Summer in Skegness!

The first weekend in July has been a fixture in many diaries for nearly forty years – that was when people from all over the UK and far beyond gathered in the Embassy Theatre, Skegness, for a vast display of Meccano models. Recently the date has changed to late June, but the show rolls on.

This year I made it there on the Saturday of the three-day event, my journey limited only by the usual thin-wheeled driver whom I encountered on the Lincolnshire border who clearly thought the speed limits signs were in kph rather than mph!

But the show was worth it – a chance to catch up with old friends and to see their latest models. The final vote by exhibitors on the Sunday ranked the best as

1) Terry Allen, Pickard Racing Car

2)Richard Smith, Duchess of Devonshire Locomotive

3) Becky Picking, Sitting pet dog

4) Ian Mordue, Fairbairn Crane

5) Chris Bates, Bristol Dockside Crane

All good models in their own way but I was particularly delighted by the last one, seen below in grey. I’d admired it and chatted to its builder, and introduced myself as the the designer of the original Mecano model and the author of the Model-plan based on it from which he had taken his inspiration. That was thirty years ago!

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A Special Week-end

This coming Saturday is a special day, so I thought I ought to get modelling something appropriate. No, not the Cup Final, it’s the Spring Meeting of the North Midlands Meccano Guild!

But what to make? Well, for once a simple little vignette rather than one of my supermodels. Any likeness to royalty living or dead is entirely coincidental…..

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Clubbing

I’m alarmed to see just how long it is since I last posted here! A sign of just how busy life has been with leadership in two churches, two growing grandchildren to help care for, and much more besides. But I am not exactly lost to the world of Meccano – the models keep on coming – but more of that another time. Today, a tribute to the clubs. there is a particular pleasure in being able to go along to a meeting for which one has no particular responsibility, show a model, chat with good friends, make some new ones, do whatever one can to help the day go well and then head home with another good set of photos and memories. (Check some out here – what a variety of subjects!)

World landmarks

Roman Galley

Meccano can be a solitary hobby but there is no reason for it to be if you have good clubs around, and here in the UK we really do.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of a trip to the Sheffield Guild, meeting in the village hall of Laughton-en-le-Morthen, not far from Rotherham. It is always an enjoyable day, but this meeting was vintage. The hall was packed with great models and their builders, a competition to find the best clockwork-powered hill climber was very entertaining, the food was excellent (as always) and so was the company. Topped off by the usual auction for some great bargains (personally I was selling rather than buying this time!) what more could one want?

All credit to Rob Mitchell and team for another great event. He modestly says it is nothing to do with him, and true enough – without the members’ efforts it wouldn’t happen, but without our club leaders it certainly wouldn’t happen either – all thanks to them once again!

SDkfz 251 half-track

Clock tower

World landmarks

Roman Galley

Tank Loco under construction

No 9 set ferry boat

Pen y Darren loco

“I’ve got a brand-new combine harvester!”

Rob Mitchell’s Mill Engine

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Hands-on exhibitions

Did you ever go to London’s Science Museum as a child? One of the best bits was being able to turn handles, press buttons and make things happen! Sadly many Meccano shows are characterised by signs saying “Do Not Touch!”, but not at the Abbey Pumping Station in Leicester. This has been the first on my calendar for the last four years, and its organisers, Wendy and Rob Miller, always make sure that there are plenty of hands-on experiences with loads of child-friendly bits to play with.

This year we were housed not in the vast old shed of yore (dark, atmospheric, full of mysterious old machines, and generally Very Cold, but in a brand new wedding reception style marquee which was bright and warm. Thank you! Even on a very wet afternoon in January there were loads of visitors, and the majority of adults brought small children with them. Greg and I spent a happy afternoon curating one of the largest collections of models on show there and introducing them to (among lots of eye candy) cars they could play with,  pulley systems they could operate, and a Trebuchet that lobbed plastic balls across the hall. They loved it! We said to one dad about his enthusiastic 3-year old daughter

Fun Time in Leicester

Fun Time in Leicester

– “It looks as though she might become a mechanical engineer!” “I certainly hope so!” he replied.  “Why – what do you you do?”  “I’m a mechanical engineer!”

Who knows what any of them will become – but remember the testimony of so many of us for whom things mechanical became a life-long passion – it began when we were first allowed to push buttons, turn handles, and make things happen all by ourselves.

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Is this the end?

Being a Baptist minister I am no stranger to funerals, but like everyone I am occasionally given cause to pause and think when news comes through of the passing of another of our number. Are there more “Meccano” funerals now than there used to be? I suspect not – it is more likely that some of us are moving into a generation where it is people we think of as contemporaries who are dying. Some are a few years older than me – some are a good deal younger, and that inevitably challenges one to think about one’s own mortality and contribution to life. It is moving to read many warm tributes to those we have lost (I have written and delivered a few myself) and perhaps we stop to wonder how people might one day judge us in our turn. (In our less worthy moments we may also wonder what is going to happen to that particular collection….)

Obviously this is all part of the inevitable path we all follow, but what of the hobby itself? There are plenty of doom-merchants around crying “Woe, woe and thrice woe!” like the soothsayer in “Up Pompeii”. Are we looking at the end of our hobby?

I doubt it, for I still see younger men and woman appearing in our ranks just as I once chanced upon the adult hobby myself. But even if we are, does it matter? Stop to ask yourself – why did Frank Hornby develop Meccano in the first place? No doubt he was glad to find an invention from which he could make money, but his motives seem nobler than that to me. He wanted to teach children about engineering, to be practical and to develop a love of all things technical and mechanical for themselves. In that he clearly succeeded, with countless distinguished engineers, architects and scientists over the years giving credit to the Toy that first launched them on a path to their professional careers.

