S. Berliner, III's sbiii.com Erector Set Page keywords = Erector Gilbert DC3 Tiny Atom

Updated:   08 Feb 2018; 23:00  ET
[Page created 22 Jan 2004; converted 27 May 2014
    original AT&T Worldnet Website begun 30 May 1996.]

URL:  http://sbiii.com/mecdinky.html
[was at "home.att.net/~Berliner-Ultrasonics/mecdinky.html"]

S. Berliner, III
Consultant in Ultrasonic Processing
"changing materials with high-intensity sound"

[consultation is on a fee basis]

Technical and Historical Writer, Oral Historian
Popularizer of Science and Technology
Rail, Auto, Air, Ordnance, and Model Enthusiast
Light-weight Linguist, Lay Minister, and Putative Philosopher

note - The vast bulk of my massive Web presence (over 485 pages) had been hosted by AT&T's WorldNet service since 30 May 1996; they dropped WorldNet effective 31 Mar 2010 and I have been scrambling to transfer everything.  Everything's saved but all the links have to be changed, mostly by hand.  See my sbiii.com Transfer Page for any updates on this tedious process.

S. Berliner, III's




This is primarily an ERECTOR SETS Page,
with digressions.

See the HOBBY Page, et seq.,
and the Meccano Dinky Page.

See also the Comet Metal Products Authenticast Models and the Strombeck-Becker StromBecKer Model Kits Pages.

This page is primarily concerned with my own No. 8½ A. C. Gilbert ERECTOR SET; Erector was bought out by Jack Wrather in 1964, then by the Gabriel Co. in 1965 and then by Ideal Toy and then by Meccano, which had its own line of mechanical building sets, and which, in turn, has been bought out by Nikko (and/or by Brio, no less)!


  No. 8½ Erector Set.
  1940 Erector Manual.
  Erector DC3 (Tiny Atom) Electric Motor.   new (08 Feb 2018)
  GILBERT (Erector?) TUFF-TRED Pedal-Car Set

No. 8½ Erector Set

As noted on the HOBBY page, after making model kits, I then turned to more mechanical marvels, such as my extended Erector set, for which Dad bought me an extra gear-motor set and to which I added lots of other Erector parts and tracks from a Marx tank and such and made a large half-track which ran on a long 110V extension cord, shifted through the gears, and steered.  The set, which I still had until recently, complete and original (except for a lot of rust), is the big number set.  I dug out the set on 22 Jan 2004 and here it is, closed as found:

8½ Erector Set - closed (22 Jan 2004 photos by and © 2004 S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

Opening it revealed a manual and a total clutter, just as I left it some thirty or more years ago when my budding-engineer daughter last refused to play with it because the girders were all rusty; you can also see the two A49 gearmotors on the left and about a zillion large wheels on the right:

8½ Erector Set - open
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

You can also see the MI steerable Front Axle Unit (from a 9½ set) at right, over those wheels; Dad got me the full Chassis Parts set, with the MI axle and an MA Radiator, MG Radiator Hood, two DK Flat Springs, and a DE Steering Column, which I drilled and cotter pinned to keep it from sagging in the LX Steering Column Bracket.

Note that while the outside gives no clue to the set number, the inside label does:

8½ Erector Set - inside label

Note also the sexist greeting from old A. C. Gilbert, himself!

Removing the manual revealed even more; especially my old parts box (the White Rose tea tin) in the center and those black Marx rubber tracks up front:

8½ Erector Set - w/o manual

Moving the 110V wires aside (they're still flexible), opening the parts box, and zooming in gives a hint of the riches therein:

8½ Erector Set - parts box open

But what's that rusty gizmo between the parts box and the tracks?

Zooming in even closer to the parts box@ and moving the rusty gizzie out into the open shows that it's the A48 Mechanical (spring) Motor:

Erector Set - spring motor
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

Finally, zooming right into the box reveals a number of surprises!  Not only is the MM Erector wrench there (at the upper right) but so is my old Meccano wrench (far superior, with a central spinner socket and an offest end); it's in the upper left:

Erector Set - parts box
(22 Jan 2004 photos by and © 2004 S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

There are the P33 screwdriver and the MW Nut Holder (the long silvery thing between the wrenches and the screwdriver.  Look what else is in there! At the left are some olive drab wheels with white rubber t(i)(y)res; those were from old Britains vehicles, bored out to fit the Erector set axles!

