Meccanos : the perfect Christmas present for petroheads
As an anglophile, I spend my time in the UK when I can be there. I learned many things about Liverpool, an underrated city, in which one of the most British iconic toys were invented by a Scouser. It's been more a century the children of different generations play with the meccanos. These little holed pieces made in metal make the happiness of millions of children as James May recalled us in his special series about toys.
A familiar engineering for all of us...
Invented by a Liverpudlian guy who enjoyed the engineering, the meccanos could be considered as the first practical tools to build motoring stuff. From an amount of colored pieces, you play using your imagination to invent unrealistic or realistic things. Seen as less simple toys, the meccanos helped of lot of architects. Remember the bridge built by James to cross one of the canals on the Pier Head in Liverpool. Made of millions of metal pieces such as strips, plates, angle girders, wheels, axles or gears, the bridge was assembled with millions of nuts and bolts at the aim of creating a safe bridge on which James crossed the canal.
Where comes from the idea of putting tiny pieces together? Frank Hornby invented a game for his children hoping the latter would like to play with it in spite of the complexity of some pieces. Some years later, he patented his invention and commercialised it under the name of « Mechanics Made Easy ». It was the beginning of a new engineering era for the British "savoir-faire".
Museum of Liverpool (© A.Saboureau)
As a scouser, Frank Hornby founded one of the biggest factory of toys in his native beloved city. Liverpool, the Beatles' city, breathed after the loss of its status of British first harbour. Known as one of the wealthiest places where the famous maritime companies such as the White Star Line and the Cunard Line were founded, Meccano Ltd offered new economical perspectives until 1979. The last hopes of a devastated city are broken when the production of the mecannos is relocated in Calais, France. Meccano has lost his last magical side with time.
A tribute for the petrolheads
Thousands of thousands of children became automotive enthusiasts. Over the therapeutic dimension, the meccanos appear like the best way to discover the hidden sides of the motoring engineering. It concerns not only the unlimited opportunities to match a piece with another one to create a basic car. You could assemble cranes, lorries and many sorts of wheeled objects. The Flying Scottish trains, which were also created by Hornby, are the best symbols with the railway kits produced in the 1920s. Later, the Dinky toys were reproduction of any sorts of transportations in miniature with their equipments.
More than simple toys, all those brands have still been a way to introduce the motoring universe. Over the decades, Meccano managed to rebirth in the hearts of people who grew up with the meccano pieces, the Hornby trains and the Dinky toys. In other words, they are considered as more than simple metal and plastic toys.
Museum of Liverpool (© A.Saboureau)
The original and rare construction sets or kits are often sold at the auctions or the modelism exhibition for expensive prices. From the harsh principles of the engineering to simple construction kits, Frank Hornby left us an important legacy for the motoring culture. Without him, we wouldn't have James May as motoring journalist and meccano enthusiast. Don't forget it and enjoy playing with your meccanos if you have them at home.