Archive for February, 2011

1948-9 – “Bimbo” the Mechanical Elephant prototype – Maurice Radburn (British)

Whilst it was Frank Stuart that gets most of the credit for the famous British Robot Elephant, it was in fact Maurice Radburn, an employee of Frank Stuart's that toyed with the idea of building a Walking Elephant. Frank Stuart had already built a stiff-legged motorised elephant but wasn't entirely happy with it. Maurice Radburn presented his boss with a model prototype, then soon after produced an electric-powered model, complete with hide, dressings, and a model Mahout riding it.

Thanks  to early research work by Larry Gavette in the late 1970's and early 1980's we do have pictures and a captured British "Blue Peter"  T.V. program that featured Maurice and his models.

Video contains British "Blue Peter" T.V. programs dated December 1975, then a follow-up program on 5th April, 1976. Video Courtesy Larry Gavette.

maurice radburn elephant blue peter p1 x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

Maurice Radburn.

radburn original model blue peter x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

radburn original model blue peter 2 x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

Stills from video clip.

radburn electric model blue peter p1 x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

radburn electric model blue peter p2 x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

radburn electric model blue peter p3 x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)


Maurice  with bimbo Mechanical elephant x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

Maurice Radburn with "Bimbo", the mechanical elephant prototype. All Photos courtesy Larry Gavette.

maurice radburn elephant prototype Gavette p4   Copy x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

bimbo Mechanical elephant x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

The same Bimbo that was shown on the "Blue Peter" program 5th April, 1976.

maurice Radburn letter Gavette x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

Letter from Maurice Radburn to Larry Gavette (1980) showing the wire-frame model sans masking.

Note: You can see from Radburn's letterhead that he was skilled in Theatrical masks and Costumes, Model Theatres and Puppets. The Craftmasks business was post Frank Stuart's Mechanimals Ltd as a result of Stuart's bankruptcy in the early 1950's.

Radburn bimbo Mechanical elephant Gavette p1 x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

Radburn bimbo Mechanical elephant Gavette p2 x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)

Radburn bimbo Mechanical elephant Gavette p3 x640 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)


mauriceletter x200 1948 9   Bimbo the Mechanical Elephant prototype   Maurice Radburn (British)Maurice Radburn letters to Larry Gavette – 1979-81.


2002 – “Gauteng Walker” – Boris Ingram (South African)

Boris Ingram Gauteng Walker x640 2002   Gauteng Walker   Boris Ingram (South African)



Popular Mechanics Nov 2003 (Sth African edition)

Walk tall, break a leg.

PopMechNov2003 Boris Gauteng walker 1 x640 2002   Gauteng Walker   Boris Ingram (South African)Left: It may not look a thing of beauty, but Boris's Gauteng Walker has been known to go places.

Johannesburg engineer Boris Ingram thought it would be fun to design a walking machine. That was before he got started…

IT'S a fair bet that most of us don't fall asleep thinking about skeletal machines and principles of static determinacy. But Boris Ingram is an engineer in the classic mould: relegating the easy and obvious to their proper place, he concentrates instead on technological challenges.
Take the beast known as "Boris's Gauteng Walker". It's a somewhat complicated assemblage of square-section steel tubing, nuts and bolts, with a disreputable-looking motorcycle plonked on top of it. Being an engineer, Ingram think it's unfair to assess his creation on aesthetic grounds.
"I got the idea from a magazine article about Dutch physicist and artist Theo Jansen, who had built what he called 'Strandbeeste' — large constructions of plastic conduits, with legs and huge sails, that were blown by the wind across the beach. The article described how the leg mechanism was modelled and how the linkage dimensions were optimised on a computer." Intrigued, Ingram began to think about building his own walking machine, using mechanical linkages in place of legs. Trained as a mechanical engineer at the University of Cape Town in the 1970s, he'd taken in some useful stuff on kinematics and linkage types. "It may have been the combination of computers and interesting machines that provided the impetus, or perhaps it was the old joke, 'How do you motivate an engineer?' — 'Tell him it's impossible'. But whatever it was, I decided I needed to write some software of my own."

PopMechNov2003 Boris Gauteng walker 2 x640 2002   Gauteng Walker   Boris Ingram (South African)Left: The walker's forelegs are poised for action. Below and bottom: A cog and chain drive transfers power from the motorcycle engine to the legs.

