Toy Stories (2009) s01e03 Episode Script


(acoustic music)
- [James] So you think computer
games are more exciting
than old-fashioned toys?
Maybe you should think again.
(upbeat music)
With the help of the great British public,
it's time to liberate them
from the toy cupboard,
supersize them, and unleash
their true potential.
This week I try to persuade
a bunch of students
to help me build one
of the biggest Meccano structures
the world has ever seen.
- We want the bits and the final plans
and then we can get on with our job.
- And on their sweepstake board,
favorite scenario is that I
fall into the canal and drown.
I knew this was a great idea.
I soon realized just how
difficult it's going to be.
- Right, is everyone out the way?
- I'm pretty devastated.
Like it was perfect.
- And will 80,000 toy pieces
really be strong enough
not to kill me.
- Don't look down.
- God it's made
of Meccano, and it's wobbly.
Strips of metal with holes in.
Gear wheels, pulley
wheels, rods and shafts,
something called a
tranian, nuts and bolts.
You recognize it immediately as Meccano,
the old constructional toy, or is it?
You see I believe that this
so called toy conceived
in Britain when Britain was
still an industrial superpower
and Dad smoked a pipe,
is in fact the solution
to any mechanical conundrum
the world can throw up.
It is the essence of
engineering in component form,
the perfect domestic mirror
to the manufacturing greatness
that once defined us.
You probably thought it was only good
for making a rubbishy
little crane like that.
Prepare to be amazed.
(fairground music)
People who love Meccano
actually take it on holiday.
Skegness, according to the old
railway poster it's bracing
and it is,
but there is a darker side
to this famous seaside town.
Skeg-Ex, the ex-rated annual
Giant Meccano Model Exhibition.
That's where I'm going.
Each year hundreds of Meccano
fans hoist their trousers high
and sally forth to celebrate the wonders
of this great British invention.
Many of them are surviving Victorians.
Among them none other than Charles Darwin.
- It's called a flying
pendulum escapement,
and it was invented by an American
in the second half of
the 19th Century for fun.
It doesn't serve any useful purpose.
It's just a piece of
nonsense to amuse people.
- [Collector] Can you
hear the clicking noise?
- Yeah.
- That's when both gears
are engaged at once.
- And how long did this take
you to work out and build?
- The last year, although
I've been working
on these gearboxes since
I was, 20, 30 years ago.
- Can you make anything
mechanical out of Meccano
if you think about it hard enough?
- I think so, yeah.
Oh the other clever thing
is, you don't want it,
if you're going backwards
you won't go backwards
with a ratchet.
- But there was a time
when Meccano fans were
cherub faced youths.
Today, this country's
greatest Meccano authority,
is a man called Jim Gamble.
Nervously, I approach
his unremarkable house
in Nottingham where I'm led to the loft.
Still feels like a
normal household so far.
- Are you surprised?
- [James] Ah hang on, up the ladder then,
- Yeah
- presumably?
- That's it, all the way.
- Ah.
Oh my god.
Now I wasn't expecting this.
I thought you meant it
was like a dimly lit attic
full of old boxes.
Jim even has the pant wettingly
exciting number 10 set.
Everything that was great about
Britain in a big green box.
Oh, I've gone slightly faint.
(Jim laughs)
I've never seen one of
these, it's fantastic.
Oh look at that!
Why do they not make anything
quite this exciting anymore?
- [Jim] I mean it is a very
anachronistic system isn't it?
- Well it's a very old-fashioned toy.
I remember someone saying this to me once,
that before the war the
world looked like Meccano.
You had, you know, railway
- You've got it right.
The principle things is,
Meccano is metal.
- Yes.
- Today's medium is plastic.
- Yes.
- It is mechanical, today's
medium is electronic.
It's angular, today's
things are compound curves.
- Yeah.
- You take one of your
bits and tether it together
and replace, these days
everything's replacement, bonded.
- Yes, so you do this.
- So the whole thing is
out of kilter with modern life really.
(brass band music)
- So Jim and I are in agreement.
Meccano is brilliant but it's
looking a bit old-fashioned.
But that doesn't mean it's irrelevant
because it doesn't matter
how enthusiastically we
embrace the digital age,
the world still depends on machinery.
Take for example the differential
which you find in any car.
Now it's almost impossible
to explain to someone
how a differential works but,
if you make yourself one out of Meccano,
here's one that took me all night,
you will understand it immediately.
You will realize how it
allows one wheel to go faster
than the other when the
car's going round a corner.
You can sense the forces at work.
You can feel them in the metal components,
and you just don't get that with your Wii.
The problem now is how to
bring this box of bent metal
into the 21st Century.
That's gonna take something really big.
I also need a suitable venue.
That bit's quite easy though.
