Listed below are some of the other notable construction toy systems that were produced during the 20th century. The list is by no means exhaustive, as by some estimates hundreds of such systems have come and gone over the years.
  • Bing's Structator (Germany)
  • BRAL (Milan, Italy)
  • Buildo
  • Construction (E.Germany)
  • Constructor
  • Construct-o-Craft
  • Elektromehaniskais konstructors (Russia)
  • Ezy-Bilt (Australia)
  • FAC (Sweden)
  • Lyons
  • Marklin Metall (Germany)
  • Mekanik (Sweden)
  • Mek-Struct (China)
  • Mini Meta-Build (New Delhi, India)
  • Necobo
  • Palikit
  • Pioneer
  • Primus Engineering Outfits (England)
  • Schefflers
  • Sonneberger
  • Steel Engineering (U.S.A.)
  • Structomode
  • TECC (Czeckoslovakia)
  • Tekno (Norway & Denmark)
  • Thale Stahlbau Technik (E. Germany)
  • The Constructioneer
  • The Engineer (Toronto, Canada)
  • TRIX (Germany and England)
  • Trumodel (U.S.A.)
  • Vogue (Melton Mowbray, England)
  • Wisdom / Sagesse (China)

Norelco Mechanical Engineer

As all of you regular visitors to Girders & Gears know well, our focus here is on metal construction toy systems. Most of these are of the "traditional" variety such as Meccano, Erector, Marklin, etc. However, there have been many other types of construction sets produced over the years. One of the more unusual and specialized of these is the focus of this feature. The Norelco Mechanical Engineer ME 1200 construction set was produced in the 1960s by Philips, the famous manufacturer of consumer and industrial electronics. Philips also sold an identical ME 1200 set under their own name, along with the ME 1201 and ME 1250.


The Norelco ME 1200 Set, in its wooden box. Thanks to my pal Larry Worley for sending me these photos of his set.

THE PARTS
True to their Philips heritage, all of these sets, including the Norelco ME 1200, had a heavy emphasis on electronic circuitry. They featured a variety of clear plastic components, including pierced disks and circuit boards, along with a large assortment of metal axles, pins, and bushings of various lengths, plus wires, clips, springs, and other electronic components. Rounding out the inventory were black plastic/rubber tires, wheels, and belts and a large, detailed instruction manual.


Detail of the compartmented part trays; circuit boards were stored underneath


The manual and plastic circuit boards


Springs, clips, tires, and pierced plastic disks


Belts, wires, tubing, and other components


Short metal pins


Long metal bushings

THE MODELS
The Norelco manual featured a variety of model designs, most of which were simple wheeled vehicles. One or more clear plastic "circuit" boards served as a mounting platform for the electronic and mechanical components and the wheels. The mechanisms typically consisted of a series of clear plastic disks mounted on axle shafts; rings of metal pins inserted in each disk interlocked with pins on other disks. Funtionally, this produced a kind of gearbox, which, working in combination with an electric motor (with battery), drive belts, and pulleys, could be used to power the model and any other mechanisms it contained.

A typical example is MODEL F8, an illustration of which is shown at right. As described in the manual, this model is an "Electric Car which reduces speed in the dark and lights headlamps automatically". The moderately complex circuitry which was used to accomplish this is shown in the illustration below, which depicts the electronic components as they were layed out on the top and bottom of the circuit board platform. Two other models are also shown.


Model F8 circuit diagram


Another model


Another model