By Paul Dale

Although not its original author, Fred Lane has sent a listing of information sources on the subject of Meccano Block Setting Cranes and suggests such may be of help to Meccano modellers intending to create one of these Meccano icons.

I can add one additional reference that might be of use to anybody wishing to construct a model based on the Pinyon manual cover. Canadian MeccaNotes issue 8, December 1997 had an article by Larry Yates entitled "My Father's Block-Setting Crane." This article includes half a dozen well drawn diagrams which have been derived from the aforementioned manual cover illustration.

Meccano and Titan Block Setting Cranes

The following is a non-exhaustive list of recent articles on Meccano Ltd's 1928 blocksetter models and the realistic modelling of Titan blocksetters in the Meccano medium.

  1. Meccanoman's Newsmag No. 42, July 1985. Five not very clear photographs and approaching a page of text give some idea of Miguel Viglioglia's fine model of one of the two identical Mar del Plata (Argentina) 1915 Titans. This model may have been the first realistic or true-to-prototype Meccano representation of a Titan blocksetting crane since J. H. Sheldon's model of the 1931 Cape Town Hercules (ie over-trussed Titan) won the 1931 Meccano Magazine's "Actual Machines" competition, see 1932 MM p. 699.

    The 1915 Mar del Plata Titan stored Galle chain in loops, instead of winding wire rope onto a drum. This alternative system is explained in a note in the Meccano Newsmag no. 83 March 1999. Back numbers of this journal and the preceding Meccanoman's Newsmag may be obtained from MW Models, 4 Greys Road, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon RG9 1RY, England. Tel. 01491 572 436 (International +44 1491 572 436) Fax 01491 571 175 (International +44 1491 571 175). Individual MM pages may be obtained by means of the MW Models MM photocopy service.

  2. Meccano Engineer No. 12, June-September 1976. An illustrated two-page article by Bert Love entitled "Birth of a turntable" falls into two parts. It is clear by inspection that Meccano Ltd's famous 1928 long-boom "Giant Block-Setting Crane" (GBSC) model, destined of course eventually to be the subject of W. H. Pinyon's celebrated 1948 instruction manual cover, did not use the standard form of Geared Roller Bearing (GRB). The first part of the article describes an apparently identical bearing fitted to a Meccano Ltd GBSC found in a Sydney dealers shop about to go out of business.

    This article gives no indication that the Sydney dealers shop GBSC is not the same as either the 1928 long-boom one or Super Model no. 4; instead the second part of the article describes the coming into existence of part 167b, the Large Toothed Quadrant. Unfortunately stocks of ME12 at MW Models may be exhausted.

  3. Meccanoman's Newsmag, November 1990. Roger Beardsley's 7137 forum for collectors contains a four-page article by Fred Lane entitled "The Classic Dealer's GBSC - is it a myth?" This describes the dealers shop GBSC, mentioned in 2 above, given by F. Hornby in the early 1930s to E G Page & Co Australia's leading distributor of Meccano products. This GBSC is conveniently referable as the Page GBSC. The article gives something of the history of the model, and describes Fred Lane's fine satin-chrome restoration of it.

  4. Meccanoman's Newsmag, July 1991. Roger Beardsley's 7137 forum for collectors contains an 11-page article by Julian Head entitled "The Evolution of the Super Model No. 4."

    By way of response to the November '90 article, the July '91 contribution seeks to explain why Meccano Ltd's 1928 GBSC output (published and non-published) was such a muddle, the long-boom model clearly having an only moderately successful attempt at the big 1914 Fishguard (South Wales) Titan's superstructure perched on a better attempt at the much smaller 1922 Antofagasta (Chile) Titan's unusual (for a Stothert and Pitt blocksetter) eight pivoting bogie undercarriage, while Super Model No. 4 was freelance in both respects.

    The article suggests that the Page GBSC was intermediate between the long-boom model and Super Model No. 4, having physically taken over the undercarrage, pre-production GRB, jenny and non-standard engine controls of the long-boom one. In other words the one and only long-boom GBSC has been found to the extent that it is still in existence.