An old question asks, “What is the purpose of an apple tree?” The obvious answer is “to produce apples” but that is wrong. Apples are only a means to an end – the purpose of an apple tree is to produce more apple trees. We may well be shocked by the latest loss of another good friend, but I would suggest that the inevitable eventual loss of another Meccanoman or woman, even the last one in time to come, will not be the end of the story of Meccano. Our greatest calling is not to produce more model engines, but to produce more adult engineers. Our richest legacy will not be the preservation of a factory somewhere churning out more 24½” Angle Girders than we could ever use, but the inspiration of generations yet to come with the desire to find out how to “make the wheels go round” in their day and to do it better than we have done.

I respect the collectors with their desire to document and preserve our hobby’s history, but my greatest admiration is reserved for those who tirelessly devote their spare time to working with youngsters in schools and clubs, using their Meccano skills to raise up the next generation who will dream about building a new future for themselves.

I am so grateful to those who first inspired me: I hope that my legacy will be not just a hundredweight or so of perforated metal but young lives committed to taking their turn in building a new and hopefully better world that all can enjoy.

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Model Building Technology

Screenshot of this new program

Screenshot of this new program

From the very early days of “The International Meccanoman”, the journal of the International Society of Meccanomen, “Model Building Technology” has been a must-read feature for any keen Meccano builder. Sharing the latest hints and tips on Meccano model building from beginner to advanced level, or providing information about the theory behind prototypes, Model Building Technology allows any builder to improve their modelling.

This invaluable collection is now available for your Windows PC in a specially commissioned database program. Instead of having to search through back issues of IM, tips are now collected together in a searchable index for easy browsing, finding and printing for easier model room reference.

What’s Included

  • Over 900 tips dating back to the beginning of The International Meccanoman
  • All diagrams and pictures now in high resolution for easy viewing
  • Full searchable, categorised index to allow you to quickly find tips, subjects, parts or authors
  • All tips published in the next year as a free upgrade
  • Each article or picture printable for ease of use in your model room

Available now from http://www.modelbuildingtech.com

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We have wings….

So the next project grows – one wing is now four and the model is much more recognisable. xwingsWith a model fuselage PhotoShopped in to sit between the four wings the X-wing is now instantly recognisable.

so now to the mechanisms and the main body ….

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In a shipyard, long, long ago ….

Sometimes it takes a while for a model to move from seed to bud to flower –

this is something I have considered for many a long year and it is finally beginning to develop into something. This began as a design study working from original drawings – a sort of proof of concept – and I am pleased enough with it that I am now building three more.

I don’t have to tell you what it is going to be, do I?

First stage

First stage

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Dinner, dinnner, dinner, dinner ……

I’ve always been a Batman fan, preferring the original art-deco gothic world of the Dark Knight to the technicolour American dream of some of the other superheroes. I’ve had my favourite artists, too – much preferring the art of people like Neal Adams, Carmine Infantino and Dick Giordano to the primitive style of Moldoff or Kane. I could list favourite actors, too, and in all fairness probably wouldn’t include Adam West among them, but there was something about the car that West drove in the TV series and subsequent film that really appealed to me as a teenager. This was the first Bat-special in my eyes, something more than an American Limo with a Bat-mask on the front of it, and I knew I had to build a model of it one day.

Batman and Batmobile

Batman and Batmobile

This project began a year or so back, but with the 50th Anniversary of the show coming this year, I really had to finish it. So here it is – designed from scratch to replicate (as far as possible) the features of the Lincoln Futura on which the original car was based.

The website www.1966batmobile.com tells us:

In 1955, the Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company designed and built a futuristic concept car called the Lincoln Futura. It was built entirely by hand in Turin, Italy at a cost of $250,000, and like many concept cars, was never put in to production. In the mid 1960’s, George Barris of Barris Kustom City acquired the car for $1 directly from Ford.

Fast forward to August 1965, the Batman TV show producers approached George to have him build a new Batmobile for their upcoming show. The only catch was the car had to be ready for action in a mere three weeks. Seeing the bat-like qualities his Futura already had, George knew it was the perfect answer to the quandary 20th Century Fox had created.

In October of 1965, the Batmobile was completed and delivered to Fox where it made its television debut on January 12, 1966.

The car was such a huge success that George Barris and the producers of Batman decided to build copies of the Batmobile in late 1966. Barris and his crew pulled a mold from the #1 Batmobile and created 3 fiberglass copies. These replicas were displayed at car shows and dragstrips and also made appearances where countless fans could see them.

The 1966 TV Batmobile is still one of the most iconic and popular cars in the world.

My model was built from scratch with reference to as much orginal material as I could find. It started as a solid ladder frame chassis which carries a 12v motor which powers a drive train through a pedal-operated clutch and a 3-speed and reverse gearbox. Custom wheels (same size as Meccano tyres and hubs but better in appearance) are carried on MacPherson Strut suspension at the front and leaf-springs at the rear. A wealth of black parts, mostly original stock, make up the flared body-work, while the front canopies were sections cut from the packing of a pair of Easter Eggs!

The bare chassis before adding bodywork

The bare chassis before adding bodywork

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Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson

Like Simon and Garfunkel, Morcambe and Wise, Laurel and Hardy, some names just go together and in their pairing evoke all sorts of memories. Mention Harley and Davidson in the same breath – and how could you not? – and you think of America, cruising down endless roads on a piece of American history that has become in the years since the War part of the great American Dream. Beards, studs, leather and denim have all added their seasoning to the legend, but the V-twin power unit and the tear-drop tank remain constant.
This particular model features “retro-styling” with springer front forks and a hard-tail rear end as well as many other details.
My own design as always, it comes two decades after my model of an Electraglide that featured in “Everything WLMS”.

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