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Construction Toys in Motion Exhibition

Hi folks, Doc here, with a blast from the past. Back in 2005 I reported here about CONSTRUCTION TOYS IN MOTION, an exhibition which opened at the Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto, CA in 2005. The exhibition presented Erector sets and other metal construction toys in new ways that were educational and innovative. It emphasized unusual and interesting modes of transport and their effects on society, using metal construction set parts as the media for illustrative models. Models included trains, boats, airships and other aircraft, automobiles, trucks and fairground rides. Some of the models, including my now famous "Erector Rocket Jets" ride, were operational (click HERE for more details on my model). Several models were custom built for this exhibition, and some were quite large.

While the exhibition showcased metal construction sets and models from A.C. Gilbert, Metalcraft and others from the U.S., sets and models from Marklin (Germany), Meccano (England and France), and others were on display. The exhibition, curated by Charlie and Kim Pack, ran from Oct. 7, 2005 through Jan. 29, 2006. Selected featured model photos from the exhibition are shown below; to visit the museum website page dedicated to the exhibition click HERE.


Gilbert Erector Ferris Wheel (1928 version)

This model is based on the 1928 Gilbert Erector No. B Set Ferris Wheel. Changes from the manual plans include 8 cabins instead of 4, Erector A-47 motor (ca. 1951 vintage) power with separate engine house, added boarding ramp, added ticket stand, and pushbutton operation with automatic cutoff after 2 minutes. The motor is fully enclosed to keep young fingers out. The wheel itself is driven by a nylon cord belt running from a pulley on the gearbox around the circumference of the wheel. Built by Charlie Pack whose wife Kim made the belt and sewed the ends together.

The original Ferris Wheel, built in 1893, was 250 feet tall and had 32 cabins each holding up to 60 people. The riders had no seats, they had to stand up! Although the giant wheel - powered by steam - could reportedly make a revolution in 20 minutes, imagine the extra time required for loading 1,920 people. There were no rest rooms on board!

MOAH's version of Doc's Gilbert Erector Rocket Jets Amusemement Park Ride

This model is based on my own award-winning Rocket Jets model which I designed to display at the 2001 ACGHS Convention. This version is a very close replica, with a few minor changes to the rocket design and the power unit. I designed my original model using various ideas and concepts, but I was thinking about the original rocket jets ride at Disneyland in CA when I built it. You can see my model in detail in the Model Gallery HERE.

The MOAH version of the model, shown above, is powered by a Gilbert A-47 motor located in a separate enclosed engine house to keep young fingers out of the gearbox and to permit ease of maintenance. Power is transmitted to the central drive shaft by means of two Meccano universal joints and a pair of Meccano bevel gears. There was no barrier to the viewers; children could touch the model, and it withstood being forcibly stopped while the motor was running. Pressing the button operated the model for 2 minutes.

Per the MOAH website: "This whimsical operable model has no known prototype. It represents the growing interest in space travel, rockets and other fast vehicles in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. The tower with its three fins is said to slightly resemble the Space Shuttle. The four rockets with their two large exhaust stacks are reminiscent of contemporary hot-rod cars in the era when it was considered "cool" to have "dual pipes" and "glass packs" (loud mufflers). And today, even in the face of expensive fuel and environmental regulations, speed and power still rule!"

1930-31 Gilbert Meccano No.115 Shipbuilding Outfit

This exhibit featured the 1930-31 Gilbert Meccano No.115 Shipbuilding Outfit as well as a built up ocean liner model from the set. The model has a working rubber band motor. The winding handle is on the bow of the ship.

In 1928 the A.C. Gilbert Company of New Haven, CT bought the Meccano factory in Elizabeth, NJ and moved the Meccano operations to New Haven. The shipbuilding outfits were made from 1930 through about 1935 in Gilbert's New Haven, CT factory. The 1933 and later versions are extremely rare. The outfits contain a mixture of standard Gilbert Erector parts, Gilbert-manufactured Meccano parts, and special parts made by Gilbert just for the ship models. Gilbert sold Meccano brand products until some time in 1938. These items were on loan to MOAH from Charlie Pack.

Gilbert Erector Hudson locomotive and tender

This exhibit featured the Gilbert Erector Hudson locomotive and tender models, along with a separate and complete 1931 No. 8½ set. The Erector Hudson was available from 1931 through 1937. The 1932 and later set versions came with the locomotive chassis already partly assembled. Both items on loan from Charlie Pack.

The name Hudson applies to the locomotive's 4-6-4 wheel arrangement, not to the locomotive itself. There were many versions of Hudson locomotives; this one pulled passenger trains for the New York Central railroad. Note that passenger locomotives often had larger driving wheels for higher speeds; freight locomotives tended to have smaller drivers for more tractive power.

1919 Gilbert Wheel Toy

This exhibit featured a 1919 Gilbert Wheel Toy, a set which I have profiled here on this website. This "Erector Set" was intended to build real toys a small child could actually ride or use, rather than just models. Everything inside the display cabinet goes into the set box! On loan from Charlie Pack.