Airplane Ride

Time to bolt!It’s Time to bolt! This one is an Erector classic!


The rotary airplane ride is an Erector set standard, at least since the 1930’s. By the late 1940’s, with the amusement park set, numerous variations of the model were possible.


The core design I used was from the 6 ½ set of the 1940’s. I made the base wider to accommodate a higher tower, and the top was borrowed from a merry-go-round design. The airplanes were made using Class-III parts instead of Class-II. This was done because the later parts tended to have brighter colors, and generally were made from lighter metal than their earlier cousins.

The rotating top used a clutch design. That is to say, it wasn’t attached to the rotating axle. A BN turret plate was attached to the rotating axle, while a similar plate was part of the top structure. When the model was activated, friction between the two turret plates gradually caused the top structure to start rotating. Eventually, the airplanes would settle into a steady rhythm as shown in the video below. At the same time, when the motor was disengaged, the top would slowly loose momentum and the planes would lazily fall back into their resting position. When the top structure was affixed to the rotating axle, the planes would spin up to full speed immediately when the motor was engaged. Even worse, when the motor was disengaged, the forward momentum of the planes caused them to wrap around the tower! Such an occurrence would have been very traumatic, not to mention dangerous, for anyone riding one of the planes.

Doc, over at Girders and Gears, used a clutch system like this for some of his models, and it was from here that I adapted the idea. In addition to giving a more realistic looking performance, it greatly reduced binding and stalling, which made life easier on the A49 motor.

Video made by Lisa Pugh, featuring Caitlin and Dr. Watson.

(My Little) Wells-Fargo Stagecoach

Time to bolt!It’s Time to bolt!


Oh, the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street,
Oh please let it be for me!
Oh the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street,
I wish, I wish I knew what it could be!

This article originally appeared in my earlier blog site, on September 23rd of 2012.

Greetings! This article features my first use of three unique Erector parts: the P17 spoke wheels, the OF press-board carousel horses, and the A48 clockwork motor. The model in question is a Well-Fargo Stagecoach, another iconic symbol of the Old West.

The Wells-Fargo stagecoach has figured prominently in many stories, and I doubt one could watch a Western movie without seeing at least one. The Wells-Fargo company used these coaches to transport people and goods all over the western territories, in the days before railroads connected the various settlements. The exploits of these coaches has been highly romanticized, along with many elements of the Old West. But one thing is true: they were frequently targeted by various types of bandits, so to combat this they tended to have large teams of horses. In the more developed areas, a team of two horses could easily pull a fully laden coach. But when on the open range, they usually had teams of four or six horses to provide extra speed. The hope was that if bandits did show up, the coach could simply outrun them. And if that didn’t work, well, the expression “riding shotgun” dates back to the stagecoach crews. Typically two men would operate a given coach. One would control the horses, while the other – typically a carpenter or mechanic who maintained the coach when it wasn’t on the road – would sit beside him with a loaded twelve gauge. Just in case one of those bandits got a little too close.


This image is what I used as a model; total construction time was about four hours. Notice that the base of the carriage is slightly curved, and is only connected to the chassis by leather straps and impact springs. This actually made a ride in one of these things fairly tolerable. The most common mode of transportation in the old west was the Conestoga wagon, which is essentially a large, rigid wagon attached to a horse team. Riding a Conestoga was an uncomfortable ride at best. Riding in a Stagecoach would have been the equivalent of first-class travel!

The body of the coach was a mix a class-II and class-III girders spaced by double angle brackets. Various types of base plates were used to create the walls, roof, and driver seat. Two Hillman company mending strips were used to round out the rear boot, though I suspect a pair of class-III 9-hole perforated girders would have worked just as well. The chassis are a simple I-frame design made from 10 inch “C” girders and double angle brackets, with car-trucks for wheel trunions. The throughbrace was made with curved “E” girders and short “A” girders, and is attached to the chassis by “O” pawl connectors. Like it’s historical analogue, the cabin itself rests on the chassis and is only attached to the throughbrace with springs. The Hillman strips and the springs are the only parts I used that are not standard Erector parts.

I was quite pleased at how well this turned out. My wife said it was “too cute for words.”

Neither rain nor sleet nor lack of friendship…

The horses are clearly custom made, but the dimensions of the “Little Ponies” are the same as the standard Erector OF carousel horse. In fact, I originally made these customized ponies in anticipation of building a version of the famous Erector carousel. But, this Wells-Fargo stagecoach wouldn’t wait, so the intrepid pastel ponies made their debut with this model instead.

Lindy Week, over at, has several useful tips on the restoration of Erector sets, and he provides instructions on how to fabricate the OF carousel horse using press-board and photographic paper. I used the procedure he describes in the construction of both the customized ponies, and four official horses. A user named General Zoi created an excellent “paper doll” program for My Little Pony images, and I used this program to replicate the ponies from the popular children’s show. (My daughter is a big fan.) The GIMP graphics manipulation program was used to scale and position the ponies into a position that conformed to the official OF position. I was quite pleased with the results.

I must say that your classic-style carousel attire is simply fabulous!

Well thank you kindly, ma’me!

I’ve grown quite fond of the P17 wheels from the class-I era. They have a lot of character! And for this model, they were perfect. The only thing that would have made them work better would be if they came in two sizes! At any rate, the open spokes went a long way in re-creating the old-fashioned look of the classic stagecoach. Had I not had these wheel available, I’m not sure I would have tried this model. The open spokes are so much a part of the old stagecoach look that any other type of wheel wouldn’t have looked right.

