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Bayko Building Site

by Melvyn Wright

This web site is devoted to the Bayko construction toy which was marketed from 1934 to 1967.  Bayko is an architectural building system, used for constructing model houses, shops, stations, churches, and similar buildings.  Bayko was manufactured from bakelite, and was one of the earliest plastic toys to be marketed.  It was invented by Charles Plimpton in 1933, who set up the firm of Plimpton Engineering in Liverpool, England to manufacture the toy.

The fascinating never failing web site for Bayko lovers!
   

Site created 1st November 2001

Last updated:  26th May 2014

"Only by actually building any of the hundreds of models, can one realise the spirit of achievement and satisfaction derived from building with BAYKO BUILDING SETS"
 

Click Here to get Started with Bayko

The Bayko system
The Bayko system consists of a selection of architectural components which are slid down a framework of steel Rods inserted into a Base perforated with a matrix of holes.  The Rods are arranged to form the basic outline of the building, and the components are held in position by grooves down each side.  Components consist of Brick panels, Windows of various sizes, Corner Bricks, Doors, Pillars, Fences, etc.  A selection of Roofing and ornamental components is also provided to complete the buildings.

Illustrations showing basic Bayko components and their method of use

A Short History of Bayko

My main interest is in Bayko from the 1950s and 1960s.  I do not claim to be an expert on Bayko history, particularly pre-war Bayko.  However, I have put together a short Bayko history for those interested.

The Plimpton era (1934-1959)
Although patented in 1933, it was not until the end of 1934 that the first Bayko Building Sets were ready for sale.  Delays were caused by initial difficulties in working with the new material.  For instance, the Bases would often warp during cooling, and it proved difficult to achieve consistent colours.  The reds in particular would often turn out in various shades of brown!

Five sets were initally marketed (sets 1-5) followed by conversion sets (1a-4a) to convert each set to the next one above.  Bricks were red and white, Bases were brown, Windows dark green, and Roofs a dark maroon colour.  In 1935 a set of "Ornamental Additions" was produced, and also a deluxe set 6 which was much larger than the set 5 and contained many of the new ornamental parts, such as Pillars, Arches and Capping pieces.  Set 6 also had a distinctive colour scheme with white Doors and Windows, green Roofs, and bricks in a mottled brown colour, referred to as 'Oak'.

Further new ornamental parts and sets were introduced in 1936, including Curved Bricks and Windows, Turret pieces, and orange Dome and Pinnacle Roofs.  In 1938, the No.6 set was made available in standard colours.  This led to the introduction of a 5a set, to convert the set 5 into a set 6.


1935 Oak set 6 model

1939 saw the introduction of End Bricks (which replaced the old Corner Bricks), Long Bricks, Long Windows, and smaller green Bases.  The existing outfits were replaced by a new series of 6 outfits which incorporated the new parts.  All the outfits were now in a red white and green colour scheme, although white and brown parts were still available as spares.
After the war, the existing series of outfits was replaced by just three: sets 0, 1 and 2 and conversion sets 0x and 1x.  This was to be the start of the classic Bayko period that most people remember.  A set 3 and converting set 2x were introduced in 1947.  The colours were now standardised, with red and white Bricks, dark green Bases, red Roofs, and green Windows and Doors.

Right:  Selection of classic Bayko parts

In 1949, many new parts were added to increase the realism and flexibility of the system.  These included Short Pillars, Crazy Paving, Fences and Walls, Side Bricks and Side Windows.  The latter enabled the construction of rectangular bays topped by the new Gable Roof.  In 1950, Opening Windows and Gates arrived.  In 1951, a large set 4 was introduced which used all of the recently-introduced parts.  This was accompanied by a 3x converting set.

Left:  Small selection of the new early 50s parts

Bayko had now come of age, and the fifties was a very stable and successful period for Bayko, with full order books and very few changes to the system, the outfits, or the manuals.  Up to a million sets were produced during this period and exported all over the world.


Large block of flats made with 50s Bayko

The next changes occured in 1957 and 58, with the introduction of opening Garage Doors, Ramps, and TV Aerials, although no plans were published which used these new parts.  The Windows were also modified to allow transparent glazing material to be fitted.  At the same time comes evidence of a downturn in Bayko's fortunes.  Windows and other parts were now being produced in cheaper polystyrene as opposed to the more expensive Bakelite.  Bayko was now coming under pressure from new products, such as Lego and Airfix building sets.  Faced with falling sales and increasing competition, Margaret Plimpton (who had taken over from Charles after his death in 1948) retired in 1959, and sold the company to Meccano Ltd.
The Meccano era (1960-1967)
Upon the aquisition of Bayko, Meccano Ltd. transferred all production to its factory in Speke and set about updating the system and redesigning the outfits.  Now, all plastic parts would be made from polystyrene, and the colours were changed to grey Bases, green Roofs, and yellow Windows and Doors.  Most of the decorative parts were dropped altogether, in an attempt to rationalise and simplify the system, although all the new 1958 parts such as the Garage Doors were retained.  The expensive and cumbersome one-piece Roofs were replaced by much simpler flat Roofs and matching Roof Ends, which were cheaper to manufacture and able to be packed flat in the outfit boxes.