    In private correspondence after publication of article 4 Fred Lane suggested that the Page GBSC, apart from possessing the long-boom model's undercarrage, pre-production GRB, jenny, triangular-sided snatch-block and bow assembly, probably possessed also that model's entire engine-house complete.

    Much of article 4 is overtaken or re-stated by article 8 below, but, if 4 is obtained, the relevant sentence on page 28 shuld be read as follows, lest the whole paragraph concerned be reduced to nonsense. "Ellison Hawks tells us 'Recently the writer saw under construction at Messrs. Stothert and Pitt's works a huge Titan made for the union of South Africa ...'"

  5. Constructor Quarterly, September 1992. A nine-page article by Julian Head entitled "Super Model No. 4 rebuilt - a model to change a tradition" describes and illustrates Geoff Tomlinson's fine true-to-prototype model of the 1922 Antofa gasta Titan.

    Together with Peter Goddard's model of the big 1914 Fishguard machine, which appeared contemporaneously, this may have been the first Meccano Titan model to possess a prototypical layout of engine-house mechanism, including reciprocating hydraulic brakes and a free wheel to automatically decouple these during hoisting. (A suitable Meccano form of free wheel is described in detail.)

    Before describing Geoff Tomlinson's mould-breaking model, the article discusses how Meccano Ltd's 1928 long-boom GBSC came to have a hybrid nature. Whereas the 1928 Meccano Book of Engineering gives both a whole-crane view of the 1922 Antofagasta Titan (albeit misdescribing the machine as being in South Africa) and a close-up of the unusual eight-pivoting-bogie undercarrage, the preceding 1925 Meccano Magazine five-part serial article gives only the undercarriage close-up, wrongly suggesting that this gave general guidance. If Meccano Ltd were swayed by their own wrong advice, this would have contributed materially to the muddled form of the long-boom model.

    After describing Geoff Tomlinson's model, the article concludes by questioning the then prevailing Meccano tradition of building only freelance block setters, and lists five groups of Titans requiring realistic modelling. Since the time of the article, further models by Geoff Tomlinson, Peter Goddard and others have gone a long way to setting matters to rights, see eg 6 and 9 below.

    Back numbers of Constructor Quarterly may be supplied from Constructor Quarterly, 17 Ryegate Rd., Crosspool, Sheffield, S10 5FA, England.

  6. Constructor Quarterly No. 27, Spring 1995. A ten-page article by John Sinton entitled "A miniature Titan blocksetter" describes and illustrates a very fine, small-scale model of one of two identical 1898(?) Gibraltar Titans. The write-up is of high quality. No less than 38 three-dimensional exploded diagrams (draughtsman-, not computer- generated) are provided.

  7. Constructor Quarterly Nos. 28 and 29, June and September 1995. A two-part, twelve-page article by Julian Head entitled "Controls of Stothert and Pitt Titans" describes Stothert and Pitt's standard engine-house layout by reference to coloured plans. Peter Goddard's fine model of the 1914 Fishguard Titan and Geoff Tomlinson's fine model of the 1925 Cape Town one are illustrated.

  8. Meccanoman's Newsmag, March, July and November 1995, and March 1996. A four-part, 25-page article by Julian Head entitled "Meccano's first blocksetter and its rebuild - motors, dates and other matters" updates the November 1990 and July 1991 Newsmag articles, although it is now itself scheduled for updating.

    Part I uses photographs by Dr. Rollason (the finder and previous owner of the Page GBSC) and by present owner Fred Lane to show how the Page GBSC's engine-house layout differs from that of the Super Model No. 4. If it is correct that the Page has the long-boom GBSC's engine-house, then part I gives detail essential to any fully accurate rebuild of the long-boom model.

    Part II argues that the historical order of Meccano Ltd's 1928 GBSC models was long-boom first, the Page second (showing freelance variation in the balance of the fore and aft cantilevers so as to reduce the 18 1/2 lb counterweight to a mere 6 1/2 lb, everything else remaining unchanged), and Super Model No. 4 third (being essentially the Page but with the undercarriage subjected to freelance variation to give contrast with the long-boom model's undercarriage, with the production of the GRB, and with a few small changes in the superstructure and engine-house).

