Many people living in retirement in Sefton, Liverpool, Knowsley etc. will have worked at this world famous toy factory. Indeed, many visitors to the Frank Hornby Experience displays within Maghull’s Meadows Leisure Center tell us that they or a relative worked there and it’s always great to hear stories about working lives there.
Not so long ago, with the help of Keith Page, I purchased a Dinky Toy model of a green and white toy bus which was made at the Meccano Factory. Here’s the bus:-
Then my fellow Frank Hornby Trust trustee Les French pointed out that there’s a photo in Jim Gamble’s book ‘Frank Hornby Notes & Pictures’ of a lady spray painting the very type of bus I had purchased. I made contcat with Jim Gamble, who lives in Nottingham and is pretty much the greatest living expert on Meccano, and asked him if he had the original photo – he did! Here it is:-
The photo is from the 1950’s I might add and as Jim Gamble says in his book ‘Note the minimal amount of protection from paint or fume contamination’
The toy bus and the 1950’s photo are now displayed together in the Frank Hornby Heritage Center, which is located within Meadows Leisure Centre, Hall Lane, Maghull. The displays are open for the public to look at during the normal opening hours of Maghull Library.
Click on the photos to enlarge them
Note:- To my knowledge there were red and white toy buses made too but because the 1950’s shot is in black and white it could clearly be of buses being sprayed in other than green and white.
I still have to pinch myself when I think that world famous toy manufacturer/inventor Frank Hornby lived for most of his adult life in Maghull on Merseyside, but live in this dormitory suburb of Liverpool he certainly did at two houses – The Hollies on Station Road and Quarry Brook off Hall Lane. Both houses still stand and whilst The Hollies is very much still a private residence (with the first ever English Heritage Blue Plaque on it outside of London) Quarry Brook is now the 6th Form Block of Maricourt High School.
Michael Portillo with Frank Hornby Trust Chairman Les French as seen on TV.
So having rehearsed that bit of local history what about the upcoming anniversary? Hornby’s most famous products are Dinky Toys, Meccano and Hornby Trains. It’s the latter we looking at now as his first ‘O’ gauge trains appeared in 1920, so 2020 is a big year particularly for those who collect them. And it’s a worldwide hobby too as the transmission of Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys TV programme has demonstrated. I’m talking about the one that was filmed in Maghull and related the story of how model railways became so popular as a consequence of people riding on real railways. As that TV programme gets shown around the world the Maghull based charity the Frank Hornby Trust gets queries quite literally from across the world. Only recently I had an email (I’m one of its Trustees) from Australia asking me what the opening times and days are for Maghull’s Meadows Leisure Center so the enquirer could see the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre displays within it on a visit from Down Under.
100 years of Hornby ‘O’ Gauge
And even more recently I had the pleasure of meeting an elderly lady called Noel from Ashton-In-Makerfield who called at the Heritage Center to donate some items of Hornby ‘O’ gauge tinplate which had belonged to her now deceased husband who wanted the items well looked after. The items date from the 1930’s and are in lovely condition, so of course we were delighted to accept them into our collection. The engine and carriage below are from that donation:-
I understand that members of the Hornby Collectors Association are in the process of organising a 100 years celebration event next year that it will likely be held on Merseyside, so once details are finalised I’ll return to this matter with more information.
Oh and by the way our small Hornby Heritage collection in Meadows Leisure Center is a little short of good condition Dinky Toys if there are any potential donors out there?