The software
To model the linkage, he started by numbering the links and nodes. Next, he needed to work out the intersection of two circular arcs, the formula for which he found in an old programmable calculator manual from UCT.
"Intersecting circles have two intersection points. The tricky bit was to work out which of the two was the one I needed, for each intersection, for all crank angles. When I had solved this, it was relatively easy to work out the positions of all nodes, knowing the crank radius, the crank's angular position, the fixed pin position and the lengths of the links. This was done for one hundred different positions per crankshaft revolution. I could then calculate the velocities and accelerations of the nodes. I used this data to draw a picture of any linkage for any crank position, and to animate the leg turning."
Unfortunately, as Ingram discovered (and artist Jansen already knew), there was an infinite number of theoretically possible mechanisms.
"He had employed a 'genetic algorithm` — whatever that was. Which was the best one to use for a walking machine? How would I recognise it when I found it? I decided on a brute force approach, to try every imaginable linkage and think of ways of comparing answers.
"Any vehicle has to have three points of support at all times; otherwise it will fall down. This is called 'static determinacy' — you can work out, or determine, all supporting forces in the structure. With fewer points of support, the structure will fall, so you need a stabilising force to prevent this.
"In motorcycles and bicycles, with two points of support, the stabilising force is provided by the gyroscopic action of the wheels, which happens only when the bike moves. Any biker will tell you that you must put your foot down when you stop."
First, Ingram worked out the basics:
"If there was a mechanism that spent 75 per cent of its time with the foot point on the ground and 25 per cent returning to the beginning, then a vehicle would be statically determinate with four legs, as three of them could be on the ground at all times. "This became the main search criterion. Other criteria were a flat walking curve and the longest stride for the shortest total length of links."
The software ran for two days, calculating 16 million different possible mechanisms and scoring them with a weighted score reflecting the criteria. Most could not be solved; "only" 300 000 working leg designs were found.
But no linkages gave 75 per cent ground time, so the walker could not be a quadruped. The software also provided detailed kinematical data, including the work needed to turn the crankshaft against inertia, gravity and the weight of the vehicle.
Recalls Ingram: "This was way beyond anything I had done at varsity, and I'm still not convinced that the mathematical analysis was right! The data showed one intriguing thing — nearly half the time, the work required was negative, suggesting that the mechanism was self-powered for some of the time. This seemed odd, and very counter-intuitive."
Intent on solving the problem, he decided to make a small working model of a single leg. Another long computer run was done, this time with the ground time criterion removed. If the walker had six legs, he discovered, the criterion became irrelevant. In the event, all mechanisms had a walk time of more than 50 per cent.

PopMechNov2003 Boris Gauteng walker 3 x640 2002   Gauteng Walker   Boris Ingram (South African)Right: Look ma, no wheels! With the Kawasaki engine turning over nicely, Ingram's walker goes through the appropriate motions. Below left: Each leg was equipped with a spring-mounted-footpad to absorb some of the shock when walking. Below right: Ingram spent many hours refining the leg design.

The paper leg
"I needed a way to make an accurate model quickly and easily, so I printed a development of a cylindrical link and wrapped this around a drinking straw.
The pivots at the ends piece were made from a strip of cardboard rolled into a spiral and stuffed into a short length of straw. This was glued into the end of the link, and the paper folded over to provide tensile strength. The pins were normal household pins, as used in sewing.
"With one leg under my belt, I decided to build a working model, a real walker that could move on its own six legs. I extended my paper and straw technique to make flat panels. It took about a month to finish, but eventually I was left with the first real walking machine.
"I found a gearbox from an old printer and used it to convert the weight of a clock weight into rotary motion. The gearbox was mounted on a pivot above the main tub, driving the crankshafts with a toothed belt, also from the printer.
The pulley for the clock weight was mounted on another tower atop this one.
"Unfortunately, this arrangement did not work, as the crankshaft sprockets were too small and the drive couldn't produce enough torque to turn them.
Later, I thought of using two groups of three legs each, each group moving together and acting as a tripod. I modified my software to handle the new layout.

"It could now draw a side view of the machine, and by drawing the legs in motion, I could make an animation of the new design actually walking across the screen. Encouraged by this, I taught myself how to use OpenGL, the Microsoft extension that allows programmers to 'easily' tackle three-dimensional drawing and animation. With OpenGL I was able to render a three-dimensional model of the machine and walk it across the screen. I could rotate it and view it as it moved, from any orientation.

"I also did many more searching runs, eventually evaluating 120 million theoretical linkages, from which I got around 2 million that worked as legs. The search criteria were now much more sophisticated, rating each design on 15 different aspects of their performance.
"I spent many, many hours trying different legs. I found I could alter the stride length for a given linkage by moving the fixed pin relative to the crankshaft."
By making the legs on the inside walk a short path and the outside legs a longer path, it was possible to walk around a curved path. The reverse of this principle makes a differential gear necessary in a four-wheeled vehicle.
"It was definitely time to take my theoretical models back to reality, if for no other reason than to see if this new steering scheme would work. Besides, the software was now a huge, 40 000-line monster, creaking under its own complexity and in dire need of a rewrite.

"I have a small workshop, the main attraction being my late father's 'Granville Senior' lathe. It was probably quite grand in its day (50 years ago) and has many attachments, but it is definitely showing its age and years of hard use. I also have a small pedestal drill, electric hand drills and two air-cooled arc welders (to give a usable duty cycle)." He bought an electric bandsaw, because there was going to be a lot of cutting. The chosen construction material was 25 mm square steel tubing as it was cheap and he knew how to work with it. Ingram knew that friction would be a problem. He needed to design bearings that would be efficient, yet cheap and easy to make. He came up with a design made from piping for shafts and their housings, as he didn't think the old lathe was up to machining every pivot.
"I had polyacetate bushes made, with suitable thrust washers. There is a small size for the linkage pivots and a larger one for the crankshaft and transfer shaft main bearings. Solving the bearing problem was pivotal in convincing me of the practicability of building a real walking machine, strong enough to carry me."

PopMechNov2003 Boris Gauteng walker 4 x640 2002   Gauteng Walker   Boris Ingram (South African)Left: Three steps forward, three steps back. Ingram's walker project was by no means plain sailing.

