The Original Box contained a very limited variety of parts in comparison to later Meccano, just containing 3 size of perforated strips, 12.5 inch, 5.5 inch and 2.5 inch actually having 12 of each. The sizes will be very familiar to later Meccano users being the main sizes throughout Meccano's history, however the actual parts where different being thin metal folded at the edges to give it strength.
The next part was an angle bracket, the original was crude but the design of the later angle bracket can be seen, the box contained 18 of these. Next came 3 sizes of Axle Rods, 12 inch, 5 inch and 2 inch, these unlike most later rods where grooved to take keys to lock wheels. The box contained 1 of the largest axle and 2 each of the others. The Box had a crank handle also grooved.
Wheels consisted of 5 flanged and grooved wheels, perhaps the part most influenced by railways and a bush wheel. After this there was a spanner, 12 keys for locking wheels and axles, which can best be described as extended spring clips and a screwdriver. Then the parts Meccano would be useless without 48 nuts and bolts. The set was completed with a hank of cord and a wire hook.tes responsive, retina and mobile friendly websites in a few clicks. Mobirise is one of the easiest website development tools available today.
Although we have not as yet been able to find a manual as far back as this, it is very likely the earliest manual would be similar to models 1 to 10 of the 1904 manual. It is noticeable that a lot of the models where railway related, however with the 12.5 inch strips quite large models could be made as shown by models 9 & 10 the crane and the warehouse.
The contents did not change through 1902 the first full year of the set, However in 1903 the first changes came in the the number of flanged and grooved wheels where reduced to 4. To replace these 2 1 inch pulleys where introduced, a half inch 20 tooth pinion was introduced along with a pawl. The nuts and bolts where increased to 50, an extra Hank of Cord was added.
1905 saw the introduction of set D and a conversion set to set E which was not introduced until 1906. Set D added 2 new perforated strips a 9.5 inch and a 2 inch, a free running 0.5 inch pulley and a 50 toothed 1.7 inch contrate wheel, The final introduction was this curious Sheet of Xylonite a very early plastic, Set E's only introduction was a 12ft Chain.
In 1906 the original Box A was no longer the smallest set, a much smaller X outfit. This had reduced parts on the A for example it had 4 12.5 inch perforated strips compared to Box A's 13 the year before, and 26 nuts and bolts compared to 50 in Box A. The larger sets where unchanged.
In similar vain 1907 saw the introduction of an even smaller set called Kindergarten with just 10 nuts and bolts, its name would suggest that it was aimed at younger children with a special manual which was easy to understand. However a piece that would become a mainstay of later Meccano the 12.5 inch angle girder, this like the strips where made with tinplate and folded edges.
1906-8 saw the introduction of parts that would become familiar to Meccano users for generations to come the folded perforated strips where replaced with a thicker nickel plated strip as was the angle girders by 1908, whilst grooved rods where fazed out in favour whole rods whilst the longest rods where shortened from 12 inches to 11.5 inches.
By the end of the Mechanics Made Easy Period, things had come a long way in 7 years from a box of crude strips and wheels, to Nickel strips and Angle Girders, Pinions, gear, contrate and worm wheels had been introduced. There was still a long way to go but many of the basic Meccano pieces that would be used for more than a 100 years had arrived. Sets had gone from the original box to a range of sets some smaller than the original but 3 much larger sets, capable of making some very large models
By 1909 Numbers had been introduced to the Meccano parts with the odd adjustment these where kept beyond the end of Binns Road into the Meccano that is into todays shops. New parts started to flow at a faster rate. In 1910 an 8 inch Axle Rod was added along with a tension spring, a double bent strip, whilst the single bent strip and the 1 x 2.5 inch Double Angle Strips where introduced. Around this time the Kindergarten set was dropped, it would be the 1960's before Meccano would try sets that where aimed at very young children.
n 1911 several more parts the 5.5 inch Angle Girder, a 4.5 inch Axle Rod, 3 flanged plates a 2.5 x 1.5 inch, a 2.5 x 3.5 inch and the 2.5 x 5.5 inch which became a mainstay part of the meccano system, particularly in the smaller sets. The flanged sector plates where introduced the height being 4 inch. For the first time rubber bands where also used. 1911 was the Coronation Year of King George V. To celebrated this a special set called, 'Meccano Royal,' was introduced, a small set which was later renamed Set 0.
1912 saw the introduction of one part the collar, however this marked a change for the Meccano system, shaking off the last vestiges of Mechanics Made Easy and transformed into the Meccano system that would be known for more the 100 years. With the introduction of the collar, the wheel boss was also introduced replacing the key system of the previous period.
