Meccano Pontoon Crane

 Pontoon model 04
Pontoon model 05

Standard mechanismsThe instructions to build this Pontoon Crane were first published in the Meccano magazine of March 1925 and later as a Super Model Leaflet in 1928. It was a pity they did not revise the instructions from the MM to include the geared roller bearing p/n 193 introduced the same year. It was not until 1936 that this was rectified and a new revised leaflet became available using the GRB. This model is the only one in the SML series that uses two electric motors and one of very few that was revised showing the use of blue and gold parts. The model was much used by Meccano in advertising and also in the 1930s on the covers of "Standard Mechanisms" and "Meccano parts and how to use them." The model illustrated on the Standard Mechanisms cover (shown on the left) although it is a strange hybrid showing the large flanged rings in place of the channel segments but with cross hatched blue plates. A revised leaflet SML28a leaflet to include the GRB was issued around 1936 but it was published as an “L” model, the GRB however was not included in the set.

In the September and October 1968 Meccano Magazine there was published instructions for an updated version of the SML 28 using two large rings p/n 176b..

The model was probably based on the crane shown above illustrated in a 1921 Meccano Magazine also published in "The Wonder Book of Engineering" in 1931. Described as the "largest floating crane in the world."  The crane was built for the British Admiralty as "Crane Lighter No.4" and was able to lift over 250 tonnes over a radius of 30.5 metres (100 feet.)  I have shown in addition four illustrations contemporary to the Super model leaflet.

Pontoon 01 Portmouth dock craneThe illustration below  left shows a 150 tonne crane at Southampton Docks. This illustration is scanned  from a publication by the Southern Railway in the late 1920s. The lower illustration is from the Meccano Magazine of February 1932 and shows  a 250 tonne crane at Bordeaux. Below left is a beautiful illustration taken from the April 1936 Meccano Magazine showing the "Mammoth" a Dutch built Crane at Liverpool docks. The Meccano Magazine had a two page article about floating cranes but no mention was made of the Meccano S.M.L. Pontoon crane. The newspaper cutting is from Auckland New Zealand from around 1929-1932 and shows the floating crane MANUI.

Cranes of this type would have been found in most large dock complexes around the and would have been used for handling large or unwieldy cargoes or for ship repairs and fitting out. Some would have been self contained, usually with steam engines providing the power generation for electric winches and capstans. Some cranes would have to be moved to its operating position by tugs, other cranes would have been self propelled. The cranes are balanced by water tanks.

The model was  built  using mainly 1990's French zinc and yellow parts the GRB was a replica from Ashok Banerjee in India, as of 2023 these are no longer made. I made a few changes to the original design but these were only minor and did not detract from this iconic Meccano model. My model is driven by a Meccano E15R and a 12 volt motor built into a frame the dimensions of the E15R. The model was a delight to build and is great fun to operate, it looks right and is well proportioned. One useful modification I made was to use a tension spring between the two hoist levers this holds the brakes on nicely.


Jacques Vuye fellow builder of antique Meccano models has also built this model (shown below) and after sending me pictures of  modifications, he was inspired to build a miniature version.  This model is built around the scale of  p/n 168 the ball thrust bearing. The model has all the functions of the original SML 28 crane but driven by a single motor. Jacques won the " Prix du concours" at the CAM 2005 exhibition at Compiègne France in 2005 with this beautiful little model.

 Jacque's cranes

In August 2023 I built another Pontoon crane based on a 1911 vintage crane shown above .

Originally published October 2008 Revised October 31 2023

. Back to link