The steel prototype
With the boilermaker's motto ("We're not building watches here") firmly in mind, Ingram started with the structures that hold the crankshafts and the leg pivots.
"I don't know how many holes I drilled, threads I tapped or pipes I bored. I broke many, many tools, especially M6 hand taps — I think five sets, and a similar number of 2 mm drill bits. Though I tried to keep machining to a minimum, due to the dodgy lathe, there was still a lot of it — several hundred pieces. There was also a lot of welding, grinding and filing. By the end I was literally exhausted!
But the finished product seemed worth it."
A 200 cm3 Kawasaki motorcycle provided the engine, electrical system, fuel tank, seat and a host of other bits. This engine was chosen because it was the smallest he could think of with an electric starter; he didn't want to kick the "horse" over while trying to start it.
"When demonstrating the machine, people are always amazed that I can just walk up to it, turn the key, press the starter button, and it bursts into life!"
"The idea of feet was to prevent the tripping fate of the paper walker. The foot was a universal joint, with a spring-mounted central footpad. The rest of the leg had no vertical flexibility. When walking, the legs would need some vertical 'give' to reduce shock loads as weight was transferred from one set of legs to the other."
The machine stood on its own custombuilt stand, designed to allow the legs to move. It was run extensively in this stand, allowing minor problems to be fixed.
"Eventually it all worked fine in the stand. The legs moved quite quickly — the gear ratio was too high. Also, the load on the engine varied a lot, judging by the change in engine note as it ran. It certainly worked hard, especially when starting, as the whole machine is lifted in the first part of the walking action.
"Although I believe I could have gunned the engine enough to make it walk, it felt like it would have made off at a pace, and I was concerned that if the feet jammed, the whole contraption would come crashing down. Carried 1,5 m off the ground, the rider would be flung far and land hard. I had fallen off enough motorcycles to want to avoid this."
Final testing meant walking across the workshop floor — about three paces of the machine. It couldn't turn in such a short space; so, after every test walk, it needed to be walked in reverse and lifted back on to the stand to fix the latest glitch.
Recalls Ingram: "I did so much lifting, walking three steps, going backwards three steps, then lifting again, that I decided I needed a small trolley to move it around the workshop. The irony of building a car to carry a walker was too much!
"The grease also got to me. All the lubricated joints leaked and soon the thing was covered in gunge. Tinkering became a messy business." It freaked out the clean, clinical programmer in him. The last straw came during the test of the latest coupling fitted to the front crankshaft.
"It sort of worked, but seemed to become floppy after repeated loading. While reversing back to the stand, the blue leg on the rear crankshaft jammed its foot and broke its coupling. I managed to hobble the walker back on to the stand, but it was not sitting properly."
Then, while he was checking the blue leg's problem, the red leg's coupling also broke as the leg jammed against the stand. With a very broken walker and a tired and discouraged developer in a quandary of mutually conflicting design requirements, it was time to call a halt.
"The problems have been challenging, and I have managed to solve only a few of them. Perhaps, with a good cleaning and a few minor repairs, it'll be time to start walking again…"


crankimg[1] 2002   Gauteng Walker   Boris Ingram (South African)

 

walk3d[1] 2002   Gauteng Walker   Boris Ingram (South African)

 


Doc thesis

A.J. Ingram, A new type of mechanical walking machine, University of Johannesburg, 2006

Masters dissertation

A.J. Ingram, Numerical kinematic and kinetic analysis of a new class of twelve bar linkage for walking machines, Rand Afrikaaans University, 2004

For the masters, the document to download is "numerical.pdf"


 

1974-99 KYTRON – Rudolf Mittelmann (German)

KYTRON 1 on table 1974 99 KYTRON   Rudolf Mittelmann (German)

Partial extract from Mittelmann's  homepage – see here for full description of all KYTRONs.

What is a KYTRON?

A KYTRON is a small autonomous vehicle. Its name comes from KYBERNETIK (German for cybernetics) and ELEKTRONIK (German for electronics).

Another way to define a KYTRON would be as a small electro-mechanical device mimicking some aspects of natural life.

Finally a KYTRON could be described as a small mobile robot doing nothing meaningful except keeping itself happy.

What does a KYTRON do?

A KYTRON drives around, looks for light and tries to avoid obstacles. With enough light from the environment it is able to reload its batteries using its solar panels. In the dark it is able to follow tiny light sources like torches or even the flame of a match.

How does a KYTRON work?

Many people associate KYTRONs with military tanks, at least at first sight. This may be because KYTRONs have caterpillar (crawler) tracks instead of wheels.

In fact, KYTRONs have nothing to do with military equipment at all, and are definitively not armed.

All five KYTRONs built so far feature tracks, but there is no reason that this will not change. I always had the plan to make one with (six) legs, like an insect. I am not much interested in designs with wheels, but then, this may change when I will see pictures of the new Mars rover. I also have to admit that the Lunokhod moon vehicle (8 wheels) of the Russians was a great design.
And yes, I had that soft-lined "translucent design" since 1975 (!!!)… see my images of KYTRON 2 and m-KYTRON 3 below and see also these new ones here and here. (Obviously these new images were taken in 1999.) 

Which KYTRONs were built?

Until now, five KYTRONs were built: KYTRON 1, KYTRON 2, m-KYTRON 3, c-KYTRON 4, and KYTRON 5. In general they became smaller and smaller. Each is introduced below [see Mittelmann's homepage for info on other KYTRONs].