Pulleys, Bush Wheels, Pinions and gears where redesigned to take the new boss, whilst the flanged and grooved wheel needed to be completely redesigned. 1913 saw a few new parts as well, the spring cord, a 2.5 inch double bent strip and a windmill sail. 1914 saw a raft of new parts the fishplate, double bracket, a 8 inch axle rod, a loose 1 inch pulley, a single bent strip (stepped) a crank, a coupling, a funnel and a center fork.
With World War 1 raging little changed in the Meccano range until 1922, Meccano was sold throughout the war with shortages only affecting the company in 1918. However there where still a few new parts, a 1 inch Axle rod, a 1.5 inch 56 tooth Gear Wheel which would become the most common gear and the sprocket chain. Towards the end of the war, the No 20a 2 inch pulley, the No 22 1 inch pulley where made of silver and given an open boss to cut down on metal because of wartime shortages as was several other parts.
In 1922 the number parts where doubled with the introduction of different lengths of strips, angle girders and axle rods. Washers were introduced that year as was flat plates, couplings, triangular plates, screwed rods, curved strips, braced girders, flat girders, trunions and a host of special parts. This was to coincide with the introduction of a new largest set Number 7 housed in a large wooden box. This massive set contained 50 12.5 inch perforated Strips, 96 angle brackets, 594 nuts and bolts, 55 collars amongst other items. This was to become the largest set ever to be made by Meccano, the Set 10 of later years had more variety of parts, however this set 7 have a much larger quantity of parts.
From the outset meccano was about movement., Models where meant to have working parts, so it was that in 1912 that this movement could now be motorized be means of 2 new clockwork motors No1 and No 2. Battery operated motors where added in 1916 whilst electric motors where added in 1925. Over the years Meccano have made various other sets apart from the main range. In 1920 inventors Outfit B and the first Electrical Outfit where introduced. By 1925 the Meccano range had grown up to over 100 parts, 8 sets and several motors. There was just one thing missing Colour, most of the parts where Nickel Silver however all that was about to change.
This was also expanded to include most parts that could be coloured, notably perforated strips, angle and flat girders. Sets where tinkered with during this period with a quite a nujber of new parts introduced, In 1927 motor (Dunlop) Tyres where added. In 1928 Bevel Gears, the boiler and one of the most interesting parts the Digger Bucket a part which is today in high demand on the used market. 1930 saw more Tyres and a Circular Plate along with the very useful ball thrust bearing where amongst the introductions.
This period was marked with Introduction of some special sets, Meccano Aeroplane and Car Constructor had special parts resembling closely those of cars and aircraft to produce a more realistic model, whilst a new Elektron Set as it name suggests an electrical set along with Kemex a chemistry set was introduced. The main Meccano Range added a new smallest set no 000 although change to the other sets was very little except for the introduction of colour and a few parts the sets contents where little changed from the Nickel Period. A very short lived experiment was Meccano X with multi holed strips, made to rival the very cheap Trix system that was imported from Germany, the Meccano X being almost identical to the Trix system.
There was also the biggest change in sets since the end of Mechanics Made Easy name period. In a way there was a step back to that period with the reintroduction of lettered sets this time from A - L. What is more the colours was changed from the Burgundy and Dark Green to Blue and Gold. This was the biggest reorganization so far of sets with effectively and extra set (E) being added to the middle of the range.
Apart from the new flexible plates a number of other new parts arrived. Meccano builders had long asked for a Steering wheel, finally one was introduced, along with this a road wheel whic was to be used extensively in future decades was released. A hinged plate was also added to the range.
On the back of the Car and Aeroplane Constructor Sets Meccano introduced Dinky Builder. This was Meccano without the nuts and bolts Basicly plates and wheels that where fit together with rods, meaning that models could be built much faster than traditional Meccano.
Meccano had just reorganised its set line up. however these where about to change again
Along with the new sets came new boxes and manuals. possibly the biggest change in models Meccano had made up until that time. Things where looking increasingly promising. There where more new parts as well, a number of Driving Banks, another gear wheel and pinion further gave modellers more options.
Unfortunately World Events would encroach on Meccano Ltd. In 1939 Britain once again declared war on Germany. By 1940 the Binns Road factory was given over the War materials. Ironically the last item to be introduced by Meccano Ltd before the outbreak of war was a Mechanized Army Set.