Liverpool was the birthplace of Meccano,
and Meccano played its part
in the building of Liverpool.
As Meccano's popularity
exploded throughout the world,
so did production.
The success of this toy was the result
of sound engineering principles.
By standardizing things like hole spacing,
shaft diameters and well
the pitch of worm gears,
Hornby ensured that Meccano
could be endlessly dismantled
and re-mantled to make an
infinite number of models.
And Binns Road is where Meccano was made.
In the 20s and the 30s it
was the biggest toy factory
in Britain, possibly even Europe,
and in its heyday it employed
2,000 workers and about 400
or 500 staff, marketing and sales people,
it was, it was a sort of cathedral
to benign commerce, the Meccano factory.
Is this it?
Is that where it was?
- Yes, on the right hand side.
- God, thank you.
(slow guitar music)
I don't really know
what's happened to Britain
if something as fantastic as
a Meccano factory can give way
to a place where people preen themselves
in front of mirrors. (sighs)
With no permanent monument
to Meccano surviving
in Liverpool, I'm more
determined than ever
to find some poignant local way
to celebrate Frank Hornby's creation.
(jolly guitar music)
(ferry horn blows)
A Meccano ferry across the
Mersey would seem appropriate
but unfortunately Meccano is full of holes
and tends to go rusty.
Anyway, they've already got one.
But how about a bridge?
Bridges were the first truly
great metal structures,
and until 1961 Liverpool
had a transporter bridge
which really was just
a giant Meccano model.
Meccano is good for bridges.
The great bridges of the
world changed the world.
They encouraged human movement,
they invigorated trade and commerce,
they encouraged the spread of culture,
and any new bridge cannot
simply be an ornament.
It must fulfill this vital function.
And that brings me rather
neatly here to the end
of the Leeds Liverpool Canal
on the Mersey Pier Head,
and particularly this point right in front
of the iconic Liver Building.
Now currently if I want
to cross from this side
to that side I have to
go all the way down there
and around but a new bridge built here
would completely transform
Liverpudlian life.
And that is what I want to do.
(upbeat music)
If I'm going to build
a Meccano bridge worthy
of this fine city, then
I will need the help
of a proper Scouser.
Step forward, daughter of
Liverpool, Edwina Currie,
who really is from Liverpool.
What qualities should
it have to be a bridge
that speaks for Liverpool?
- A bridge that speaks for
Liverpool should have wit
and energy and style and movement.
It's gotta be some movement
in it, at least I think so.
It can't be a boring bridge.
It can't be the kind of bridge you'd have
to build in Tunbridge Wells say.
Alright, Liverpool has to
have a bit of a joker in it.
It's gotta be a little mad.
- Do the bits have to be nicked
from round the back of the factory life,
'cause I gather a lot of that went on?
- That's a wicked thing to say.
(western music)
- To do Liverpool and Meccano justice,
I've rallied five teams
of the finest engineers,
architects and Meccano
geeks to pitch designs
for a groundbreaking 21st
century Meccano bridge.
Helping Edwina and me
make the tough decision
is bridge engineer David Mckenzie.
First up is Alistair Lenczner
from Fosters & Partners
with an ambitious and
faintly bohemian plan called
The Harlequin Bridge of Liver Love,
a giant mesh tube made up
from triangular elements built
by the community.
- And this is the Meccano
DNA for the bridge
and it will be rolled up
and formed a lattice tube girder bridge
and when James gets to the middle,
in the spirit of Liver Love,
will deploy its wings,
(Edwina laughs)
to show the wonderful Meccano plumage.
But you can only do that
if you successfully get to the middle.
- Well, I think, I think it
would look fantastic made out
of lots of different colored bits,
but I just don't believe
it would actually work.
Next up is Frank Smith from
the North West Meccano Guild.
And despite my pleas for something funky,
he favors a return to the Victorian.
- Having looked at the
site I concluded it had
to be freestanding and therefore
some kind of girder bridge.
And I settled on the simplest of designs,
this is a small scale model
using the Warren girder.
- I always wanted a really modern bridge.
- Hm, hm.
- 'Cause I think it would look good.
But there's no denying that
that's the one Frank
Hornby would have built.
Economy of material is
the theme being pursued
by Elizabeth Strutzel
and Angus Low of Arup.
But their design looks worryingly
like a bizarre high wire
act and I hate heights.
- [Angus] It's a bit
like walking the plank
but actually it's a lot better than that.
(Edwina snorts and laughs)
- Does it have a handrail?
- I mean I think you can walk on that.
It's so minimal I think it's a sort
of the bridge with no name.
- [James] What d'you think of that?
- It's doable, it would work.
- Work a treat, yeah.
- I think it should have a handrail.
I can't imagine why not
unless they really want you to fall in.
- Well, yes.
- So maybe there's a
subliminal message coming
from it as well.