Advert showing the new Meccano-Bayko colours

Four sets were initially introduced by Meccano.  To avoid confusion with the Plimpton sets, the new sets were numbered 11, 12, 13 and 14, with 11c, 12c, and 13c conversion sets also being marketed.  The new sets were based on the existing Plimpton sets 0 to 3, and although the manuals were totally reprinted the models were really only revamped versions of the old Plimpton models.  A few dated models disappeared, and were replaced by more modern buildings, such as a Heliport which took advantage of the new flat Roofs.


Attractive outfit 15 model, showing the new parts

The first Meccano Bayko sets were on sale by Christmas 1960 and, due to the cost-cutting measures, were selling for a much lower price than the previous Plimpton sets.  The product was supported by Meccano Magazine, and initial sales were encouraging.  In view of this, Meccano decided to introduce a new range of decorative parts in 1962.  Instead of re-introducing the Plimpton parts that they had discontinued after the takeover in 1960, a completely new set of parts were added.  These consisted of a new Dormer Roof assembly (which would have been impossible with the old Plimpton-style roofs) opening French Windows, a large Shop Window, Pantile Roofs, and a selection of decorative Roof Ends.  These parts were all included in the new outfit 15 and the 14c conversion set.  The model on the left shows many of the new parts, including the Dormer Roof assembly.
By 1963, Bayko was struggling in the face of increased competition from alternative construction sets such as 'Lego', 'Pennybrix', 'Arkitex', and Airfix 'Betta Builda'.  Even though Bayko produced more realistic architectural constructions than the opposition, it was less versatile and required a greater degree of skill and planning to produce good results.

The final nail was driven into the Bayko coffin by Meccano themselves, when they introduced their own Lego clone - 'Cliki' in 1964.  At the same time, all advertising for Bayko was dropped.  Although it was no longer promoted, Meccano continued to manufacture Bayko sets and spares until 1967.  Although the Meccano-Bayko period was relatively short-lived and the parts were made from cheaper plastic, Meccano did introduce some nice parts into the system before its eventual demise.  In particular, the new decorative Roofs and Roof Ends were a great improvement over the one-piece Plimpton Roofs.  The Meccano colour scheme was also brighter and more modern in appearance than the Plimpton colours.

Today, Bayko enjoys quite a strong adult following, due to the quality of its manufacture and the realism of the models that can be built with it.  Enthusiasts all around the world have constructed  very large Bayko supermodels, such as the Airport, and Skyscraper shown here, built by Leo Janssen from Belgium.  Some enthusiasts are even casting their own parts.

Getting started with Bayko
It is relatively easy for the beginner to get started with Bayko.  Bayko sets are readily obtainable on ebay and prices are reasonable at the moment, although rising slowly as demand increases.  Unlike Meccano (for example) with its hundreds of different parts in endless colour schemes, Bayko has relatively few parts and only two major colour schemes; so a useful collection can be built up relatively quickly, and a complete novice can easily get to grips with the system.

Initially, you should concentrate on obtaining parts from either the Plimpton or the Meccano period, as there is no advantage to be gained by mixing the colours together at this stage.  By far the easiest sets to obtain are the 1950s Plimpton sets, as they were produced in such vast quantities and exported to many countries.  My advice is to go for a set 4 if possible, as this has all the special parts, and you will be able to build all the models in the Plimpton instruction books.

Although the bakelite parts are generally hard-wearing, they can get damaged.  Broken Windows are quite common, and you should avoid buying these, as they affect the appearance of the models.  Chipped Bases are also common, but the damage can often be hidden out of sight underneath the model.  Roofs can also get chipped through rough handling.  Ordinary Bricks are only rarely found damaged, and this applies to most of the other parts.  Meccano-Bayko parts tend to be less fragile, although the Pantile Roofs seem to be prone to breakages around the edges; and if you get an unbroken Dormer Roof you should have it framed!

"A Bayko Building Set is the ideal gift for any boy or girl"

Bayko Collectors' Club
Yes, there is a club for Bayko collectors and enthusiasts. It is the Bayko Collectors' Club, and they publish at least four newsletters a year (sometimes more) and hold regular meetings in the UK.
For further details contact:  Chris Boutal:  email

Links to other Bayko sites


This web site is copyright (C) 2001-2014 Melvyn Wright