Meccano Bridge – James May Liverpool

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Meccano Bridge Liverpool

James May Merseyside Project, north west England, UK

12 Aug 2009

James May Bridge

Atkins engineers life size Meccano bridge for James May challenge

TV presenter James May unveiled a full size bridge made exclusively of Meccano for his BBC2 series James May’s Toy Stories, where he takes iconic toys and does something huge and ambitious with them.

The Meccano project, which took place in Liverpool, was possibly the most daring of them all, with May walking across a 23 metre bridge constructed entirely from traditional Meccano.

James May Meccano Bridge James May Meccano Bridge Meccano Bridge Liverpool

The basic concept for the bridge design came out of a Dragon’s Den style pitch by five competing teams. The winning idea came from three architectural students from Liverpool University, while the challenge of transforming the idea into reality and engineering a bridge which could carry James May fell to leading engineering and design consultancy Atkins.

Hayden Nuttall, design director for Atkins, said: “Like all the best jobs, this was an extremely difficult and complex challenge but we had brilliant fun along the way. I grew up playing with Meccano but never imagined I’d have to use it to design a real bridge. There was no precedent for this so it was engineering in the dark and the success or failure of the project was touch and go right until the very end.”

Liverpool was home to Meccano for more than 70 years until the Binns Road “Factory of Dreams” closed in 1979. 30 years on and this great construction, built using more than 100,000 0.5 inch wide strips, girders and bolts of Meccano, triumphantly celebrated bringing Meccano back to its native soil.

Sue Barratt, Country Manager of Meccano UK, said: “We are thrilled to have been part of such a brave and exciting project in Meccano’s homeland of Liverpool. James May has always been a big advocate of Meccano and we’re pleased we could assist him with his goal to create this magnificent structure built from parts used by everyday Meccano enthusiasts. Meccano has advanced massively in recent years and we hope this iconic bridge will get people interested in today’s Meccano and the process of construction.”

May was careful to stay faithful to the mechanics in Meccano and chose a bridge that moves, with one nine metre beam sliding into place like a canal lock gate, with the other 12 metre section rolling down like a drawbridge.

The construction of the bridge was being handled by the students of Liverpool University’s Mechanical Engineering department, with some help from the North East Meccano Guild, and took approximately 1,100 hours to complete.

The bridge was erected on the new Leeds Liverpool canal extension, which runs from the Albert Dock, past the foot of the Liver building all the way to Leeds and the rest of the European canal system.

Meccano Bridge – Facts & Figures

Number of parts – approx 100,000 including 28,000 bolts.
Number of man hours in construction – approx 1,100 hours
Width of Canal – 12m
Total length of Bridge – 23m
Width of bridge – 30cm (the width of a sheet of A3 paper)
Height of bridge over water – 5m (up to the guttering of a two-storey house)
Total Weight of Bridge – approx ½ tonne.
Total length of Meccano in bridge laid end to end would stretch 6.1*10-13 light years or about three and a half miles.
Laid flat it would cover an area of 0.0001134 homesteads or 800 sqft


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Rolling Bridge
photo : Steve Speller

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Meccano Bridge Building

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