Frank Hornby (Hornby, Meccano, Airfix)

Visionary toy manufacturer English inventor, businessman and politician Frank Hornby was born 15 May 1863. 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 twentieth century: Meccano, Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys. He also founded the British toy company Meccano Ltd in 1908. At the age of sixteen, Hornby left school and started working as a cashier in his father’s business. On 15 January 1887 he married a schoolteacher Clara Walker Godefroy, the daughter of acustoms officer and they had two sons, Roland and Douglas, and a daughter, Patricia. When his father died in 1899, his father’s business was closed and Hornby became abook keeper in Liverpool. 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 realised that if he could make separate, inter changeable parts that could be bolted together, any model could be built from the same components. The key inventive step was the realisation that regular perforations in the structural pieces could be used, not only to join them together with nuts and bolts, but be used as a bearing for – axles and shafts. This made the construction of complex mechanisms relatively simple. He started making metal strips by hand from copper sheets. The strips were half an inch wide with holes for bolts spaced at half inch intervals these became known as Meccano.

Hornby patented his invention in January 1901 as “Improvements in Toy or Educational Devices for Children and Young People”. Hornby began looking for companies to manufacture his product, but it was poorly finished. Fortunately, his employer saw potential in what Hornby was doing and offered him some vacant premises next to the office where he worked to pursue his ideas. With this move, Elliot and Hornby became partners.Hornby now called his construction oy “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 secured contracts with outside manufacturers to supply the parts for his construction sets. With the financial assistance of his partner, “Mechanics Made Easy” sets went on sale in 1902. Each set had only 16 different parts with a leaflet detailing the construction of 12 models. In 1903, 1,500 sets were sold, and new parts were continually being introduced until in 1904, six sets, packed in tin boxes with instruction manuals in French and English, became available. In 1905 two new sets were introduced and By 1907 Hornby’s part suppliers could not meet the demand. So Hornby quit his job with Elliot and secured a three year lease on a workshop in Duke Street, Liverpool, and they were manufacturing their own parts by June 1907.

In September 1907, Hornby registered his famous “Meccano” trade mark and used this name on all new sets. This led to the formation of Meccano Ltd on 30 May 1908 and in 1910 the famous “MECCANO” logo was commissioned. Meccano was exported to many countries and in 1912, Hornby and his son, Roland, formed Meccano (France) Ltd in Paris to manufacture Meccano. An office was also opened in Berlin, Germany and Märklin began to manufacture Meccano under licence. Hornby also started importing clockwork motors from Märklin.In order to keep pace with demand, a new factory was built in Binns Road, Liverpool. By September 1914 the Binns Road Factory was in full production and became the company headquarters for over 60 yeaers in addition to Meccano, Hornby developed and manufactured a number of other model kits and toys, including:1909 – “Hornby System of Mechanical Demonstration”, an educational set. In 1916, Hornby launched a monthly publication, Meccano Magazine, which remained in circulation for over sixty years, and in 1930 he formed the Meccano Guild, an amalgamation of Meccano clubs from all over the world.

The first clockwork train was produced in 1920 and Clockwork lithographed tinplate O scale trains we’re produced in. 1927 –. Even though the export models were often painted in ‘foreign’ liveries, Hornby trains looked very British. Hornby attempted to break into the American market by setting up a factory in 1927 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to make American-style trains. These were colourful and attractive, but low market and only clockwork. They probably would have failed in the marketplace because several established U.S. firms could undercut them and Hornby offered no better-class goods or electric models, but the Wall Street Crash precipitated matters. In late 1929, Meccano Ltd. sold its New Jersey factory to the A. C. Gilbert Company and Hornby trains had vanished from the U.S. market by 1930. The leftover inventory was sold in Canada and in the UK and some of the tooling was reused for products in other markets.

