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Sue fixing the roof
Sue is on roofing duty
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Inside car detail
Inside of the car showing floor and bench seats
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Frames
Assembing the lattace with the track
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Detail of roof
One up, one down, one up....
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Scrap man!
Inventor turned scrap-man, times must be hard

Funicular railway - a story of many parts...

Funicular Railway from parts 1-50
It all started as a challenge

The South East London Meccano Club (SELMEC) set a secretary’s challenge for each meeting. For the September 2008 meeting the challenge was to build a model using only parts numbered 1 -50. The challenge was suggested by Chris Fry and the idea came from the first page of the 1970 parts list.

Finished Model
Last stop Ironbridge and the TIMS meeting in November

At first glance there seems to be most of the parts there to make a decent model. Ok you have most of the gears, a good selection of wheels… Hmmm no tyres… Nuts, bolts, washers - all there. But no plates, a lot of the brassware is excluded including the collar (Part No. 59). The spring clips are in so that’s not too bad. However the biggest restriction is going to be bolts. All the longer ones are excluded.

1-50 Parts
The parts allowed - click on photograph to enlarge

The model

I had always fancied building funicular railway but never got around to it. Then it dawned on us that we could make one from the available parts. Without any consideration to scale or size I set about building a car.

Building the cars

The floor of each car is built up from 9 x 48a double bent strips bolted to two 4½ inch perforated strips - 18nuts 18 bolts and 11 parts and we had made a short version of obsolete (open ended) part 52! This was going to be a long job.

Building progressed in a similar vain and eventually a reasonably pleasing shape developed. The cars are fitted with bench seats and a door at each end complete with door knob made from a bolt and two nuts. The roof consisted of three, 3 inch long perforated strips (Part No.4) bent to a smooth curve and covered with six 5½ inch strips (Part No.2) bolted across them. By the time some brackets were added for fixings that was another 22 nuts and 22 bolts.

The under-frame now started to come together strips and double bent strips formed the required shape and ¾ inch diameter flange wheels (Part No. 20b) on axels made the running gear complete.

Running gear modifications The rigid chassis of the cars (left) was modified to allow the front axle to rock (right) enabling the cars to travel up and down the gradient without derailing

It was not until the incline was built that the lack of flexibility in the chassis became a problem. A quick redesign resulted in a floating front axel accomplished by bolting a pair of double angle strips (Part No.48) together by their centre hole using a bolt and two nuts locked together. The axel is biased by the cross bracing at the front of the car acting as a spring returning the floating axel to the central position. Each car required 135 nuts and 121 bolts to hold all the strips together. The cars were put to one side but there was trouble ahead and more modifications were to be needed…

The track

The track was made from long angle girders bolted to shorter ones and braced inside the track with crossed strips. The outer and central areas were filled in with more strips. It was at this point that I realised that I was running low on nuts I seem to have far more screws than nuts - at least as far as square, zinc ones are concerned. I thought I had enough to see me through the model but that would leave us short for other projects. To be on the safe side I ordered 500 nuts from Dave Taylor to pick up at the forthcoming meeting.

As it turned out, little did I know at the time, I was about to purchase a large second hand lot of mainly current production Meccano that came with 6kg of nuts and bolts. Although these were all Alan bolts, all the nuts are square and zinc plated. We now have enough nuts for a while.

The lattice frame

The frame is straight forward, lots of it and parts hungry. Once the pattern was established it was a case of keep going until it was complete. In some places the lattice is made up from shorter pieces to interrupt the pattern. This is necessary to prevent a build-up of parts terminating at the same intersection, one of the necessitates of only being able to use standard length bolts.

Once the side frames were assembled the three sub assemblies (track and two sides) were bolted together to produce a somewhat precarious structure with little strength. An internal brace was built-up from strips and angle girders and fitted inside the structure. This along with the cross-bracing at the rear made the whole thing more stable.

The mechanism

Motors were out as they did not appear on the sheet, so ‘hand-rawlic’  power was the order of the day. As this was a build-it-as-you-go-along model there was little advance planning involved. Imagine my surprise when two factors came together in our favour. First, an 11½ inch rod was just long enough to journal into both side frames and the centreline of the tracks happened to be 6 inches. This latter fact meant that 20 plus years after purchasing a 6 inch pulley I had found a use for it.

The cord was secured to the cars and fed over the rods at the top of the track, through guide pulleys on the 11½ inch rod and twice around the 6 inch pulley to provide traction. This was how the model was presented at September’s SELMEC meeting. At this stage the upper station and the lower platforms were not built. The cars ran nicely and I was happy with that. As far as I was concerned it had done it’s job, I had risen to the Secretary’s challenge and submitted a model. The intention was to dismantle the model and get on with other stuff. However I was asked if I was intending to bring it to the SELMEC Exhibition in October.

