For Dalesman this month, I visited Meccano modellers at their meeting at Bedale.
Many people have fond memories of playing with Meccano as a child, but some people continue with it into later life, challenging their engineering skills with increasingly complex models.
And over the last forty years these people have found friendship and advice with the North East Meccano Society. Members swap ideas and tips – and challenges.
Meccano provides table-top engineering
Many people carefully research the background of the models they make: Brian Chaffer had made a mining digger. He showed how the bucket opens and shuts, and the caterpillar tracks drive. He says, “I have a book on the history of the crane. It’s an equilibrium balance crane, with weights at the base to balance the jib, which means it needs less power.”
Harry Harker says, “I don’t build from kits; I build from photographs, of original cars, etc, and work out how it’s built. For instance, I did one of the first motorised fire engines. The picture was on a crisp packet. I bought the crisps, researched it, and built the model. A school’s got the model at the moment: they’re looking at the history of fire engines, and this is the first motorised one, with a 6hp engine. It’s got all the gear, water hydrants, ladders, etc.”
Community of a shared hobby
Everyone who takes up Meccano as a hobby does so for the joy of building things, and Rob Mitchell, chairman of Sheffield Meccano Guild, comments, “Meccano’s a great leveller, it doesn’t matter how much cash you’ve got, it’s the joy of building things. You can win prizes, but not often.”
Bob Seaton did win a prize, for a complex model of a steam engine. Built to scale, it took a lot of thought, and he says, “I had a small drawing with overall length, height, and position of wheels. It was in a booklet I’d tracked down of the history of this class of locomotive. Other details came from photographs.”
The concentration required to design and build Meccano models, is, say many enthusiasts, a great way to reduce stress. Ian Mordue says, “When you’re concentrating on making something, it forces you to stop thinking about anything else that might be bothering you. It’s the concentration: it means you can disappear into what you’re doing – for however long. And at the end, you have something you can show people. And even non-enthusiasts always enjoy looking at something that someone’s made.”
Read more in ‘The Magic of Meccano’, in Dalesman Magazine, January 2015
NEMS: NEMS holds meetings through the year in Yorkshire and the North East. For further information see www.northeastmeccanosociety.co.uk, or Tel John Herdman on 0191 488 6863
Sheffield Meccano Guild has a world wide membership and meets twice a year at Laughton-en-le-Morthen, near Rotherham. See www.smg.me.uk, or Tel Rob and Lesley Mitchell on 01709-816769 (Lesley trades in Meccano)
For more information on the Schools project, see www.greatengineersschoolschallenge.co.uk