@ - that's one of those wonderful old litho'ed tin White Rose Tea Bag boxes that I treasured, along with the J&J Band-Aid® boxes, for small parts and drill bits, etc.  You can see one of the latter, in which I keep my old Meccano airplane parts, down toward the bottom of my Meccano Dinky page.

1940 Erector Manual

[Date revised 28 Jan 2004]

This manual, a "How To Make 'Em Book", bears a copyright date of 1938*!  It is heavily stapled and so is hard to open flat; I have reproduced the covers and a few representative pages here; first, the front cover:

1940 Erector Catalog Front Cover
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

Then the inside of the front cover, with that sexist greeting from old A. C. Gilbert, himself, and his dog:

1940 Erector Catalog Inside Front Cover
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

[My girls were too young to pick up on that when they used the set (besides, who reads the manual?).]

I might as well add here that "old A. C." was actually named "Alfred Carlton Gilbert.   added (27 May 2014)

Next, in some inexplicable logic, a three-color first page with another sexist greeting from A. C.:

1940 Erector Catalog First Page
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

The back of that page (the second page), also in three colors:

1940 Erector Catalog Second Page
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

The succeding pages are not numbered; the booklet appears to have been made of many individual pages assembled in ascending set sequence, stapled into the cover.  The pages then follow from the No. 1 and 1½ sets, above, through 2½ and 3, 3½, 4½ (with the MX House-cum-tender's shack), 6½ (with fixed gearbox electric gearmotor), 7½ (with Boiler T and accessories thereto, and shiftable gearbox electric gearmotor with two NK ratchets), and, finally, the No. 8½ (with MJ Electro Magnet with Cord, NJ Battery Holder, NI 1½-volt Bulb and NH Lamp Socket Unit).

Lamp Socket Unit?  Oh my gosh; I have been using that as my model RR test lamp for over 50 years (with a 12V bulb, now)!

1940 Erector NH Lamp Socket
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

For all that it's been through, it is almost absolutely original; that socket connector for the red wire is merely a crimp loop held in place by an original Erector N21 brass nut!  My bad - I soldered the black alligator clip to the original black Erector bulb base wire!

Jumping ahead almost to the end, Section 8, 40 (wonder if that means Set 8, 1940?), here's my favorite of all the off-the-page models, the Stiff Leg Derrick with Lifting {electro-}Magnet; I had a ball with that one:

1940 Erector Catalog Stiff Leg Derrick
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

Besides, most of the really big off-the-page models you could make with the 8½ set were far too rickety, like the Ferris Wheel and, especially, the Walking Beam Engine, which woggled all over the place!

Next, the how-to pages end and we come to a page "SEC. X", which shows representative "Models Built with Famous ERECTOR Sets" (from 4½ through 12½):

1940 Erector Catalog
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

Following that page, we come to a two-page illustrated parts list, "ERECTOR SEPARATE PARTS", numbered simply "2" and "3":

1940 Erector Catalog
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

1940 Erector Catalog
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

On the back of the second parts page is the price list, ERECTOR SEPARATE PARTS PRICES:

1940 Erector Catalog
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

Now that page is an absolute howl!  The cheapest single item (not counting bulk items like screws), like the P79 Car truck (the old wide red angle plate), the EY Big Channel Girder 6", or the MC Base Plate 1" x 2½".  Conversely, the most expensive single item is the 2-B Transformer with Circuit Breaker at $7.95, closely followed by the A49 Electric Engine {not Motor!}, gear shift, 10v. A.C. only at $5.95, the A49 (same motor, but without gear shift) at $4.95, and the P55 7-15 Volt Erector Motor A.C. or D.C. at $4.50.  The A48 Mechanical (spring) Motor was only $1.75, but you had to shell out a whopping 20 extra for the K48 Key.

I should mention here that the original Erector sets had only 1" girders and didn't sell all that well; it wasn't until ol' A. C. came out with the ½" girders that the product really took off.

Lastly, facing the price list, we have the inside rear cover, an ad for A. C. Gilbert's American Flyer Trains":

1938 Erector Catalog
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

and the rear cover:

1938 Erector Catalog
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images]

The CHEMISTRY OUTFITS were, in fact, the famed CHEMCRAFT sets (later made by the Porter Chemical Co.), of which I naturally had to have the very biggest!

