A Swiss Meccano Puzzle No.4

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A few years ago I discovered this early no.4 Meccano set in an old dusty toy shop in Geneva. The lot was muddled up with a quantity of 1920/30's red-green parts heaped in an old wooden box!  On trying to sort out the Set's contents I realised that it was a good example of one of Hornby's early exports to the "Francophone" market, but with some curious details. Sadly, the set is not complete, but the parts which remain from this No.4 box are in excellent condition for their age, and are fine examples of early Meccano Liverpool products (possibly prior to Binns Road c. 1913). I hope these pages will be of help to other people interested in Meccano history, as I have found it very difficult to find pictures of complete early Meccano sets with their parts in place in the box. Enjoy the images!

Click on any of the images below to enlarge them.  

Here is an example of one of Hornby's favorite model at the time, a Travelling Jib Crane, reconstructed using the original parts from the outfit, apart from the nuts & bolts which were almost entirely missing from the set. Brass fixings from Ashok have been substituted which are a nearer match to the original turned brass parts then later pressed steel bolts. A number 2 set of the time would have been sufficient to build this simple model >>>>   

The 1913 model* plan:-   travel_jib_1913_plan_640.jpg    and the model itself :-    travel_jib_model_640.jpg

For those of you with sharp eyes, you will see that the Meccano drawing office artist has redrawn one of the model's 5½" bracing strips with 12 holes!

See also No.4 Meccano outfit contents 1910-1921, text & images

This example of a N°4 set shows some unusual and some expected details for an early Meccano product. Often there are part "dating conflicts" in sets that were destined for export - it is probable that it was considered an opportunity to use up older stock . What remains of this set's contents coincide best with the 1913 outfit contents, but the presence of blackened mild steel strip & girder parts suggests somewhere around 1917. Whether this box was a late export from the West Derby Road works, or an early one from Binns Road remains guesswork - some of the other clues that can be deduced from the design of the individual pieces either help or hinder to put a date to the outfit! Read on...

- The Screwdriver is typical of the 1908-1914 pattern

- Box cover design is typical of the West Derby Road period 1909-1913 (were export language versions kept for longer?)

- Bosses are fitted by the 1911 circular press method & wheel discs are stamped "Meccano 1911 Patent" (post 1st June 1911)

- The flanged plates were introduced  in blackened mild steel in 1911, changed to nickel plated sometime during 1912

- The worm wheel is tapped for a 6BA fixing screw - a good early example from about 1912 complete with cheese head screw

- 1" pulley, part 22, bosses fixed by a peening tool. - from 1913

- Wheel & gear bosses are tapped with a single Whitworth screw hole (not key-ways) - from 1913

- Pinion has 20 teeth, not 19.

- All of the strips, double angle strips etc. are also in blackened copper plated steel, probably electro-plated and then treated to oxidize the coating to give the copper oxide black colour.  The copper coating is clearly visible under the (non-conductive) black finish were it has been occasionally worn by use. Meccano manufactured some parts this way during 1917, but this doesn't tie up with the other part dates. Were these Märklin parts combined with Meccano for the export market? This is a real mystery! If you have any more information on this, I would love to hear from you - please feel free to send me an email.



Please have a look at the N°4 set contents page for more details.


 Box Lid Top 

   Top parts tray


 Box Lid Reverse

 Bottom parts tray


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*References: "The Meccano System" by Bert Love & Jim Gamble published by New Cavendish Books

(c) Peter Sullivan's Meccano web pages 2003