Small toys for big boys

In June 2023, Mini Big Rigs6 MinutesBy Niels JansenJuly 24, 2023

This month, European correspondent Niels Jansen brings us a Mini Big Rigs story with a difference, reporting on the world’s biggest- scale model show of its type.

Modelshow Europe is, as the name implies, an exhibition for scale models. It is organised annually in March/April and is held in Ede, the Netherlands. It is specifically focused on a certain form of model making, namely cranes, earthmoving equipment, heavy haulage and special trucks.

After being absent or minimised for a few years due to pandemic restrictions, this year’s 30th edition was bigger and better than ever. The unique event was sponsored by well-known European names such as Nooteboom Trailers, Spierings Mobile Cranes and Mammoet Heavy Lifting and Transport, among others.

In an empty flower auction hall covering an area of more than 2000m2, 75 professional exhibitors from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Romania, Switzerland, the UK and, of course, The Netherlands promoted and sold anything in the field of miniature vehicles and machinery. In addition, 350 hobbyists showed their precision scale work. And to please the public, many participants demonstrated how they construct such miniatures.

Of course, there were also stalls with all kinds of parts, decals, paint, photographs, books, magazines and videos on the subject. Popular with the owners of radio-controlled vehicles or machinery and spectators was the ‘Playground’, where all the RC-scale models are shown in operating mode. The main track was set up by a RC Club from Papendrecht, the Netherlands. A nice gesture was that non-members were allowed to show and drive their remote control ‘toys’ on it.

X-treem RC-Trucker from Germany is a big name in this field, selling the latest remote-control loaders, excavators, bulldozers, dump trucks and hydraulic machinery. It claims it sources the latest and greatest RC products from around the world and will also ship them to many countries. It exhibited some amazing models at the show.

RC-Lab from the Netherlands started in 2014 to make custom parts for RC cranes and, not long after, earthmoving machines and trucks. Manufacturing miniature concrete blocks is the company’s speciality. It has also developed a complete light system for Tamiya Scania and Volvo trucks, which includes a fully working dashboard.

The common scale for radio-controlled vehicles and machinery is 1:16, with intriguing masterpieces to be admired in this and 1:8 scale. RSJ Scandinavian Brick Scale Models was initiated by Dutch truck driver Ralf Samuel Janse some years ago. His speciality is building 1:16 scale trucks using Lego bricks and parts (nothing is 3D-printed). He does not use a kit or blueprints, only a set of photos of the real thing to custom-build the interior and exterior of his trucks to his design.

Many hobbyists have lately moved from the Lego City scale to the larger 1:16. Renowned French enthusiast Bernard Perier showed two unique heavy trucks made of Meccano parts in 1:18 scale. One was a forward-control rigid Shell tanker, the other a typical old-style US 18-wheeler. For the van trailer, parts from a Blue-Gold box 7 were used. The fibre/ carton Meccano sheets dated from 1934 (yes, you read that right); sheet metal parts from Meccano did not appear until 1938. A complete description of this unique model was published in Constructor Quarterly (No.135).

Many hobbyists showed smaller HO-scale trucks, cranes and earthmoving equipment, which are a lot more realistic when you do not have enough space at home to tinker with king-size models. And, of course, the smaller miniatures cost far less.

But ‘big is beautiful’ certainly applied to the huge 1:8.5 scale Manitowac 18000 crawler crane that Englishman Tim Trick assembled on the floor of the hall. It is said to be the biggest accurate-scale model of this crane in the world at a height of 5m and weight of 360kg. It is entirely scratch-built, and he started work on it in 2014 after two years of design. Apart from the boom, it is made completely of aluminium. Like the real machine, it has fully working hydraulic cylinders. Tim must break it up into smaller parts to transport it, just as they have to do with the real Manitowac crane.

Organiser Willem Kuiper, also the driving force behind the Dutch Mack fanclub, can look back on a very successful show.