back to article Suckers for punishment, we added a crawler transporter to our Saturn V

When one has a Lego Saturn V and a launch platform and tower to go with it, where does one go next? A crawler to transport the thing obviously. We finished our launchpad back in October with the assistance of glue and a lot of swearing. At the time, the words "never again" were uttered. But then another lockdown happened and, …

  1. Marki Mark

    Nicely Done

    Well done sir!

    No glue or a heat gun insight!

    I wish I had the room for the tower and crawler, but the saturn stack itself takes up plenty.

    1. HildyJ Silver badge

      Re: Nicely Done


      Now where's your Vertical Assembly Building ?

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Nicely Done - Going to need a bigger house.

        Now where's your Vertical Assembly Building

        Nothing like pushing the envelope a bit. After that, assorted bunkers and control area, fueling equipment, and a lengthy roadway from the Assembly Building to the launch pad.

        Am I missing anything for the launch site?

        Icon: The stuff exiting the rocket at lift off.

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: Nicely Done - Going to need a bigger house.

          "Am I missing anything for the launch site?"

          Piffle, what about a Lego Moon to scale?

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Nicely Done - Going to need a bigger house.

            That's not a moon, it's a space station.

      2. ShadowDragon8685

        Re: Nicely Done

        At that point, it'd probably be cheaper (by an order of magnitude) to just buy a copy of Kerbal Space Program.

      3. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        Re: Nicely Done @HildyJ

        <pedant> Vehicle Assembly Building </pedant>

        Upvoted because it's a terrible suggestion in all the right ways, I love it.

        The empty building with working doors would be quite a feat. All the gantries & lifting equipment inside would be something else again.

      4. Phil Parker

        Re: Nicely Done

        A VAB is a great idea. It would be the size of the shed and those walls would be pre-coloured - no painting!

  2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    slow starting

    gearing will still be needed to slowly start the stack moving

    What about some sort of PWM control for the motors, to get maximum torque without too much acceleration? Maybe there's something in a Mindstorms set?

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: slow starting

      There's an old analog trick using a few transistors and resistors to accurately control motor speed. It turns out that brushed DC motors have a fairly constant impedance. You build a simple circuit to deliver a variable voltage from a log scale potentiometer to the motor. Now add a current sensor that adds more voltage to compensate for the motor's impedance. (Run the compensation feedback through a pot for tuning.) Now you can get a small motor to run at anything from about 1/60 to 6000 RPM without much change from loading.

      There may be circuits online to copy. Tape decks used it. I think it's only 2 or 3 transistors, depending on your desired precision - something like an SCR circuit but with resistors added to make a current mirror. (Disclaimer: It's early and I'm not awake enough to perfectly visualize the schematic)

    2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: slow starting

      A friend of who really should have grown out of this stuff by his age tells me the latest generation of motors have speed control in them. And servo function. E.g the motors as included in the bargain (!) set 42100. All controllable via the Devils radio bluetooth. You can even use a game controller such as a PS4 dualshock talking to a fondleslab or phone relaying on to the motors. That requires a free 3rd party app that is simple enough even an adult can use it.

      A friend, honest.

  3. Blackjack Silver badge


    I understand that buying Chinese knock offs is cheaper but even regular Legos have problems with motors so that would mean more glue and who knows what else to reinforce the thing.

    Anyone remembers Meccano? Amazing as it sounds one of the reasons Lego became popular is because it was cheaper than Meccano.

    Never had it but one of my friends older brother had a set.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Uh...

      You'd maybe build a machine or vehicle with Meccano, but not a village. Spaceships looked rubbish in Meccano. We built SF style spaceships in the 1960s using ordinary bricks and house windows.

      Also it was really slow to assemble and the work in disassembly prior to building something else was inhibiting.

      But certainly no-one had as much Meccano as Lego. Also even the newsagent had the pocket money sized boxes of generic bricks. You could get Meccano by mail order, but mostly you had to go to a serious toy shop in the city and buy a set. Most people in the 1960s had only one or two Meccano sets but constantly added to the Lego.

      Small box of Lego in the pocket.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Uh...

        80,000 Meccano pieces makes a Bridge...

        "James May's Toy Stories"

      2. Xalran

        Meccano Vs Lego

        As a proud owner of a Meccano Set Nb 10 ( yes the big big big one at that time ) and of several early Lego Technic sets ( to compare apples to apples ).

        Lego was a winner from the begining.

        It was much easier to build things, you didn't need tools, it was taking less time to actually build something that worked.

