Atkins engineer full size bridge from Meccano for BBC TV show
A full size bridge made exclusively of Meccano toy pieces was unveiled in Liverpool, UK this weekend as part of the BBC2 series, James May’s Toy Stories, where he takes iconic toys and uses them to ambitious effect.
To test the strength of the bridge May walked across the full 23 m length over water. Five teams pitched for the design but the winning idea came from three architectural students from Liverpool University, while the challenge of transforming the idea into reality 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.”
Meccano Bridge Facts and 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 sq ft.
Liverpool was home to Meccano for more than 70 years until the Binns Road “Factory of Dreams” closed in 1979. 30 years on and with Meccano back to its native soil, 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.