By Ann Evans
Photos by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
Did you build cranes and bridges from Meccano when you were little? Then you’ll be fascinated to see what the big boys – and girls are building from it today.
The Telford and Ironbridge Meccano Society (TIMS) are staging their amazing Meccanuity 2016 exhibition this coming Bank Holiday Weekend, 30th April – 2nd May at Enginuity, one of the ten fascinating Ironbridge Gorge Museums in Shropshire, which also happens to be the home base for the Meccano Society.
Now in its 15th year, the Meccanuity exhibition has grown to become one of the biggest in the country with an impressive array of large and small, intricate and highly detailed models. Many of which are working models, powered by hydraulic, steam, clockwork or electricity, which just have to be seen to be believed.
Meccanuity 2016 is a real family show and there will be lots of Meccano parts available for youngsters to have a go at creating their own masterpieces. As a toy, Meccano is 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. Of course the beauty of it being, you can take the whole lot apart and transform it into something new.
Visitors to the exhibition can expect to find giant cranes, steam engines, pattern-drawing machines, fairground rides, clocks, cars, buses, trains, boats and much more. There will also be the latest programmable robots from Meccano, or Meccanoids, the largest being around 4ft tall.
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.
Meccano was invented by 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.
On the Sunday of this 3-day event The Meccanuity Challenge will be taking place. This year it will be the ‘relay race’, when clockwork or electric Meccano vehicles will be used in teams battling for the ‘gold’ trophy.
Also, every year, exhibitors compete for the John Linder Memorial Shield, commemorating one of the founder members of the Telford and Ironbridge Meccano Society. This year, the Shield will be awarded for the best model that represents 25 years of the society, which began back in 1991. Last year it was awarded to 82-year-old Ken Senar for his large semi-amphibious vehicle known as the Orlyonok – or Eaglet, complete with an armoured personnel carrier in its hold.
Series and Defender Land Rovers have been chosen for this year’s Meccanuity theme to help inspire exhibitors, in celebration, and perhaps mourning too, of these long lived vehicles that ceased production in January of this year after almost 68 years. For the first time, exhibitors entering themed models will compete for the Keith Way Memorial Trophy.
For further information call the Ironbridge Tourist Information Centre on 01952 433 424 or visit www.ironbridge.org.uk and for more information on The Telford and Ironbridge Meccano Society, visit: www.tims.org.uk.