        Also Meccano was all about reproducing existing machines/systems/equipments with metal bars and plates, while Lego was about creating new things ( at the time of the early Technic sets you also had the Classic Space sets ( grey/blue/transparent yellow ).

        1. eldel

          Re: Meccano Vs Lego

          I had a couple of basic kits then around the mid 60s 'inherited' a huge amount, like 3 large holdalls full, from one of my father's colleagues who had a large collection of nieces but no nephews. Note the date - gender equality was a far future concept back then.

          Twas wonderful - building 'motorised' models with the clockwork motor sets. 10 years later, within a couple of months of me leaving home, my mother had 'donated' it because she thought it was a waste of space and I was 'too old' to care about such things. The sudden change in the earth's magnetic field is a result of her spinning in her grave at being reminded about it. Again.

          1. gryphon

            Re: Meccano Vs Lego

            So your mother too then.

            Came home from Uni one weekend to find she'd given all my Lego (including 1st Gen space stuff) AND my Scalextric away.

            Obviously I hadn't played with the latter for about 10 years but that's hardly the point. :-)

            Would have saved me a fortune feeding my son's Lego habit if I had still had all the old stuff.

            On a positive point though my father gave us his entire stash of Hornby a couple of years ago when he sold his flat. Problem is getting a foldable baseboard into the garage without getting too much in the way of everything else. Every time I manage to clear the garage a bit I go in the next day and it's full again. How does that happen? :-(

        2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Bronze badge

          Re: Meccano Vs Lego

          Ah, I remember the Meccano kits numbered 1-10, getting progressively bigger up the number scale. I had a fair few of them but kit 10 always seemed aspirational and always out of reach. I also had a specialist crane set and a military set with caterpillar tracks and motors. It's all now scattered between my house and my parents loft and lots of it has gone rusty.

          Lego and Meccano were different beasts. Meccano felt more like real engineering and no number of interlocking Lego bricks beat the satisfaction of doing some nuts and bolts up really tight!

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Meccano Vs Lego

            "Lego and Meccano were different beasts. Meccano felt more like real engineering and no number of interlocking Lego bricks beat the satisfaction of doing some nuts and bolts up really tight!"

            This. Comparing Lego and Meccano is like comparing Lego and Stickle Bricks.

      3. Uncle Slacky
        Thumb Up

        Re: Uh...

        Leftpondians of a certain age will remember "Girder & Panel" sets which were great for quickly building skyscrapers and city scenes in general (then destroying them with other toys);

        Then there was Riviton, which was great fun, but was recalled when two kids choked on the rubber "rivets":

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge


      The big difference between Lego and Meccano was that the latter was much more versatile for creating functional working systems. Although as early as the mid-60s Meccano magazine did include numerous designs for purely visual models (e.g. traction engines with holes all over their boilers), Meccano was widely used in development shops and engineering laboratories for prototyping real systems. Lego was never intended (or really suitable) for this except possibly in a very limited way. So the two had different origins and purposes and are not strictly comparable.

      1. PhoenixKebab

        Re: But...

        A lot of the stationary Mamod steam engines could be used with Meccano. I had an engine and lots of Meccano when I was much younger.

        However the lure of Lego and electric motors was too great for me.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: But...

          Meccano allowed converter sets to upgrade the set you had. I started with a #6 then bought a #7x which was the parts to make it a #7 and the relevent instruction booklet.

          I had an electric motor too. Not a Meccano part, a third party add on but it worked. This late '70's, earlly '80s. Rather stupidly sold it all. Bought the eldest girl a set, not much used. Should haul it down.

          I actually started with plastic Meccano. Got moved up aged about 9 iirc.

        2. MarkET

          Re: But...

          Was given a set in a wooden box complete with a clockwork engine. Wish I'd kept it.

        3. Andy 68

          Re: But...

          Ohhhh yes!

          The smell of oily steam and burning paraffin tablets as my Mamond-on-Meccano contraption lumbered off down the garden path ... and invariably veered straight into the edge of the lawn and stopped dead.

          Good times.

      2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Bronze badge

        Re: But...

        I'm sure I remember a working Meccano steam engine - as in real fire heating water into stream and driving pistons. I think the tiny fire was a bit of cotton wool soaked in meths or something.

    3. Alistair

      Re: Uh...

      Remember Meccano?

      I was lucky enough to both inherit my eldest cousin's set, and have a dad that had wanted stacks of it as a kid himself. I had four extra large kits of it, two of which came in flat wooden fold out cases. Fiddly it was, and awkward, but the crane I built with it could actually lift and move things without tipping over, or snapping off a part along the way. I strongly suspect it fed my engineering mentality later in my teen years. Along with the model and rc aircraft I built and flew.