Oh, that reminds me of a great cartoon, from COLLIER'S MAGAZINE ca. 1940, which my mother kept under the glass on her dresser to the day she died: the picture is of a great mansion with a circular driveway and four great chimneys, except that the mansion has just burned to the ground, with only the chimneys still standing amidst swirling smoke.  There are firetrucks on the lawn and on the driveway, at the foot of which stand a mother, a father, and a little boy in pajamas and bathrobes and the mother is telling the little boy, "Don't worry, dear; we'll buy you another chemistry set."!  Oh, how nearly that came true time and again!  My dad actually had installed a gas jet for me in the cellar for my Bunsen burner back when I was all of 11!

Maybe one of these days (oh, yeah!), I'll re-create the half-track (if the tracks are still supple - as highly-unlikely as that seemed, they actually still are usable); I used the concept of the Half Track from the 12½ set and the radiator, hood, and steering gear from the Dump Truck of the 9½ set:

Erector Models
(22 Jan 2004 photos by and © 2004 S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)
[thumbnailed image - click on picture for larger image]

plus a lot of young ingenuity!

Well, it's not gonna happen; I ended up selling the set to someone who wanted rather badly, rust and all.  This reminds me, though, that I drilled out an oversized hole in one of those yellow MC 1" x 2½" base plates to accomodate the steering column (having no clue how it worked in the No. 10½ and higher sets). (27 May 2014)

* - It appears that, while the cover was copyrighted in 1938, the contents, at least the page with the Parachute Jump, was newer because the Parachute Jump first appeared in 1940, as the article on John Cook's Girders & Gears site indicates (it followed the appearance of the real thing at the New York World's Fair in 1939).  However, there never was a "10½ Parachute set" - actually, a set numbered 10½ had appeared in the Erector line for some years prior to 1940.  In 1940, two sets contained the parachute parts: the 9½ Automotive set and the 10½ Electric Train set.  In 1949, Gilbert changed the name of the 10½ to the Amusement Park set, which it remained until the end of traditional Erector production in 1962 (although the set numbering scheme changed in 1957).

[information courtesy of John Cook ("Dr. Prune")]

Speaking of John Cook's site, he shows the DC3 Electric Motor; well, I never had any such but I recognized it instantly as the Tiny Atom; I still have my 1½-3VDC motor hidden away somewhere.  Here's composites of page 46 from the Mar 1955 and page 24 from the Sep 1957 issues of POPULAR MECHANICS with Wilson's of Cleveland's ads for the Tiny Atom and acessories:   added (27 May 2014)

(08 Feb 2018 chmposite image by S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

[I still use a ca. 1965 Wilson's HO turntable and have the original box.]

The Tiny Atom and the DC3 looked like this:

TinyAtom Erector-DC3 Erector_DC3

Now to find my own motor.

GILBERT (Erector?) TUFF-TRED Pedal-Car Set

On 19 Dec 2004, I heard from a gentleman who aquired a mid-1960s Gilbert "Ride On" Sized Erector Set which apparently made some sort of trike (three-wheeled vehicle) since there is a castered single-wheel axle.  The wheels are 7¼" in diameter, blow-molded with "GILBERT TUFF-TRED" in raised lettering on the side wall of the tire:   rev (08 Feb 2018)

Erector tuff-tread
(cropped from image d/4, ff., and lightened by SB,III)

Erector tuff-tread d/4 Erector tuff-tread e/5 Erector tuff-tread i/9
(photos by R. Rogers - all rights reserved)
[thumbnailed images - click on pictures for larger images;
image i/9 cropped slightly]

Now THAT is some Erector set (and I always thought the old New York Central Hudson 4-6-4 steam locomotive was the biggest Erector set of all (how I wish I could afford one, even now - last I looked, they were running in the thousands). This is the first I ever knew of any such thing.

The original box shipping label implies that this set was sold in Firestone stores.  Some flat and angle parts are made of aluminum, while the large 13¼" long angles are made of steel.  All 3/16" NC threaded fasteners are HDPE (High Density Polypropylene) and the steering wheel, pedal shaft, and tie-rods operate.

Can anyone tell us more about this set - its set number and formal name?  How about pictures of the finished product?

[Hmmm - I note that the tire reads "GILBERT", NOT ERECTOR; could it be this is NOT officially (however obviously) an Erector set?]

Speaking of the Hudson set, I'd love to post pix of that one (with tender), also.

{more to follow}


  What happens to all this when I DIE or (heaven forfend!) lose interest?  See LEGACY.


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