- [James] From Atkins Bridge Engineers,
Adam Miller and Hayden Nuttall propose
something like a giant Meccano trampoline.
- So with this particular
bridge it's entirely
in tension and we tried to play
to the strength of the material.
So in a sense it's a
really taut structure,
a bit like the strings at
the head of a tennis racket.
So we're quite confident
that this would work.
- It's a very exciting design.
- It reminds me a little bit
of that bridge in London,
the Millennium Bridge, the little one.
The little
- Hmm.
- [Edwina] The one that bounced so much
- Yes.
- That people had to,
it had to be closed.
- John Carroll and Josh Woods, students
from Liverpool university's
architecture department,
seem determine to burn their bridges
with a unique but completely mad idea.
- We're here to introduce you today
to the Bridge of No Return.
- Do you want me to demonstrate the model?
You'll walk onto this bridge.
Your momentum and your weight will
actually operate this bridge.
- I know what's gonna happen.
- Yeah. (claps)
- [David] Yeah I can see this.
- So that you will stand on this end.
As you walk, this is a curved structure,
as you walk along this curved
structure your weight will
end up pushing this down,
this will come across now.
As soon as you step back
on here the counterweight
on this will make this go back.
(Edwina laughs)
And you will be transported
across the river
and this is a once, this
will happen once only.
- What happens if you're
coming the other way?
- You can't.
- That is the reason
why we've named it.
- Hence the Bridge
of No Return.
- [David] The Bridge of No Return right.
- It's funny.
- It's lovely.
- It's brilliant, I
just, a wonderful idea.
- [James] 10 out of 10 for imagination.
- [David] Absolutely.
- [James] But I'm not entirely convinced
they could make it work.
Five great ideas but
one really stands out.
Are we about to make a
decision we'll regret?
Did you both like the student idea?
- I loved it.
I thought it was fun, it really was fun
and it met the brief, in
every part of the brief but
- They gave the impression
that they didn't quite have the expertise
to make it work and what they needed
to do was actually a lot more
complicated than they thought.
- It's a good idea which
could be made to work
but they need some help.
- It's the product of
drink that idea isn't it?
I think that's fairly
evident which is good.
I approve of that.
They're students, they're
young, they have hope
but what they don't have is knowledge.
- I can see which way your mind's going.
- Well first of all we'd like
to thank you all for coming,
bringing the designs.
They're all to some extent viable.
But there's one that
intrigued us in particular
which is the architectural students
with your daft Bridge of No Returns idea.
Unfortunately we don't
believe it will work.
However we do think that something like it
or along similar lines would
work with the appropriate help.
What we'd like you to do, if
it's okay by those concerned,
is if you would collaborate with Atkins
and maybe work together
to make an idea a bit like that work.
How d'you feel about that?
- Ecstatic to be honest
I'd say, yeah delighted.
- Hm, hm yeah.
- [Hayden] Yeah and I think
we're very happy yeah.
- [Adam] I don't see why not.
- You're the professionals Atkins
and your reputation stands to lose more
than the students 'cause
they don't have one.
- So no pressure then.
- None at all.
- Liverpool City Council
have agreed a date,
in just five weeks time, when
I can take over the canal.
So the pressure's on for
Hayden and the students
to devise a bridge that
allows me to enter Liverpool
but never leave and there
I'll stay as the song goes.
- So if we can imagine that we
can make this out of Meccano,
and we would sit it on
a side of the canal.
And at this point James should be
in the middle of the canal.
I think something like that could work.
- It's a bit of a balancing act but
- [Hayden] It is a bit of a balancing act.
- [James] They decide to build
the bridge in two pieces,
a 29 foot swing bridge and
a 46 foot bascule bridge,
bascule being the french for seesaw.
As water is released from a
tank at the end of the bascule,
my weight should force this
section down as a walk along it.
The other part of the bridge
should then swing into place
so I can step from one to the other
and be transported to the other side.
And to signify my triumphant
entry to the city,
I will then deploy Foster's
Meccano bird of Liver Love.
- You've got to be able to have enough
- [James] While the design
team tries to work it all out,
I head off to pick up
the building materials.
My journey begins here
at St Pancras Station,
a building that might
easily have been the spur
to Hornby's genius.
The really interesting thing is
that it's actually only
made of a few bits.
They're just repeated over and over again.
And of course a lot of
things are made like that
but you can't see it.
The point about the Victorian
engineering was it was new,
it was exciting, these
were massive arches,
no-one had been able to do this before
because they couldn't make
the pieces accurately enough.
So they wanted you to see it.
They put it on show
and that made the world look like Meccano.
The other good thing about this is,
it's still a station and
from here I can get a train
all the way to France,
which is ironic really because Meccano,
this fantastic constructional toy,
this thing that's celebrated
in the hands of youths,
what it was that made Britain so great,
is now made in France.
