St.Albans and District Model Engineering Society

July Club Night Report

Our July club evening. 
The History of Meccano and the building of a Meccano USS Missouri

It has been a very hot week and we are back again in our hall at Christchurch Centre, but we opened the the doors up early so it was a pleasant and cool evening.  Our Chairman started the evening with a welcome and then commenced the club business passing over to myself for some general points and then I had the pleasure of introducing Steve Briancourt who was our speaker for the evening.

He started with a very professional set of what used to be called slides but which now are so much better.  The History of Meccano, i.e. all the metal bits first with it's gradual evolution and development.  After the break he would tell us of the long build of his 9 foot long Meccano model of USS Missouri.  Some may recall the film Battleship where USS Missouri was the star!

Started by Frank Hornby as a way of making toys for his sons that could be deconstructed into other toys.  He came up with the idea of creating strips and plates drilled with the many holes that became synonymous with the eventual name Meccano plus all the necessary nuts bolts and axles and wheels.

But the toy was first known as Mechanics made Easy.  Alongside the toy and the then relatively crude models  Steve, talked about the people involved and investments made in the company.  Then there was the oft times careless use of other peoples titles.   Frank was not above using well placed names in engineering with out their knowledge to gain finances for his product.  Some things never change!

After some years the name we know today as 'MECCANO' was created and from then on became the name the construction set was known by throughout the world, as it was also made under license in many countries.

The convoluted existence of the company and the introduction of Train sets and Dinky Toys and then Hornby Dublo were his successes.  But the frequently made attempts to enter another  market against well ensconced market leaders eventually led to the downfall of the company at it's final home in Liverpool at the Binns Road address. However the Meccano Boys evolved into the Meccano Men of today and there are many clubs around, with nine in the London area alone.

We had a break for refreshments and I went to talk to some prospective new members visiting to see if they liked what we had to offer and here I am quite hopeful for the future.  We were summoned back from the break by our Chairman and were then entertained by Steve describing his building of the model.


The engineering of the USS Missouri.

Steve had a logical  engineering approach to the construction, he decided on his choice of subject and then his ultimate requirements for operation.  He also wanted the intricacy of constructed mechanisms, which was his interest, and how that would show off the varied functions which must also be reliable.

Further, the model had to be easily transportable as well as being simple to set up and take down together with reliability and ease of maintenance.  These paradigms could be used for any single construction of any mechanical model.   A new concept to me was the acceptance of operator error and employing mitigating construction to avoid any unintended consequences.

It was a long process and speaks well of Steve's determination and commitment, with plans as well as the calculations, the model took over 6 years in the building.  Several mechanisms had to be thought through and simplified for both appearance and realistic operation.  Along the way Steve was buying well used Meccano parts and completely refurbishing them and painting them the required colour.  Steve was also not above resorting to his lathe to make his own parts.  Ready made machined parts are expensive!

I have to say this is one of the most realistic models I have ever seen and easily identifiable as one of the Iowa class of USS battleships.  All the guns moved with the main armament even having  simulated recoil.  Also demonstrated were rudders, propellers and anchor operation.

Very much more of an engineering evening than expected and it held the audience in rapt attention with the occasional comments and queries, all handled smoothly by Steve as he moved along with his talk.


We did run a little late but no one minded.  And as the model was being decommissioned for the evening, and here it does help if you have 2 strong and able brothers, so also our own members cleared up our chairs and tables.   Thanks as always to the team who produced the refreshments without whom.....

Roy Verden 14th July 2022