2017 January

Model Report – January 2017 Meeting

As is usual for our first gathering of each year, we met at Philip Drew’s home in Henleaze. Our thanks are due to Philip and his wife Jane for hosting the event and for their kind hospitality throughout. We are still selling a large quantity of ‘well loved’ Meccano and many very cheap sales were made during the afternoon. The well has still not run dry with this Meccano and I am delighted to see that everybody is benefiting from it, whilst boosting the club funds. Philip also collected some transformers for PAT testing and I am delighted to report that they all passed. One was a vintage Meccano item but in very good condition and the cloth-covered power cable did not present any electrical risk as it was undamaged and flexible.
Models exhibited were as follows (please forgive any technical inaccuracies):

Philip Drew has become very interested in something called ‘Meccontrol’. This is a modern electronic control system which is based around the ‘Arduino’ micro-processor. Whilst the Arduino is a generic item, Meccontrol (as the name suggests) has been specifically configured for use with Meccano, by a young chap named Tim Surtell, who is a very keen Meccano enthusiast. Whilst Philip is no slouch with all things computer-related, he explained that setting up this method of controlling your model is relatively straightforward. Philip built a small demonstration model with a boom which slewed and luffed and carried an electro-magnet. The model was programmed to move a stack of Meccano parts from one location to another, repeatedly and accurately stacking them each time.

Likewise Pete Evans has been intrigued by the possibilities of this control system and has also used it, this time to build a very nice wheeled crane, again armed with an electro-magnet for lifting objects. Pete’s model runs backwards and forwards, slews, luffs and hoists and (like Philip’s model) has a controlled power feed to the magnet. Each movement is controlled by a separate motor which also turns a small potentiometer. This essentially translates rotation into an electrical signal which feeds back to the Arduino, telling it how many revolutions (or part revolutions) the motor has turned. This allows the system to know exactly what is happening at any time. The program simply tells each motor to turn through so many degrees at a given voltage, clockwise or anti-clockwise thus making things entirely predictable.

These two models were both built to help the lads understand this new system and the complete setup for each model cost only around £50. A model which is controlled in this way is ideal for an exhibition because you can set it running and walk away. The public can then watch the model going through its paces without you having to be there operating it. We have seen several models like this appearing at the big exhibitions at Henley and Skegness over recent years the potential is enormous. The mechanical side of the model is pure Meccano, just as it has always been and ‘the old and the new’ seem to come together very happily indeed.

Richard Smith brought along a small model of a dancing man – a stringed puppet which dances when a crank handle is turned. This one is a copy of a great little model which was built by another model-maker and won second prize in the ’30 part challenge’ held by the Runnymede Meccano Guild last October and it is a real delight.

Martin Arnold continues to build very tidy motor vehicles in YBZ Meccano. His latest creation is a product of his own imagination – a sturdy station wagon. Martin has fitted a modern (non-Meccano) motor, two-speed and reverse gearbox, opening doors, steering and interior. This model looked good and everything worked – the two main ingredients for a successful model.

Over the years John Day has built many of the Set Ten models designed by Tony James and this time he is constructing a large fire escape. Everything is powered by a Meccano six-speed motor. Actions include drive to the chassis through a gearbox, slewing and luffing of the fire escape itself and operating stabilisers. There is a way to go for John to complete this model but it was clearly going to be an impressive thing which really shows the true potential the Ten Set.

Steve Briancourt is working hard on his huge model of the USS Missouri. This time he brought along a section of the superstructure with an extremely clever mechanism which allows one drive motor to operate ten guns at two different speeds. As we now expect from Steve, the mechanism was innovative and silky-smooth in its operation. The idea is that this self-contained section of super-structure can be dropped onto the deck of the ship, locating on pins and with a simple drive mechanism automatically lining up to take the drive from below.

Andrew Jefferis showed us a Supermarine Spitfire built from a kit sold under the ‘Haynes’ logo – the folk who make car repair handbooks. Whilst the parts are not stamped with the Meccano logo, they are 100% copies and there is doubtless an interesting back-story about the legalities of how this came about. The Haynes kit is smart looking and comes with a book explaining the history of this most beautiful of airplanes Andrew also displayed model 6.6 which is the twin-rotor helicopter. This one was built in red and green parts and was powered by a Magic motor. The collected wisdom decided that it was closely based on the Bristol Belvedere prototype.

Sticking with the twin themes of ‘Bristol’ and ‘Aircraft’ Sam Medworth had built the Meccano Concorde kit (now quite hard to find). This is a great looking model, sleek and quite large and capturing the lines of the supersonic jet very well indeed.

Chris Bates has been rebuilding the gearbox for his radio-controlled AEC flatbed lorry and had the latest version on show along with an interesting selection of differentials. Endless versions have been built over the decades but the inventive model-maker can still find some new tweaks, as Chris proved.

Neil Bedford is slowly making progress with his model of a US army ‘Gama Goat’ vehicle, with the chassis now largely completed for both units of this interesting articulated machine. The model now has three differentials and the beginning of four-wheel steering, with all wheels finally going in the same direction and at the same speed!

2017 Scrapheap Challenge - The best suggestion to date was a device to launch ping-pong balls at a target but it was decided that this could end up with the balls going all over the place on the hard wooden floor of our exhibition hall. The basic idea was good though and was revised to launch a projectile consisting of a 1” motor tyre on a 1” brass pulley without boss. These (floor-friendly) projectiles will be launched at a target consisting of concentric circles which will be flat on the floor. Full details are yet to be agreed by The Committee but will be released in good time.