(slow accordion music)
Meccano was bought by
the french in the 1970s.
The original Liverpool factory was closed
and production moved to Calais
with head offices in Paris.
As I'm going to need over
half a ton for my bridge,
I have some truly
industrial scrounging to do.
I've decided to go straight to the boss.
I'm coming to see the
Managing Director of Meccano,
part of the family that now owns it.
Since the French got
their hands on Meccano
it has been gradually
distanced from its origins.
Rather in the way the cheese
and ham toasty morphed
into the croque monsieur.
MD Michael Imberg has
some explaining to do.
The thing is Michael, for me this crane,
even though it's very, very old-fashioned,
this is what Frank Hornby was thinking of.
If you made strips with
holes at a fixed distance,
you could make them into
anything you wanted.
And yet these days, if you
don't mind I've found this,
so it's a radio-controlled
car and it also,
(beat music)
(wheels whizzing)
sort of does
I like a car with banging tunes
but the only construction
involved here is attaching
a few body panels to a
pre-assembled electronic module.
The thing that's missing
that I think made Meccano
brilliant was the mechanisms,
the gears and the chains and the teeth.
- But the population change
a lot, the kids change.
We need to be a little
bit easier to build.
- [James] Easier?
The whole point of Meccano is
that it's supposed to be hard.
It's meant to expand your mind.
Mind you I quite like this thing.
Meccano robot.
- [Michael] And you can control this robot
all over the world through the web.
- [James] Is it Meccano though?
- Yeah it's Meccano.
Meccano was the concept of toys,
of technology toys from the 20th Century.
And this one is the same concept.
Technology toys from the 21st Century.
- Michael agrees to lend me
enough old-fashioned Meccano
to build my bridge.
After all it's not as
if he really needs it.
I also blag a robot
because I have a feeling
it could be useful.
I have to say though that
I am slightly disappointed
in the French.
They really should know better.
This was completed about ten years
before Frank Hornby came up
with his revolutionary
metal construction toy
for children and it might
easily have been the inspiration
for it because it's made up
out of standardized parts
that were constructed
offsite and then brought here
and put together like a giant kit.
And did you know that
if you scribe a circle
around the base of the Eiffel Tower,
and then raise it up to the
height of the Eiffel Tower,
then the mass of the air within
that cylinder would be greater
than the mass of the metal
in the tower itself.
And if you melted the Eiffel Tower down
and cast it in an ingot
the size of its footprint,
it would be no more than
about 100 millimeters tall.
In fact if each individual fact known
about the Eiffel Tower were
written on a piece of bog roll,
Paris could wipe its bum for a month.
I head back to Liverpool
to meet my new workforce.
They are students from the university's
engineering department.
They are young, they're optimistic.
Their minds have not yet been shackled
to the stultifying conventions
of the commercial world,
and they're free.
Here are the freshly printed plans.
Haven't even looked at them yet.
They've got a hell of a printer
at this place haven't they?
(wispy music)
What, it's that big?
I'm sure I said I wanted that
500 millimeters wide didn't I?
Is it a deliberate policy to make me fall
in the Leeds Liverpool Canal?
It seems my bargaining technique
hadn't been up to scratch.
With limited Meccano, Hayden
had managed the length
but at the expense of the width.
It is quite narrow isn't it?
- One of those stools underneath
the desk is pretty similar
to what you'll be actually standing on.
(stool clatters)
- Bloody hell.
They're having a laugh aren't they?
The chances of me standing on that whilst
it swings is just,
(laughs) is absolutely nil.
Hayden and his team were
still working on the design,
but when the Meccano arrived,
I couldn't resist the
temptation to get going.
Look at that.
All of that is full of Meccano,
more Meccano than you could ever dream of.
That is a massive palette full
of Meccano being winched up
into the sky by a crane,
which was the very thing
that inspired Meccano
in the first place.
And then when it
re-emerges from that hatch
in a few weeks time, it'll be a bridge.
Look at that.
(Metal clatters)
Right there's your drawing,
there's your Meccano, carry on.
See ya.
The students now have
just four weeks to build
what is possibly the most
complicated Meccano structure
ever attempted.
It will involve bolting together more
than 80,000 pieces of steel strip.
I leave them to it.
I think they'll be fine.
They're engineers, they're
keen, they're intelligent,
they're in a very good faculty,
they've got the materials.
I think I'll fall off
it when it's finished
but the bridge itself will be good.
Meanwhile Hayden is trying to find out
if Meccano is actually up to the job.
Can a toy bridge really take the weight
of a fully grown boy such as me?
(nuts and bolts pinging)
Unsure even himself,
Hayden decides, unwisely,
to take Meccano testing into
the arena of comedic stunts.
That's my car.
