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Giant Meccano Bridge

At Nob End, Little Lever, Bolton

The Bridge was designed to be an artistic but useful feature. It replaces a simple wooden bridge which allowed boatmen and horses to cross the top chamber of the Prestolee flight of locks on the Manchester, Bury and Bolton Canal, where the towpath changes sides. When it was demolished or fell to bits, the canal was dry at this point due the large breach in the canal some distance from the bridge in the direction of Bury. A rough footpath across the bed of the large, now dry, basin which had been provided to allow boats to turn into the Bolton Branch had to be used instead. It is hoped to refill this basin and connect it to the stretch of the Bolton Branch which is in water. Doing this would make the bridge an essential link in the public footpath as well as make an attractive feature on the canal in its own right.

Access to the site by machinery of even modest size is impossible due to the breach, so a bridge capable of being erected manually was needed. The artist, Liam Curtin, had been commissioned to produce an outdoor work of art in Bolton, and found that this was excellent site  and experience as a boy with Meccano suggested that building the bridge from scaled up Meccano parts would a good,  practical, and colourful  solution.

His original design was, as one would expect, made with standard Meccano, although a hacksaw was used to produce parts not readily available. The actual bridge is made of Meccano scaled up 10 times. There are a few non-standard parts  The 11 x 10 hole flat plates forming the sides of the bridge replace pairs of 11 holes x 5 hole Flanged Plates in Mr. Curtin’s original model and could easily be replaced by pairs of  the rather uncommon standard Flat Plates in the model. 13 hole strips which form the bracing on the sides, though not made in Liverpool were made as Meccano parts in Argentina.  There are also some 8 and 10 ho;le strips  which are not conspicuous and easily replaced by standard parts by anyone reproducing the bridge in normal sized Meccano.The parts are quite accurately scaled up, bearing mind the availability of material. The bolts are M38 and the holes about 42 mm diameter, so reproducing the fairly generous clearance that normal Meccano bolts have in the holes as well as being  pretty accurately scaled up . This allows the 13 hole strips to be used for bracing. while still obeying Pythagoras.  The material is about 8 mm thick, roughly 21 SWG scaled up ,which is about right for most of the parts used. It was not feasible to make the decking out scaled up Meccano, so  some ingenious plates are used. These have specially shaped holes punched alternately from the top and bottom, some making ridges to provide a good grip and the others nicely rounded drainage holes. Most of the parts could be carried by one person but a sack truck was used for the large plates.

The structure is amply strong enough and was tested with a large number of people at the  “Grand Opening”. It does appear to have small sag, probably due to the fact that Meccano Bolts are not, as they should be being enlarged replicas of Meccano parts, a tight fit in the holes.

The parts were made by one Bolton firm and the nuts and bolts by another. The threads on the bolts have been damaged to prevent the bridge being easily dismantled.

More information, including videos taken during the construction of the bridge, can be found at:


More photographs and other information are to be seen on:

Click on “Galleries”, then “User Galleries” , and find Mike Walker’s and Dick Watson’s galleries (not on the first page of users)

Latest News (2020).

 There are now two swans in residence again. They have repaired the nest at the beginning of the Bolton Branch.

Vegetation has been cleared from both flights of locks and it is proposed to get water into those near the Meccano Bridge. Some work has been done on the brick walls near the bridge. The approach road has been resurfaced. It is also proposed to repair the breach near the end of the turning basin and restore navigation to Radcliffe.

  The bridge looks almost as good as new but it was noted that a little of the paint is peeling off to reveal the galvanised surface below.

The fame of the bridge  reached the town of Police in the Czech Republic where the spirit of Binns Road lives on. Merkur (a construction system like Meccano scaled down by a factor of 1.27)  is manufactured there. Its website used clip from a picture of the bridge as an icon on its parts page for a time, but no more:

Merkur also produces other products including Live Steam Engines and educational models

   Work is in progress on the top lock and adjoining, now dry, basin and a playlist of videos showing the route of the canal can be found at:

The Picnic Tables

Near by, some picnic tables made of giant Meccano have been provided. Rather surprisingly, the 11 hole x 5 hole Flanged Plates are made of the thicker material used for  Meccano Strips rather than the slightly thinner sort used for the Flanged Plates. This must have made them hard work to make. As you can see in the photograph, the tables are firmly set in concrete.

Since the photograph was taken, the picnic area has been much improved. It is well surfaced and has gardens around it.

A  Giant Meccano Garden Seat  has now been been added.

The bridge was visited recently  and found to be in good condition and free from graffiti.

Getting There

The bridge can be found near the Western edge of OS Explorer map 277  and on Landranger map 109.

It is just off Prestolee Road, Little Lever near to its end-on junction with Boscow Road (GR SD753065, BL3 1AB). The bridge is where Prestolee  Road turns right to go to the bottom of the flight of locks.

The quickest way to visit it is to  drive to the centre of Little Lever and turn down Mytham Road, then right into Boscow Road. You should be able to park near the end of Boscow Road. It is then a short walk to the bridge past a cattery.

You can get a 524 bus from Bolton Bus Station, Stand J, (just outside the Railway Station) to Little Lever. It takes about 20 minutes. This bus also passes Moses Gate  (for the National Rail Station) and Radcliffe (for the Metrolink Station). It finishes its journey at Bury (for the East Lancashire Railway).  The railway between Manchester, Moses Gate and Bolton has, at last, been electrified.

You will pass a shop, just off Mytham Road which sells a small selection of sandwiches and other essentials, otherwise you can try the Jolly Carter for sustenance, which is at the Western  end of the village.

Some other suggestions appear on:  

Another good approach is from Fold Road, Kearsley. Park near the Horseshoe Inn (good food)( GR SD764054  M26 1FT ).

Follow the footpath sign on the side of the road nearly opposite the pub. This takes you along the canal towpath. At first, the canal is dry but soon it begins to look like a canal. After crossing an aqueduct over the River Irwell, you arrive at the large basin the bottom of Prestolee locks. Looking up the flight of locks, you get a fine view of the bridge high above you. Follow the path over the remains of a dry-dock , then up the hill beside the remains of the locks to reach the bridge.  You can combine this route with the next one in reverse.  On weekdays, you can catch a 512 bus back to near the start.  At weekends , there  isn’t an  alternative route which does not include a lot of road walking. You can also reach the bridge from Water Street in the centre of Radcliffe (approximately  M26 1EU) by following the canal towpath in a westerly direction. You will pass the Mount Sion Steam Crane which was  used to unload containers of coal from barges and drop them down to the works below, and the large breach which caused the closure of most of the canal in 1936.  You can get the 524 bus to get back from Little Lever.


Video of the Opening Ceremony.

Chris. Harris’s Models of the Bridge made from Standard Meccano.

Chris. Harris was asked by the Frank Hornby Charitable Trust and the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre to make a model of the Giant Meccano Bridge at Nob End near Little Lever to display at the Maghull Leisure Centre and Library. This proved more difficult than expected. Liam Curtin made a model of the bridge in standard Meccano as a prototype for the ten times larger one to be constructed at Nob End. It had been realised that he had modified some of the parts used but not to the same extent as was found when reconstructing the model. Some 10 x 11 hole plates were manufactured (see the photograph of a full size one being delivered above).

Altogether, 650 Nuts & Bolts, 30 Washers and 345 other parts were needed. 104 were modified including 13, 10 and 8 Hole strips and 14, 13 and 12 hole Angle Girders. Many of these needed to be painted.

The model is to be exhibited on top of a bookcase with a G-Scale Model Train running backwards and forwards across it.