Finally, this was the first time I had built a model with the A48 clockwork motor. This old motor was featured in several Erector sets from the 1930’s and 1940’s, especially the smaller ones, and is suitable for light loads. I mounted the motor on the back of the carriage, and connected it to the back wheels using a rubber band and a pulley. The model doesn’t move very fast or far, as the video below shows, but it does give the model a certain unique charm. I suspect the collective weight of the model is a bit much for the wind-up motor to handle with any efficiency, but it does do the job.

I brought this model with me to a regional meeting of the A.C. Gilbert Heritage Society in northern Maryland, back in November of 2012. It was also featured on the online fanzine for My Little Pony, Equestria Daily. The model was broken down in December of 2012 and the Erector Set put aside, to make room for the Christmas tree.

Mississippi River boat

Time to bolt!It’s Time to bolt!


Old man river, that old man river,
He must know something, but don’t say nothing.
He just keeps rolling, he keeps on rolling along.

This article first appeared on one of my earlier blogs, on January 1, 2013.

This entry deals with a staple of American West, the stern-wheel, flat bottomed river boat. These boats were first developed for use on the Mississippi River, which is how they got their name. They had a shallow keel, which allowed them to be operated in very shallow water, and their wide base made them surprisingly stable in the churning waters of the Mississippi River. One of these boats was the setting for the famous musical play, Show Boat.

Actually, these boats were not restricted to the Mississippi. In the old West, the large ones could also be found on the Missouri River as far west as Mandan (near Bismarck), North Dakota. Smaller ones operated as far west as Fort Benton, Montana, and along parts of the Platte River in Nebraska. Further east, these flat bottom steamers could be found on the Ohio River, especially in and around the industrial areas of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Louisville. This style of boat also made a historical mark in the shallow inlets of British Columbia, and the Red River of Manitoba. Today, these boats can still be found offering tours and dinner cruises. My wife and I once spent an afternoon aboard the Natchez, which is a flat bottom steamer that operates in and around New Orleans.

For my model, I attempted to emulate a famous model by Marklin. The plans for this model have been successfully recreated using Meccano, so I figured an Erector conversion would be straightforward. And you know what? I was wrong!


The level of detail in the original Marklin model is astounding, and I really wanted to re-create this using Erector. However, the sheer variety of parts was more than I had anticipated. During the construction of this model I found a set of instructions for the Marklin original, and discovered that I was way off the mark on several key points. I considered starting over, but opted instead to finish it using what I had. The result isn’t as impressive at the Marklin model, or even the Meccano recreation, but it’s still clearly a riverboat.

My model uses an even mix of Class-II and Class-III parts, with a handful of “5 in 1” parts thrown in for good measure. The distinctive smoke stacks are simply rolls of card stock paper held in position with W stacks. The paddle-wheel is made from a T boiler, connected to an axle using hubbed CR turret plates, and using ME base plates for paddle blades. The paddle-wheel is powered by an A49 motor, which is attached to a set of strips connected to AA eccentric cranks. The paddle-wheel works well once it gets started, but stalls and jams are frequent on start-up. It’s my understanding that stalls and jams were common on real steamboats as well and probably for the same reason. If the two drive shafts aren’t balanced correctly, they start turning the paddle-wheel in opposite directions!


My daughter enjoyed playing with the completed model, and it was fun to build, even if a bit frustrating. I estimate total construction time at around five hours, in intervals spread over three days.

I have not given up my aspirations of re-creating the Marklin model using Erector. Now that I have the complete plans available, I can be more accurate in my part selection and arrangement. Some of the parts used by the Marklin model don’t have an Erector counterpart, which leaves me three options: I can make custom parts, I can make an approximation using available parts, or, I can outrage the purist collectors by adding some Marklin or Meccano parts to my working set. If and when I attempt this model again, I will make a decision at that time.

Related resources:

1930’s farm truck


tardis_by_homemadezombieIt’s flashback time!

This is something that appeared on my older blog, “Time to Bolt,” and was originally posted on June 16, 2012. The content has remained largely unchanged.

This model was built in December of 2011, and was the first true Erector model I had built in over a decade.

The core design came from the “Engineers 7.5” set. The “How to make ‘um” book from that set contained instructions for a set of chassis, and then several models that could be built on those chassis. This particular model was a custom design. After building the chassis, I threw in all sort of features from the other models and came up with this concoction.

The Engineers set included illustrations for a feed and grain truck, an ice truck, trolley repair truck, fie engine and dump truck, all based on the chassis model.

This set of models was probably a throwback to the Erector “White Truck” set from the 1920’s. The more elaborate chassis parts, like the radiator grill and engine hood, were not included in the Engineers set, but they weren’t hard to simulate using other parts. Truck models have been a standard for Erector builders since the earliest sets; they are almost as pervasive as the walking beam engines. It’s not hard to see why. The basic chassis could become the foundation for dozens of different models. Essentially anything with wheels could be built from the standard chassis, or a variation of them.

The result reminds me of the heavy farm trucks that used to operate in the 1930’s. A given farm may have only one truck available, and because of the economy in those days, the truck had to do just about everything a working farm would need a truck for. It might carry produce in the morning, equipment in the afternoon, and livestock in the evening, with only a quick rinse with a hose between jobs.

The model was fun to build, and my daughter had a lot of fun playing with it once it was finished. As you can see, a My Little Pony is currently driving the truck. I have absolutely no idea where the pony is driving the truck, or what was going to be riding in the bed when it returned. But it do know that the truck itself had no trouble doing the job.

The model itself was broken down around New Year’s, when the parts became needed for another project. If I ever manage to acquire the specialized chassis parts, like the ones from the White Truck set, I’ll certainly do some more truck building.