By Ann Evans
Photos courtesy of Rob Tysall of Tysall’s Photography
Are you one of the millions of people who played with Meccano as a child? Remember bolting together the strips of metal and making a crane of a truck? Well you might be surprised to learn that some people have taken Meccano a step further. To see what I mean, you could go along to Enginuity at the Ironbridge Museums in Telford, Shropshire today to catch the last of a 3-day Meccano exhibition – Meccanuity 2015, staged by the Telford and Ironbridge Meccano Society.
The inventor of Meccano was Liverpool-born inventor, Frank Hornby – who also invented the train set, the dinky toy and Scalextric. He began by making toys to amuse his own three children. In January 1901, just a few days before the death of Queen Victoria, Frank Hornby patented his invention making it the last great Victorian invention. It’s original name was Mechanics Made Easy. The name Meccano was registered in 1907.
If you’re heading along to the Meccanuity 2015 event today, don’t be surprised if you find some of the Meccano enthusiasts dressed in appropriate Victorian garb. When I attended a previous show I discovered Society member Tim Martin bore an uncanny resemblance to the famous toy inventor, Frank Hornby, and Roger Thorpe looked a most imposing figure as the great engineer of the Industrial Revolution Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Meccano hasn’t only found uses as a toy however, in 1937 Meccano was used to build the world’s first programmable industrial robot, called Robot Gargantua. The only known replica of this is currently displayed in Enginuity.
But as a toy, it’s something of an icon. For more than 100 years it has taught generations of boys and girls basic engineering principles as they build all kinds of constructions and contraptions from perforated metal strips, wheels, pulley, nuts and screws. And of course the beauty of it being, you can take the whole lot apart and transform it into something new. It’s also one of those toys that doesn’t get thrown away, and you’ll always find used boxes of Meccano at car boot sales and toy fairs.
Yu can bet that the organisers of Meccanuity 2015 are always on the look out for additional Meccano bits and pieces as they continue to build the most amazing and impressive range of models. The majority of them are complex working and interactive constructions including intricate working clocks, scaled vehicles and fairground rides, steam engines, cranes and a lot more.
There promises to be fun and competitions, and today (Monday 4th May) enthusiasts and the public are invited to compete in the first ever Radio Controlled Meccano Time Trial. Vehicles and batteries are supplied.
So, why not go along and bring back some happy childhood memories of playing with Meccano. And if the kids aren’t already into Meccano, this will be a whole new fantastic experience for them.
For further information of the Telford & Ironbridge Meccano Society which was formed in 1991, and hold their meetings at Enginuity, please visit: www.tims.org.uk