It is.
Are you proposing to lift
that up with bits of Meccano?
- [Hayden] Well that was kind of the idea.
We're hoping it'll carry the load.
- You do know this is my favorite car.
- Your favorite car.
- [James] Yes, of all
the cars I've ever had,
this is the one I like the most.
- Ah.
- Right go on then.
- Are you sure?
- Yeah.
- [Hayden] John, do your stuff.
- As a test of how confident you are,
let's take those chains off
but if the car falls off,
you have to buy me a new one.
- John.
(chains clattering)
(engine chugging)
- Look, that is only Meccano.
If the Meccano breaks the car gets it.
Why's that one quivering
in an alarming fashion?
I don't suppose anyone's ever
done this before have they.
And this is the only Porsche
911 in the world ever
to have been lifted up by Meccano.
It's very impressive.
As a result of that frankly
stupid and insulting experiment,
I now believe in Meccano.
I believe in it this much now.
Good, down.
Meccano might be up to the
job but are our designs?
My decision to start building
before the drawings were
signed off looks like it might
backfire and my students are
already becoming militant.
- It just looks like they've
got a lot of stuff going on
in the same place, and
they haven't thought
about how it's all gonna connect together.
- I don't think the plans
are correct to be honest.
- It's been kind of a real struggle
to just get everything managed
to fit together properly.
- This may be my first and
last experience with Meccano.
- Threatened with an all
night vigil sit in boycott,
I put in an appearance.
That's a lot of Meccano.
I was expecting more of a bridge by now.
- Well we've only got half the parts.
- You've only what?
- We've only got half the parts.
- What d'you mean you've
only got half the parts?
- Well we're still waiting on a delivery
from France apparently.
- There are some bits you haven't got?
- That's right.
- Yeah.
- [Student] Quite a lot
of bits we haven't got.
- That would be the bottom line of it.
- [James] What sort, what bits?
- On these sections here
where you've got a few
intersections of these bars,
there's gonna be an extra, an extra plate
but Meccano don't actually
even make that blate.
So the stuff that we've
got on order's not come yet
and then we're gonna have to manufacture
our own plate for certain parts.
- You, no, you can't manufacture
your own bits of Meccano.
- Well
- It's not Meccano.
- Well that's, that's what we've
been told to do I'm afraid.
- [James] Well by whom?
- The engineers.
- The engineering design firm.
- [Student] You are gonna be in the canal.
- I'm overruling the engineering design.
You can't put bits into it
that aren't Meccano either,
otherwise we'll be standing there saying
- Well would you say it would be cheating
to weld certain points because that would
help as well.
- Yes I would.
I know it would but you
don't get welding equipment
in a Meccano set.
What I like about students
is their unflappable,
youthful optimism.
Possible failure modes sweepstake.
So the, (laughs)
right so the failure is
James thrown into dock.
Architects get it right.
Sabotage, well known engineering
firm gets it very wrong,
bridge gets stolen.
You don't actually believe it will work.
- We want the actual final plans.
As soon as we get them,
without any
- We want the bits
and the final plans,
and then we can get on with our job.
- So let's just get this right.
The design isn't actually finished
and isn't going to work as it is.
They've put a load of it together
that they'll have to take apart again.
Some of the Meccano hasn't turned up.
They're talking about using bits
that aren't strictly Meccano to build it.
And on their sweepstake
board, favorite scenario is
that I fall into the canal
and drown, with even odds.
There you go, I knew
this was a great idea.
I said we should build a Meccano airship
but as usual nobody listened.
(button buzzes)
Meccano bridge my arse.
There's a perfectly good reason
why there's never been one of those.
(sedate music)
It's time for a long deep
draft of the Entente Cordiale.
Calais, home of the present day Meccano,
is but a pleasant train ride away.
This is the last bastion
of proper metal Meccano.
This is in fact the last outpost
of Frank Hornby's once
proud global empire.
This is where Meccano became Meccano.
Bonjour monsieur.
Hey, hey, hey he's got my Meccano.
Is that (speaking a foreign language)
Hey, hey.
(speaking a foreign language)
As quick as you can please.
Tut sweet, get on with it.
Hey, home Ed.
(machine thumping)
What's rather marvellous about
this is that the processors
for making the metal parts
would not be particularly
unfamiliar to people who worked
in the Liverpool factory
maybe 50 years ago.
The presses are a bit more modern
or maybe a little bit less old-fashioned
but the tools themselves, the metal guides
that are actually stamping the holes,
a lot of those came from
the Binns Road factory.
This man is making an actual component
for our special Meccano order.
So far he's only punched the holes
on the sheet steel that's
fed into his press.
And later he will put a
different tool in there
and then using the same press,
he will form the right angle in it.
And then, then it will become
the familiar angle
girder we know and love,
and have loved for over 100 years.
