Yes guys, its that darn vintage guy again - you know, the one you thought you had seen the back of! In January this year I ended my long running series, Collectors Corner, after a run of nearly 15 years in this magazine and now Im launching a spin-off that I am calling Collectors Corner Minis - a run of very much smaller featurettes which will run monthly. It will however follow the familiar and dare I say popular Collectors Corner pattern of an interesting vintage mechanical or electrical object described, maybe restored and pictured on this page. CC itself launched back in January 1993 with an ED Black Arrow reed receiver from 1960 and the quite rare product with which Im starting my new series, is from that same period of early radio control and is the first of three parts on early electric actuators for multi.
A Minnitron Actuator
Minnitron was a very small concern based in Birchington-on-Sea, Thanet, Kent. Regular CC readers will have no doubt, sensed Taplin as soon as they read the word Birchington and yes indeed, Colonel Taps Taplin and his family were both users and keen supporters of Minnitron equipment from its inception. Workshop owner George Goodfellow was a fellow model boater in the Taplin circle and his workshop at The Premier, Minnis Road, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, made him a living servicing electromechanical domestic equipment like reel to reel tape recorders a specialty with which your writer is himself more than familiar.
Mr Goodfellows first attempt to break into the fledgling r/c boat scene and already his hobby, was the successful Taplin Micro Motor, a permanent magnet/direct current (p.m./d.c.) low voltage electric motor, a geared version of the same and an early electric r/c actuator built on the same motor, with all three marketed under the Taplin banner. All three were in fact based on a tape recorder motor that George had bought stocks of very cheaply. These products were well received and it was only because his stock of motors ran out, that George looked elsewhere and he was in luck! At that time one of the best small p.m. electric motors of the entire early r/c era was being launched by the big electrical and battery firm, Ever Ready Ltd. Their new TG-18 low voltage miniature electric motor was already being used by a number of early r/c actuator concerns and George became one of them.
And printed circuits..
At the same time, another new example of cutting edge electronic technology starting to appear, was the etched printed circuit board and George married both together successfully in his new design. Unlike his first trio of boat products, George marketed this new design, as the Universal, under his own Minnitron name and while the Taplins used this new device, they did not help to market it.
Why this was I have no idea, unless Mr Goodfellow simply desired to become independent of his bigger neighbours. As familiar as I am now with Birchington products, I must say that it is obvious that Georges rather plain packaging is virtually identical to that used by Birchington Engineering, so no doubt George used the same local packing concern - probably a firm somewhere in Margate.
The Universal - made In Thanet c1960
Looking at this Minnitron actuator today, Id say that it is both workmanlike and neatly designed, so well done George. The little motor is bolted to a compact gearbox, from the output of which is taken, via a simple slipping clutch, a multiple drilled, radial output arm and plated brass tiller arm which also operates a paxolin, rotary switching disc with metal finger contacts wiping on a fixed and gold plated printed circuit board. Seven turret tags riveted onto this circuit board provided the early sixties radio boater with a choice of multi wiring applications, of which the most often used was self-centering, power control of a boat rudder, or progressive throttle control. In each case it was driven by two channels of a four or six channel multi reed, valve radio control system, most likely made by REP or ED Ltd in the UK. A simple base is pop riveted on and provides two point rigid fixing to the hull and there is no provision whatsoever for vibration protection - a really poor point. Weight was 2.5ozs and operating voltage 4.5volts.
This item, found for us by reader Mike Britnell, is pretty much mint and boxed. I should think there are not too many still around in this condition. It has clearly never been used. The only items missing are the printed instructions and little coloured Ever Ready label, the shadow of which is still to be seen on the cream motor body. So yes, this is a pretty rare item, but its value will still not be high. It sold at forty nine shillings and a penny (inc. purchase tax), back in the summer of 1963. It sounds nothing, but that was almost £2.50 and a weeks gross pay for me then, so actually it wasnt cheap. Today, well, how about a fiver? Not much of an investment then was it?
The next CC Minis star item, is a similar and competitive British made actuator by Fred Rising of Rutland, so watch out for this in thefuture. Until then, its cheerio from Dave.
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