1945 #3 Set
by Greg Rahn
After 6 long years of war and austerity, it was finally over. WWII came to a complete end by the fall of 1945. People looked forward to returning to normal lives and the metal toy market, stopped in Jan 1941, was to gear up again. Things had to go slow, as there were other needs, for the same raw material as Meccano. A Government regulation, at this time, dictated that the maximum value of a toy was not to exceed 15 shillings.
This meant the largest set was to be the #3 set. The fall of 1945 saw a rapid retooling, of the former war machine in the Binns Road factory, back to toy manufacture. The goal was to get some meccano sets out to market for the Xmas season.
The normal 6 months lead time was reduced to a mere weeks! Along with the need to punch out the required meccano parts in metal, the paper and cardboard for boxes and manuals had to be secured. This lead to some austerity and curious fits and finishes in sets that have survived today. As previously mentioned, the largest set in the stores for the 1945 Xmas season was the #3 set.
In the HCS #6 Meccano system book by Bert Love, he mentions on page 186 " a good example of one of these late 1945 sets has not been found..."
The author came into possession of a near mint example of this interesting era's largest set, and asserts it is an genuine example. One has been found! It came to the author as a complete set and it's near unused condition and the presence of all it's packaging attests to it's originality (see 1945 #3 strung pic).
The set also had a November 1945 Meccano magazine with it, in the box, when discovered. The price was 10 cents which suggests it was for export to North America. The export origins of this set has bearings later.
By this time, the blue/gold color scheme had been totally abandoned and the export livery, in medium red and green, of the prewar era, continued postwar but to all markets including the domestic UK market. Another Government regulation also dictated that the words " Made in England" had to be stamped on all parts. This is good way to distinguish pre and postwar medium red and green parts. The red cardboard box, the set is contained in, is standard postwar fare. The smallish label was destined be a feature of all Meccano sets, large and small, until 1954!(see box and manual pic)
The parts were strung to the familiar yellow card. The set was initially dated using the perfectly preserved guarantee tag still glued to the inside of the lid. (see guarantee sticker pic)
Notice it is of prewar issue(1939!) It is thought that large stocks of unused slips were used up in the early postwar years of recovery. It just made good sense not to waste them. This is seen on several occasions, with labels and such, over the years at the Binns Road factory. The date code B3 10 5 on the slip is standard code for all sets and such until 1950. The B3 represents the set size, the 10 is the month-October and the 5 is the last digit in the year. It was not until 1950 that 2 digits were used in the date code. Necessity and common sense dictates why! The October date suggests this is an early set and some of the observations of the parts will indicate the early days after production started were not all that great, as far as material and finish goes!
Observations of some of the parts suggest that the quality of metal available to meccano was not first Grade. All of the flex plates in this set are lighter in weight and "feel" than a later postwar plate. The difference is quite evident when the 2 are compared in person. The paint is curious. It has a very waxy finish as opposed to being shiny. One likens it to the wax over an apple. It was applied rather thickly and almost appears to be a bad home painted part! ( see Waxy paint on plates pic)
It is not, however, as the strongly stamped words "Meccano" and"Made in England" are clearly factory applied after the poor paint job. All the red painted parts seem to have suffered the same fate in the early going. One must attribute this to a poor quality of paint and possible a poor finishing step, on top of poor steel. The green parts have fared better. The green paint is shiny in it's finish but still appears to be rather thickly applied on some but not all of the parts. Note that the #187 road wheels are red with black rim. In 1947, a fling with silver centres seemed to have only lasted for about a year according to the collective thinking in meccano collector circles. In 1948, they once again were red/black. One would have thought that initially after the war, they may have been silver centered and the idea rethought soon after...? Evidently not.
The brass parts are good quality and are indistiguisable to the later parts.
Another prewar leftover, in the form of the small loaded hook, has obviously carried over. The hook is clearly
the prewar version painted med red, instead of the black, as it was in the days before the war. The ball on these earlier ones are .38" in diameter. The standard postwar ones are .43" in diameter. Another example of leftover stocks being used up. One wonders how long they lasted? The grip on the crank handle is a more translucent and darker shade type of red plastic than the standard postwar opaque and lighter shade of red. These too were possible left over stock. The 1" #155 rings are definitely prewar fare. They are white like the ones found in all sets from 1937-41.( see white tires pic)
The main difference between these, prewar ones and standard postwar ones( other than not being black!) is that they are an off-white, almost cream color. It is thought that these were included in postwar sets until 1948 or so. They were then manufactured using black rubber. Another feature is the strikingly austere small parts box! (see small parts box pic).
It is the same dimensions the later, more decorated boxes, but this one is covered in a plain lime green paper. The plain label says just enough to claim it's function! Very soon afterwards, the more familiar yellow motorcar boxes were used, that gave way to the yellow boxes with the pictured parts on the sides. If one of these plain lime green boxes are found in one's collection, be sure that it is probably early postwar and should be kept as a piece of history.
The manual included with this set is the so-called emergency printing. But this one is unusual! The prewar
contents are wrapped in a dark blue cover using the mid 1930's instruction manual artwork inside. This blue
cover is like the emergency 1941 printing and is thought to have not existed for 1945.( picture on page 31 of the HCS #8 book). All known Dec 1945 printings were green( research suggests outfits 1 to 5 printed). The Mar 1945 printings in blue are showing up outside of the UK generally so an assumption can be made that these were the early export ones. Research has turned up other early blue manuals( see appendix)
The green treatment was used for 1945, 1946 and 1947.
The all new manuals, with updated internal artwork ( white lines removed from plates, etc) and the Pinyon cover debuted in 1948.
Accessory manuals for this time(1945) were printed for outfits 1a to 5a in orange emergency colored covers , the same as the 1941 issues.
The blue manual in this set has a printer's mark: 13/345/12.75 (S.P.).
Common theory has the manual, for these sets, printed in Dec 1945 only! This manual was printed in Mar of 1945, before the war even ended! Did they jump the gun? A little too optimistic?
This certainly puts this set in the very early category! (see outfit 3 blue manual pic).
The author asserts, judging by the finish of the parts, etc, the presence of the early printing of the manual, it was an early effort and of suspect quality. This all adds up to the need to get export sets out as soon as they could and by what ever means available.
The early printing of the manual, the poor first efforts of parts finish and the fact it was found outside of the UK suggests it is a very early export set.
Research has failed, so far, to find out what the (S.P.) at the end of the printer's mark stands for? Anybody?
Things did get better later...By March of1946, they were manufacturing sets up to #5, 1947 saw the #6, 7 and 8, 1948 saw the #9 set and finally the #10 set in the spring of 1950.
Overall this is quite a curious and rare set, seldom seen.
The author would like to thank Phil Grover in New Zealand and Jim Gamble and Clive Weston in the UK and others for their help with this article.
Any questions can be directed to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Blue manuals known: (Export?) Green Manuals known: (domestic?)
#1--13/345/21 (S.P.) #1-13/1245/50
#2-none found---- #2-13/1245/40
#3 --13/345/12.75 (S.P.) #3-13/1245/40
#4 --none found---- #4 --none found--
#5 -13/345/4.25 (S.P.) #5 -none found -
Accessory manuals known-orange covers
#3a -- 13/1245/13
#4a - 13/1245/11.5
#4a - 13/1245/2
#5a - 13/1245/9