    Part III argues inter alia that it was pressure to satisfy the special comparative purposes of the Meccano Book of Engineering (originally scheduled for the 1926 selling season) that led to the hybrid nature of the long-boom model. Part IV deals with GRB matters, suggesting that the long-boom model was probably originally intended to rotate on the part 119 Channel Segment standard mechanism. Its photographic content probably obviates the need to seek out a copy of ME 12.

  9. Constructor Quarterly No. 33 September 1996. A six-page article by John Sinton entitled "A Stothert and Pitt 40-ton Titan crane for the Harbour at Vera Cruz" describes a fine model of the 1897 Vera Cruz Titan at relatively small scale. Despite this small scale, a very full rendering is nevertheless achieved of this Titan's somewhat unusual machinery. Well illustrated.

Reconstructing Meccano Ltd's 1928 GBSC's.

To any Meccanoman wishing to reconstruct either of Meccano Ltd.'s published 1928 GBSC models, the best course of action is to obtain a copy of volume 2 in the Hornby Companion Series (H.C.S. vol. 2), entitled "The Meccano Supermodels". This is normally best obtained with its author's signature from M W Models. H.C.S. vol. 2 reprints both the 1928 Meccano Book of Engineering (the MBE), which gives three illustrations of the 1928 long-boom GBSC, and the eight-page instruction leaflet for the Super Model (SML 4).

The bows-on shot of the long-boom model on page 20 of the MBE shows the only snatch-block ever actually reeved into the model. The five "artistic" 1 1/2" Pulleys (three without boss!) of course have to be replaced by four 1" Pulleys without boss spaced by single Washers and retained by two Collars (making four Collars in all on the 2" Axle). The snatch block Pulleys co-operate with five not six in the jenny, because the long-boom model, like the Super Model was single reeved.

The sideways-on view of the long-boom model on page 16 of the MBE is not adequate for some details, and is best replaced by the illustration on the front cover of a 1928, '29 or '32 Book of New Models. Central Trains of Paris do excellent reprints of the French editions of at least the first two of these, which are equivalent to the English editions for present purposes. Alternatively, the reduced size reproductions on page 134 of H.C.S. vol. 6 are surprisingly good through a magnifying-glass. If necessary pre- and post- war instruction manuals can be used (disregarding of course the artistic modification of the undercarriage and the GRB), and Pinyon can also be used. (Incidentally, for a note on Pinyon's career, see Meccano Newsmag no. 89, March 2001.)

It is hoped that an eventual updating of article 8 will include photographs of a recent fine re-building of the long-boom model, and this project will then be less problematic for others to take on.

If the objective is to rebuild Super Model No. 4, but H.C.S. vol. 2 is not available, it is possible to use the instructions in the May, June and July 1929 Meccano Magazine. These are slightly less detailed, particularly regarding Fiddler's gear, but they do explain how to build the model with 119's alone if no GRB is to hand. If using MW Models photocopy service, ask for pages 392, 393, 394, 478, 479, 480, 550, 551 and 552.

Building Realistic Blocksetters

To any Meccanoman wishing to build true-to-prototype blocksetters, article 7 provides mechanical details to enable reasonably correct models to be made of all the Stothert and Pitt blocksetters illustrated in the 1925 and 1932 MM serial articles, and in the MBE. In addition, the source allows very accurate models to be build of the 1922 Port Elizabeth and 1925 Cape Town Titans, the latter being the originally intended objective of Meccano Ltd's blocksetter building endeavours. A general arrangement plan for the 1914 Fishguard Titan may be obtained by contacting the nearest large reference library and asking to be sent a photocopy of plate IX from "Engineering" for 28th July 1916. Ask also for pages 74, 75 and 82, plus also plate I and pages 5, 6 and 7 from the 7th July 1916 edition.

The 1897 Vera Cruz and 1898 Gibraltar Titans may be built at 1/2" to 1' by scaling up from articles 9 and 6 respectively, while 5 plus 7 gives a good Antofagasta Titan. It is believed that an account of Peter Goddard's blocksetter models may be published shortly, while it is hoped that further material will be published subsequently.

Geared Roller Bearing, complete, Part 167Part 167

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