    4. Timmy B

      Re: Uh...

      @Blackjack - Legos is not a thing...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Legos is not a thing...

        Sure it is. It's what good friends of Legolas get to call him in private. :-)

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    How is that possible ?

    How can you not only have missing pieces, but left over pieces that you did not need ?

    That is an unbelievable failure of Quality Control. Or is QC a last-millennium thing, only remembered by boomers ?

    I don't care that the kit was made in China, if they send pieces you don't need and forget pieces you do, they're wasting money. Surely even a Chinese capitalist can see that.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: How is that possible ?

      Yeah, well...

      ok, the reason why there are always leftover parts in LEGO(R) sets is that the QC works by weighing the packages. Especially the small parts (eyes, little sticky grey things to put on axles, the little two-sided grey things to connect two Technic beams) are then used in numbers that tell you how many of these should be inside by weighing the little bags. So a certain number of leftover parts is expected. At least that's the theory behind it, and implementation is... in this case apparently not well done. Considering the missing two parts: yes, that is a shame and will not happen with LEGO.

      How well did the parts fit together? Sharp corners? Gaps? Bad machining? Asking because my kids really would need that set (and the tower, and the Saturn V)... really, it's for them, not for their dad ;)

      About the "open this bag first" things: that's new. At least this did not exist way back when I was constructing LEGO things (I wouldn't call it "playing", stuff should be constructed and work, then mission accomplished, deconstruct). In my time you did have to open all packages, strew them around the living room floor on Christmas so you can find the parts. I don't think I ever owned anything with that many parts, though.

      1. thondwe

        Re: How is that possible ?

        Lego are so good at it - I've just finished the Lambo Sian (I love my wife!!) and there's no more than a couple of pegs left - and nothing missing - nearly 4k parts...!

      2. Blackjack Silver badge

        Re: How is that possible ?

        Nope you are wrong.

        Lego sets from the eighties and early nineteens at least, sometimes had either missing pieces or wrong colored pieces.

        I only know that because I had a friend who bought Lego for a few years then moved to Transformers toys.

        And yes it was actually Lego and not a clone, my friend parents had the money.

  5. Martin Howe

    They beat Gerry Anderson to the punch

    I love these machines; they look like they could have come right out of Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet. Born the same year they were, I didn't have Lego kits of them as a child; however, for my 7th birthday, Mum made me a birthday cake in the shape of one, complete with mini swiss rolls for wheels, strips of marzipan for tracks and blue icing (don't think there was much choice in fancy food colouring at the local Tesco in 1972). That was almost as cool as the real thing :)

  6. Keith Oborn

    Meccano vs Lego for large tasks

    I have an old friend and colleague who has unfeasibly large amounts of Meccano. Some years ago he produced this:

    Since then he has also made a Hartree differential analyser and is using Meccano to prototype sections of the Analytical Engine from the Science Museum's project on Babbage's documentation.

    There is a LOT. I know, I've helped lift some of the results. The Difference Engine is described as "not quite as reliable as the original" (there are two "originals", one in London one in California. They do tend to fail quite often).

    There HAVE been Lego-based Difference Engines. The difference (ahem) is that they are very simplistic and extremely fragile.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Meccano vs Lego for large tasks

      Has your friend got enough to make a Turing machine?

      1. John H Woods

        Re: Meccano vs Lego for large tasks

        Building a Turing machine is one thing, sourcing the required length of tape is a little harder.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Meccano vs Lego for large tasks

      It is often said that Konrad Zuse built his first computers using Meccano in the 1930s. Not quite true, but still they were marvellous efforts!


  7. Dr. G. Freeman

    suppose you could always mix the two, 3D print some conversion parts ( and have the mechanical structural bits of meccano (and the addition of motors, servos etc.), with the aesthetically pleasing parts of lego (no big holes around the place), and use other toy building parts as needed.

  8. Xalran


    In the Kragle we trust !

  9. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Scott Manley says "it's crap - don't give them your money"

    Here ya go:

  10. Phones Sheridan Bronze badge

    Space management

    "unless one has space to spread out the components into neat piles"

    Any serious lego builder should have one or more draw string playmats.

    I've been using these for decades now, starting off with one my mum made me 40 years ago from an old blanket with string sewn into a seam around the edges. You throw the whole set in, spread it out and pick the pieces out quite easily. Then when you want a break, pull the string, a nice little ball is created, and you put it to one side until you're ready to continue.

    Probably work just as well for meccano too.

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