Bradley Stoke resident Steve Briancourt shares the story of his success in the world of Meccano modelling.
If you’ve ever thought about resurrecting a hobby that you used to do in the distant past, don’t discard the idea, as what you enjoyed doing many years ago could once again fire that enthusiasm you had as a youth. It might be playing an instrument, or canoeing, or in my case – building models in Meccano. After many years of toil at work, and the pleasure of watching my family mature, it was time to think about winding down and getting back to more leisurely pastimes.
Anyone of a time before computers were a household essential will remember games and toys that were battery free. One of these was Meccano, but not the sort you see on sale now. No, this was good old fashioned ‘build anything’ Meccano. Not so much a toy, more of a challenge of the mind and fingers.
A few years ago I joined a local modelling club to recapture those days when I spent time doing hobby things to relieve the pressure of schoolwork. The difference now is that I have more time to spend on hobbies, and at last – more money. And so it was that in the run up to retirement I found myself buying old fashioned Meccano (there’s lots available, and run-of-the-mill stuff isn’t expensive) with the intention of joining the ranks of model engineers in building something from scratch. On the encouragement of others, I started to build something before retirement, splitting my limited leisure time between restoring old Meccano and building with it.
So here we are, over six years later, and I have completed my first entry into the world of Meccanomen. It is a 100th scale model of the American battleship the USS Missouri. That scale sounds quite small but a battleship is big, and even at this scale the model is 9 feet long and weighs 72kg. I chose to build this over the usual cranes and vehicles for a number of reasons including not having seen anything like it in Meccano before, and having the opportunity to include many functioning features for which Meccano excels. This example has operational main turrets, 10 smaller turrets, gun director radars, anchors, propellers and rudders, all remotely operated from a control box. The main turrets feature rotation, gun elevation and gun recoil.
In June of this year, the ship was displayed at the UK’s largest gathering of Meccano enthusiasts, held in Skegness. This exhibition – affectionately known as SkegEx – is also a competition open to all in the UK and abroad. The USS Missouri won first place against stiff competition. The award is called the Issigonis Shield, named after the famous designer of the Mini, who was also a Meccano enthusiast.
I now have to restock my supplies before embarking on my next challenge. Now retired, I hope to divide my time between this and other hobbies, as well as earning back some DIY brownie points with my wife who has been very patient during the build period. Having any modelling hobby is very satisfying, and I would encourage anyone of any age to try their hand. There are lots of clubs of similar minded people for all kinds of interests. As I live in Bradley Stoke, my club is the South West Meccano Club, based loosely in north Bristol but covering all of the South West and parts of Wales.
If anyone is interested in joining we can be found on the internet at www.southwestmeccano.org.uk, or by just searching for South West Meccano.
Photos – Top: Steve Briancourt (2nd from left) is presented with the prestigious Issigonis Shield awarded for 1st place at the 2019 SkegEx Meccano Model Exhibition. Above: Steve standing next to his model after receiving the shield.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 8 & 9). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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