(Machine banging)
This is great, it's like being at a rave.
Give me more Meccano.
I discover the point of
the modern Meccano robot.
I can use it to monitor insurgent
undergraduates remotely.
Oh that's nice, thank you.
What are you doing?
- Putting the bracing
on the bascule bridge.
- Are you doing all the nuts
and bolts up nice and tightly?
- Yes, of course.
- [James] Thank you.
There's no stopping the
robot once he gets going.
(Robot squeaks)
- Mr May, I'm fed up of you.
I've got cuts all over me hands.
- Oi.
- from this Meccano.
- Oi.
- and I'm gonna put you
in the bin.
- Oi.
- I'm gonna sit you in here
with this Meccano where you belong.
- But with under two weeks to go,
we're still hopelessly behind.
So I'm on the scrounge again.
I need Ian Mordue and his chums
in the North East Meccano Guild to come
to the rescue like a Meccano cavalry.
The only way we can
finish it in 12 days time,
which is what I need to
do, is to recruit the help
of people who understand Meccano,
which means you and your
Guild mates I'm afraid.
- Well we do it as a hobby,
so whether we do it building
a bridge or building a crane,
we're equally happy.
- [James] Hmm.
Will you do it?
- [Ian] We certainly will,
to the best of our abilities.
- Good.
And I stop poncing around in France
and dig out my vintage spanner as well.
Well you might think this
is just a simple matter of
doing up a load of nuts
and bolts, which it is,
but when they have to
pass through four sections
and a washer trapped in between them
it becomes immensely
fiddly and time consuming.
And they will be very pleased
because it means they
don't have to do this bit.
- [Ian] Absolutely yes.
- [James] Nine days later
and the Meccano Guild
deliver their sections.
It's a great relief until James
makes a terrible discovery.
- [Student] These like
should be four thick
and they should be two thick.
- Oh god.
- Which means gutting.
- [James] The guild hasn't
put enough gusset plates in
and whole sections will
have to be rebuilt.
So you've gotta take off
one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 nuts
and bolts to take that out.
- Possibly a week's worth of work that.
- But we haven't got a week.
- No.
- That this bridge won't
actually be finished
in time for Sunday would seem to me to be,
as the chief engineer of the
Titanic would have put it,
a mathematical certainty.
If I work out how many people can work
on it physically at the same time
and how many bits need
to be bolted together
and the fact that it needs to be tested
and a handrail needs to be made
and the Liver Bird of Love
needs to be constructed,
it simply doesn't add up as
a simple piece of arithmetic.
I just genuinely, no
false jeopardy for telly,
oh will they do it?
I really don't see how it's possible.
(reggae music)
When I told Liverpool
council I'd look a right tit
if we had to cancel our event,
they took pity and agreed
that we could delay our bridge opening.
Time to rally the troops
for one final push.
Men, women, you stand alone.
Stop laughing.
There are people who are saying
this bridge cannot be built.
They are saying that
Meccano is a mere plaything
whose time has passed.
("Rule Britannia!" By James Thomson)
However, and on the contrary,
I believe we are about
to see its finest hour.
Anything else that you achieve
in life will forever be
in the shadow of this great bridge,
and the one that it casts upon the world.
Crikey, that's quite high.
And that may be a bit of an exaggeration
but it's quite a good bridge.
I give you one week.
Carry on and god speed your spanner.
So with some extra time
but still more than a third
of the bridge to build,
the students get stuck in.
And before heading back
to London even I stay late
into the night to make it happen.
(gentle music)
The weird thing is,
that although lots of things are not going
entirely according to plan
with this Meccano bridge,
I actually find myself
very happy being here
on my own doing this.
My mind has become instantly emptied
of all other cares and burdens.
I'm very happy just doing
up some nice shiny new nuts and bolts.
I mean look at this, there's
a load of drugs down here.
Six days later while
relaxing in the jacuzzi,
I suddenly get the news
I've been waiting for.
It's finished apparently.
I got the phone call last night
just as the deadline expired to say come
and see your bridge, so here I am,
and I'm quite excited about it.
- Hi James.
- Morning.
- Morning.
- Morning James.
- Hello.
- Morning.
- [James] Morning.
Wow look at that.
I like it.
- It's pretty impressive
isn't it?
- It's not bad.
This is where I stand.
It's a bit bendy.
- It'll be okay.
- [James] Have you done it all up tightly?
- Yeah.
- Yeah.
- Well done.
Show me the other bit then.
God, bloody hell.
It's a thing of beauty isn't it?
Was it worth it?
- It was a life changing experience.
We'll never be the same after this now.
(hand slapping)
- Can't hear any loose bits.
- We've had it outside and we've
had it lifted on the crane.
We've had it tested and it went okay.
