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Picture of the month

2024 6   Metal accessories - 1.

This month I'm launching a longer series on bridge accessories.
Learning from the inconsistencies in the development of the Old Series (AF) (see Picture of the month August 2017), the factory started developing the (then) New Series (NF) in 1894. Instead of AF sets, NF sets were now offered to customers, and to extend the previously purchased AF sets, they also offered conversion sets instead of supplement set, which allowed a continuation in the NF series.

When the development was put on a normal track and everyone could relax, it was time to get on with the boss's hobby. Hardy writes in his book that it was under Richter's personal interest and supervision that the development turned to things made of metal. He was also responsible for the introduction of music boxes, but this has nothing to do with the subject of building blocks.
The NF series was organised in a very simplified system. The odd numbers were small caliber (KK) sets, the even numbers were large caliber (GK). The basic sets were numbered and the accessories were marked with a number + A. Thus NF 1 is the basic set and the corresponding supplement is 1A. Thus 1 + 1A = 3. Similarly, in the large caliber series, e.g. 6 + 6A = 8.

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For the third stage of the series (KK 0, 1, then 3 and GK 0, 2, then 4), a subsequent modification resulted in the addition of a U-shaped metal bridge and two metal roadbed elements to the basic set and the supplementary set.
This was a bridge number 1 and two roadbed plates number 2 for the KK sets, and a bridge number 3 and two roadbed plates number 4 for the GK series. It is true that bridge number 1 is 2 cm high and 100 cm long (5 units), but 34 mm wide. If we add to this the horizontal part of the bridge railing at the top of the bridge element (2 mm on each side), it is 2 mm narrower than the 2 unit KK size. The GK bridge is 2.5 cm high and 100 cm long (4 units), but 37.5 mm wide. Adding the railing to this gives a size larger than one and a half times the GK unit.

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The KK NF 1A set has been rearranged, several stones have been removed and the bridge has been inserted into their place. The GK NF 2A set also suffered the same fate. As a result, instead of NF 1 + NF 1A = NF 3, the formula modified to NF 1 + NF 1A (with metal, marked the same way) = NF 3 ½. These sets were given to those who bought a supplement or the third basic box. The situation was similar for GK, where the formula 2 + 2A = 4 was changed to 2 + 2A = 4 ½ by the introduction of 2A with a bridge.

It is a strange twist of fate that KK 1A and KK 3 ½ contain elements numbered 1 and 2, but the same elements appear on the layout drawing of the 2A GK set, while elements numbered 3 and 4 appear only on the layout drawing of the 4 ½ set. Ad van Selms has indicated that not only does the layout drawing show different items in the two GK sets, but he has also encountered boxes that did contain them. It is also true that after a hundred years it is difficult to say what may have been in the box when it was shipped from the factory to a shop.
Hardy did not confirm the existence of the NF 3 ½ set in his book, he only listed it as a theoretical box that could be achieved through the combination of sets 1 + 1A (bridge). Since the book was written such sets have appeared, one of which I am the happy owner.

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I only know the KK building plan booklet, this one has the printing mark 1A=3 ½. More on this later.
Some pages of the construction booklet have been used to present buildings with bridges, but some pages of the original base set 3 models have been retained where the available shapes were sufficient to build the structure. The booklet is thus mixed: some pages are from the original NF3 booklet and can be built using the NF1 + NF1A (bridge) boxes (despite the removed stones), while others have models with bridges on them.
On my sample 1A kit, the printing mark is "1A=3 Im", which means that the concept of the bridge supplement boxes was there from the beginning, it was just not clear to the customer. More on that next month.
It is also certain that the first sets with bridges were intended to be the "antechamber" for the larger boxes that followed, as can be guessed from page 16 of the building plan booklet. Here, there was always a decoy drawing of a structure that could only be built after the purchase of the next supplement box.

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Hardy writes in his book that the small bridge add-ons were developed at a later date after the NF series had been launched, and that the purchasers of the larger boxes were not informed of the small bridges. Thus, they can at best be referred to as a "distraction". My understanding is that the small bridge elements are the lead up to the larger bridges and boxes. If one has already bought a larger bridge set, the small bridge element of the small box is of little use. However, the plan booklet for the box with the small bridge promised the customer the possibility of making bigger and prettier buildings, which I think was a great marketing deed.
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