Category:Meccano France

From The Brighton Toy and Model Index


Meccano (France) Ltd., the French offshoot of Frank Hornby's Meccano empire, was set up by Frank with his son Roland Hornby, with a factory opening in Belleville in 1912. A replacement factory opened in Bobigny in 1951, followed by another in Calais in 1959.

Meccano France was a success, and the company produced a mixture of Meccano Ltd. designs and their own localised designs, of French railways stations and other buildings, and French railway rolling stock, and later (with the advent of Dinky Toys), French cars.

Some of these French designs then fed back into the UK via Meccano Ltd.

Branding

Most of the original British brand's theming carried over into the French enterprise, with the French company styled as Meccano Paris in agreement with the parent company's styling as "Meccano Liverpool" (with some of the early pieces marked "MLL", for "Meccano Limited, Liverpool"). With the opening of the Bobigny, "Bobigny" started appearing proudly listed on the backs of catalogues.

Meccano remained "Meccano" and Dinky Toys remained "Dinky Toys". The gauge 0 trains (referred to in advertising as "Hornby Trains", but physucally marked "Hornby Series") became Trains Hornby and Serie Hornby.

Hornby Dublo (a play on words based on the "double-oh" or "00" format) didn't seem to make it across the channel, probably partly because the range was very much themed on specifically British locomotives, rolling-stock and buildings. As a result, although Meccano Liverpool dramatically scaled back their promotion of gauge O after World War Two (to more toyish, legacy-style 0-4-0 locos) in favour of Hornby Dublo, Meccano France persisted with gauge 0 trains, and continued to release new gauge 0 (7mm to the foot) products. The gap in their range concerning "table railway" formats was eventually filled by Hornby ACHO, a brandname that similarly played on the name of the HO ("half O") format that wmerged on the Continent after WW2. While HO and 00 shared the same gauge of track (half the size of gauge 0), the difficulty of producing complex electric-motored models of steam locos in that size had led to the earlier 00 standard pragmatically adopting over-scale superstructure and accessories (at 4mm to the foot, ~1:76), while the later Continental format was able to exploit improvements in technology to allow the superstructure to be miniaturised to the same scale as the track (3.5mm to the foot, ~1/86).

Rue Rebeval

The New Meccano Building in Paris.

By FRANK HORNBY.

Boys in Great Britain have always followed the progress of Meccano in other countries with much keenness and I feel sure they will be interested to hear of the success that is crowning our effortts to make Meccano products as popular in France as they are in this country. In one way, at all events, the history of our career there, has been a repetition of our experience in England.

Over ten years ago we opened a small office at No 17 Rue Bleu, Paris, under the charge of a representative, with one clerk. We were crowded out of there, however, in very quick time, and we moved into much larger premises in Rue Ambroise Thomas. This again, soon became too small for us, but owing to the War we were compelled to make the best of the situation. At the end of the War, we immediately searche dfor more commodious premises, but found nothing suitable. Shortly after, however, a very desirable piece of land came into the market in the Rue Rébeval, not far from the centre of Paris, and as soon as I heard of this I went over to inspect it. I saw that it was an an exceedingly suitable position for the Meccano business, and immediately affected a purchase. Witout delay, our architect prepared plans for a building that would give us the accommodation and facilities we desired. The work of erecting the building was pushed forward with all speed, and at the beginning of the present year it was completed and ready for our occupation.

I was most anxious that, in addition to the building being suitable for our business, spacious, well-lighted, etc., it should also possess some architectural beauty and merit, and I leave my readers to judge from the accompanying illustration how far our architect has succeeded in giving expression to my views. In a special article which appeared in The Architect, the writer, referring to the dignity and pleasing effect of the Meccano building, states that it has attracted considerable interest in Paris and that the French Authorities themselves have expressed their pleasure at such enterprise.

The Meccano building covers 9,000 square feet, stands on an elevated site, and is conveniently situated for the rapid distribution of our goods throughout France. We have now been in occupation of the premises for several months, and I forsee thatifl,iith', and I foresee that large as they are, our French business will grow so rapidly that soon even this building will be none too commodious for us.

— , Frank Hornby, , Meccano Magazine, , November 1922

Continued success

Meccano France kept going when Meccano Ltd. went bust in the UK, and kept manufacturing Meccano, along with other sidelines - for instance, in the 1980s, while Star Wars plastic figures were manufactured in the US by Kenner and the UK by Palitoy, they were made on the continent by Meccano (France).

1935: Meccano France catalogue
1957: Catalogue cover, front and back


After the collapse of A.C. Gilbert in the US, who owned the US rights to Meccano and who produced a Meccano-alike system under their own Erector brand, Meccano France bought the rights. Nowadays, the same modern Meccano sets are sold with either "Meccano" and "Erector" branding, depending on the market that they are being sold into (so the same set sold in the UK as "Meccano" will be sold in the US as "Erector").

Meccano 2013

Meccano France still make Meccano at Calais, and in 2013 launched Meccano Evolution, a "back to basics" re-versioning of Meccano that returned to the system's original mechanical roots, with narrower strips and halved spacings between the holes, to allow a larger number of parts in a set for a given amount of metal.

2013 also saw the launch of Meccano Lab, a playspace and R&D centre in Calais site encourages educational play and Meccano-building.

External links

the rue Rébeval building:
Meccano in France:

Subcategories

This category has the following 5 subcategories, out of 5 total.

B

F

M

Media in category ‘Meccano France’

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