Frank Hornby had been making metal models for his two sons in his garden shed. However he realized that if he used strips perforated with holes at a set distance and a system of standard size clips or bolts to make up a model then that model could be taken apart and used in another model. Hornby eventually settled on strips of 3 sizes, 2.5, 5.5 and 12.5 inches long with a hole every half inch. 8 Gauge wire served as Axle Rods followed by clips, angle brackets and wheels.


By 1900 Frank Hornby had enough pieces to consider marketing his idea. However he was advised to patent his idea and as he had not enough money for the patent he approached his employer David Elliott who lent the necessary £5. The patent was granted in 1901. Interestingly most of the models that Frank Hornby envisioned for his new Educational Toy where connected to railways, however Bridges and Cranes where an option. By 1901 a 18 page instruction book had been prepared with the title, 'Mechanics Made Easy - An Adaptable Mechanical Toy'. The 'toy,' being primarily aimed at parents who wanted to broaden there child's education.


mechanics made easy


Problems however remained taking the idea from garden shed to fully fledged business. First of all was the problem of someone to manufacture the parts. Secondly someone to sell them and finally customers who could afford them. Frank Hornby started by using several different manufactures to make different parts either in tinplate or brass whilst making a large portion of the parts himself.

James Street

James Street Liverpool

This arrangement was not ideal so Frank Hornby again approached David Elliott resulting in the forming of a new partnership, Elliot-Hornby and the renting of some premises at 18 James Street. David Elliott putting up the vast majority of the capital. Frank Hornby set of to sell his product direct to shops but initial reaction to the new toy from the dealers where poor. The crude appearance of the parts along with high cost put most off. However one firm Philip, Son and Nephew accepted a few kits as did a few other stores. Frank Hornby knew that he needed to advertise, advertising spaces was bought in the Model Engineer Magazine, in 1903 the same magazine was used to promote a model making competition, opening the way for Mechanics Made Easy to be sold to adults as well as children. The competition was a great success resulting in customers asking stores for Mechanics Made Easy which after their initial reluctance where now willing to stock the product.

Mechanics Made Easy Instruction Street

Early Mechanics Made Easy Crane Instructions

By 1904 Frank Hornby was able to expand both the parts and the sets adding sets B & C. In these Frank Hornby establish a principle that would be followed right the way through to the final sets made at Binns Road. That of building larger sets on the smaller ones. In other words Set B contained all the parts of set A plus more parts, set C contained all the parts of set B plus extras. This meant that a purchaser of Set C could also make all the models from sets A & B. Also it meant that conversion sets could be marketed adding the extra parts for the larger set. By 1904 conversion sets A1, B1 and curiously C1 where marketed. Sets D and E where added late in 1905.

mechanics made easy booklet

Early Mechanics Made Easy Book


By 1906 Mechanics Made Easy was established well enough for Frank Hornby to give up his day job at Elliott's and start the search for larger premises in order to expand the product . Included in this would be a name change from the rather long Mechanics Made Easy.



  • 1901 Frank Hornby Patents Mechanics Made easy
  • 1901 First MME Set sold for 7/6
  • 1902 Premises Rented at James Street Liverpool
  • 1904 Range of Sets Widened to A, B & C
  • 1905 Frank Hornby's only Daughter is born Patricia Elliott Hornby
  • 1906 First US Patent. New Sets D & E along with Set X for smaller Children