Our 2017 July Meeting

SWMC Meeting July 2017

We had a very enjoyable afternoon at Richard Smith’s home in Tockington. Richard and Lynn looked after us very well as always and there were some extremely interesting and well-constructed models on show once again.

First off was Chris Bates with the latest version of his R/C AEC lorry in Red & Green. Chris has redesigned this as a tanker, with a removable rear section giving easy access to the battery and control mechanism. Chris has been experimenting with 12v micro motors but is finding them a little too lightweight for some applications. Will there be one more variation of this model to come….?

John Day brought along an absolute ‘Meccano Classic’ in the form of Supermodel 31, the Steam Excavator. This was originally designed to use the vertical steam engine but John has replaced this rare and very expensive item with ‘hybrid power’ in the form of a later Meccano/Mamod steam engine and a modern geared electric motor. This combination will allow the model to operate on either steam or electricity which gives great versatility. As was so often the case with traditional Meccano instructions, this one will not fully operate if built exactly in accordance with the plans but John has overcome this and produced a charming model which works very well indeed.

Philip Drew has now got to grips with the ‘MeCControl’ software, using an Arduino processor driven from his laptop. This combination forms the brain for a neat gantry crane which can be left to go through its paces, moving wooden blocks around a grid marked on the baseboard. Four small motors perform the mechanical functions in a very traditional and mechanical manner whilst potentiometers give constant feedback about what each motor is doing. This allows the processor to precisely control the speed and direction of each motor individually. This set up is relatively inexpensive and offers an ideal solution for many exhibition models by combining the best of the old with the best of the new.

Martin Arnold has almost finished a very nice tanker lorry in his trademark spotless YBZ parts. Martin likes the idea of having a removable cab and a chassis which could potentially be used again on other model road vehicles, thus saving time on each build. The motor drive, 2 speed and reverse gearbox and steering are essentially all constructed and just need a little more ‘tinkering time’ to finish what will be another fine model.

Dwarfing the other models was a windmill by Alan Perry. This is very closely based on a real post mill in Bromsgrove. Alan explained that a ‘Post Mill’ has a central column or ‘post’ running vertically through the structure, upon which the entire body of the mill (the ‘Buck’) can rotate to turn the sails into the wind. This model stands around five feet high and has a similar sized span to the sails. Alan has devised a clever cog system using angle brackets in pairs around a flanged ring, driven by a smaller pinion constructed in a similar way. Another endearing feature of Meccano models is that they will often work perfectly at home but then refuse to when you display them! In Alan’s case the Meccano 6-speed powerdrive motor let him down after a short period of driving the sails very smoothly – we have all been there.

Neil Bedford showed a small model of a Lotus 25 Formula One car from the early sixties. Despite its small size this has many features and brings together Meccano parts from various periods. Neil described this as one of the most enjoyable builds he can remember, with the lack of a motor, gearbox etc making for a relatively easy build and keeping stress levels to a minimum.

Steve Briancourt showed us the latest developments of his USS Missouri model. The bridge structure and main mast are coming together very nicely, with rotating gun control towers which are geared to the rotation of the guns themselves. In typical style, Steve has carefully calculated the stresses and strains so that each element can be removed for transport or maintenance without any part of this very heavy model needing to carry excessive loading. As the mast unit is placed onto the hull, its driving gears automatically drop into mesh with the mechanism below – all very well thought-through.

Pete Evans brought along one of his lovely MG cars – this time a ‘Slab Tank’ K3. The K3 was a racing MG and Pete has previously modelled the ‘Pointed Tail’ version as well, but whilst the latter is built using flexible plates, this slab-tank version is built using flexible strips. A number of us commented on how this one was ‘the perfect size’ for a car model – large enough to include plenty of detail but still small enough to easily transport and display.

Finally our host, Richard Smith, explained his very imaginative ‘Transformer’ model to us. The finished model will look like a pilot’s boxy flight-case, complete with carrying handle, but then (at the press of a hidden button) ‘transforms’ into a lorry and drives along, before stopping and then transforming back into a flight-case. This model brings together scale modelling, challenging use of gearing and some clever electrics which ensure that each operation will happen in the correct order. Richard still has some work to do but the main features are all there – it is certainly something different and will be a real crowd-pleaser at any exhibition.