Twenty Years of the Secretary’s Challenge

We have now had a total of 80 Secretary’s Challenges with an impressive total of nearly 750 models being constructed for them since the first one 20 years ago! It’s an impossible task to go into any great detail in a couple of pages, but I’ll mention some of the designs that members have come up with over the years.

Geoff Carter
Geoff Carter

The Secretary’s Challenge was created by former club Secretary Geoff Carter in January 2001. Challenges can be divided broadly into two groups:

  1. A subject of some sort where often conventional models prevail.
  2. A restricted number of parts, or a particular part, where modellers have to be more inventive to achieve the aim.

Thanks to the members who’ve come up with ideas for around half of the Challenges. Along with Geoff Carter, of course, they are my daughter Emma Carpenter, Peter Clay, Chris Fry, Steven Jarvis, Brian Leach, Richard Marsden, Keith Patey, David Smithers, Cathy Warrell and Alan Wenbourne.

The first Challenge was for members to bring in a model made from their oldest manual, the idea being that it would hopefully give a display of models covering Meccano’s Centenary being celebrated that year.

In June 2010, a Magic Motor race was held, the location being one side of the hall. There were a total of 11 participants, spread over two events: a distance race and a speed race. The more successful models were the simplest — just a set of wheels attached to the motor. Brian Leach won the endurance race and Ralph Laughton won the speed race.

Ralph Laughton won the Magic Motor speed race with this buggy
Ralph Laughton won the Magic Motor speed race with this buggy

The Five Holes or Fewer Challenge produced some interesting results, with this rather neat Morgan three-wheeler from Peter Shaw.

Peter Shaw’s Morgan three-wheeler
Peter Shaw’s Morgan three-wheeler

The bridge building contest gave us 15 different types of bridge, all having to span a distance of 24½”.

A Fink truss railway bridge built by Stuart Jones
A Fink truss railway bridge built by Stuart Jones

Building a model from the year of your birth was the most popular of all of them with 24 entries in 2014. It gave us a lovely tug boat from Alan Wenbourne.

Alan Wenbourne’s tug boat
Alan Wenbourne’s tug boat

You wouldn’t have thought that clothing was the most obvious choice for a Meccano model, but we still had eight entries for that Challenge including two sets of clothing for soft toys.

The Great Fire of London Challenge produced some interesting entries, including two Pepys’ diaries along with Pepys’ cheese and wine, apparently buried in his garden to save them from the fire.

We have had a number of Big Challenges, where the idea is to collectively build a model or display. The first of these, in 2013, was an O gauge railway where 17 members brought in models of locos, wagons or coaches which could all be coupled together. Other subjects have been a model village at ½” to 1 foot scale, a tube map with 15 sections bolted together, and a harbour.

An O gauge carriage built by Keith Patey
An O gauge carriage built by Keith Patey

I think my all-time favourite model from any Challenge is the Peloton model from Le Tour de France Challenge. This simple model, built by Chris Fry, also won the Geoff Carter Cup in 2014.

Chris Fry’s peloton of cyclists
Chris Fry’s peloton of cyclists

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