For all intents and purposes, the first attempt at the re-introduction of the #9 set after the war, by Meccano, hit a "home run" on their initial "at bat", to use quaint North American Baseball terms. The #9 set was quietly introduced sometime in 1948, by all accounts. The first evidence of it being available is a price list dated October 1948( figure 1) that lists the #9 set as available for the price of 260/-.
The 9a and 10 set are not even mentioned, of course. The next time it appears, is the April-May 1949 price list ( figure 2) that shows it priced at 170/-. The word carton is mentioned after the word outfit. The #10 set is mentioned as " available later" and in "cabinet". Careful examination shows there is no difference in price of any other set, between the two lists. So one has to wonder why the relatively large reduction in price in only a few months for the #9 set in particular and to go to the bother to say carton in the 1949 list? Enter the #9 set in a oak presentation box(a miniature version of the #10 set box), that has surfaced from time to time and has recently come into the possession of this author. If one is to believe the evidence, then the oak cabinet was very short lived, which is a great pity. A set as handsomely outfitted as a pre 1954 set was, deserved the rich packaging the oak presentation box affords!
Some say that the illustration of the #9 set in the fine catalog of April 1949( 13/449/20) ( figure 3) is, in fact, a heavily touched up picture of the wood box made to look like a cardboard carton that the set was to be housed in from 1949 until well into the 60's. The author knows of one other set that appears to be of 1950 vintage, if the included manuals are genuine. One can speculate that there were extra cabinets that were sold as presentation sets well into the cardboard box era?
When the #9 set was 1st born in 1937. It too was available in a wood box ( enameled green cabinet, the literature says) ( figure 4 from a 1938 catalog). When the real #9 set was killed in 1970, it's impostor (post 1970 #9 set) was once again housed in an oak cabinet( figure 5 top from a 1971 advertising leaflet). In between, we had a third wood box for the #9 set.
The set in the author's possession has an oak cabinet that is a miniature version of the 1950-1958 Oak box that housed the #10 set. It has one lift out tray as opposed to two in the 10 set. The #9 box measures 20" long, 14" wide and 4" deep. It is constructed from solid oak ½" thick, that forms the frame of the box. The top is ¼" oak plywood. The bottom, as well as, the tray and all the partitions are a pine-like soft wood. The outside of the box has brass inset handles and a latch and key setup to close the box. The lid is on two brass hinges about 2"long and is supported by a length of chain that has oval links and is reminiscent of the extinct Meccano chain(#42) of the pre 1910 days. The outside of the box and the inside of the lid is stained a very dark shade, akin to the modern black walnut oil stain, while the tray and bottom compartments are left a natural (darken with age) over pine. ( figure 6)
There are, in gold letters, MECCANO OUTFIT No9 on the outside of the lid( figure 7), as well as, on the inside of the lid.
The lift out tray is 19" long, 13" wide and about 1 ½" deep. It has 11 compartments (figure8) including one( bottom left hand corner) that is bottomless to accommodate the boiler housed in the bottom section that, itself, has 5 long partitions (figure9). As far as the author can tell, the basic dimensions and partition layout, is identical to the red cardboard version of the #9 box that was to follow, this initial example of the #9 set , until late into the 60's. ( the bottomless compartment gained a bottom when the boiler was banished, along with other parts, in 1962.) The Top parts card housed all the parts that didn't fit into the compartments. This was done just to enhance the presentation of the set In this author's opinion. ( figure 10). This didn't bode well when all the parts were removed from the card and the owner had to put the parts in the compartments. The oak presentation chests for this set and the #10 set were never very good for the orderly storage of the parts after use. They all fit in, but it was never pretty! You could lock it, with a small key shown, to keep your little brother out, though!
Another interesting item in this and other large sets of the time was the "dust card". This card covered the bottom compartments( complete with a cutout section to accommodate the boiler) and the top of the liftout tray. The sequence of assembly was bottom compartments, dust card #1, liftout tray, dust card #2, stringing card of parts and finally the lid. (figure 11) The dust card is a thick paper(0.01" or 0.3mm) shades of light brown that form a sort of reptile skin type pattern on both sides of the card. Further research has concluded that "dust cards" were included in 9, 9a and 10 set (presentation cabinet only) well into the 50's. The author had dust cards kicking around the Meccano hoard for years, but didn't know what they were, until this set came along! Lesson #1, that was drilled into the author, by his Meccano mentor was: In a lot of old Meccano, Never throw anything away, it may turn out to be a treasure, as your knowledge grows!
Parts wise, the set corresponds to the parts list in the 1948 OSB manual( Old Style Blocks-1937 contents with a 1948 Pinyon cover). The only peculiar thing in the author's set is the old style 2" rubber tires. These are the Dunlop tire and pattern of the prewar fashion. One can speculate that after the war, tires may have been in short supply and stocks of prewar tires may have been included in the #8 and #9 sets of the time(1948) to use up the stock rather than waste them. By 1950, the tires lost the Dunlop markings and gained a wider, knobbier tread pattern. The #117 ball bearings are of the crude cast type. The wooden handled screwdriver is the old style(shape) of wood handle as opposed to the later shape(post 1954?)
The small parts boxes are red, 3"x 2"x 1" with full depth lid with a yellow label. Boxes are marked 9.1, 9.2, 9.3 and 9.4.(figure 12) Another oak #9 set known to the author has blue small parts boxes that would indeed date the set to well into the early 50's. The inclusion of the 1" rubber tire would also date a set to at least late 1950 or early 1951 as another set known, has!
The manual complement for this set, like all #9 sets, is a #9, #7/8 and a #6 manual.( figure 13 ) These are all dated 1948.
Another school of thought says the #9 set was introduced to sell to the export market only first, to attract foreign cash into the war devastated English economy, in the late forties. The lavish oak cabinet was a way to increase the price( 90 shillings!) charged and inject the badly needed foreign currency. The sets were directed to Canada, India, South Africa, Australia and probably the US to name a few. It's unknown if the sets were eventually available to the domestic British market later or initially in 1948.
There is very little information about this set and no real record of it's existence. The author hopes here, to bring the set to light, to enthusiasts that were unaware of it's existance and also to invite others that have a set like this, have seen a set like this or have information about a set like this, to add to the story. None the less, it represents an important milestone in the long history of Meccano. The author knows of at least 10 other sets besides this one and there are undoubtedly quite a few more, but compared to the #9 sets produced in the red cardboard boxes, they probably represent a very small percentage.
A really good article, about the history of the #9 set in general, appeared in the Canadian Meccanoman's Newsletter issue #40, Sept 1991 by Ed Barclay. Contact CMAMAS for info on back issues.
I wish to thank Roland Jaggard in England and Ashok Banerjee in India for help with the research.