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The Meccano Magazine.

Sample Meccano covers from the 1950s
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How many people went on to careers in engineering, or simply developed an early taste for all things mechanical and electrical, thanks to the informative articles found within the pages of Meccano Magazine? quite a few I'll bet. Back in the 1950s there were no games consoles, providing a steady stream of maniacal aliens to slay, or computers, on which to while away free time. Children in those days had to make their own entertainment, and more often than not this involved picking up a book, or periodical, and reading. Children blessed with inquisitive minds, bored of adventure stories and the activities of Dennis the Menace, turned to publications such as the Meccano Magazine to inspire, and educate. Meccano are of course still in business, and still producing construction toys although I don't know if they still publish magazines or not?

The covers on these old magazines did a great job in catching the eye too - shown above are just some of those from the mid 1950s, and in these low-res scans all have a motoring theme to them. Other subjects got equal coverage, but my favourites are the transport-related ones! The back cover usually ran an advertisement for Dinky Toys, highlighting the latest toy releases and those that were in the pipeline. Purchase price for these monthly magazines? 1 shilling, or 5 pence in today's parlance.

Vulcan on the cover of a Meccano mag
Each issue was jam-packed with ideas for things to build, and articles on model-building, principles of engineering and electricity, assembling your own radio, and many other worthy topics like using telescopes, and building model railway layouts. A look through the March 1953 issue, which happens to have my favourite aeroplane of all time on the cover, a B1 Avro Vulcan, presents the following articles and features:

Towers and Roofs (on great buildings), An Old-Time Frigate (featuring an old Naval frigate called The Foudroyant used as a static training ship for Youth), Waterloo to Padstow by A.C.E. (the Atlantic Coast Express steam railway service), Water Supplies for Great Cities (dams and reservoirs), Britain's Delta Bomber (Vulcan!!), Project Titanium ('Wonder Metal of the Future'), Launching a Pipeline, Books to Read, Shipbuilding in Belfast, Engineering News, Exciting New Dinky Toys, Meet Tom Haylow (English pilot with his Auster Aiglet), Recovering Derailed Locomotives, Letters page, Meccano Harbour-Building Crane (How to Build), Bird Ringing, Porcelain Enamel, Photography in the Country, Air News (the new Saab 32 Lansen, Cessna Bird-Dog, Vickers Valiant, DHC-3 Otter etc), Among the Model Builders, New Meccano Models, Hornby Railway Company, Station and Yard Working (model railway layout suggestions), Variety in Continuous Dublo Layouts, Stamp Collectors' Corner, Crossword Puzzle, Fireside Fun, and many more.

Model lorries
The variety of topics covered must have really been an eye-opener to lads in shorts during the 50s, and are still interesting to read even now, some 50 years later. I do wonder how modern youth get inspired to find out about everything that is going on in the world, without reading magazines like this? the internet provides answers to many questions, but what now prompts the questions in the first place, outside of the school curriculum?

Classic advertising 50+ years ago.

Anyone who collects old toys now will recognise many of these names and products from days gone by, all advertised in this 1953 issue:
  • Dinky Toys (made by Meccano Ltd)
  • Basset-Lowke 'O' gauge model railways
  • Bayko scale model buildings (by Plimpton Engineering Co. Ltd of Liverpool)
  • Penguin watercraft (by International Model Aircraft Ltd, a Lines Bros Group company)
  • Brickplayer brick & mortar building kit
  • Model Maker magazine
  • Coronation Cut-Out Model Book
  • A stunning Foden scale model lorry by Abbey-Corinthian Games Company, of London
  • Tracergraph drawing instrument, from Peel in the Isle of Man.
  • Vitality Prismatic cycle dynamo bulbs
  • Hornby clockwork trains
  • "Hobbies Ltd" model galleon
  • Modelcraft's power-driven Motor Cruiser
  • Duboil - The World's Finest Model Oil
  • Diana - Be a Crack Shot with a Diana Air Gun
  • Gamages - find the new McDonnell F88A Voodoo fighter, 'Air Lift' kite, Ocean Racer Yacht in store!
  • Wilson's Lorries Ltd - 4mm and 7mm self-build kits
  • Webley Air Pistols
  • Unitel Electric - "You can build this unit television yourself in 1 hour"
  • Lott's Chemistry set
  • Micromodels - build your own Queen Elizabeth and Mauretania models
  • Hamleys - Mechanical Ambulance Car with Siren, and the Stop-go-ring Mechanical Bus - at The Finest Toy Shop in the World
  • Miniscale 'OO' lineside buildings
  • Ian Allan Ltd books
  • Durofix adhesive
  • Astra Car Hoist - Retail price 6'6 - an ingenious working model with disappearing lift column
  • Pelham Puppets - latest puppets: Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, Pinocchio, Noddy, Big Ears

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