Monday, 17 October 2016

Pre-war BIg Wheel

A while ago we acquired a 1930 pre-war No.6 set housed in an original 'enamelled' (painted) wooden box. I have already built the steam lorry, from parts in this set, that appeared in the 1929 steam engine instruction manual. That worked out fine and complimented the the vertical boiler steam engine of the same period perfectly.

The Big Wheel - finished as the instructions - As far as possible

Looking through the old contemporary manuals I found lots of models that I fancied having a go at there is a mass of interesting subjects to chose from. They all would have been things familiar to children of the period. I had often thought about building something from the manual even before we had acquired the set, now I had the perfect excuse.

As can be seen the illustration in the manual is not very clear in places
Recently  I have been building the Big Wheel from the 1927 instruction manual for sets No.4 -7, only to discover that the 1927 set has a lot more parts than the 1930 set. Comparing the contents two sets is interesting and somewhat baffling. I can see the point in reducing the number of strips and other parts that are included in good quantity in the earlier set, but why reduce the number of 3½ x 2½ flanged plates (Part No.53) from eight to seven? I am sure the Meccano accountants of the day made the decisions purely on cost. Even though our set is the later (smaller) set, I decided to build the big wheel from the earlier instructions as I could make up the extra parts from our building stock. I have been collecting odd bits of dark green/dark red, as they turned up in lots we have bought, for years. Where I have not been able to do this I have used some mid red and mid green parts. Amazingly they do not stick out like a sore thumb and in fact are hard to spot even when you know they are there. Interestingly they show up more in the photographs than they do in reality..

It looks very flimsy in this view - it is not!
I started to build the main frame. This is reasonably straight forward except where the gearings are for the wheel itself. The illustration is impossible to decipher and I abandoned the final stages until I had completed the wheel. This way I could use the wheel to determine at what height the bearing needed to be fitted and then finish off the top of the towers.

What a lot of struts
I have no idea how a kid in the thirties would have been able to build this model without some kind of strip rolling machine. Trying to bend the outer strips for the rim of the wheel to a smooth curve would have been nigh on impossible. No indication as to how this is achieved is even hinted at in the instructions. For me here, getting on for ninety years later, the gentle curve required in the 12½ inch perforated strips is easily formed by running them through a set of our rolling bars.

The chain drive works really well
 Once the model was fully assembled and all the nuts and bolts tightened it was an easy job to rig the chain. The wheel turns effortlessly as the gearing down is imminence. A small amount of lubricant made everything run smoothly. If you are wondering how the hub goes together here is a close up picture just to prove that sixteen struts will fit around a standard face plate.   

Close up of the hub arrangement.

That is the model built as close to the original instruction as possible. It is screaming out for a power source to drive it and I think the 1929 vertical boiler steam engine is just the ticket. Four extra gondolas would improve the look too. Watch this space...


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