In 1934 Hornby introduced Dinky Toys, die-cast miniature model cars and trucks and  Hornby Dublo 00 gauge model railway system in 1938 .Hornby was at first a tradename for the railway productions of Meccano Ltd and based inLiverpool, which released its first train, a clockwork 0 gauge (1:48) model, in 1920. An electric train soon followed but was under-designed and the few that were made were sold out in France. In 1925, a much more successful electric model was introduced, operating on the high voltage of 110 volts AC power. Safety concerns saw low voltage 4V and then 6V motors introduced, followed by a reliable 20V AC system, which was developed in the early 1930s. However, clockwork remained the mainstay of the Hornby 0 gauge trains until 1937 and became the only power available in Liverpool-made 0 gauge trains from 1949. Competitors in the UK were Leeds Model Company and Bassett-LowkeA factory was established in France, which developed its own range of French outline trains, but Liverpool dominated export activity elsewhere, with large numbers of Hornby trains exported to Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Scandinavia.

In 1931 he entered politics when he was elected as a Conservative MP for the Everton constituency. He left the running of the company to his co-Directors and staff. But he did not stay in politics long – he resigned his parliamentary seat before the 1935 General Election.Hornby died of a chronic heart condition complicated by diabetes in Maghull, near Liverpool, on 21 September 1936. He is buried in the grounds of St Andrews Church, Maghull. His elder son Roland took over as Chairman of Meccano Ltd.

 

 

In 1964, Lines Bros Ltd., the parent company of rival Tri-ang Railways, purchased Meccano Ltd., and merged Hornby and Tri-ang into Tri-ang Hornby.[1] The former Hornby line was discontinued in favour of Tri-ang’s less costly plastic designs. The Hornby Dublo tooling was sold to G & R Wrenn, which continued to make most of the loco range and ‘superdetail’ rolling stock. Remaining stocks of 0 gauge were either scrapped or sold to the local retailer Hattons and the Tri-ang group was disbanded in 1971 when Meccano Ltd’s owner Lines Bros. filed for bankruptcy Meccano took over The former Tri-ang, becomingHornby Railways in 1972.

In the 1970s Hornby released a steam-powered 3½” gauge model of the Rocket and a BR standard class 9f. By 1976 Hornby was facing challenges from Palitoy and Airfix, both of which were producing high quality detailed models. Detail on the models was upgraded to make the product line more attractive to adult hobbyists. A 16 channel command control system named Zero 1 was introduced in late 1979 and Advertisements claimed that 16 locomotives could be operated independently at the same time although it was expensive, with clean track and well serviced locos the system worked well The system is still used today by many modelers and Second hand items are still in great demand on eBay.  In 1964, Hornby and Meccano were bought by their competitor Tri-Ang, and sold on when Tri-ang went into receivership. In the 1980s Hornby Railways became independent

in 2006 a Cotswold Rail Class 43 HST power car was introduced carrying a livery advertising Hornby which has since been repainted.In 1980 Hornby became Hornby Hobbies. By the early 1990s Hornby again faced competition from newcomers like Dapol and established foreign manufacturers, including Lima and Bachmann Industries. Train sets based on Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends and Harry Potter (the “Hogwarts Express”) Were introduced and becam popular.In September 2003 Hornby released its first steam-powered 00 gauge locomotive, a model of the record-breaking Mallard. Several other “Live Steam” locomotives have also now been produced. Since then Hornby has bought Lima, an Italian model railway equipment manufacturer that had previously acquired Jouef, a French manufacturer. Some of the ex-Lima models appear in the main Hornby products list. This range is known as Hornby International. Hornby Railways produce a large range of highly detailed British steam and diesel locomotives, such as the BR 9F, LNER Class A4, SR Merchant Navy, class 60, Class 50, Class 31 and Class 08. In November 2006, Hornby Hobbies acquired Airfix and Humbrol paints July 2010 also saw the opening of the Hornby Shop And Visitor Centre. Hornby and Meccano continue to be successful. Hornby’s legacy lives on today with thousands of enthusiasts all over the world still building Meccano models, running Hornby Train sets and collecting Dinky Toys. In his homeplace of Maghull there is a local pub named after him ‘The Frank Hornby’.

