Does BAYKO Measure Up?

0-gauge trains are built to a scale of 1:43.5.  Based on the dimensions of the door, BAYKO operates at a very similar 1:42 scale.  I’m not debating the absolute accuracy of these statements, though I will explore some apparent contradictions.
BAYKO models have done sterling service over the last eight decades as scenic accompaniment to more 0-guage model railways than you can shake a stick at [though stick-shakers do seem to be thin on the ground these days].  That must surely be because they fit; they look right; they even seem accurate – don't they?  The simple answer is yes, but let’s look in a little more detail.
Two things before I start.  A ready-reckoner for these explorations - a standard BAYKO brick equates to a little over 2' 6'' square [760mm approximately].  This also means that a brick, as tooled on BAYKO bricks, is equivalent to 15'' long, 67% bigger than the prototype.  This must make BAYKO brickwork appear less ‘fussy’ and hence, perhaps, less prominent than it might have been.
Man with theodolite
The average U.K. house size is just over 800 square feet, and the size of the archetypal British semi can’t be too far from that figure, it may even be a bit bigger.   Assuming we’re talking about two storey semis, this means that the combined ground floor is also 800 square feet.  Clearly there are many design variations possible, but a simple plan at 40’ x 20’ is a reasonably typical choice.
Taking the 2' 6'' ready-reckoner, means a BAYKO model of the average, real life semi would measure 16 x 8 bricks.  Just a minute though, we've all built plenty of them over the years - that doesn't work.  The large roof covers a model just 11 x 7 bricks.  That’s only 60% of the real life floor area; 75% of the wall length.  Do our models really look that small?  Personally, I think not – but why?
Railway modellers routinely utilise a technique called 'low relief' modelling, usually against the layout’s back wall, making models very much thinner from front to back than true scale would demand – but it works, and is usually not noticed by the audience.  Is something similar intrinsic to the BAYKO system?
Simplistically, walls comprise doors and windows, with brickwork between.  At 2' 6'' equivalent width, BAYKO doors are to scale, so if something is going on, it must be with the windows or brickwork.  The 2' 6'' equivalent standard windows, or 3' 9'' large windows, aren't generous, but, as individual parts, they are easy on the eye and look right.  Areas of brickwork merely form a background to the more conspicuous architectural features, like windows and doors.  Perhaps, like the ‘low relief’ models mentioned above, any shrinkage of this part of BAYKO models goes unnoticed by the human eye.  Perhaps…
…but that's not all.  Ceiling heights in the buildings targeted by Plimpton era components are generally in the range of 8' to 9', so, allowing for the thickness of internal floors, the eaves are unlikely to be less than 17'.  However, a model based on 5-brick rods is only the equivalent of 12' 6'' – oops – even if we pretend that some of the interior is tucked above the eaves level, we have another anomaly – the model is around 73% of real life height equivalent.
Man with theodolite
Again, looking at the BAYKO door, it’s a scale 6' 6'', which is OK.  However, the presence of windows above the doors on many Victorian era houses, perhaps points the way.  On most BAYKO models the tops of the ground floor windows are in line with the top of the doors, but in twelve-inches-to-the-foot models, they are usually higher, certainly on the front elevation.  At 3' 9'' equivalent height, BAYKO windows are a bit on the small side.  The near universal use of a single brick [equivalent to 2' 6'' remember] between the windows of the ground and first floor is decidedly under scale.  After all, it represents the sum of the wall above the ground floor windows; the intermediate floor/ceiling thickness; and the wall below the first floor windows – this must surely be at least 4'.  Generally we also don’t represent the brickwork above the first floor windows – perhaps this bit really is tucked under the eaves!
Yet we can’t get away from the fact that the models look right!  The fact that the anomalies in the length and height of the walls are similar, thus preserving their relative dimensions, must be a significant factor.  The length, width and height of the roof are, of course, proportionately affected to the same extent.
Scale models of people or vehicles near a BAYKO model – invariably, of course, near the taller ground floor - don't appear to compromise the true-scale 0-guage impact of the model in any way.  The BAYKO model simply looks right.
Trompe l’oeil BAYKO style!
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Latest update - August 10, 2022
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