This is my version of the famous Meccano dealer display model of the Blackpool Tower. As part of their promotional/publicity material the Meccano Company from the nineteen twenties produced special ready made models to enable dealers to demonstrate working Meccano models in their stores or windows. These could be purchased from Meccano Ltd. or leased. The models were supplied fitted on to a wooden base with a mains electric motor.
The Blackpool Tower was probably one of their most popular in the post war years. This was available in several versions to Meccano dealers from the early 1950s and as far as I can find out until the 1970s. The first one in the early 1950s was similar to a model in the 1937 number 9 manual and 1948-1954 manual but with an illuminated base with the word Meccano on a yellow background. The only reference of this I have does not indicate if it had working lifts. The tower was without any detailing and was probably not very inspiring as a display piece. The 1937 manual model (shown lower down the page) would have looked much better with gold strips and the blue cross hatched plates forming the tower sides.
The next and perhaps most well known version is the model depicted so nostalgically on the front cover of the December 1954 Meccano Magazine on the right. This model had an illuminated logo at the base and the top with small coloured lights on the tower sides and in the two lifts going up down. I was about the age of the older boys in the picture and was just as enthralled as they are when I saw it displayed in the window of W.G. Shaddick of Windmill Street in Gravesend Kent. A version of this illustration was also used as the cover for 1955 "Meccano Toys of Quality leaflet" seen below right.
Around 1959 the time of the change over to light red and green a new tower was made available. This was a more ambitious affair with a larger much better designed base and broader and slightly higher tower giving a more open appearance but once again it included lifts and lighting. I have also seen this in yellow and silver but somehow its not kosher in those colours it looks just right I think in mid red and green. The Illustration shown on the left from a Meccano trade publicity leaflet from 1961. The tower could be purchased by a Meccano dealer from the Meccano Company for £18.52 this included tax, delivery and one year rental of the mains motor of £1.00. If the motor was not returned after one year a charge of £9.12 was made. Dealers, the leaflet pointed could supply their own mains motor and receive a £1.00 reduction on the purchase cost of the tower.
I have based my own Blackpool Tower on elements from the latter two versions. The base is similar to the late 1950s version and the tower structure is based on the that shown on the 1954 Meccano Magazine cover probably this was the year it was introduced.
This was evidently a very popular display model as the Meccano Magazine in May 1955 published instructions for "A useful reversing mechanism" This was an automatic reversing gearbox and reduction gearing for the E20R electric motor. The construction of the Blackpool Tower was only alluded to in the Meccano Magazine at that time, however in October 1956 it again featured in the MM as Model of the Month. The tower structure was much the same as the display model but the base was very disappointing as were the clockwork driven lifts that had to be reversed to rise and fall.
After gathering this wealth of material I was able .to build the model without any difficulty. The top and the base I made up as I went along using the pictures as guidance with added embellishments. I built a rigid frame structure at the top of the tower so the viewing platform can be lifted off. This was to enable the tower to fit in my car and also to facilitate any problems with the lift mechanism at the top.
The auto reverse gearbox works very well and needed little adjustment to give the lifts the correct run time to reach the top and bottom of the tower. The lifts are hauled by a continuous chain linking each of the two lift cars with a tension spring to keep every thing taunt. I did not use the Meccano part as this is rather long. The lift guides are are four, long 4mm rods bought from a DIY store each lift car has angle brackets on each of their sides for guidance on the rods. The 1956 Meccano Magazine instructions specified Meccano cord for the guides and for hoisting but I found there was too much play to keep the lifts straight when using the chain hoist with the cord guides. The small pictures each side of the completed tower show some of the stages of construction. The motor is a replica E20R that gives a similar RPM to the Meccano motor. The original dealer model would have been supplied with a mains voltage motor.
The height of the model is 1.3 metres or 4' 3" including the top flag pole. It is illuminated with a set of 25 Christmas LED lights.
The Meccano model is not intended as you can probably see to be an accurate model of the Blackpool Tower (shown above) but a representation of it's character, certain features are there such as the sloping front of the Ballroom, the end towers, the shape of the tower and the observation deck that all make it instantly recognizable.
Construction of original Blackpool Tower was inspired by the Eiffel Tower and work commenced in 1891 and it was opened in 1894. The tower is 158m (518ft) high, 2,500 tonnes of iron and 93 tonnes of cast steel were used to construct the tower. The cast steel and iron are distributed in such a way that if it did ever collapse it would fall into the sea. During its first thirty years the tower was badly maintained and became corroded and between 1921 and 1924 the whole of the steelwork in the structure was replaced and renewed. It had been a close thing whether to keep or demolish the tower. It would be unthinkable today to imagine Blackpool with out its tower. In 2011 the tower was reopened after a long closure during which time it was completely refurbished with a new viewing gallery with a glass floor.
Photo of Blackpool Tower by Rich Daley licensed under Creative Commons license.
The illustration from the 1961 Trade leaflet is by permission of Andrew Horner Collector of Meccano/Dinky/Hornby/Dublo Showcards & Ephemera.
November 29 2008. Revised October 21 2014
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