Factory of Dreams – A history of Meccano Ltd – by Kenneth D. Brown is a book which was published in 2007
As a Trustee of the Maghull based Frank Hornby Trust (Hornby lived in Maghull for much of his adult life) I had been meaning to read this book for some time and lockdown gave me the perfect opportunity. The book runs to 230 pages of quite detailed information about the highs and lows of the company from start (1901) to finish (1979) and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about Hornby Railways, Dinky Toys, Meccano and indeed other products of the vast former Binns Road toy factory in Liverpool.
Many of the photographs displayed in the book are from my good friend and fellow Frank Hornby Trust Trustee Jim Gamble who has penned his own book – Frank Hornby Notes & Pictures the cover of which is displayed below (held by me) with Jim in Meadows Leisure Centre, Maghull.
For those of you reading this who don’t know, we have a permanent exhibition in Maghull celebrating the life, works & products of Frank Hornby. It’s called the Frank Hornby Experience and it’s a bespoke part of Meadows Leisure Centre which is run by Sefton Borough Council who are valued partners of the Frank Hornby Trust. Of course access to the exhibition has been curtailed during the pandemic lockdown but we hope to be able to reopen it soon and will publicise how it can be accessed.
Returning to the book which is the subject of this posting, what I liked about it is the very obvious attention to detail by the author who clearly put great effort into understanding how Meccano Ltd was run and indeed run down.
I suppose the sad part of the story is in many ways the most relevant, how the company went into decline over a long period of time. I certainly get the impression that it’s last 20 years were, with the benefit of hindsight, leading to just one outcome – closure. Indeed, when I got my Meccano set around 1966 the end of it being a Hornby family-controlled company had already happened (in 1964) and it was being run by Lines Brothers prior to Airfix taking over in 1971 with the end coming just 8 years later.
Despite the end being so sad the book is in fact a very good read indeed.
Click on the photos to enlarge them
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.
We had a Frank Hornby Trust meeting last week and Jim Gamble came up to Maghull from Nottingham for it. Jim wrote the definitive book about Frank Hornby some years ago and I managed to track down a second hand copy not so long ago.
Whilst we were waiting for the meeting to start in Meadows Leisure Centre a library assistant came up to me and asked whether I, as a local councillor, would have my photo taken reading a book so that the library could use it to promote its work. I said fine, add me to your rouges gallery. The next issue was what should I be reading? The assistant suggested a book about Frank Hornby and popped off to get one.
What did she bring back but Jim Gamble’s book! And what she didn’t know was that the author was actually in her library! So I said why don’t we have the author in the photo as well? A stunned look came back when I pointed Jim out and asked him to join me.
So the library got its photo but one with a famous author as well as a minor local politician and it is all the better for that I think.
And now for a real Boys Toys moment! Here is a shot of Frank Hornby Trust Chairman, Les French, looking all excited at a new Meccano set he has been presented with. One of our trustees restores old Hornby items and makes them as like new as possible. Les is certainly pleased with this one, indeed he looks wide eyed just like a kid on Christmas morning!
The photos are amongst my Flickr shots at:-