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History of  MECCANO Ltd and HORNBY model trains 

Frank Hornby

"The man who changed the way

we played"

Frank Hornby worked in a Liverpool shipping office in Victorian England. His hobby was his workshop. Married with two boys of his own he was soon turning his efforts to making  a toy crane for the lads. "What a waste of time making special parts for single use" he mused. Gradually the idea of perforated metal strips able to be used again in different ways and bolted together formed in his mind.

He laboriously cut out copper strips and punched holes at regular intervals to make parts for a constructional toy.

The size of the strips  and the hole spacing has stayed much the same to the present day.

The success of this idea with his own boys led him into a commercial venture.

In 1901 the first patent for "Mechanics Made Easy "was lodged. Tin boxes of nickel plated strips, steel axle rods, brass wheels, with nuts and bolts were marketed under this brand.

The idea was initially slow to sell but thankfully for us all Frank persisted.

In 1910 he coined the name "Meccano" and the product became a runaway success.

As Meccano Ltd grew to further promote the product the Meccano Magazine  was developed and first published in 1916.

After World War 1 Meccano Ltd started producing  Hornby Trains in the then  popular O gauge. Initially they  were a constructional toy like Meccano, but this soon changed to the cheaper tab and slot construction. This was to grow to a vast range of items in the then popular 0 Gauge.

Initially all the locomotives were clockwork, but over time this gave way to electric power. At first mains voltage then 6-volt and finally settling on the 20-volt AC system. Hornby produced both clockwork and later,

3-rail electric track systems. A range of lineside accessories followed including stations, signals, level crossings, signal boxes, engine sheds, good sheds, water cranes, line side huts, tunnels & pedestrian foot bridges. Nearly all were made of tinplate with a tinprinted finish.

In 1927 the Meccano sets saw the introduction of coloured parts. The classic dark red and green sets became the standard. A new colour scheme with blue cross hatched with yellow stipes was tried.

A return to a brighter red & green appeared in the post war period.

This was followed in 1931 by the introduction of Diecast toys under the name Modelled Miniatures. This became the range of models known as Dinky Toys, with which we are so familiar. These like the Hornby Trains grew into a large  range of models.

Meccano Ltd   introduced Hornby Dublo  (OO) in 1938 to compete with the European table top railways first introduced by Bing of Germany. Construction was  diecast and lithographed tinplate.

In the post World War II period, an updated range of super detailed  rolling stock made its appearance. The company made use of the new injection plastic moulding techniques.

The range of locomotives expanded to include diesels, an electric multiple unit and finally an overhead electric 3000 class locomotive.

Meccano Ltd was also responsible for many other products including Dinky Builder, Kemex chemistry sets, "Electron"  electrical experimental sets.  Meccano Ltd expanded their range with Meccano motor car and aeroplane  constructional kits,  clockwork boats and finally  Bayko a forerunner to Lego.

Meccano Ltd ran into financial difficulties in the  1960s and eventually sold the Model Railway  business to its rival Tri-ang. Meccano Ltd struggled on for some time but eventually was wound up in 1970s.  The last vestiges of this once proud name is only to be found in France where Meccano is still manufactured. 

Thankfully the Hornby name lives on today,

re-emerging as Hornby Plc. owning a vast empire of model railway brands, Airfix kits and Humbrol paints.

Sadly no longer the products of Binns Rd
Liverpool nor  
"British and Guaranteed "are made today. 

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