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The Meccano Magazine

Duration: 3:29 minutes
Accession No: TWCMS : 2009.385
This story has been viewed 6970 times

Summary
John's story is about the Meccano Magazine, which he read regularly as a boy.

By John D Watson


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Video transcript

The Meccano Magazine. Like many boys who grew up in the nineteen-forties and fifties, I owe a lot to the genius of Frank Hornby who around 1900 invented the toy that came to be known as Meccano. The company he set up in Liverpool also produced Hornby trains and, from the 1930s, Dinky Toys. The company started to produce the "Meccano Magazine" in 1916. At first this consisted essentially of promotional literature for the company's products but other material was gradually added, consisting mainly of articles on technical subjects such as railways, shipping, aviation, and bridge-building.

I took the Meccano Magazine each month from 1946 to 1955, and my Meccano models gradually became more elaborate during that time. My interest received a boost in about 1950 when I was given a large quantity of pre-war Meccano parts by a friend of the family. The same person also gave me a number of pre-war copies of the Meccano Magazine. These were quite a revelation: the copies I was used to consisted of 50 or 60 pages measuring about 8in by 6in but the pre-war issues typically had about 80 pages which were twice the size of those in the postwar version (and all for 6d per copy).

The February 1935 issue is a typical example of the "golden age" of the magazine. It included articles on silk screen colour printing, hydro-electric plant, table-top photography, monoplanes, exploring in Africa, locomotive turntables, and the Belah viaduct. Regular features included engineering news, air news, railway news, books to read, competitions, a page of jokes, and stamp collecting. There were also, of course, articles on Meccano model construction and Hornby trains. The magazine also served to record the activities of the Meccano Guild and the Hornby Railway Company, each of which had branches all around the British Isles and a number overseas. Some of these branches were quite large, with dozens of members - all of whom were naturally regular purchasers of the company's products.  In the postwar period the branches were less active than they had been before the war and although some of my friends were Meccano enthusiasts there was no branch in West Hartlepool where I lived.

The Meccano company went into decline in the 1960s and the Liverpool factory closed in 1979. The Meccano Magazine inevitably ceased publication. Products bearing the Meccano name are still made in other countries but bear little relationship to those developed by Frank Hornby.

I suppose that my own career as a mechanical engineer must owe something to Meccano products and the Meccano Magazine, but it is difficult to gauge how much I was influenced by them. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the forces which later led me to take up engineering were the same forces which had drawn me to Meccano as a boy.

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