Galacticus Fairground Ride

I was set about unloading my latest Meccano model called the Paddle Screamer from my car having just got home from the first meeting of 2020 at the South East London Meccano club, when I was caught thinking how many recent designs of my models were always limited by the capacity to load and transport it in my car and how it would be nice to have some freedom from that. It’s a challenge that I had taken on before with some earlier models, where I had used the roof rack on one occasion and even borrowed a van to be able to exhibit on a larger scale, but this time my thoughts were on how I could perhaps design something collapsible or even telescopic.

The Paddle Screamer was still only a very new model and the only other time I had displayed it anywhere was at the West London Meccano Society meeting in November. But with the new idea in my head I suddenly decided I would dismantle it and explore the possibility of something extendable and new. With the thought in my head I decided to leave the model in my car overnight and only came back to it on the Monday morning where first I removed the main base and tower, leaving the large rotating wheel in the car, and then I went about the initial brainstorming.

It took me most of the day just dismantling so many parts and organising them in order with the others, until I was left with just the base and main floor area, and it was only the Tuesday when I started the process of creating something new. I wanted to create a new ride that could be big and high but that would also be easily adjustable, or in some way collapsible, so that it would still fit in the car, but not be restricted by the width and height available.

I built a tall tower which was placed at the centre rear of the base and soon followed it with a second tower right behind so the tall unit would be reinforced and solid enough despite its lofty status. On each side of that I built another shorter tower which I also attached to the main one, and my initial test of putting pressure on the topmost part of the tower proved very satisfying as the rigid structure resisted the force without any movement.

With that achieved I turned to the front part of the base and I built a further two towers placed at both ends with a bridge across where latter I planned yet another tower of similar height which would eventually support whatever mechanism or rotating structure I went for, though at that stage to be honest I did not have any concrete plans for such a structure.

Unusually for me, when I finished the base, towers and reinforcing supports, I set about some of what would normally be the finishing touches such as adding a ticket kiosk and embellishing the model with trimmings and fairground touches.

Only then happy that the main carcass of my new fairground model was ready, I went back to the car to pick up the rotating wheel from my previous model to see if it needed a total reconstruction or just a modification to the existing structure to make it fit.

I realised that that with existing wheel already I only needed to undo the eight flanged rings with cars and strip supports to leave the inner wheel which I was certain I could use in the new model, which I did. Once I had placed the stripped down wheel on its new mount at the top of the tower within the built-in railings which housed the heavy-duty axle of the would-be new rotating unit, an initial hand-forced spin indicated that it would rotate easily and run very smoothly. This also showed me just how much capacity was still free for extending the size of the rotating unit.

Now with this set and decided on, the challenge was in how big could I create the wheel without being limited by the car’s inner dimensions, so I set about designing arms off the inner wheel that would all be easily collapsible for transportation but just as easily re-extended to full operating dimensions when arriving at any display or Meccano club meeting.

In any case due to the mount tower’s new lofty height, the existing wheel sat well short of reaching the floor height of the base and needed its diameter vastly extended anyway, but this meant that a mega two metre wheel diameter was going to be needed and the main trick was to pull this off but with fold away arms instead of those usually fixed permanently in place.

I spent a while trying to come up with a viable solution before all of a sudden an idea came to me out of nowhere. I thought instead of just adding the extension angle girders to the original arms as normal, if I bolted them freely they can be extended or bent backwards as needed so in that position it would not exceed the width of my car for transportation. I tested just one arm and it was great to see that the idea could work and so all the rest quickly followed.

A new gondola passenger car was then fixed in a way to each arm so they could move freely and this was how I finished the construction of my new enormous fairground ride, and once again I made these easily detachable too to further aid transportation if it was needed.

The finished dimensions of the base with its towers are four feet high, and when the wheel is mounted on top and its arms fully extended the model grows to two metres in diameter, but very pleasingly just only to slightly over a metre with arms folded back and if this model were ever scaled up it would surpass the famous London Eye in height for a rotating structure.

The positioning of the passenger seats means a side-on view and rotating experience for each rider creates a thrilling effect which feels amplified due to the greater circumference of the wheel but requires a minimal increase in speed.

The finished model has a futuristic feel to it and the scale of it dwarfs some of the wheels I have designed before, so I had to think of a name worthy of its lofty place on the skyline, and of its unparalleled views and how it might be seen on the panorama from a distance: The name Galacticus was chosen.

Galacticus – Worlds away in the fairground cosmos from anything you’ve dared ride before!

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