The manuals continued to show the cross hatching. However given the shortages at the time. Anything would have been welcome. This situation was gradually rectified. With new manuals being released along with Set 9 in 1948, a totally new set of manuals being released in 1954. Along with these manuals a small number of new parts where released notably triangular plates. These where added to the sets which where re boxed. Manuals where again changed in 1956 with a new yellow and blue cover showing a large crane, but the contents models where unchanged. There was a number of other releases through this period. In 1948 clockwork motors where made available now manufactured at Binns Road whist the following year 1949 Clockwork motors 1 & 2 and electric motors E06, E020, and E020R where back in the shops. Gears set A was introduced in 1950 followed by Set B in 1956.
New manuals where introduced with a red cover, however it was the inside of the manuals that showed the greatest change. Up to this time manuals had shown a photograph of the finished model and written instructions also with a content list . In all but the set 10 the written instruction where replaced by an exploded drawing or in larger sets drawings showing how the model should be put together.
One set was deleted a conversion set 9a. This set had failed to sell in sufficient quantity for several years to make it viable. So for the first time in the Meccano range a buyer could no longer buy the smallest set and over the years convert to the largest.
Just after these sets where released Meccano Ltd went into new ownership, after some very poor financial figures, being bought by Lines Brothers the makers of Triang. Lines Brother got straight to work after the take over, changing the colour of most of the parts from Red and Green to Silver and Yellow along with some black. A much more modern look, the plastic trays where changed to expanded polystyrene. Whilst the basic content of the sets and the manuals stayed as they had been from 1962.
But it was the outside of the packaging that received most attention. Apart from the Set 10 every set was given a name. The first 3 where called Play Set (0) Junior Set (1) and Super Junior (2) These featured some models that could be made with the set on the front. However sets 3 - 8 where themed, each showing photos of models down the left hand side and the same models set in a drawing on the right. These where grouped round a theme so that set 3 Highway Vehicles Set showed a group of cars and lorry's, whilst Set 6 Ocean Terminal Set showed Ships and Dockyard Cranes. Set 9 was slightly different called Masters Engineer's Set it returned to the idea of the smallest sets and showed several models that could be made with the set.
This was possibly the most colourful period for Meccano with modern boxes and modern colours. 2 new electric motors where introduced the larger with a gearbox, these 2 motors where added to sets 3 and 4 to produce the Junior Power Drive Set and Power Drive Set in 1968. Another innovation of Lines Brothers was Plastic Meccano. Basically larger strips, wheels axles flanged plates and nuts and bolts produced in plastic and described as, 'Big parts for Little Hands,' in other words aimed at younger children in the hope that they would go on to main stream meccano. What effect did this have on the fortunes of the company? Although Lines Brothers carried Meccano Ltd for several years the company returned to a small profit in 1968. In 1969 Lines Brothers renamed Meccano Ltd Meccano Triang in preparation for changes for the new decade.
1970 saw New Meccano Sets in New Dark Blue Boxes. In reality though these sets where not new. They where the same basic sets as had been organized in 1962 repackaged and with a minor change of colour on the flanged and plastic plates from black to blue. The set numbers had been reorganized too, Set 9 had been a poor seller during the 1960's most who could afford the Set 9 would go the whole hog and purchase the set 10. So this set was deleted. Set 8 became set 9 and was given a new wooded box, the rest of the sets moved up one.
What this change lacked in substance it made up in new manuals and models. Sets 1-7 had new manuals with very much up date models. However what was so different was that these manuals where all colour. A colour illustration of the model along with colour exploded views that where shown with arrows indicating the order these should be built. However sets 8 and 9 where the same black and white manuals from the 1960's with new covers. The old sets 9's exploded models had been incorporated into the set 10 set of leaflets, the true set 10 models continued in the 1950;' written form.
There where a few introductions notable a new multi purpose gear wheel in part plastic that could mesh at any angle and a new electronic control set,. This was put into a new 5ME set that replaced the power drive set, set 4M replacing the junior power drive set.
For the second time in a decade Meccano ltd came under new ownership, thiss time the plastic model company Airfix. Airfix made no initial changes to the main range but started to introduce a series of special sets so that you had Clock Kits 1 & 2 (1972). Army and Highways Kits in 1973 and a Crane Set in 1976.
Throughout the history of Mechanics Made Easy and Meccano despite many changed to sets and new parts there had been a relationship between the contents of the range from new sets to old in other words the changes have not been that great. Indeed up until 1978 the biggest changes had been in the 1930's with the change from set 1-7 to the lettered sets A - L back to numbers 0-10. Now in 1978 a complete reorganization of the main meccano range was ordered.