kind of vehicle. Not Chris, he decided to make a simpler version of his original gear-hungry matchbox manipulator (as featured in QC54). The ‘manipulator’ is a really useful piece of kit ideal for placing ball bearings in matchboxes and then emptying them again…

You will be able to see Chris’s model at Skegex 08, next weekend (5-7th July 2008) and I understand it is to appear in a future issue of QC.

We stayed in Ironbridge overnight and headed off back to the smoke on Sunday. We had an enjoyable weekend and are now looking forward to our first visit to Skegness and Skegex 08.

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Matchbox Manipulator model and photograph by Chris Shute
Gotcha! - well, most of the time! Photograph: Chris Shute.
It fits!
The new gear is a perfect match to the original pinion.

27th June 2008

1929 Steam Engine

1929 Steam Engine
1929 vertical steam engine

Well, I finally succumbed and bought one. I got it for a reasonable (if that is a word you can apply to the price of such items) price and was not bothered that the gearwheel was missing, after all that is just an ordinary 57t, part no. 27a… Wrong! Chuffed to bits with my new acquisition, I promptly attempted to fit the missing gear only to discover that it required a special gear to mesh with the steam engine’s.

A post on the Spanner II list confirmed my fears. The gear was a special part. Yes it looks like a 27a but it has much finer pitch an - as it turned out - 76 teeth! Hmmm…. Not so chuffed now.

Within a few hours, fellow spanners had come to the rescue and pointed me in the direction of Oxnard, California. There resides Joel Perlin, Metal Construction Toy Specialist. His website lists a 27s this is the 76t version of the 27a it is supplied with a special pinion that will mesh with it at standard hole spacing. A few e-mails later and a couple of sets were heading East.

The gear meshed perfectly with the steam engine’s pinion and we are all happy bunnies again! I am now in the process of building the Steam excavator from the Special instruction leaflet S.31. I’ll let you know how I get on. 

TIMS meeting

Early start tomorrow, off to Ironbridge, three hour drive on a good run. Road works on the bottom end of the M1 and a stop for a full English will mean a pre 5am start if we are going to get there for 9am…

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23rd June 2008

SELMEC Meeting

Last Saturday saw the June meeting of my local club, SELMEC. I went back to the club for the first time in twenty years back in March. This time, armed with one of Sues infamous cherry cakes, I thought I was in for an easy ride. This however was not to be. Frank Paine (our Chairman) with no prior warning I might add, suddenly announced that two volunteers were required for kitchen duty. A tail and donkey style lottery was executed using the attendance book and Franks finger as substitutes for the afore mentioned donkey. Along with Alan Wenbourne, I got landed with the washing up… I only go to the meeting to avoid household chores. The moral of this story is not to take cake, and sign the book in someone else’s name!

Seriously though, I was more than happy to help out with the washing up. A small price to pay for all the tea and cakes provided and served up by Chris’s wife.

The rubber band racer
It looked the part - just had no go!

After the shock result at TIMS in May It was time to throw down the gauntlet and enter the rubber-band challenge. A vehicle was designed and built by Team Laughton  and was transported across the wilds of South London to the venue in Eltham.

Full of confidence I primed the state of the art propulsion system (Post Office red rubber band as per the rules of this month’s challenge) and let the mean machine loose on the unsuspecting crowd… it came last! Oh well can’t win ‘em all.

The works
How it didn't work, oh well, next time...

I also took the bending machines with me for their last airing of the year and a collection of the Design starter kits that Sue and I have been building over the past few weeks. These things are supposed to be for kids 8+. Maybe we needed an eight year old as we were having trouble with some of them!

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76t gear and 26t pinion
The special 76 t gear and 26t pinion from Joel Perlin, Metal Construction Toy Specialist.



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





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 go 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. Sues 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 a 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 I will add more to the top of this page as and when something is worth adding.

Ralph and Sue Laughton   

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Use in the same manner as the strip bender. To flatten and smooth bent plates. Roll them up tight and then open them out by hand until they will fit into the machine to bend them the other way. Repeat this a couple of times and them reduce the amount of curve until the plate emerges flat. It will not get rid or really tight creases but it will sort out a lot of what I would have considered scrap a few months ago. 


Most of the constructional details can be seen in the photographs.

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


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