A life size Meccano bridge was unveiled by Top Gear presented James May last weekend in Liverpool’s Pierhead.
This creation is part of the BBC2 series James May’s Toy Stories, where May takes iconic toys and does something huge and ambitious with them, with students building the bridge using the Active Learning Laboratory at Liverpool University’s Department of Engineering.
May walked across the 23 m long bridge constructed entirely from traditional Meccano.
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 strips, girders and bolts of Meccano, triumphantly celebrates bringing Meccano back to its native soil.
The basic concept for the bridge 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 can carry James May fell to leading engineering and design consultancy Atkins.
“Like all the best jobs, this was an extremely difficult and complex challenge but we had brilliant fun along the way,”said Atkins design director Hayden Nuttall. “I grew up playing with Meccano but never imagined I’d have to use it to design a real bridge. There’s no precedent for this so it was engineering in the dark, but I’m as confident as I can be that James will make it across in one piece.”
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 is being handled by the students of Liverpool University’s Mechanical Engineering department with some help from the North East Meccano Guild and is expected to have taken approximately 1,100 hours upon completion.
The bridge resides 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. The bridge has been erected outside the Liver building (Britain’s first sky scraper) as a celebration of the successes of Liverpool and British engineering.
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.