Autumn 2015 Newsletter

Autumn 2015 Newsletter cover

Autumn 2015 Newsletter
Issue 156

Saint Mary’s Catholic Primary School Summer Fayre 2015

The club was invited to take part in the Saint Mary’s Catholic Primary School Summer Fayre on 13th June, which was a new event for us.

Chris Warrell was given a lift by me to the school which is only a little over a mile away. We arrived at 10:00am and quickly unloaded the car. It started at noon but Chris needed time to set up his tram. We were offered an outside sheltered area but it was windy and that could have caused problems with Peter Clay’s Meccanograph designs so we went for the hall instead.

We had four tables and the models just about fitted. Even though it was overcast most of the day most people stayed outside. There were some families and young visitors. They seemed to take interest in most of the models. We enjoyed tea, coffee and cake during the day. Cathy turned up for about an hour to keep our spirits up. For half an hour the room was full as some of the schoolchildren danced and then it was almost empty again! We started to pack up at 4:30pm and had gone by 5:30pm.

Overall it was enjoyable and would recommend support from club members if we were re-invited next year.

There was other entertainment on the grounds, including a fairground ride, music, stalls, and bouncy castle, taekwondo and creativity workshops.

Chris Fry talking about his models
Chris Fry talking about his models

Chris rang me the day after asking whether his tram track was still in my car. It was not; it had been left at the school, on a window frame, and was picked up by Chris a few days later.

The models on the day were:

  • Chris Warrell — Tram; Meccano-adorned hat; cranes; a robot; house.
  • Chris Fry — Peloton; wind turbine; orrery; cricket pitch with pavilion.
  • Brian Leach — House; 6-speed and reverse gearbox; Superman logo.
  • Peter Clay —Truck; Meccanograph; breakdown van; buggy; lamp post; van.

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The Great Get Together 2015

The annual Great Get Together, held as usual at the Royal Artillery Barracks, provides fun for all — once it is up and running.

The latter clause provides the trepidation since any number of problems can bug us before we are set up. This year fortunately seemed to go reasonably well. Of note — the electric supply, which normally fails early if it works at all, did run smoothly throughout the entire day. Furthermore, the manic drumming class, which was in our marquee for the third time running, was not too obtrusive, due to fewer people attending.

So what did our display look like, approaching the marquee? First in view on the right was an enormous banner, supplied by Spin Master. Other banners and signs inside and outside the tent left no doubt as to what the show was about. Grabbing attention at the back in the middle of the models was Santiago Plicio’s stunning fairground ride. Based on a big wheel it left no doubt as to what we were showing and provided the ‘Wow!’ factor. I think he called it ‘The Awful Tower’.

One of the Make It With Meccano tables
One of the Make It With Meccano tables

To the right was our Make It With Meccano section. Children could, under supervision, make a ‘bug’, a skier, an aircraft or a sunbed. The bulk of the work on this must be attributed to Tim Surtell, who was also responsible for the overall layout, banners, etc. Those who made a model got a certificate. I had a go at helping and I must confess it is not as easy as it looks, to keep a child’s attention and get them building — the latter I ended up doing myself! I also found the new parts (supplied by Spin Master) with their ¼” hole spacing somewhat fiddly to use and had to count the holes carefully — it is harder to distinguish, say, a five- from a four-hole strip when you are used to ½” spacing. This aspect of our show was popular with children (and their parents!). We handed out 35 certificates to children who took part.

Peter Clay helping out with Make It With Meccano
Peter Clay helping out with Make It With Meccano

At the left was Chris Fry’s seasonal challenge model cricket pavilion which captured a good deal of attention. Many little hands were caught moving the players around. On the opposite end table Chris had a wind farm of three windmill generators powered by a gearbox which caused them to start, speed up, run, slow down and stop.

Back to the left, next came Peter Clay’s van with remote steering, Huff-a-bolt game, O gauge railway crane and Dad’s Army butcher’s van.

To his left Brian Elvidge showed the SML 11a single cylinder horizontal steam engine in yellow/blue/zinc powered by a PDU. A popular model always worth a showing — I like the simple cylinder using double angle strips which enable the piston to be seen working inside. Brian also had a car built from the 2014 off-road set.

Les Chatfield entertains the kids!
Les Chatfield entertains the kids!

To his left Les Chatfield presided. A born showman, Les is not one to just sit beside his many models. He drew spectators’ attention to his multi-model display, making them designs on his Schmidt Meccanograph. His power hacksaw finally managed to cut though a piece of wood! An infinitely variable speed drive fascinated onlookers. He also had his Geoff Carter Cup winning mini traction engine, autogyro, rowing skiff and plate bender.

To the right of Santiago’s big wheel and on the side was Tim Surtell’s familiar Lighting Leap game of skill, drawing spectators (and their money — to go to Foal Farm). His Spanish Knight ran smoothly throughout the day and his walking cat aroused interest. Also on display he had a maraca (unfortunately it couldn’t compete with the drummers!) and an ice cream cart. He also displayed the four Make It With Meccano models — see above.

