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Doc's Merkur "Trolejbus" (Trolley Bus)

Hi folks, Doc here, with another new Merkur model. This one is the Trolejbus, which is Czech for "Trolley Bus." I built it from a color illustration in a Merkur manual (shown below) - see my G-Files page for a full-size version of this illustration along with a parts list. It was a blast to build, and the end result turned out to be a great looking model and display piece.

My goal with this model was to build as close to an exact replica of the original Merkur "Trolejbus" as possible. Of course, as with so many Erector models, the single illustration forced me to guess in many cases as to how the model was built, and what parts were used. Also, while I have no dates to support this, the design of this bus as well as all of the other various vehicles from the same collection of model illustrations suggests that they may be several decades old. This could account for the differences in the design and color of certain parts between those shown in the illustration and the ones in my Merkur set (which is from the current product line). For example, the tires on my model are black in color, and have a modern tread design and "squarish" profile, while those in the illustration are grey/white and have an older, rounder profile.

Electric trolley buses have been in use around the world since the early part of the 20th century, and still are in many countries, including the U.S. This model is typical of the basic design for these vehicles, although in Great Britain they tend to be double-decked rather than single. In some countries, an articulated design may also be in use.

Trolley buses represent an evolutionary step in the development of municipal mass transit systems. Their predecessors, electric rail trolleys, were once prevalent in most major cities around the world, where they were the primary form of mass transit. While these trolleys were a great advance in moving people from place to place, they had a major disadvantage: being a railed vehicle, they were forced to follow a very specific path throughout the City. But almost as soon as the first automobiles were rolling on rubber tires, it occurred to someone that this restriction could be at least partially reduced by taking the trolley off of the rails. The result was the first trolley bus. The photo below shows one of the earliest experiments with this new form of transportation in Brighton, England, in 1914.

The caption reads: "A demonstration of manoeuvrability by the railless vehicle: the experimental Brighton trolleybus of 1914 overtakes a horse and cart in London Road."  Note the overhead electric lines and connectors on top of the vehicle (yellow circle).

The trolley bus was a great success. But, like everything else, it continued to evolve over time. Besides the inevitable changes in style, size, comfort, etc. that resulted from advances in the automotive industry, it improved functionally as well. In the beginning, removing the trolley from its dependence on rails had indeed made it a more mobile form of transportation. But in its early years, the trolley bus was forced to follow its overhead cables quite closely. Eventually, the fixed connectors on top of the vehicle were moved to the end of a long, flexible boom, and later this boom was mounted onto a swiveling base. The trolley bus could now move into the curb to pick up passengers, navigate in traffic, and was otherwise free to move as long as it was within the now extended reach of its overhead electric supply lines.

So, allowing for any differences resulting from the issues I discussed in the Introduction, my final version is an exact replica in terms of size, shape, and structure. The only liberties I have taken are in the form of minor aesthetic changes. I liked the red trim and yellow body panels in the original design, so I used yellow flex panels on the roof, front end, and rear end as well, and organized the roof panels in a more symmetrical layout. I also created my own design for the front end. And, I added dual wheels to the rear of the bus. The final model is good sized, measuring 22" L x 5½" W x 5½" H (~12" H, including the boom assembly). And, it illustrates several things I really like about building with Merkur: good detail, color (if carefully used), and scale. At about ¾ the scale of Erector and Meccano, most models are large enough to make great display pieces, but will still fit easily on your mantle, book shelf, desk, etc. And, they're quite sturdy (except for the plastic flex panels, of course!).

What I want to do next is to go back and re-engineer the model a bit to incorporate working headlights, working steering, and an electric motor to make it run. I'll post the results of that experiment when it's complete.