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
This is the last of my postings regarding the quite excellent new exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool which is presently inaccessible due to our health crisis of course.
Anything to do with Hornby and the products of his Binns Road factory interest me as a Trustee of the Maghull based Frank Hornby Trust so of course the section of the Liverpool on Wheels exhibition was always going to draw me to it. Here are my photos:-
Like the Museum of Liverpool the Frank Hornby Experience exhibition (within Meadows Leisure Centre) in his home town of Maghull is also presently closed but hopefully both will be accessible when we come out the other side of this dreadful health crisis. I’m guessing that the period the Liverpool on Wheels exhibition will be open could be extended? It’s presently due to close on 1st November………
My congratulations to Sharon Brown (Curator of Land Transport at NML) and her colleagues for an excellent exhibition.
Click on the photos to enlarge them
A visit to Southport a few days ago found me in the rather excellent Atkinson Centre on Lord Street as the rain hammered down.
The museum part of the Atkinson is one that covers all of Sefton Borough and there is a large section of it all about the products of Frank Hornby, Maghull’s most famous resident who lived in the town most of his adult life. Indeed, as I stood there looking at the Meccano exhibits I heard a chap nearby say exactly that ‘he’s Maghull’s most famous resident’.
I was particularly taken with the Meccano built model of a sea plane and took some photos of it. Trouble is the exhibits are behind glass so getting a decent photo without reflections from the glass was a bit of a challenge. Here are my efforts:-
The first and third photos are amongst my Flickr shots at:-
Maghull was of course the home of Frank Hornby for many years of his life as he developed Meccano into the iconic engineering toy that it still is.
This is me donating my old maccano set to the Trust. I am pictured with Trust Chairman Les French, former Trustee John Keogh and Cllr. Geoff Howe – then Mayor of Maghull
Here the BBC – see link above – has a story from Belfast which all Meccano fans will appreciate.
The Frank Hornby Trust is a Maghull based charitable trust dedicated to the life, works and products of the world famous Liverpool toy maker.
Not so long ago I bought a second hand book called ‘The Products of Binns Road’ from the Hornby Companion Series by Peter Randall.
A fascinating book in itself but then what fell out of it? Well a letter dated February 1980 from a chap in New Jersey together with an undated British press cutting headed ‘Sit-In goes on at Meccano’ and a page from the Los Angeles Times dated 7th November 1978.
British newspaper article – Daily Telegraph?
The Los Angeles Times article is all about ‘Erector’, the US equivalent to Meccano – indeed the Erector brand is now owned by Meccano. Here it is:-
Los Angeles Times 7th November 1978
Click on the article to enlarge it.
This got me thinking about what the differences/similarities were/are between Meccano and Erector and I found this web site:-
All in all a insight into Erector/Meccano and indeed the history of the book because the letter, mentioned above, was returning it to ‘Al’ who had clearly loaned it to a chap living in Park Ridge New Jersey.
All this connects to Liverpool and of course Maghull as the Meccano factory was in Liverpool’s Binns Road and Frank Hornby, the inventor of Meccano, was and still is Maghull’s most famous resident and the reason the Frank Hornby Trust was set up.
The Frank Hornby Room at Meadows Leisure Centre in Maghull has an exhibition of items associated with Frank Hornby and his products that have been brought together by the Trust. Check with the Leisure Centre before making a trip to see them though as the room is multi-use so is not always available to view the display cases.