KYTRON 1

KYTRON1 1974 99 KYTRON   Rudolf Mittelmann (German)

The first KYTRON was done in 1974. The mechanical parts were taken from a toy. The wheels and crawler tracks were plastic parts. The housing was made from foam plastic.

K1 1974 99 KYTRON   Rudolf Mittelmann (German)

This KYTRON searched for light with three alternative optical sensor devices. The most advanced was a rotating sensor arrangement, using two light sensors looking forward, with an optical shield between them. When either sensor saw light, the motors were started so that the KYTRON would approach the light source.

If no light was seen, every 5 minutes the rotor was activated in order to find light in other directions. When such light, f.i. from behind, was detected, the KYTRON would turn the sensor device back to home position and simultaneously would turn itself to face this light source. Then it would approach it as above.

The obstacle avoidance capability of KYTRON 1 was very limited. It had a mechanical touch sensor on front. When detecting an obstacle, it would stop immediately and drive back a curve to the right. When trying to approach the light again, it would probably touch the obstacle again, but thanks to mechanical fuzziness it would (hopefully) finally manage to get by. KYTRON 1 was 30 cm long, 15 cm wide, and 12 cm tall. It was destructed in 1977 (see KYTRON 4). Its weight was 1.5 kg and its speed was 24 cm/s. It could operate 30-60 minutes from its Pb-gel batteries. The electronics consisted of about 100 parts, including 1 IC.


1949 – Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant – (Frank Smith design) (British)

Macades Mechanical Elephant x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Although the caption is not correct, this is the only acknowledged Macades Mechanical Elephant photo found to date. (Image courtesy Larry Gavette). Update Apr 2011: Eric Smith managed to contact David Taylor, ex retired employee of Luneside Engineering, who has confirmed that this image was taken in the loading bay of one of the many Luneside workshops.

"I worked for Luneside Engineering at Halton from the mid 1970′s until engineering work ceased on the site in 2008. By this time the company had earned an enviable reputation for manufacturing complex parts for the aircraft and nuclear industries. Mechanical elephants were by then part of the company’s early history.
The picture showing a new elephant with a mesh framework was taken somewhere other than Luneside. The Luneside workshops were all smaller than the one pictured.
On a positive note on the page dedicated to the Macades elephants there is an article dated 9 January 1977 from The Visitor by Ken Andrew. Photo 3 in this article shows a Mk.2 elephant. This picture is at Luneside, the loading bay was at the east end of the original stone building. A picture very similar to this and another showing an elephant complete with loading steps loaded on the back of a small truck used to be on display in the Luneside Engineering factory at Halton." David Taylor 29 Apr 2011. – see more on Luneside Engineering below.

We know from the Eric Smith letter (see below) that Macades [Entertainment] Ltd was set up by local businessmen to engage in the manufacture and sale of Mechanical Elephants. It was set up by Mr. WADE, Mr. MACKINTOSH, Mr. James WILSON and Mr. R.W. TOOLE. Macades had elephants made by FRANK STUART and also LUNESIDE ENGINEERING of HALTON (which is about 7 miles from MORECAMBE. MR. BENIRSKI was the proprieter of LUNESIDE ENGINEERING.

(Note: RH-2011 1. Colonel Teodor Benirski, a Polish officer who settled in the Halton area after the war, established Luneside Engineering in 1946. Other than this, I know nothing about Luneside Engineering. 2. The name Luneside is derived from the fact that the factory was built at the side of the River Lune. 3. Macades was also a name derived from Mackintosh and Wade.

Update: May 2011 – David Taylor, ex employee of Luneside Engineering, has provided a brief history of the business. see further down this post for details.)

 GB654438A0006 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

See full British Patent here.
 
Patent Number 654,438
App Date: Apr 28, 1948.
Published: June 20, 1951.
Note that the Patent document has Frank Smith as the inventor, but the specification is by Albert Heritage Wade and George Herbert MacIntosh, both of Morecambe, Lancaster.
GB654438A0000a 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

no 7a Macades minutes x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)
from Worthing Council
(Source: Larry Gavette collection)

From a letter by Eric Smith (1983), Frank Smith's son, it was the teenager Eric that actually produced the drawings for the Patent.
pg 16 Smith elephant detail x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)
Larry Gavette was very active in the 1970's and 1980's looking at the history of the Smith and mainly Stuart elephants. Thank's to Larry in providing a copy of the original correspondence.
See the full letter pg 1a x200 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)
Extract from Letter:
1. MECHANICAL ELEPHANT
INVENTED AND BUILT BY MR. FRANK SMITH
KING STREET GARAGE
MORECAMBE
YEAR 1947
PATENTED BY MR. FRANK SMITH. AN OFFER OF £5000
WAS MADE TO HIM BY A GROUP OF LOCAL BUSINESSMEN
FOR THE PATENT ON CONDITION THAT
MR. SMITH WOULD MANAGE THE COMPANY WHICH
WOULD MANUFACTURE AND OPERATE THE MECHANICAL
ELEPHANTS. MR. SMITH REFUSED THE OFFER, BUT
ACCEPTED THE OFFER OF £1000 FOR THE PATENT
WITH NO PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT.
MACADES WAS THE NAME OF THE COMPANY FORMED
BY THE PURCHASES OF THE PATENT A MR. WADE,
MR MAC????[rh- KINTOSH] MR. JAMES WILSON AND A MR. R.W. TOOLE
WERE INVOLVED. MACADES HAD ELEPHANTS MADE BY
FRANK STUART AND ALSO LUNESIDE ENGINEERING
OF HALTON WHICH IS ABOUT 7 MILES FROM MORECAMBE.
A MR. BENIRSKI IS THE PROPIETOR OF LUNESIDE
ENGINEERING AND I BELIEVE HE REMEMBERS THIS
VENTURE.
FRANK STUART WAS THE MAKER OF THE BIGGER
WALKING VERSION, BUT I BELIEVE IT WAS AN
INFRINGEMENT OF THE PATENT. THIS COULD BE
WHY HE SOLD THEM ABROAD.

small mechanical elephants compared 1977 x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Source: "The Visitor" January 1977 (Morcambe area) – (Article courtesy Larry Gavette).

