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The Secretary's Challenge

The Result of Several Minutes Thought

By Geoff Carter

Geoff Carter's Steel Tec Millennium Falcon for the Film/TV Challenge

Geoff Carter's Steel Tec Millennium
for the Film/TV Challenge

Yes, after careful planning, I came up with the idea of the Secretary's Challenge! It was the January, 2001 meeting. We had discussed, at some length, Meccano's Official Centenary (surely it should have been in 2008?) and the club's 25th anniversary, and whether we, the club, should celebrate these events (five years before, for the 20th anniversary, we had a party that both I and my wife had enjoyed). This time, however, it was decided not to have any celebration.

The meeting continued, the Chairman was talking and my thoughts wandered — what if the members all brought in a model, made from nickel Meccano? Or, at least, a model from the nickel era? Not practical, not all members had a manual from the nickel era. But they could build a model from their oldest manual — this should give a display of models covering Meccano's 100 years. The naughty part of me said "We can avoid a general discussion on the idea by making it personal — call it 'The Secretary's Challenge'!"

It was my turn to speak. I made my usual handful of announcements and, trying to make it sound carefully planned (not something I was still working out), I waffled a bit about the centenary and a challenge by the Secretary and then I said "Get out your oldest manual and build a model from it, as close as possible to the original". I wanted to ask for the models to be brought to the next meeting, but I realised that members not present wouldn't know about the Challenge until they got the Newsletter, a week or two before the meeting, and so wouldn't have enough time to build a model. So I made it for the June meeting.

Chris Warrell's Miniature Railway, as it appeared for the Challenge

Chris Warrell's Miniature Railway,
as it appeared for the Challenge

On the way home, I thought that the Challenge was a good idea and, though my original plan was for it to be a 'one-off', I liked the idea of a 'Magic' motor-powered model for the next Challenge! Luckily, the members seemed to like the idea and the Challenges continued.

One Challenge, that I thought was the worst idea ever, turned out to be one of the best supported! I was looking at a narrow 1" x ½" obtuse angle bracket and I thought that, if you joined them end-to-end, you would have an interestingly-shaped 'ring' and my idea for the Challenge was to make a piece by bolting similar pieces end-to-end and then building the resulting shape into a model. But I didn't know how to word the Challenge without mentioning 'circle' or 'ring'!

Metronome on an adjustable stand by Peter Clay

Metronome on an
adjustable stand
by Peter Clay

I turned up at the target meeting expecting to have to apologise for such a poor challenge, only to find that it was one of the best supported challenges of all! Unfortunately, every model was built on a circle! One model from this Challenge — Chris Warrell's circular railway, was developed into a model that was published in Constructor Quarterly issue 84, June 2009. Maybe this Challenge could be re-visited, with a ban starting with a circle?

Another of these early Challenges — for a model built from a list of parts that I put together — was 'borrowed' by the MWT Club, in Wanganui, New Zealand for their challenge and SELMEC got a mention in the NZFMM Magazine!

It soon became difficult to keep thinking of Challenges and I invited members to make suggestions, but the only member to do so was Peter Clay. He was looking for a reason to make an adjustable stand for a metronome, so his idea was to build something with a practical use. This was another successful challenge — I remember Ivor Ellard said that he went round his house before leaving for the Club, collecting things he had made; these included a scraper for his fish tank and a jig for building plastic model aeroplane wings.

When I stood down as Secretary, Chris Warrell asked the members whether he should continue the Challenge — the vote appeared unanimous. He did, however, change the timing, so that the Challenge models were brought to the next meeting, as I had originally wanted.

After all this time, it is a good feeling to see that The Secretary's Challenge is continuing, virtually un-altered from my carefully planned concept!

» This article appeared in the June 2011 issue of SELMEC News.

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