The Science Series comprised of nine individual kits and experiments based on the inventor or discoverer and even included a bust of the person responsible. There are also three distinct series of sets allowing you to discover about a Weather Station, Plastics Engineering, something Rovex knew just a little about and finally, Electronics Engineering. This really is a slightly erroneous description as no inclusion was made of any type of semiconductor device. It was a set from the latter series I received, aged 12, as a Christmas present on the 25th of December 1963.
Being brought up with Tri-ang Railways, we're about the same age, I have always been interested in the operation of model railways or really, playing trains and subsequently the electrical circuitry required to control them. This set was the ideal gift. My interest in making scenery has always been minimal, carried out only as an extreme necessity.
It would be fair to assume that there would be four types of Electronic Engineering sets in the series but only two, the Mk. II and the Mk. IV were illustrated in the catalogue. In the set instruction book however, listings were given for all four marks, the difference being the number of accessories supplied with each of the sets.
The set consisted of a moulded plastic case with a transparent plastic lid, with all the components for assembly and operation located in three internal boxes covered in yellow tissue paper, with plastic lids and labelled "Laboratory Apparatus". The remaining surface had an array of holes, not unlike a Meccano plate, for mounting most of the accessories. The six volt power supply is derived from four internal 1.5 volt batteries and as they say, batteries not included.
The internal or fixed wiring requires installation by the purchaser. The principal adopted is installation and assembly of a number of devices which then requires connection by fixed wiring to a programming panel. These devices can then be connected together by means of loose wires or jumpers inserted into the holes making contact with a spring tag behind. All assembly is by means of self tapping screws for wire terminations, switch contacts and connecting panel contacts with bolts used for mechanical fixture.
Equipment supplied for self assembly includes an electric bell, a light sensing detector or photocell, a relay with one change over unit, a bimetallic thermometer with variable temperature contact settings, a water detector and an additional, fully enclosed relay where the armature winding operates on the set's six volts but the make contact is rated to switch a domestic mains supply at about five amps. No doubt this sort of device would not be permitted by the draconian Health & Safety zealots of today.
The first listed experiment is proving the set actually works and that you are able to follow the wiring instructions. This means inserting the four batteries, installing two jumpers, turning the master switch on and checking that the bell rings. It does; good start.
By following the excellent illustrations in the instruction book the relay and photocell are fitted onto the mounting hole array. The thermometer thermostat unit is assembled by mounting the bimetallic coil in the plastic housing along with the pre printed temperature indication label. Calibration is by comparison with another thermometer. That's it; we are now ready to proceed with the experiments.
The experiments consist of making lights work in series and parallel circuits, dimming lights with the rheostat, using the water detector or photocell to operate the relay and subsequently the lights and bell. This experiment is considered the most significant demonstration as many applications in real life depend on relays latching in the on or off position.
Surely the most bizarre experiment in the book is one described as a "Biological Experiment". This requires the voluntary or otherwise assistance of an earthworm. The instructions are that the poor beastie should be kept well wetted and placed on several layers of paper, also well wetted. Electrodes are to be placed at either end, battery voltage applied and the worm's reaction observed. The polarity is then to be reversed. I now quote from the instruction book. "Most worms will tend to stretch when the nose is near the negative end and to double up when the nose is at the positive end. We are not sure of the reason for this". Oh well! I must state that I did not pursue this experiment, not for any particularly ethical reason but earthworms are not that easy to come by three floors up in a Glasgow tenement.
From my personal point of view, I achieved a great deal of enjoyment and knowledge for what now, many years on, seems such a simple outfit. This set instigated a basic knowledge of electricity and low voltage switching principles. This foundation has not been wasted as five years later it pointed to a career with Post Office Telephones who at that time relied on an electromechanical switching system known as Strowger. These Tri-ang Lionel sets were very advanced for their time and must have required much careful thought by their designers to make them so enjoyable for young people to play with and to learn from.