This article gives the most definitive story between the different smaller stiff-legged mechanical elephants, and suggest Frank Stuat's involvement was short lived, probably for him for focus on the larger walking elephants. It most likely would have been Macades that took legal action over the patent infringement with Stuart, assuming that the infringement did actually happen.

The Visitor (Morecambe) January 9, 1977 by Ken Andrew
WE DON'T PROMISE THIS IS THE END OF THE STORY
But here's how we tracked those elephants

Captions to Photographs:

1. First appearance of Frank Smith's mechanical elephant, led by its inventor. (Frank Smith's 1st Elephant outside garage)
2. Eric Smith gives local children a ride on the elephant. (Eric Smith on Morecambe beach)
3. "Bionic" Bertha Mark 2. (Macades)
4. Blue Peter's "Bionic" Bertha. (Stuart's)

First, the good news. Then the bad. Our article last week concerning "Two Ton Bertha, the world's only Bionic Elephant," jolted the memories of quite a few people who recalled seeing a mechanical elephant on Morecambe promenade in the late 1940's.
The bad news is that Morecambe's "Bionic Bertha" is not from the same herd as the animal featured on BBC TV "Blue Peter." Our's can't walk and it's a good four feet shorter than the televised version.
But the reaction generated from the article has provided an insight into a feature of Morecambe in its post-war days – and even Kojak would have been proud of our detective work.
The story begins with a day out at Belle Vue Zoo. Making it was Frank Smith, a prominant figure in the amusement business of those days.
His son, Eric, recalled for us how his father returned from the trip with the vowed intention of building the world's first mechanical elephant.
"He started the next day in the garage and made an elephant out of iron bedsteads, balloon fabric, mechanical parts from an Austin 7 and a windscreen wiper motor for the moveable eyeballs. He got his dentist to make the toes," said Eric.
Picture one shows the great moment when the elephant was wheeled out. In time, Eric and his father made another and both were put to work on the East and West End beaches. (Picture Two). These elephants ran on wheels.
The Smith family then moved into the amusement business in a big way and made model trains for Happy Mount Park and for export countries including South Africa.
Frank Smith sold the patent of his elephants to a local company called Macades (Entertainment) whose directors include James Wilson. They received help from Mr. R. W. Toole, whose wife remembers his work on the elephants.
"He used to work till three o'clock in the morning on the elephants and wouldn't rest until he got it right," she said.
"The refined elephant (Picture 3 ), was  made by Luneside Engineering Company, Halton, whose proprietor, Mr. Benirski, still remembers the venture.
"After the first year of making the elephant we took over the operation and servicing side of the business. They were 250c.c. petrol-driven engines inside the elephants although we did make one electrically powered. They carried six children, three on each side and for six-pence a ride. Our elephants were more realistic than the others. We had somebody make the masks out of plaster of Paris."
He went on: "We took these elephants throughout the country, to all the seaside resorts. I even spent the night in a Portsmouth jail because all the hotels were full and we had to catch the Isle of Wight ferry the next morning."
Besides Luneside Engineering, Macades also had a contract for the provision of elephants with Stuart Engineering, a firm operating from Thalstead (sic. "Thaxted"] in Essex.
Eric Smith confirmed that Stuart's made an elephant three times the size of theirs, costing over pound1,500. It was featured on television at the time and it seems likely that this was the same elephant the appeared on Blue Peter. (Picture 4).
Stuart's ended their contract for elephants quite soon and although Macades and Luneside continued for a few years the organisation eventually died a natural death.


Eric Smith Mechanical Elephant Copy(2) x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Eric Smith with an elephant purported to be made by Luneside Engineering.  It has tusks as per the Redcards elephant below, probably the same elephant.


Saturday 31 August 2013 – Rajah the Elephant returns to Halton Mill for its official opening

One of Halton Mill’s famous mechanical elephants was the guest of honour at the official opening of Halton Mill. The “walking”, almost life-sized, elephants, made as tourist attractions by Luneside Engineering, the last occupant of Halton Mill, can carry up to six children and are powered by a diesel engine. Rajah is owned by Crosby Lions, and was visiting along with her handler, Ivan Swainbank. Eric Smith was another guest of honour.

Video from ITV News, Lancashire.


Mechanical Elephant RedcarsAmusements1950 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)


Preece Elephant getty3066233 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Title:  Jumbo On Wheels
Caption:  29th July 1950: A mechanical elephant giving a ride to a group of children and being led by its 'keeper' Arthur W. Preece. The keeper has a driving licence, the 'elephant' has number plates, a fire extinguisher and road tax is paid! (Photo by Harold Clements/Express/Getty Images).