We brought it back in and
there wasn't really much loose
so hopefully
- It's vibrating on the lorry
though isn't it?
- Yeah that's the
only problem really.
- It's got a three mile
journey down there.
- Can we agree something
between now and tomorrow
when the crossing is complete?
Can you all stop using the word hopefully?
It's not an accepted engineering term.
- That's fair enough.
- The bridge may be complete
but we now have to transport
this 75 foot monster
across Liverpool to the Pier
Head without damaging it,
for its grand unveiling tomorrow.
It is weird to think back to
that palette of boxes arriving.
That's all those bits all bolted together,
thousands and thousands of them.
- Looks a lot more daunting
when it's actually upright
as opposed to lying on the ground.
- [James] Yeah.
- What are your impressions on seeing it
for the first time then?
- Oh, it looks fabulous.
Tt's a thing of beauty but also
a very technical statement.
- It is.
- It's not flim flam it's
a piece of metalwork here.
- I'm really, really proud of this bridge.
Just looking at it my
heart fills up with pride.
I'm like, it makes me so happy to see it.
I'm really, really pleased
with what we've achieved.
- To be honest I'm surprised
we're at this stage now.
It's total, you know I'm
shocked we got this far.
- [James] The bridge heads for the canal.
- Right watch your hands.
- If you lift it on top
and then slide it forward,
so probably about here.
- [James] At the canal Hayden
and his team are fitting
the giant water tank
that acts as a
counterweight on the bascule
but mechanizing the swing
bridge is proving tricky.
- [Hayden] See that works nice there.
(motor whizzing)
- [James] Electric
motors are soon the least
of our problems.
As the bridge sections are
finally hoisted into position,
disaster strikes.
(metal scraping)
(workers shouting)
- Right everyone out the way.
- [Worker] Everybody back.
- Right just pop it down on the ground.
Forget about the timber for the moment.
Let's get the weight off it.
- Back.
- Guys, guys.
The sooner we get it down the better.
The first thing we're gonna
do is get this tank off
and then we can assess the damage then.
(slow piano music)
- It got lifted into the
air, it was top heavy.
Then once it started to go it carried on
and it hit the ground full force.
And it's bent quite a lot of it.
A lot of members all
need to be replaced now
on the back half.
- I'm pretty devastated.
Like, it was perfect.
I don't know.
Everything was going so well
and it's gonna take hours to fix it.
I'm gutted.
- Everyone's a bit downhearted,
and it's just,
well, what can you do?
(people chattering)
- Well the good news is,
it's affecting the back
and the back is the least important part.
- Yeah.
- So I think we can reattach these,
knock it back into shape
and I think we'll still have a bridge.
This time tomorrow James
you won't even know.
It was nearly a disaster.
Maybe we took our eye off the ball
because we had such a good day
and everything had worked well.
So, yeah I'm gutted
but I'm also optimistic
that we still have a show,
we still have a bridge
and it'll still work.
- Yeah that actually looked
like more of a disaster
than it was because the
Meccano structure is extremely
strong and quite flexible.
Of more immediate concern though is
that the man who was
operating the crane when
that happened is also the man in charge
of my safety harness tomorrow.
(beating drum music)
(winch cranking)
- Right, move back then.
- Well my students and my crane
operators have been working
through the night to prepare
the Bridge of No Return,
including a few last minute repairs,
and really, once they have
it in position it's all,
it's all up to me really not to let them
and this magnificent city down
'cause I'm scared of heights.
But anyway let's see what happens.
I might go and have a Scotch.
(chain clanking)
(truck reverse beeping)
- My god. (Laughing)
Hi sweetheart.
- Oh.
Most excellent Daughter of Liverpool.
- How you doing?
- What do you think?
That's in its tipped position obviously.
- Are you actually gonna walk across that?
- [James] Well supposedly yeah.
- Well it's not very wide.
- No it's not.
I have to wear a safety harness anyway
'cause the water's not
as deep as we thought.
So if I fell in I'd break me neck.
It's elegant though isn't
it, look at the shape?
- Beautiful.
- Look at the way it sparkles
in the early morning sun.
- Absolutely lovely.
I tell you what, it's so Liverpool.
- Is it?
- It's kind of slightly mad,
very beautiful, completely
different from anywhere else.
- [James] It's a bloody daft idea really.
- [Edwina] Really imaginative,
yeah, that's great.
And if it works so much the better.
- [James] Terrifying really,
how can it possibly work?
I think I saw a bit fall off just then.
(upbeat electronic music)
- Last night I was pretty
depressed last night.
It just looked a mess and
I was like so downhearted
but we sorted it out
and a lot happier today.
I don't think anything will go wrong.
I can't see what could go wrong
but there's always an element of risk.
- [James] This is it, 80,000 pieces.
Two months of bolt
tightening and blasphemy.
