Model report

(Click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures)


Some general views of the display.


Ferris Wheel

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Built by Dick Anstee, loosely based on an MW Model Plan

Pride of place at the entrance to the exhibition was given to Dick Anstee's Ferris Wheel. Although originally Dick originally worked from a model plan, he has made so many changes that it is no longer the same model.

The model is of deceptively simple design, and appears quite flimsy until you examine the structure. Flat plates are used in the attractively curved base to give a strength that strips and girders alone could not provide.

The cars have small doors that open and close. As would be expected, gravity keeps each car level as the big wheel turns. This motion of each car on its horizontal mounting axle rod is then used to rotate the car individually as the wheel goes round, the movement being transmitted to a second (vertical) axle rod by means of bevel gears or contrates.

The wheel is driven by a piece of string, which works very well provided that the wheel is perfectly balanced.

After a set interval, the machine stops with one car neatly at the bottom, to allow passengers on and off. The turnstiles at the entry and exit of the platform turn automatically to represent people going in and out. A pawl and ratchet wheel allow one-way movement only.


Fowler Lion Engine

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Designed and built by Dick Anstee, based on photographs

Dick Anstee demonstrated a Fowler Lion crane engine, based on one that has been restored by Sandstone Estates. The model was inspired by Dick's visit to the Great Working 400 in April 2002.

The model has a solid jib, like the prototype, and is built of red and green parts. None of the parts have been refurbished, so there is quite a range of different reds and greens from different periods.

A worm drive on the base of the hoist replaces the large caliper brake that exists on the prototype.


Showman's Engine

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Designed and built by Dick Anstee, based on ideas in Bert Love's book

Dick Anstee displayed his finely detailed model of a traction engine, and the picture that inspired it. Traction engines were often used to drive fairground machinery, and Dick has subsequently started to build a range of models with a fairground theme.

The model even has a small (non-Meccano) bucket. "They always carried a bucket," says Dick.


Fairground Organ

Built by Peter Matthews, based on one small part of an original Liverpool dealers' model

From the Three-Abreast Gallopers Carrousel


Fifth-Order Meccanograph

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Designed and built by Frank Fereirra

The fifth order vari-translationary endo-lissajous cycloidotrope was built specifically for the exhibition, and final adjustments were being made as the exhibition opened. Konkoly's design was adapted to allow for a longer throw, and the pen-holder is much improved.

Frank's notes:

The Meccanograph is based on a device invented around 1870, then called a Cycloidotrope. A mechanical arm holding a steel stylus was used to trace simple geometric patterns on a rotating smoked-glass slide. A bright light was shone through the glass and the evolving pattern was projected onto a screen. Audiences paid to watch this "fascinating and amazing" process, and the device was was a popular source of entertainment at late 19th Century arcade shows (along with others such as magic lanterns, zoetropes, iconoscopes and Thomas Edison's kinetograph, the forerunner of modern cinema projectors.

This particular machine is one of the more complex variants of the Meccanograph, and is a modified version of a Universal Design Maker by Andreas Konkoly of Budapest, Hungary. Mr Konkoly enjoys a reputation as one of the world's leading exponents in the field of Meccano mechanisms, and his Meccanographs are legendary. The machine is capable of creating millions of different patterns, as the mechanical permutations are almost endless.

Built, modified and fine-tuned by Frank Ferreira in 70 hours with little sleep.


Scrambler and Grand Prix Motorcycles

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Built by Peter Matthews Junior, according to Dynamic Set instructions

The Scrambler has a suitably rugged appearance, and the Grand Prix racing bike has nice curves.


Gantry Crane

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Built by Peter Matthews, according to 1973 Multikit instructions


Stationary Steam Engine

Built by Peter Matthews, based on one small part of an original Liverpool dealers' model

Also from the Three-Abreast Gallopers Carousel


Feltham E1 London Tram

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Designed and built by Peter Matthews

Powered by two 770 six-Volt Meccano motors.


