My first interaction with Meccano was as a child when I found a dusty box of my Dad’s sets from his childhood. From then on, I’ve been a massive fan of these often-underappreciated construction kits, so settle down a little while I give you just a few reasons why I think Meccano is so great.
One of the core elements of Meccano is its ability to teach the basics of engineering and mechanics to kids in a way that other construction kits simply don’t. Since Meccano is composed of mostly a variety of girders, wheels, bolts, nuts and screws, constructing a set is a much more involved process than simply snapping pieces of plastic together.
Meccano also requires a basic understanding of how to build vehicles and buildings without them falling apart; this was something that as a child I was never able to master, and my constructions would, without fail, collapse in on themselves shortly after completion. Classic Meccano sets’ instructions were also included in a very laissez-faire way, more as a “this is something that you could try building” rather than the overall point of the set. Because of this Meccano construction is led mostly by your own curiosity and interest in making things work, rather than necessarily following exact steps.
Meccano’s various electric parts and engines (which used to include actual steam) also make it a great option for designing moving constructions. With these electric parts you can start to focus on making your own remote-control cars or powered apparatus, which to me is a much more interesting process than buying a model car outright.
Building with Meccano can also be a great way to set kids up for their future careers, with a number of well know engineers and mechanics referencing Meccano as the source of their interest and drive. New sets and components that have started to include robotics and programmable elements have added to the ridiculous range of possible applications for Meccano.
To round everything off, the main difference between Meccano and other construction kits is that it is very much driven entirely by your interest to build and make things work. Completed Meccano constructions aren’t particularly attractive, but it’s the building process itself that makes them so great.