65 Secretary’s Challenges

Many of you may know that the idea of the Secretary’s Challenge came from Geoff Carter (Secretary from 2000 to 2003) in 2001 when he decided that this would be a way of getting more models to the meetings. They were very successful from the start, with a good number of members attempting the first one which was to dig out your oldest Meccano manual and build a model from it. The Challenges have continued at every meeting since then.

To date, we’ve had 65 Challenges which have resulted in the construction of at least 530 models! Introduced in 2013 was ‘The Big Challenge’ where we all chip in to one large model or collection, the current one being the Tube Map.

The first few Challenges were set by Geoff, but later on members started sending in their own ideas. The first was from Peter Clay who invited members to build something with a practical use. So far two of his ideas have been used, with Brian Leach and my wife Cathy contributing a couple each as well. I’ve used eight ideas from Chris Fry (and there’s another on the way).

The most popular by far was the month/year Birthday Model (the idea being borrowed from the ISM magazine) with 24 entries. Some of the Challenges that require a degree of ingenuity have produced only a few entries.

I won’t list all 65 here (you can see them all in the drop-down list in the Model Gallery) but here are my top ten models, in no particular order:

I really have to put Chris Fry’s peloton first because I included it in my ‘Favourite Model of All Time’ article for the International Meccanoman. It was in the Tour de France challenge in June 2014 and won the Geoff Carter Cup as well. It very simply captured the look of a group of cyclists in a tight bunch racing for the finish.

Chris Fry’s peloton
Chris Fry’s peloton

In January 2007 the theme was Film and TV. Andrew Couzens came up with a very realistic Mole from the Thunderbirds series. It had the same rugged look as the Gerry Anderson version.

The Year of the Bus provided the inspiration in September 2014 and Cathy Claydon’s WWI ‘B’ Type bus was a very good model in its army green colours. At the time it still needed its red Spoked Wheels repainting.

Geoff Carter produced what was, for him, a very large model at 6 feet long — the Forth Bridge. This was in the Landmark Building challenge of June 2005. It was actually designed by Chris Shute using parts from the M&S Landmark kits.

Douglas Windibank rarely built models of his own design, but in January 2006 he built a lifting bridge, using parts with the numbers 3 or 0. He’d used ideas from other models for this, which was hand operated.

A lifting bridge from Douglas Windibank
A lifting bridge from Douglas Windibank

Quite a few challenges tie in with an anniversary, and in September 2011 it was 60 years since the 1951 Festival of Britain. Stuart Jones came up with a small model of the entire Festival site on London’s South Bank, either side of Hungerford Bridge — which he also modelled.

Snow was the theme in January 2012 and Les Chatfield’s model of a Snow-Trac, based on a Dinky Toy, captured the lines of the original perfectly. Each track was a double width of Sprocket Chain; plastic track would have been out of scale.

A Snow-Trac from Les Chatfield
A Snow-Trac from Les Chatfield

The Model Village challenge produced a large number of models at the meeting — and even more turned up when they were displayed at that year’s Show. John Gay’s pub ‘The Bolt Hole’ was nicely proportioned, occupying a corner plot; it looked very good in its dark blue and yellow colours.

There were two winners of the Magic Motor races in June 2010. Ralph Laughton won the speed race with a very minimalist buggy — just the motor and wheels! In the distance race Brian Leach won with a go-kart which was geared for distance rather than speed.

You don’t often see Plastic Meccano at meetings, but young Sam Edwards brought a plastic narrow boat for the Canals challenge in January 2016. It captured the lines of a working boat very well.

I’m always on the lookout for any ideas for the Secretary’s Challenge — I can’t promise that I’ll use every suggestion, but don’t let that put you off!

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