Frank Hornby (15 May 1863 – 21 September 1936) was an English inventor, businessman and politician. He was a visionary in toy development and manufacture, and although he had no formal engineering training, he was responsible for the invention and production of three of the most popular lines of toys based on engineering principles in the 20th century: Meccano, Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys. Hornby’s legacy has persisted long after his death with enthusiasts all over the world still building Meccano models and collecting his toys.
After experimenting with new ideas in his home workshop, Hornby began making toys for his sons in 1899 with pieces he cut from sheet metal. He built models of bridges, trucks and cranes, although the pieces they were made from were not interchangeable. The breakthrough came when Hornby realized that if he could make separate, interchangeable parts that could be bolted together, any model could be built from the same components.
The key inventive step was the realization that regular perforations in the structural pieces could be used, not only to join them together with nuts and bolts, but also to journal – act as a bearing for – axles and shafts. This made the construction of complex mechanisms relatively simple. He started making metal strips by hand from sheets. The strips were half an inch wide with holes for bolts spaced at half-inch intervals.
Mechanics Made Easy
Hornby now called his construction toy “Mechanics Made Easy” and after receiving a positive endorsement from professor Henry Selby Hele-Shaw, then Head of the Engineering Department at Liverpool University, Hornby managed to secure contracts with outside manufacturers to supply the parts for his construction sets. Each set had only 16 different parts with a leaflet detailing the construction of 12 models. In September 1907, Hornby registered his famous “Meccano” trade mark and used this name on all new sets. The rest is history.
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Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.