L.Frank Baum

Best known for writing “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, the prolific American author Lyman “L.” Frank Baum was born on May 15, 1856 in Chittenango, New York, in 1856, and grew up on his parents’ expansive estate, Rose Lawn. AS a young child, he was tutored at home with his siblings, but at the age of 12, he was sent to study at Peekskill Military Academy, and after two utterly miserable years he was allowed to return home. Baum started writing at an early age and His father bought him a cheap printing press; which, with the help of his younger brother Henry (Harry) Clay Baum, he used to produce The Rose Lawn Home Journal.

The brothers published several issues of the journal, Baum also established a second amateur journal, The Stamp Collector, he also printed “Baum’s Complete Stamp Dealers” Directory, and started a stamp dealership with friends. At the age of 20, Baum started breeding fancy poultry, and specialized in raising a particular breed of fowl, the Hamburg. In March 1880 he established a monthly trade journal, The Poultry Record, and in 1886, he published his first book: The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

Baum, then became interested in theatre, performing under the stage names of Louis F. Baum and George Brooks. In 1880, his father built him a theatre in Richburg, New York, and he set about writing plays and gathering a company to act in them. The Maid of Arran, a melodrama with songs based on William Black’s novel A Princess of Thule, proved a modest success. Baum not only wrote the play but composed songs for it and also acted in the leading role. His aunt was also the founder of Syracuse Oratory School, and Baum advertised his services in her catalog to teach theatre, including stage business, playwriting, directing, and translating, revision, and operettas.

In 1882, Baum married Maud Gage, and in 1888 they moved to Aberdeen, Dakota, where he opened a store, “Baum’s Bazaar” and later editing a local newspaper, The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, where he wrote a column, “Our Landlady”. Baum’s description of Kansas in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is based on his experiences in drought-ridden South Dakota. After Baum’s newspaper failed in 1891, he, Maud and their four sons moved to Humboldt Park, Chicago, where Baum took a job reporting for the Evening Post. In 1897 he wrote and published Mother Goose in Prose, a collection of Mother Goose rhymes written as prose stories, which was illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. This was followed in 1899 when Baum partnered with illustrator W. W. Denslow, to publish Father Goose, which was a collection of nonsense poetry, which became the best-selling children’s book of the year.

In 1900, Baum and Denslow published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to much critical acclaim and financial success, and this became the best-selling children’s book for two years after its initial publication. Baum went on to write thirteen more novels based on the places and people of the Land of Oz.Two years after Wizard’s publication, Baum and Denslow teamed up with composer Paul Tietjens and director Julian Mitchell to produce a musical stage version of the book under Fred R. Hamlin, which, opened in Chicago in 1902, then ran on Broadway for 293 stage nights from January to October 1903. It returned to Broadway in 1904, where it played from March to May and again from November to December. It successfully toured the United States with much of the same cast, until 1911, it differed considerably from the book, and was aimed primarily at adults.

Baum then wrote a sequel, The Woggle-Bug, however the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman were omitted from this adaptation. He later worked on a musical version of Ozma of Oz, which eventually became The Tik-Tok Man Of Oz. This did fairly well in Los Angeles, and also began a stage version of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Baum also wrote several plays for various celebrations. and In 1914, after moving to Hollywood, Baum started his own film production company, The Oz Film Manufacturing Company. Many times during the development of the Oz series, Baum declared that he had written his last Oz book and devoted himself to other works of fantasy fiction based in other magical lands, However, persuaded by popular demand, letters from children, and the failure of his new books, he returned to the series each time.

Sadly on May 6th 1919 L Frank Baum passed away after having a stroke, nine days short of his 63rd birthday. He was buried in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery. His final Oz book, Glinda of Oz, was published on July 10, 1920, a year after his death. The Oz series was continued long after his death by other authors, notably Ruth Plumly Thompson, who wrote an additional nineteen Oz books. his other works also remained popular after his death, with The Master Key appearing on St. Nicholas Magazine’s survey of readers’ favorite books well into the 1920s. His novels also predicted such century-later commonplaces as television, laptop computers (The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high risk, action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and the ubiquity of advertising on clothing (Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work), and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz series of books remains popular to this day and his novels have been adapted for screen numerous times, the most famous being the 1939 version starring Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale which is a perennial Favourite on television during holidays.