Grader and Caterpillar Digger

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Built by Peter Matthews, according to Super Highway Multikit instructions

These models illustrate how effective yellow and zinc parts can be when used in construction vehicles.


Tipper Truck

Built by Peter Matthews, based on a 1970s Liverpool dealers' model


Rocket Launcher

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Designed and built by Peter Matthews Junior using parts from the Army Multikit


Examples of Meccano Gearing

Designed and built by Peter Matthews

The model illustrates the working of bevel gears, and of various gear ratios from 1:1 to 1:7.


Steam Shovel using 1929 Steam Engine

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Built by Peter Matthews, based on Model Plan 19a (Super Model Leaflet 19a?)


Rattle Trap and Bat

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Built by Peter Matthews, according to Crazy Inventors set instructions


Rider in the Sky

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Built by Peter Matthews, based on a design by Bernard Perrier


What the Butler Saw

Designed and built by Peter Matthews


Traction Engine

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Built by Peter Matthews, based on a 1928 Model Plan.

Attractively modeled in old (dark) red and green parts, this compact and substantial model features a made-up counterweighted crank. The brass parts work well with the color scheme.


Large-Scale Traction Engine

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Built by Peter Matthews, based on a design by Dennis Perkins


Gas Engine

Built by Peter Matthews, based on a design by Terry Pettit


Double Marble Thrower

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Built by Peter Matthews, based on a design by Mike Cuff


Flying Airplanes

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Built by Peter Matthews, based on an original 1970s Liverpool dealers' model

Modeled in yellow and zinc.


1934 Motor Chassis

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built by Peter Matthews, based on the Super Model leaflet No.1



Built by Peter Matthews, based on a 1970s Liverpool dealers' model.

Built out of yellow and zinc parts

Lights alternate, red & green


Rolls Royce

Built by Peter Matthews.

Peter Matthews displayed a model that appeared in the 1920 Meccano Magazine. Built using unpainted parts, the car has thin gray tyres on 3" pulleys (part number 142), and includes opening doors (with door-handles) and the "occasional seats" that could be folded away when not in use.

In overall appearance, the model resembles a Roll Royce Silver Ghost of that period (except, maybe, the radiator).

(An interesting aside is that the Rolls Royce used by Frank Hornby had wheels that looked very much like the old 2½" tin wheels.)


Big Wheel

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1960s Liverpool dealers' model, restored by Graeme Davie and Peter Matthews

The model includes an adaptation of the commutator (part E20R) without the armature, used as the brush-holder and electrical pickup for the lights.


Fairground Octopus

Built by Peter Matthews and Graeme Davie, based on an original 1960s Liverpool dealers' model


Fairground Octopus

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Built by Tony Gane, based on a design by Hugh Henry

Tony Gane demonstrated his model of a fairground octopus, based on a 1950s design by Hugh Henry (and described again by Tony Brown in 1998). The model runs noisily due to a closely meshed set of gear wheels.

The model is built of reconstituted parts, stripped using caustic soda, acid (and, in extreme cases, paint stripper), primed with etching primer and then sprayed with Duco 300 using a compressor. The color scheme of the model is particularly successful, making use of bright primaries from various stages of Meccano history.


Fairground Whip

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Built by Tony Gane, loosely based on a design by Hendrik Schouwenaar (MMGG Magazine, September 1988)

The photographs in the journal were very small, and some of the parts appear to be Marklin.

Tony explains:

The drum bearings are based on the Adler Robot Arm (see below). Apart from their robust construction, they are very smooth running, which is important when considering the inertia that has to be overcome with the cars attached. The 12Volt Decaperm motor, very potent, is separated at startup from the "works" by a clutch, something I had noticed when enjoying such rides at the "Lunar Parks" in my callow youth..