These girls had fun building all four of the Make It With Meccano models
These girls had fun building all four of the Make It With Meccano models

Chris Warrell and Brian Leach came along. If I’ve missed anyone else, or made mistakes in the model report, please accept my apologies.

All in all a good day with fine weather and various other attractions to see. According to local press, tens of thousands of people turned up to the event, but we seemed to have fewer people than in previous years.

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Foal Farm Country Festival 2015

This year Foal Farm had the highest ever attendance at their Country Festival, so the three members at our stand were kept busy from the moment the gates opened to the moment they closed.

Luckily the weather was good, although heavy rain a few hours before we arrived had left a muddy hole hidden in the grass right behind our tables, which we didn’t notice until it was too late to move everything! Something to watch out for next year.

Brian Elvidge’s Single Cylinder Horizontal Steam Engine
Brian Elvidge’s Single Cylinder Horizontal Steam Engine

Brian Elvidge brought along several models including a Single Cylinder Horizontal Steam Engine and a model of his house, Santiago Plicio (along with his wife Maria) had the tallest display with the Awful Tower fairground ride, while Tim Surtell had Konkoly’s Spanish Knight, the Meccanoide walking dog, and the ‘Lightning Leap’ game. The latter raised over £30 for Foal Farm, meaning it was played at least 300 times that day.

Santiago Plicio’s Awful Tower ride (left) and Tim Surtell’s Lightning Leap
Santiago Plicio’s Awful Tower ride (left) and Tim Surtell’s Lightning Leap

Both Brian and Santiago said they thoroughly enjoyed the day, and could they please book for next year!

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Royal Institute of British Architects Day of Play

I received an e-mail out of the blue in mid-July with the subject line as ‘Meccano at the RIBA — urgent help needed!’ The Royal Institute of British Architects had planned to have a family-friendly ‘Day of Play’ — a day-long celebration of all things play at the RIBA headquarters at 66 Portland Place. It was inspired by The Brutalist Playground installation, reflecting the Brutalist designs of post-war architecture. The day would have Lego, Minecraft (a computer game), game design workshop, design your own high-rise home, colouring-in corner, plasticine city, tours of the building, and Meccano.

They had been sent hundreds of small Meccano kits and didn’t really know what to do with them, so went to us for some help. I agreed that we could turn up and run the Meccano area. In the meantime, prompted by Ralph Laughton, some larger Meccano sets had turned up from Spin Master.

An early building session with Brian
An early building session with Brian

RIBA’s website built up our contribution like this:

The Great Meccano Challenge. Team work makes the dream work! Experts from SELMEC — The South East London Meccano Club — will be on hand to impart their Meccano knowledge and to show you how to create some amazing architectural constructions. We’ll also be giving out free mini Meccano kits for you to take home.

The Lego room
The Lego room

Brian Leach, Tim Surtell and I would be able to do the whole day, with Peter Clay free from mid-afternoon. The three of us arrived at 66 Portland Place and were told the activity was on the first floor, where we found a large hall with nearly 20 circular tables all ready — unfortunately none of it was for us, but for the Lego building! Our room was on the second floor; a far more modest one, above the main entrance, with just two 6’ long tables covered in black cloth.

Another table was requested for the few models that we’d brought, along with Tim’s video display and SELMEC publicity. In the room were several boxes containing new Meccano sets: the Eiffel Tower/Brooklyn Bridge; Tower Bridge and Empire State Building/Arc de Triomphe. A number of them were split open to give us a good stock of parts.

The Meccano room
The Meccano room

The initial idea was that one table would be for constructing any building, using the 5½” x 2½” flanged plate as a base; the other one would gradually build the Empire State Building throughout the day with each child constructing a section of it.

The start to the day was a little slow so we made a start on the skyscraper ourselves. We hadn’t got very far before the first visitors started to trickle in, so we abandoned our building to give them some help. No more than a couple of children started on the Empire State Building, so we gave that up as a bad idea and had both tables for general building. We found pretty quickly that more tables were required, so another two, plus chairs, were requested to give us one for displaying the emerging city, and one for the building session. Even that wasn’t quite enough because, during the busiest part of the day at around one o’clock, there were two families working on the floor!

Some of the buildings being created were quite inventive, some were very two dimensional, others very tall. It didn’t matter, and most children, and one or two adults, seemed to have fun building anything they liked with an almost limitless supply of Meccano!

One of the budding architects shows off her clever scissor lift mechanism
One of the budding architects shows off her clever scissor lift mechanism

Over 700 people turned up for the main event, with us giving away around 100 helicopters to the children, so we probably had between 150 and 200 people, including parents, in the room over the seven hours. Laura Southall (Head of Learning at RIBA) and her team were very pleased with the way the day went. She hopes to be able to run something similar next year to which we’ll be invited.

RIBA City — The odd collection of buildings built (mainly) by children at the RIBA Day of Play
RIBA City — The odd collection of buildings built (mainly) by children at the RIBA Day of Play

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