They are about to be put to the test.
Me too as I make the historic
crossing to Liverpool
to bring the Liver Bird of Love to life,
because I'm scared of heights.
Have I said that?
(harness clicks)
(upbeat music)
- James are you ready?
- Yes.
- Oh my god.
(crowd cheers)
- Wait for it.
Behold, the Meccano Bridge of No Return.
(crow cheers and claps)
- [Woman] Come on.
- Why make a bridge out of Meccano?
Well it's because Meccano is Liverpool.
Meccano is one of
Liverpool's most famous sons,
up there with John Lennon
and that other bloke.
But there is more.
For too long, for too many generations,
this canal has seemed like a hideous rent
in the very fabric of
Liverpudlian society.
Well today I hope that that
divide will be um bridged.
(crowd laughs)
Are we ready?
- Yes.
- Yeah!
(crowd hollers)
- I am putting on helmet cam.
Right, Terry open the tap Sir,
and with that the water begins to drain
from the counterweighted
tank, allowing the bascule,
the tilting half of the
bridge to begin tipping.
(horn blows)
Thank you.
I knew I was nervous.
- (laughs) Ha hay.
- Oh god.
- Start again.
- To begin tipping into position.
I can feel some movement.
It's not in the bridge.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
I'm chuffing terrified everybody.
I'm not very good at heights.
I get vertigo but it's fine.
Come on bridge.
- Come on bridge.
It's going.
- Yeah.
- Steady.
- Ohhh!
- I've changed me mind I
don't wanna go to Liverpool.
I always liked Manchester.
(crowd booing)
I shouldn't have said that.
The crane driver's a Scouser.
Right here we go.
A bolt's just fallen off.
(James whimpers)
- [Edwina] Look at the Liver Building.
- [James] What?
- [Edwina] Look at the Liver Building.
- I'm looking at the Liver Bird.
- [Edwina] This way.
- Will it snap ladies and gentlemen.
Is the crane moving with me?
I'd hate to fall off
because of the health and safety device.
- [Edwina] You're doing
fine James keep going.
Head up, don't look down.
- [James] God it's made of bloody Meccano,
and it's wobbly.
- [Edwina] You're doing
alright, keep going.
(James whimpers)
Keep going.
Go on James.
(crowd cheers and whistles)
Go on boy.
- Whoa it's very bendy.
- It's only you shaking,
it's not the bridge.
- No it's the bridge.
Swing, swing bridge.
Come head swinging bridge.
- [Edwina] Keep smiling James.
- [James] This is looking very good.
- Whoa!
- Yay, whoa!
- How's that!
- Go on James.
- Release the tap, swing the bridge.
Whoa ho.
(cheery music)
- Head up, shoulders back, be proud.
- Bugger off.
It's not about me, it's about Meccano.
This is the wobbliest thing
ever made in the world.
Whoa, ho, ho okay.
- Go on James.
- Go on James.
- Go on James.
- Oh it's too wobbly.
(crowd laughs)
- [Edwina] Yeah you're doing it.
- Go on James.
- Go on James.
- Edwina.
- Yay!
- Hang on, hang on, hang on hang on.
Hang on it's not finished.
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
Hello Liverpool!
(clapping and whistling)
- Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
We're very proud of it.
- Well I don't recommend it.
To be honest if you want a bridge
across the Leeds Liverpool Canal,
in front of the Liver Building,
that's not the answer.
I'm sorry about the wobbly bit at the end.
- That's alright,
- But actually
- gave us something to laugh at.
- The crane was making me
wobble more than the bridge was.
- Yeah, it could see that.
- 'Cause it keeps pulling me about.
But I thought it worked fantastically.
Alignment was good.
They were both level.
The bascule tilted
perfectly, didn't deflect.
- [Student] Couldn't
have gone a lot better.
- Not really.
Well I was very impressed and thank you
for your project management.
- Thank you very much for making it proud.
- And I'm sorry about the
slight mishap yesterday.
- I'm surprised it went so
smoothly, I have to say.
Were you?
- No not really.
I always thought it would work.
Why wouldn't it?
- I thought that was absolutely wonderful.
I really did.
- It worked.
- It worked.
It was beautiful.
It was genuinely scary.
I know it was wobbling
because you were shaking.
It was nothing to do with the wobble
of the bridge at all but even so.
- No it wasn't.
What d'you mean?
- I had butterflies for you.
I thought it was awesome.
- [James] What a result.
Liverpool has shown that
Meccano still deserves a place
in the toy boxes of today.
And like the Victorians before us,
we've proved that with nothing more
than some steel, self
belief and an exploited,
underpaid workforce, it is possible
to create a mechanical
marvel to be proud of.
Hello Liverpool.
(Cheering and whistling)
(rock music)
Previous EpisodeNext Episode