Meccano Pontoon Crane


 Pontoon model 04
Pontoon model 05

Standard mechanismsThe Meccano Pontoon Crane was first published in the Meccano magazine of March 1925 and later as a leaflet in 1929 the same year as the geared roller bearing p/n 193 was introduced.  Strangely the model  in the instructions has a built up roller bearing using, the by then obsolete channel segments and not the GRB.  It was not until 1936 that this was rectified and a new revised leaflet became available  using the GRB. This model is the only one in the SML series that uses two electric motors and one of very few showing the use of  blue and gold parts.  The model was much used by Meccano in advertising and also in the 1930s on the covers of  "Standard Mechanisms" and "Meccano parts and how  to use them."  The model illustrated is a strange hybrid showing the obsolete channel segment bearing but with yellow cross hatched blue plates. Clearly the art department at Meccano had more illustrations of the earlier model to retouch to show the new plates. In the September and October 1968 instructions for a new version of the SML 28 were published this is similar to the original but is closer to the prototype in apperance. The model uses two large rings p/n 176b in a similar way to the earlier version with the Channel segments.

The model is based on the crane shown above illustrated in a 1921 Meccano Magazine also published in "The Wonder Book of Engineering" in 1931. Described as the "largest floating crane in the world."  The crane was built for the British Admiralty as "Crane Lighter No.4" and was able to lift over 250 tonnes over a radius of 30.5 metres (100 feet.)  I have shown in addition four illustrations contemporary to the Super model leaflet.

The illustration below  left shows a 150 tonne crane at Southampton Docks. This illustration is scanned  from a publication by the Southern Railway in the late 1920s. The lower illustration is from the Meccano Magazine of February 1932 and shows  a 250 tonne crane at Bordeaux. Below right is a beautiful illustration taken from the April 1936 Meccano Magazine showing the "Mammoth" a Dutch built Crane at Liverpool docks. The Meccano Magazine had a two page article about floating cranes but no mention was made of the Meccano S.M.L. Pontoon crane. The newspaper cutting is from Auckland New Zealand from around 1929-1932 and shows the floating crane MANUI
Pontoon 01 Portmouth dock crane

Cranes of this type would have been found in any large dock complex around the world  and would have been used for handling  large or unwieldy cargoes or for ship repairs and fitting out. They would have been self contained, usually with steam engines providing the power generation for electric winches and capstans. Some cranes would have to be moved to its operating position by tugs, other cranes would have been self propelled. The cranes are balanced by water tanks.

The SML model follows the principles of  operation of floating or pontoon cranes very closely except of course the balancing water tanks!

I have built the model using mainly modern French zinc and yellow parts the GRB is a replica from Ashok Banerjee in India. I made a few changes to the original design but these were only minor and did not detract from this iconic Meccano model. My model is driven by a Meccano E15R and a 12 volt motor built into a frame the dimensions of the E15R following the design of the late Norm LaCroix. The model was a delight to build and is great fun to operate, it looks right and is well proportioned. One useful modification I made was to use a tension spring between the two hoist levers this holds the brakes on nicely. 

The trouble with using zinc parts is taking a decent digital picture, the shine of the metal makes simple shots difficult even without using flash.  That must be why red and green are still my favourite colours.

MM April 1936

Feb 1932 MM

Jacques Vuye (AKA Dr. Eisenbahn) fellow builder of antique Meccano models has also built this model (shown below) and after sending me pictures of  modifications, he was inspired to build a miniature version.  This model is built around the scale of  p/n 168 the ball thrust bearing. The model has all the functions of the original SML 28 crane but driven by a single motor. Jacques won the " Prix du concours" at the CAM 2005 exhibition at Compiègne France in 2005 with this beautiful little model.

 Jacque's cranes

Revised May 18 2015

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