BAYKO in 'Best of British' Magazine
October 2002

'Best of British' is a glossy, monthly magazine with articles on a wide range of subjects, past and present, which resonate with the British public...
...so naturally they couldn't help but include an article about BAYKO!!!
There was an earlier general article about construction toys, by Brian Howes, in the February, 2001 issue which included a reference to BAYKO...
The double-paged article below, written by Brian Salter, comes from the October, 2002 issue, which was billed as a commemorative, 75th issue. This edition of 'Best of British' has now totally sold out and is no longer available via their back-number service - clearly because of the following article : -
BAYKO
Building on Success
 
The building construction set was once seen in so many homes, as Brian Salter recalls...
Mention of the word Bayko to many folks of a certain age brings back all sorts of memories. Even though the word never entered the language like Dinky, or was as universally known as Meccano, this was the premier building construction toy for some thirty years or so from 1934 to 1964.
Front cover of the Best of British magazine, 75th issue
Memories today are usually centred on the 1950s product, and thoughts of the fairly intense colour scheme of dark green, red and white come flooding back. Back this up with the illustration used on the front of almost every box lid and instruction book of the period and it is soon obvious if you are talking to somebody with recollections of this very British product. It was very popular - try to find a really good boxed set today! Most were used and re-used, often by subsequent generations.
And then another memory comes to the fore, of upright steel rods placed in perforated plastic bases, down which other components were slid.
This is often followed by somewhat more gruesome details of how the system could cause grief. Either hands would slip (and still do!) putting a stiff rod into position and catch on a nearby one already in place, or the young builder or associate would somehow fall onto a partly completed edifice to produce various puncture wounds.
Were such things worried about then? Obviously not, but maybe to counteract this, from the outset the very first instruction book contains the useful paragraph: "Bayko sets are clean and hygienic, easily sterilized by placing in boiling water; ideal toys for children incapacitated by sickness or disease."
It was the use of BAKELITE for nearly all the components that made not just this instruction possible but the success of the whole system. Methods of producing miniature buildings from a selection of standard parts were legion in the earlier years of the last century, and ranged from stone building blocks to various tinplate and wooden systems. Some, like the French Batiss, were very similar in principal, so the Bayko system was really just a natural development.
 
Brian Salter's double paged article in the Best of British magazine
 
The new wonder material had up to that time been used mainly for small domestic and industrial applications to utilise its strength and ability to be moulded into complex shapes. Its pedigree goes back to 1907 and the first truly synthetic plastic produced by Dr Leo Baekeland in Belgium. The original resin concoction was later combined with filler. Heated under pressure in the new precision moulds developed in the 1920s, it made possible the plastics industry we know today. Just about any colour was possible and its uses moved to the ornamental as well as the functional.
Image from the article
Despite the similarity with other systems, Charles Bird Plimpton established Plimpton Engineering Co. Ltd. in Liverpool in 1933 solely for the purpose of manufacturing the new toy. The word engineering carried great kudos between the two world wars and it was included in the company title as an extra marketing ploy to denote quality. He also applied for a patent in November of the same year for "an improved constructional building toy," with the units "made in metal" or "they may be made in some moulded plastic composition".
The first sets were placed on the market just in time for Christmas 1934, despite some difficulties. One of these was that the bases warped on cooling, a problem never fully cured. Another was consistency of colour, and in the earliest sets, this was a bit too obvious.
Image from the article
The brick pieces were either various shades of white or 'red'. The red was in fact brown, and this could vary from ginger to dark brown. There was just one size of window, with eight panes, and one door, both cast in shades from olive brown to olive green. An arch and a canopy provided some relief to the simple box shape of a building. Roofs were a magnificent one-piece casting in deep maroon or reddish brown.
Image from the article
During the life of the originator, or C.B. as he was commonly known, the system was constantly developed with new parts being added and colours changed. Five sizes of standard sets were available with converter sets to enable progression from one size up to the next, but soon a No. 6 De Luxe set was added.
This was really something special as all the bricks and, indeed, many other things were in 'oak', with windows and doors in white. A house built from this period with the mottled green roof and slightly later similarly coloured bases has to be one of the favourites today. More than any other, it typifies the BAKELITE period.
Further developments saw the 'red' bricks actually become red, the bases changed to a smaller size (more acceptable when used in multiple), and one of the most familiar features added, the bay window. By the outbreak of war in 1939, a house could be built that looked very much like the 1950s product, but it was also Bayko's most colourful period. With the exception of the bases every coloured part was available in a choice of two, sometimes three, colours, all listed in the single 'Prices of Separate Parts' contained within the instruction books.
Image from the article
Image from the article
After the war, despite a few experiments with different colours for some parts, things settled down to what could now be called its traditional red-white-green period. From 1949, various new and ingenious parts were added that meant that the 1950s saw the system at its most structurally diverse.
Unfortunately, C.B. died late in 1948 when many of these new items were on the drawing board. This was also the period when 'export or die' was the order of the day, and despite round the clock production, the home market often had to wait. Little further development took place until growing competition from other plastic building sets forced the pace. In 1958, a start was made to change to polystyrene plastic and window glazing was added, along with a few new parts such as garage doors.
In 1959, production was taken over by Meccano and the system revamped. Doors and windows became yellow with the range of parts much reduced. Roofs were designed to each be in four parts, which also gave a more retailer friendly flat set box design.
Image from the article
At the time of Meccano's Bayko relaunch, a Danish firm called Lego introduced its product into the UK. It was also safer. The last advertisement for Bayko appeared in early 1964.
It was really a toy of the 1930s yet did little to embrace 1930s architecture. The average purchaser, if there were such a thing, would live in and be surrounded by houses of an earlier era, and more conventional in style.
Image from the article
The use of the 'sunray' motif, or the horizontal lines of 'suntrap' style windows would perhaps have been too daring for C.B.
But not so today's enthusiast. Whilst it would be impossible nowadays to sell the system on safety grounds, production of new parts is again underway. The Bayko trademark is alive and well, and in use again after a break of 35 years or so, by Transport of Delight of West Sussex.
Known as Bayko 2000 - Architectural Additions, production uses modern resin and white metal casting techniques similar to those of the specialist low volume model industry. Parts are to completely new designs to fit the original system, and can only be used in conjunction with it.
Such is the reception to this development that features from other periods are under consideration. This bodes well for the future of interest in a system that was on the toyshop shelves for three decades, and remembered with affection - and occasional pain - by many.
Image from the article
 
Each of the eight smaller images above, below the double-page image, was accompanied in the original article by a caption. To read the caption, click on the small image and a larger image, together with the full caption script, will be displayed in a separate window.
 
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