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Built by Tony Gane, based on a design by Mike Hooper

Tony Gane's helicopter attracted a lot of attention. It is difficult to control, the trick being to get the rotor spinning at just the right speed, and then to gently ease the model into a nose-down attitude using the joystick.

Earlier versions became unstable as the model reached the edges of the table, so a metal strip has been added under the circular flight path in order to maintain a constant air cushion beneath the aircraft. (You can find out more on the aerodynamic effects of ground surfaces on low-flying helicopters at ).

Unfortunately the model also demonstrates the inherent inefficiency of helicopters. It takes a lot of power to lift a piece of metal straight up into the air, and Tony lost one of the circuits in his power supply unit in the course of the exhibition.


Dodgem Cars

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Built by Tony Gane, based on a Spanner design (Meccano Magazine, March 1964)

Tony explains:

The aluminum plate floor acts as the frame return for the cars, the overhead pickup being made from stretched fly screen mesh. The cars are earthed with a "tail" or wiper arm (which makes them look like ammonites).

The reason for adopting this solution to the rather random slithering over the floor of the cars in motion, was because the front (steerable) untyred 1-inch pulley, through which the earth was obtained, gave little adhesion. The pulley was replaced with a tyred ½-inch pulley, giving better adhesion, and hence the need for a tail to provide earth.

The cars are powered by a 770 motor, located in the center of the car.


Industrial Robot

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Built by Tony Gane, based on a design by Michael Adler (Model Plan no. 70)

Notes by Tony Gane:

Approximately half-size, and based on a Swedish ASEA IRB 6/2 industrial robot, this model was designed to be interfaced with a computer.

Constructors are advised to read the instructions from back to front, because some critical steps are only mentioned at the end (e.g., access points).

This is a heavily constructed model, weighing just over 30 lbs., with a redesigned hand accounting for more than 1 lb..

The main bearing is a robust design, and employed in the Fairground Whip.


Rising Swingers

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Built by Tony Gane, based on a Spanner design (Meccano Magazine, December 1972)

Notes by Tony Gane:

As Spanner in his preamble says, no such fairground item probably exists. However it is a lovely bit of fairground nonsense for the model-builder.


Mechanism Board

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Built by Paul Hatty, based on an idea that he once saw in a magazine


Avian Cargo Plane

Built by Stephen Manthe, according to instructions in the French number 7 set

The nose opens to load cargo.



Built by Eugene Schneider.


 Steam Plant

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Built by Graham Coombe, based on a design by Mike Cotterill

Graham Coombe's engine is based on Mike Cotteril's typical steam plant, published in a 1982 edition of Meccano Magazine (poor pictures but very good text). The solid-looking model is built using yellow and zinc parts. It is mounted on an attractive blue wooden plinth and uses a quiet-running photocopier motor. There are miniature grease-cups above each axle bearing



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Built by Graham Coombe, based on a design by Eric Baldwin

A sturdy frame, visible gearing (including two sets of helicals) and considerable versatility make this a particularly successful model.

There are four distinct movements that make the various patterns: while the writing arm moves both longitudinally and from side to side, the table that holds the paper both rotates and moves up and down. What makes this Meccanograph so versatile is the fact that each of these movements can be easily modified in relation to the others, resulting in more or less fundamental  changes in the pattern.

The April 1991 edition of Midlands Meccano Guild Gazette puts it very adequately when it states that the machine attracted "unending interest from the public as it produced pattern after pattern throughout the show."


 4-6-2 Steam Locomotive

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Designed and built by Jan Jordaan

Modeled in yellow and zinc in approximately 1/12th scale, and featuring walschaerts valve gear (as in the locomotive from the number 10 set).


Coaches for Steam Locomotive (x2)

Designed and built by Jan Jordaan

The 1/12th-scale coaches (also modeled in yellow and zinc) match Jan's steam locomotive (above).  The coaches have fixed axles, but Jan is currently working on some bogies to replace these. (Pictured above top)


Railway Breakdown Crane

Designed and built by Jan Jordaan

Built using yellow and zinc parts from the number 10 set.