Ralph & Sue at SELMEC Exhibition 08
The model in action at the SELMEC Exhibition in October 2008

Sue and I discussed it and it was decided that the model should be added to with the addition of a top station and a lower dock of some kind. Sue got on with the station while I built the lower platform. The roof of the station proved challenging as we fell foul of the poor tolerances applied to the manufacture of Meccano, and in particular the width of the strips.

In theory it should be possible to bolt as many strips as required at right angles along another strip. After all, the holes are ½ inch apart and the strips are ½ inch wide.  Well, that’s the theory. In practise it does not work after 8 or 9 strips the fact that the strips are slightly wider than ½ inch starts to compound and any tolerance there is in the relationship between the bolt diameter and the hole size has been used up. At this point strip has to be allowed to overlap. It is either that or start filing! As it turns out in a model of this size the overlap is not as obvious as I feared it would be.

The ridge decoration was made by sandwiching fishplates between the ridge strips. They are secured by their slotted hole, one set down and one set up alternately to achieve a regular pattern. Bolt length restrictions prevented Sue from adding ridge decoration to the centre section or the roof but again I do not think it offends the overall impression.

String

It soon became apparent that the Meccano cord is far from stable. It stretches and contracts under load and, we suspect, due to a change in the environment. As far as the model was concerned this meant that as one car was docked in the station the other car may not have reached the bottom or vice-versa.

Springs added by Sue
Sue shows off her compensation device - a spring under each car!

I was thinking of some kind on tensioning system on the cord involving all sorts of contraptions. Then Sue came up with her simple but effective idea. She shortened the string by about half an inch and added a tension spring (Part No.43) to the underside of each car. Now as one car docks a further turn of the handle will dock the second car perfectly. This arrangement also enabled the whole thing to be transported with the cars sitting on the track. Slight tension is applied to the string by pulling the cars down the slope by one hole from there rest point and passing a couple of rods through some brackets, the track and the frame of the cars. Secured like this the whole model can be transported in one lump.

Rigged for transprtation
Cars are locked to the track for travelling using a couple of long rods. The springs under the cars allow the cars and string to be held in tension making set-up quick and easy - just remove the rods and wind!

After being seen at several meetings here in South East England the model was shown at the TIMS meeting in Ironbridge in November before being dismantled.

The model was a hit with the children who seemed to enjoy the hands-on experience of winding the cars up and down. While they were doing that the parents would usually ask one or all three questions; Did you design it or was it built from a plan? How long did it take to build and how many parts are there.

The first two questions were easy to answer; Yes we designed and built it and it took about a month of odd evenings and a bit of time at the weekends – maybe 30 hours in total.

Parts!
A pile of bits - how many? - See parts list on the right

But we had no idea how many parts it took…

…so, call us mad but, when we dismantled it we counted them, all of them! And while we were at it we priced them as if they had been purchased second had using Mike Rhoads September 2007 price list and the result is shown in the table. It also proves the challenge – no part number over 48b.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Short nuts can be a problem.
Some nuts only just held on
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Drive
Hand driven mechanism
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Brace
Made up braced girder

Brace fitted
Braced girder - fitted
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
How many bits?
 
PART No.
QTY
UNIT COST
TOTAL COST OF PARTS
PERFORATED STRIPS
1
111
0.45
£49.95
1a
15
0.55
£8.25
1b
30
0.45
£13.5
2
238
0.15
£35.70
2a
38
0.35
£13.30
3
47
0.25
£11.75
4
69
0.35
£24.15
5
69
0.15
£10.35
6
39
0.25
£9.75
6a
27
0.20
£5.40
ANGLE GIRDERS
7
8
4.20
£33.60
7a
6
3.20
£19.20
8
4
1.10
£4.40
8a
8
1.55
£12.40
8b
14
1.20
£16.80
9
14
0.95
£13.30
9a
4
0.90
£3.60
9b
2
0.85
£1.70
9c
4
0.85
£3.40
9e
7
0.45
£3.15
9f
4
0.50
£2.00
BRACKETS
10
61
0.03
£1.83
11
32
0.16
£5.12
11a
2
0.20
£0.40
12c
12
0.05
£0.60
AXLE RODS
13
1
0.50
£0.50
15b
1
0.10
£0.10
16
2
0.05
£0.10
16a
4
0.15
£0.60
18a
1
0.05
£0.05
18b
2
0.05
£0.10
WHEELS & PULLEYS
19c
1
9.75
£9.75
20b
8
1.20
£9.60
23a
4
0.30
£1.20
23b
9
0.20
£1.80
24
6
0.35
£2.10
24a
4
0.15
£0.60
NUTS & BOLTS ETC
35
12
0.01
£0.15
37a
1360
0.03
£40.80
37b
1332
0.03
£39.96
38
24
0.02
£0.48
40
1
2.80
£2.80
43
2
0.40
£0.80
DOUBLE ANGLE BRACKETS
48
35
0.20
£7.00
48a
30
0.15
£4.50
48b
4
0.45
£1.80
TOTAL
£428.39

 

 

 

 

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