The vehicle licence plate "LTJ227" indicates it is of Luneside Engineering manufacture.


mechanical elephant south shields aug 1950 x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)Children riding on a mechanical elephant, South Shields, August 1950. Source:  'Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums'.


VIDEO: MECHANICAL ELEPHANT

Pickering Park, Hull, Humberside. Dated 15 August 1949.

Click image to see video clip.

L/Ss and M/Ss of numerous children sitting on the back of a mechanical elephant. A man pulls cord to start motor. Several shots of mechanical device giving children a ride. L/S and M./S of men taking the machine apart so that we can get a glimpse of the engine. The commentator says it is a simple two stroke engine with four wheels.

The clip mentions that two more of these elephants were on trial at Hull.


Preece Mechanical elephant getty 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

A mechanical elephant ride at Seaburn in 1949, with operator Jimmy Sawyer.

mech elephant colwyn bay 50s 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

This Mechanical Elephant does not have a mahoot (driver or keeper) actually riding it, but walks beside it operating the controls and steering via turning its head. The legs also do not have a walking action, and it is propelled via the rear wheels.

The video clip suggests at least four of this type were built.


elephant smith colwyn bay 51 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Colwyn Bay 1951. Only sixpence a ride!

Smith type Mechanical elephant 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

smith elephant isle of wright 40s 50s 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Puckpool Park, Seaview, west of Ryde, Isle of Wight – 1950's – a genuine Macades elephant manufactured by Luneside Engineering.
From the Ryde Social Heritage Group site: Chris Hayles who kindly contributed the photo and these memories: "I can remember the mechanical elephant well. I used to look forward to my holidays in School Road and going to the Redan Pub in Union Street for a ploughmans lunch in the childrens room! But my biggest treat was on the walk along the front to Seaview we used to stop off at Puckpool and have a ride on the elephant. It used to sit about four or six kids, two or three on each side with a long running board to put your feet on and I think there was a handrail, this was all painted green and it used to plod along giving us all a ride. How it actually worked I do not know as being a kid I was more interested in the ride itself!"

no 4a Isle of wight Macades elephant x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Isle of Wight – Image courtesy Mrs. Alex Wright of Bournemouth, UK (via Larry Gavette).


Mike Jumbo Butlins x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

"Mike" on "Jumbo" at a Butlins children's camp. Sourced from flickr here.


mech elephant red baron auction 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Red Baron Auction House (U.S. based) had a similar Mechanical Elephant for auction at some time.

Mechanical Walking Elephant

During a recent auction (c2004), Red Baron sold a mechanical elephant used by the Dayton Hudson Department Store in Chicago in the 1940s. Children would take rides on the elephant while their parents shopped. Here is the Red Baron's description:

What you see here is a life size motorized BABY elephant. This pleasing pachyderm simply makes you smile when you see it run… If you want to promote your business, participate in parades, spread goodwill or, on the remote chance you collect life size motorized mechanical elephants remember: Only at Red Baron will you find such a thing.

See a more recent article on this elephant further below.


All the images above show elephants with minor variations, mainly around the feet.  It is quite possible that one of these elephants is actually one built independently by Frank Stuart in 1948 according to this press article. If it had an electric motor, it would most likely be it.

Stuart elephant TheArgus13Jan1950 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Source: The Argus (Australia) 13 Jan 1950.


smith elephant rumcars x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

1957 – Burnhan-on-Sea sea front.

nellie baby elephant x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

If original, then most likely the only Macades electric elephant, probably the one built by Frank Stuart under contract.

I've since found out that this elephant was converted from petrol engine to battery power.


Here is an extract from Eric Smith's letter (see above) that describes the engine layout for the Macades elephants:

MACADES ELEPHANT HAD A PAPERMACHE
SKIN AND THE POWER UNIT WAS AN AIR COOLED
JAP INDUSTRIAL STATIONARY ENGINE
USED MAINLY FOR PUMPS AND COMPRESSORS
(PORTABLE ONES) THE DRIVE WAS BY FAST
AND LOOSE VEE DRIVE BELTS. THE ENGINE
MOUNTING PLATE ACTUAL SNIVELED BY A
LEVEL, TO PULL THE ENGINE FORWARD AND
TIGHTEN THE BELTS.
WE ADOPTED THIS TYPE OF ENGINE FOR
OUR SANDTRAIN OR TRACKLESS TRAIN (ONE AND
THE SAME) BUT WE USED A CENTRIFUGAL CLUTCH.
MACADES DID HAVE AN ELECTRIC ELEPHANT
BUILT BUT I CANNOT REMEMBER ANYTHING
ABOUT IT, I ONLY SAW IT ONCE FOR A FEW MINUTES.

[RH-2011 is the battery-driven elephant (see pic above) this same elephant that Eric is referring to?]


Luneside Engineering Co. (Halton) Ltd.

BAMBOO LUNESIDE Eng x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

"Bamboo" the Mechanical Elephant, from a copy that was on the wall at the Luneside Engineering works at Halton.

The noticeboard says:

LUNESIDE
ENGINEERING Co.  Halton LTD.
GENERAL ENGINEERING
MACHINING WELDING ETC
MOTOR REPAIRS
BODYWORK RE-SPRAYING

Mechanical ELEPHANT ASSEMBLY LUNESIDE[2] 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Construction of a mechanical elephant inside a Luneside Engineering workshop.