(Pictured above left)


Dockyard Crane

Designed and built by Jan Jordaan

1/40th scale dockyard crane

(Pictured above)


Victoria Falls Bridge (and part of Garrett Locomotive)

Designed and built by Jan Jordaan

The bridge is in approximately 1/100th scale

The Garrett locomotive is not to the same scale, and is now partially dismantled.


Railway Breakdown Crane

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Designed and built by Peter Feather

Peter Feather's Railway Breakdown Crane is powered by an E20R Meccano motor. It includes both main and auxiliary hooks (which in the prototype could lift 120 and 20 tons respectively).

The model features an nicely curved jib, auto braking, and hinged stabilizers. Sliding stabilizers are limited by the width of the track, and by hinging them, it is possible to provide a square base for the crane. The stabilizers are folded back and secured by one bolt for traveling.


Astronomical/ Planetary Clock

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Built by the late Graeme Davie, based on a design by Patrick Briggs

32 angle brackets are used in the escapement.

Late 1970s dark blue and yellow.


Vehicles from Number 5 Plans (x7)

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Built by Pieter Gouws, according to instructions in the 1950s number 5 set

Lorry, sports car, shunter, dump truck, all making effective use of the now obsolete tin road wheel (part 187).


Quebec Bridge 

Built by Pieter Gouws, based on a 1932 prize-winning model. His bridge is in the picture above.


SML 18 Chassis

Built by Pieter Gouws. The chassis can be seen in the picture above.


 Simplicity Models (x7)

Built by Pieter Gouws

Pieter Gous's models are mounted on a wooden board. They include a tractor, a traction engine, a caterpillar, an airplane, a motorbike (made out of nine parts) and a double-decker bus.

The models are realistic and very economical. The caterpillar (to take one example) consists of six parts, four sprocket wheels, two short pieces of sprocket chain and a stand.


Steam Shovel

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Built by Chris Els, based on Super Model leaflet no. 19a


Double Ferris Wheel

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Built by Chris Els, based on the Super Model leaflet no. 33a

Driven by a Mamod SE3 twin piston steam engine, circa 1950 or by a hidden electric motor.

Over 100 rod-strip connectors and 32 corner brackets.


Fokker DVII Biplane

Built by Chris Els, based on a design by Chris Bourne

Full working controls (ailerons, rudder, elevators)

Made-up propeller, consisting of obtuse angle brackets and 5 ½ inch strips.


V6 Motor

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Designed and built by Anthony Els

It uses six 6Volt MO motors (Pictured in the middle).


Sub-Assemblies for Long-running Clock (x2)

Designed and built by Anthony Els (work in progress)

Anthony Els has been working on ways in which to reduce the friction in a clock mechanism. In his model, the large escapement wheel simultaneously serves as a pendulum, and works by means of a pawl engaging a large-tooth pinion.

The model is powered by three sets of two opposing "wheelie" clockwork motors (which take forever to wind up). The motors are arranged in series to give maximum run-time (arranging them in parallel would increase torque at the expense of run-time).

To minimize friction, the main axle rests in the curved "V" formed by two partially overlapping bush wheels–the theory being that the axle (itself circular in cross-section) only touches each bush wheel at one very small point. The problem is the friction that remains in the bearings of the bush-wheels themselves.

(Pictured above on the left)


Six-inch Howitzer

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Built by Anthony Els, based on the Super Model leaflet no. 37


Articulated Tanker

Built by Anthony Els, based on a design by Bernard Perrier

The lorry is based on a model by Bernard Perrier, which appeared in Construction Quarterly. The motor is in the trailer, and drive is transmitted to the back wheels through a contrate gear at the point where the trailer is mounted onto the tractor.

