The Little World – Dux

Dux is a strange word here in Australia. People who are the highest – scoring students at their schools are known as the Dux of the class. Older women are also called Ducks – it is a term of easy affection.

But the Dux I remember was an entirely different thing – it was the Christmas of 1959 when I encountered the Dux construction set. I had no idea at the time how unusual it was in the world of toys.

You’ll all know Meccano from the UK and some of you will know the A.C. Gilbert Erector sets from the USA. Dux was from Germany, and I am now convinced that it was East Germany rather than the Bundesrepublik. A very unusual thing for 1959 as it was the height of the Cold War.

Still, the DDR needed foreign currency, and the department store in Canada that stocked the Dux set might have gotten them in for the Christmas trade at a very cheap price. The set was my prized present for the year, and it came in quite a large red cardboard organiser box. There were steel girders, connector plates, plastic sheets, L brackets, T brackets, wheels, axles, rubber tyres, and a wonderful fully articulated clamshell bucket. It had the look of Meccano to some extent but the girders were stiffened with a steel lip at one edge that meant they could support themselves better. The fastenings were good-quality plated nuts and bolts but there were some very odd little grommets that enabled steel shafts to turn in the girders.

There was an instruction book but even I could tell at that stage that the writer of it was not an English-speaker. I have since learned to recognise the Teutonic technical style as the Metz electronic flash company used it in all their customer communications. It was at once the most painful and frustration document you could read – the photos and diagrams hinted at wonders that the text could not support.

Well, when you’re 11 you don’t need an engineering degree to invent things, and I spent years using that Dux set to do just that. Cars, trucks, cranes, etc…though I never did succeed in getting that clamshell bucket to work properly – it was a fine piece but you needed to rig up pullys and blocks as well as the steel work to make an overhead loader of it.  It was always going to be the next project.

Well, I am ready for it now, but all trace of the Dux construction sets seems to have vanished – perhaps they evaporated with the DDR. I’ve tried eBay with no success and even the basic Google search for illustrations produces very little – certainly not the thing I remember. It might be too much to hope that an entire set has survived, but I would settle for the clamshell bucket.

There is an overhead coal loader in me that is itching to get out.

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