Mechanical ELEPHANT ASSEMBLY LUNESIDE[1] 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

"All aboard!" Time for a ride.

Mechanical ELEPHANT Transit LUNESIDE[1] x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

The lorry used to transport the elephants to and from their locations around alll the seaside resorts. The identifiable "LTJ…" registration plates are indicative of being registered in Lancaster County. The picture may have been taken in Ryelands Park, Lancaster. This park is alongside Owen Road which is also the A6, Lancaster's main north-south road at the time.

Pictures courtesy David Taylor and the Former Employees of Luneside Engineering.

See the Luneside Engineering story here

luneside engineering periscope 1(1) 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

The periscope inside the workshops canteen!

Luneside engineering periscope 2(1) 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Luneside eng 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

The old Luneside Engineering Co buildings have now been converted into a green-housing estate.

 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Photo courtesy Leo Hermacinski (Col. Benirski's grandson) from the family archives.


ollifantcomeshome2 x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

ollifantcomeshome5 x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

ollifantcomeshome6 x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

ollifantcomeshome3 x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

ollifantcomeshome7 x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

ollifantcomeshome11 x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

ollifantcomeshome8 x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

ollifantcomeshome14 x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Pictures and text from a blog post (2007) on J.A.P. motors here. This elephant was the one sold at an earlier Red Baron's auction (see pic earlier in this post)

Ric – Location: Florida
How bout this thing my mom picked up at an auction recently?
The motor is crank start with a centrifugal clutch that spins a pair of belt driven gear reduction jackshafts that are chained to a pair of wheels under each rear foot…

Throttle, choke and killswitch is located behind the left ear and the head is connected to the front legs with a mechanical steering linkage, so the one who actually controls the engine, steers and leads the elephant as he walks beside…

There's also a handbrake hidden within a trap door on the left side, but I leave the door open cause it can be quite a pita to access in an emergency situation

Top speed is gear limited to about 5-7mph, which is more than fast enough when you've got a bunch of kids on top of a tippy 500 lb monster


I'd seen references  to "Rajah" the Mechanical Elephant without knowing anything about it. Larry Gavette, the man who knows all about Mechanical Elephants, pointed me to this image.  Thanks Larry. This elephant also referred to as "Bimbo".

Rajah elephant 2006 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

Crosby Lion's Club Mechanical Elephant, U.K. c2010


elepha10 rhyl x640 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

At Rhyll.


mech el cromer gregory 2 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)


Ellie Four Rooms 2011 1949   Macades / Luneside Engineering Mechanical Elephant   (Frank Smith design) (British)

"Ellie" as seen on BBC 4 Rooms, a collectables auction program.


See all the Mechanical Elephants here.


1952-67 – “Bensina” the Frank Stuart Elephant in Sweden – Frank Stuart (British)

Mech Elephant Bensina Gavette 005 x640 1952 67   Bensina the Frank Stuart Elephant in Sweden   Frank Stuart (British)

"Bensina" arrived in Sweden in August 1952. It arrived with Karl Nelles, one of Frank Stuart's elephant drivers.

See here for the full Frank Stuart Mechanical Elephant stories.

Mech Elephant Bensina Gavette 006 x640 1952 67   Bensina the Frank Stuart Elephant in Sweden   Frank Stuart (British)

DAGENS NYHETER Onsdo
Eq 9 / Elefant
„Döp Stockholms nya elefant
Barnavårdsdirektör Otto Wangson, längst t. v., bland barnen. ungdomskonsulent Axel Brandt och f. d. tyske krigsfången Karl Nelles, som följt elefanten till Sverige för första provritten, pil första turen genom Stadshusträdgården.
Det var en gång en elefant som frack bensin och hade motor i magen ich hjul under fötterna. Den kom från England och skulle tjäna in pengar åt ungdomsvården i Stockholm, och den började sitt arbete len här tisdagen med att bära barnavårdsdirektören Otto Wangson några gratisvarv runt Stadshusträdgården. Det fina med den här elefanten rar att den kostar bara 25.000 kronor — en riktig kostar 40.000 och åter en massa annat än bensin —och att den inte bara kan bära barnavårdsdirektörer, utan också barn för en krona turen utan att någonsin bli trött Den kommer att börja i Stockholms parker på allvar om en vecka eller två, och nästa år ska den turnera omkring i hela Sverige med sina åtta hästkrafter svällande under papphuden.
Det var ungdomsråden i Högalid, Gustav Vasa, Matteus och S :t Göran som hittade på att ta hit elefanten från England, där den var nummer nio bland tio robotsyskon, som alla emigrerat till Amerika, utom den här som for till Sverige — uppdelad på flera trälårar, eftersom tågen inte har elefantkupéer än — och en som blev kvar hemma i Scarborough och tjänar 500 kronor om dagen på att bära engelska barn.
Elefanten har inget svenskt namn ännu, men det tror den att den ska hinna fil av stockholmarna till söndag eller nästa söndag. då den ska gå upp till Skansen genom stan och hälsa på elefanten Bambina och försöka förklara varför en elefant med motor i magen och växelspakar i huvudet ska få rida med barn i parkerna när Bambina inte får det. Den som hittar på ett bra namn åt Barnbinas rival kan få 1.000 kronor om han eller hon skickar in förslaget till adressen "Elefanten, Stockholm".
Mareng

