Christmas 2017 Newsletter

Christmas 2017 Newsletter cover

Christmas 2017 Newsletter
Issue 165

Meccano Show 2017

Our annual show on 28th October was another great success, with 237 adults and 127 children passing through the doors, a total of 364 visitors.

32 members were due to display their models, though sadly Thomas Greatrex and Chris Fry had to withdraw at the last minute for various reasons. We also had two guest exhibitors and a new member experiencing their first SELMEC show — Peter Goddard, Matt Goodman and Robin Schoolar — who I hope enjoyed themselves and will return next year.

Models in Sherard Hall
Models in Sherard Hall

The day started with John the caretaker opening up the hall 20 minutes early, which was very welcome and made all the difference (to me, at least) in getting everything set up in time for opening.

In the foyer stood the results of our third Big Challenge, the London Underground map, which had been mounted on a giant board by Ralph Laughton.

The completed Tube Map, assembled on a board by Ralph Laughton
The completed Tube Map, assembled on a board by Ralph Laughton
  • Top row: Adrian Ashford, Viv Endecott, Les Chatfield, Brian Leach, John Cowdery
  • Middle row: James Plicio, Chris Fry, Richard Marsden, Sue Laughton, John Gay
  • Bottom row: Ralph Laughton, Tim Surtell, Chris Warrell, Peter Shaw, John Clifton

In the Penford room the two Cathy’s (Warrell and Claydon) were busy serving refreshments. Cathy Warrell’s cakes were very well received, judging by this e-mail I had from a visitor a few days after the show:

“I must say how we all enjoyed your exhibition as a family. It’s good to get the kids away from technology like iPads etc. My kids thoroughly enjoyed the day out and we will continue our support to keep this marvellous exhibition alive.

And I cannot stop thinking about the scrumptious cakes that day — especially the coconut and date tray bake. It’s so decadently yummy and I was wondering if you could pass me the recipe? I’ve looked all over the Internet and have tried baking similar but mine doesn’t come close.”

Cathy Warrell and her cakes
Cathy Warrell and her cakes

In the Dobell Room I again ran the Meccano Creative Challenge in the Make It With Meccano workshop, assisted by Brian Elvidge and Les Chatfield. This year entrants were placed into three different age-based categories to even out the number of entries per category.

The Make It With Meccano workshop
The Make It With Meccano workshop

The winners, chosen by Chris Warrell and Adrian Ashford, were:

  • Ages 4–7: Hayden Sanders, age 6 from Eltham, who built a lawnmower
  • Ages 8–17: Luka Sominka, age 10 from Plumstead, who build a working derrick crane
  • Ages 18+: Richard Biscoe, age 33 from Eltham, who built a helicopter
Hayden Sanders (right)
Hayden Sanders (right)
Luka Sominka
Luka Sominka
Richard Biscoe (left)
Richard Biscoe (left)

Thanks are due to all our members for helping put on the show by setting up tables, working at the paydesk, and serving refreshments. Special thanks go to Ralph Laughton and Frank Paine who ran the raffle between them, Peter Clay who kept track of the money, Cathy Warrell and Cathy Claydon for organising refreshments, and to Ralph and Sue Laughton for transporting Chris, Peter and I — along with a ton of tables and gear — to and from the hall.

Eltham United Reformed Church has already been booked for our next Show which will take place on 27th October 2018.

Your e-mail address will not be displayed in public and will not be added to mailing lists. Please see our privacy policy for further information.


Meccasaur Review

The new Meccasaur not quite finding its way to your local store!

Interest

I first knew this was available in about September 2016. Not much of the new Spin Master range had interested me, but this one did because it was affordable and I have always quite liked dinosaurs. Who can’t like the very funny Rex the green dinosaur in the Toy Story movie? The first time I saw it was when Chris Instone took it to the December Hainault Hangout in 2016 and he remarked on the difficulty obtaining it.

America

It is not on sale in the UK. In March this year I changed job and had a week’s training in America. I thought ‘why not try Walmart?’, but all the local stores were out of stock. There was a deliver-to-store option but it was two days and I had left it slightly too late. Shame; it would have only cost $53 (about £40).

Birthday

On the Internet it was very expensive. Amazon was quoting £92 minimum. eBay was less. I decided it could be a joint birthday present from my mother and my brother. I got it on the 25th July seven days before my birthday as my brother was going on holiday. This gave me time to build it for the Eltham Park Festival.

Parts

It was Thursday 27th when I started on it and the festival was on the Sunday. In the 1970s Meccano was mostly metal with a few plastic parts. Meccasaur is almost all plastic with a few metal parts. This is a bit of a pity but it still has the ½” hole spacing and metal fixings. The part quality is very good — no tarnishing. The plastic is also good with no rough edges.

One of the Meccasaur’s feet
One of the Meccasaur’s feet

Construction

The manual is quite good with 126 diagrams. But here are some of the problems I had:

  • Diagram 1: I did not notice the bolts had 1:1 scale pictures for you to match. Looking back, it is extremely obvious. This meant I used the wrong bolt in three places and had to backtrack because the control unit did not join properly with the body and one claw had too short a bolt. My mistake.
  • Diagram 6: The wires from the motor unit need to go through a hole in an outer casing. It is very easily to snag the cable in the hole. This means that once constructed the wire does not get to the control unit. I nearly damaged the wire trying to force it, but fortunately realised my mistake in time.
  • Diagram 18: Mystery part. This looks like a foot stop to give the foot grip, but it does not contact with the ground!
  • Diagram 17–23: Angle bracket position inconsistent. You would think this would be a mistake of the past.
  • Diagram 16–27: Foot shape. The foot is loose-bolted and then strips are joined on to give the foot its shape. It is not too clear that the loose-bolting is needed and even less clear that the bolts need tightening once it has its shape.
  • Diagram 29: I got a pivot point wrong, so Meccasaur did not walk and tended to fall. My mistake, but a close-up diagram would have helped.
Diagram 1 in the manual showing the 1:1 scale bolt
Diagram 1 in the manual showing the 1:1 scale bolt

It took six hours to construct and then another two hours to realise my mistakes. It was complete the night before the festival.

Operation

Operation is with three stepper motors (not totally sure about that). Two actuate the left and right legs. The third moves the mouth and also his claws. Movements are walk forward, walk left, walk right, charge attack, lunge attack, ask a yes/no question (he nods appropriately), and room guard mode (he has a microphone and light sensor). He can record sequences of movements and even your own voice.

He makes various noises. Petting will make him coo and giggle. Mainly he roars, growls, snorts, hums and occasionally farts!

Future

I am a Meccano traditionalist, using mainly 1970s Meccano. I am however glad that Meccano survives and I fully appreciate that Spin Master need to provide interesting, inexpensive mass market products. 1970s Meccano is great but its time has passed. I hope Meccano continues for a long time in the modern market place.

Postscript

The ‘not coming to a store near you’ is no longer true — Meccasaur has been spotted at Toys R Us for a rather pricey £99.

Your e-mail address will not be displayed in public and will not be added to mailing lists. Please see our privacy policy for further information.