(Pictured above middle)


M9A1 Halftrack

Designed and built by Anthony Els. (Pictured above right)


LNER 10000 Steam Locomotive

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Designed and built by Anthony Els (work in progress)

Blue and zinc

Made-up crank is a Meccano model in its own right

Spoked wheels made using 2 ½ inch strips.


Helicopter (7650)

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Built by Anthony Els, according to Crazy Inventors set instructions


Walking Ship (8650)

Built by Anthony Els, according to Crazy Inventors set instructions. (Pictured above)


Dirigible Airship (8651)

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Built by Anthony Els, according to Crazy Inventors set instructions

The Spirit of Meccano?

As with the other Crazy Inventors models, it's not easy to determine how accurately the model reflects the mechanical principles of the prototype.


Dockyard Crane

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Built by Clifford Brown.


4-6-0 Express Locomotive and Tender

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Built by Bill Steele, based on a design by Tony Parmee (Model Plan no. 114)

The model features Walshaerts valve gear, and is powered by a DeLonghi fan heater motor.

Parmee strictly confined himself to the parts found in the number 10 set.


1-Gauge Steam Locomotive

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Designed and built by Bill Steele


Traction Engine

Designed and built by the late Charles Roth

The wheels in this sturdy little model are particularly interesting. The front wheels are multipurpose gears, with a ring for the 1-inch pulley fitted over (like tyres), and each rear wheel is made up using a wheel flange (part 137), two three-way rod-strip connectors and three tension springs. (Pictured above at left).


Giant Gantry Crane and Tank Engine

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Designed and built by Bill Steele (work in progress)

The giant gantry crane will be the subject of a future article, since it is still only half complete.

The little tank engine (which was exhibited being lifted by the hoist of the crane) is a serious modification of an article in the Sheffield Meccano Club magazine, later published in the Constructor as well. It runs on '0' gauge track, although the original didn't.


Parts Cleaner

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Designed and built by Bill Steele

Rice in a jar, being rotated…

Pinyon Blocksetter Crane

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Built by Bill Steel based on Meccano box art–see below

This report by Bill Steele:

The original model of a block-setting crane in Meccano was completed by the factory in the late 1920s, and was used to market Meccano throughout the world. At that time, it was the largest working model constructed by the factory, and caused quite a stir. It was in fact a hybrid based on two different original cranes. The original model was lost, but a very similar one was found in the backroom of a shop in Australia in the 1980s, it had been completed in the Nickel finish of the late 20s. It was structurally different to the original, but nevertheless provided many clues to the true structure of the gearbox, main bearing, and other previously unknown detail, used in the original model constructed at the Binns Road factory in Liverpool. This Australian model is known as the "Page Crane".

After the war years in the mid 40s, Meccano came back on line, and were once again able to concentrate on the production of Meccano, Hornby, and their other toys. The marketing department made the decision to use the original blocksetter as a marketing tool, once again to launch the Meccano range. To this effect, they engaged the services of a technical illustrator-artist to revamp the original art-work. Pinyon did this, by creating the famous illustration, which appeared on all the Meccano manuals and on the Meccano boxes right up into the late 60s. An example of an old mid 40s cover can be seen here.

This "Pinyon" crane in fact never existed, but the artwork was so well done from a technical viewpoint, that many attempts have been made to build the crane. This is one of those attempts! The model accurately follows the original artwork, incorporates the information gleaned from the Australian model, and synthesises the attempts of many modelers to construct the model. Not the least of these was Eddy Harris of Barbeton, who completed much of the original research in the late 90s.  


Original Gearbox for Pinyon Blocksetter

Designed and built by Bill Steele

The original gearbox design from the 20s, has been removed from the model, and can be seen here on the display. It exhibits braking problems, which are not acceptable for a demonstration model. The gearbox has been replaced with a modern version for purpose of exhibition, which uses a different motor for each drive function.

Surprisingly, the model was quite modular for its time and the gearboxes can be swapped around by simply undoing four bolts.  

(Pictured above right).

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