Martin Arnold’s Meccano History

Part 1: The Teenage Years

My dad asked me what I wanted for my 12th birthday. After some thought, I settled on a Meccano set. I will always remember that sunny day at school. It was sports day, and I was looking forward to when proceedings ended so I could go home, and for my dad and me to buy my Meccano set. We had to walk to Eltham High Street, South east London (a 3 mile round trip), as we did not own a car in those days.

I perused the sets available and chose the biggest one which was Set No. 6.  I seemed to remember that meccano was red and green and was surprised when my Set No. 6 was YBZ. It cost about £7.

I must be honest, and confess that I never competed a model successfully with that set. The exploded diagrams I found too confusing and I gave up all too soon when I attempted a build.

Despite this, my love of the hobby grew and for Christmas I was given the 6x conversion set and I successfully made the 7.8 Forklift Truck. However, prior to Christmas, mum always stored all the presents in her wardrobe. When I knew that they had not been wrapped, I waited for mum and dad to go shopping one evening and I sneaked up to the wardrobe and found the precious conversion set, carefully undid the tape and excitedly examined the contents whilst keeping a look out for my parents' return (didn't know this would be a thriller did you!). Ah, those part no. 197 flexible plates, flange plates no. 53 and collars etc. You know the feeling. Anyway, to my horror, I  heard the front gate go and realized my parents had returned. Quickly, I put everything back and went down stairs. First thing mum said was, "why was the light on in our bedroom and I hope you wasn't peeking at your presents? Innocently, I said of course not. Looking back, I think I had been collared (part no. 59). Well what would you have done?

The following Christmas, my dad bought me Set No. 8 (costing about £13) and I made a dozen successful models with the set.

Do you remember that famous Meccano leaflet with "the boy who has everything "the 9 set sitting on top of the 10 set. The 9 set's contents displaying some of the different parts from the 8 set in an oak box. The 2 inch pulleys even had tyres and I counted 4 flange plates (part no. 53); incredible! It was with some disbelief when dad asked me if I wanted the 9 set for Christmas. Guess my response. He went to the toy shop in Eltham and put down a deposit to secure the purchase (the full cost £45 for the set). A phenomenal amount of money for those times. This was late October and how Christmas seemed such a long time to wait. I meticulously studied the different parts contained in the 9 set at the back of the 4 set manual in anticipation. I wondered what new models I would be able to make as there was never a 9 set model shown in any of the manuals' literature.

In late November, dad collected the set and hid it in the wardrobe (he had walked the 3 mile round trip again with the 9 set on his shoulders, it must have been heavy). I was warned not to look in the wardrobe (what, me?) and Christmas did not seem to be getting any closer. Then, finally the big day arrived and I raced downstairs and ripped off the paper and started building the Bulldozer 9.4 and I got it to work with the M2 clockwork motor. I think I must have had Christmas dinner at some time. I finished the model on boxing day evening and believed my modelling skills had improved somewhat. Anyway, I continued modelling until the Queen's Silver Jubilee 1977, whereupon I completed the Touring Car 9.6 without the E15R as I never had one.

Then I eventually lost interest in the hobby as adulthood beckoned and I sold my Meccano to a work colleague some years later (I know, sometimes we have no grasp of what is important). Thus Part 1 of my story ends which will be concluded in, guess what, part 2.