google translation

TODAY'S NEWS Onsdo
Eq 9 / Elephant
"Name the Stockholm's new elephant
Childcare Director Otto Wangson, at the television, including children. Youth consultant Axel Brandt and former German prisoner of war Charles Nell, who followed the elephant to Sweden for the first test ride, arrow first trip through the City Hall Garden.
There was once an elephant tails gasoline engine and had the stomach ich wheels under their feet. It came from England and would earn money for youth services in Stockholm, and it began its work here on Tuesday with soft carrying childcare director Otto Wangson some free laps around the City Hall Garden. The beauty of this elephant rar it only costs 25 000 SEK – a real cost 40,000 and returned a lot more than gasoline and that it can not only bear childcare directors, but also the children for a dime tour without ever getting tired It will starting in Stockholm's parks in earnest about a week or two, and next year the touring around all over Sweden with his eight horsepower swelling in cardboard skin.
It was the youth councils in Högalid, Gustav Vasa, Matthew and St. George who came up to hit the elephant from England, where it was number nine out of ten robotic siblings, who all emigrated to America, except this one went to Sweden – divided on several wooden crates, because the trains have not yet elefantkupéer — and one who remained at home in Scarborough and earn 500 dollars a day to carry English children.
The elephant does not have a Swedish name yet, but it feels that it is time to file by the locals for a Sunday or next Sunday. then it will go up to Skansen through town and visit the elephant Bambina and try to explain why an elephant with the engine in the stomach and gear levers in the head will be riding with children in the parks when the Bambina not get it. If anyone finds a good name to the Children's rival bees may have SEK 1,000 if he or she submits the proposal to address "the elephant, Stockholm".
Mareng

Note: RH Interesting comment that this elephant, yet to be named in Sweden at the time of the report, said it was the nineth built out of a batch of 10. Further it says one remained behing to operate at Scarborough. The elephant physically looks like the 1952 model elephant as used at Margate only weeks earlier.


This blog post, plus major contributions to other Mechanical Elephants is put together by material supplied by the Mechanical Elephant aficionado and historian Larry Gavette, from Michigan, USA.  Larry once owned Jumbo, and from the late 1970's onwards spent considerable effort and time into researching these fine beasts. Its a lesson to all into researching  not to procrastinate, particularly when it comes to interviewing aged people. Most of those people Larry contacted have now passed away. In the late 70's there was no World Wide Web as we now know it, no Google to search , no online patents to search, no archived newspapers to search.  So it was a massive effort by Larry to do what he did (and continues to do) on this intriguing subject.  We are all in debt to you, Larry.

Bensina mech elephant gavette Expressen 1952 67   Bensina the Frank Stuart Elephant in Sweden   Frank Stuart (British)

From the letter we can see that this elephant was scrapped in 1967.

Bensina mech elephant Gavette cutaway x640 1952 67   Bensina the Frank Stuart Elephant in Sweden   Frank Stuart (British)

Mech Elephant Bensina Gavette 007 x640 1952 67   Bensina the Frank Stuart Elephant in Sweden   Frank Stuart (British)

Stockholms robotelefant döptes på söndagen i Kungsträdgården, där en massa människor samlats för att vara med om högtidligheten. Namnet blev Bensina, och på bilden ser man segraren i namn-pristävlingen, hr Åke Ekberger (längst t. v.), motta den utlovade påsen med 1.000 kronor av De 3 Knas, som fungerade som dopförrättare.
Bensina heter elefanten alltså — huruvida namnet är så vidare lyckat avstår Namn och nytt att yttra sig om.

EN ROBOT-ELEFANT har kommit till Stockholm. Den har köpts av ungdomsråden inon Högalid, Gustav Vasa Matteus och S:t Göran, och  kommer från England. Elefanten manövreras från förarens plats langst framme via huvudet. Den rör sig som en riktig elefant och drivs av en elektrisk motor. Det är meningen att den ska turnera i parkerna och mot mindre avgift ska barnen få rida på den. Pengarna går sedan till ungdomsrådens kassor.

Google translation

Stockholm robotic elephant was named on Sunday in King's Garden, where a lot of people gathered to be part of the ceremony. The name was gasoline, and the picture you can see the winner of the name-the Award, Mr. Ake Ekberg (far left), receiving the promised bag of 1000 crowns of the three Knas, who served as ministers of Baptism.
 Gasoline is called the elephant that is – whether the name is so on successful refrain name and new to comment on.

A ROBOT-ELEPHANT have come to Stockholm. It has purchased by the youth councils Inon Högalid, Gustav Vasa, Matthew and St. George, and comes from England. The elephant is operated from the driver's seat at the front through the head. It moves like a real elephant and operated by an electric motor. It is supposed to tour the parks and the minor charge, the children will be riding on it. The money then goes to the youth councils' funds.
 

Note: Despite what the article says, Bensina was not an electric-powered elephant.


robotelefant x640 1952 67   Bensina the Frank Stuart Elephant in Sweden   Frank Stuart (British)

Stadshusparken (City Hall Park). A robot elephant, purchased from England by youth sråden in several parishes, who will tour with passengers from Stockholm's parks . (Google translation from Swedish)
Location: The block Eldkvarn . Hantverkargatan 1 . Kungsholmen. 
Time: August 19, 1952 
Copyright: Ericsson, Vimar. 

Note: You can just see a fabricated lever, not a one-piece lever, which may indicate is was built from a different batch.