BAYKO in the 'Classic Toys Magazine' - Issue 5
May / June 1995

The 'Classic Toys Magazine' was a high quality, but, sadly, short lived publication, with a self explanatory title.
Classic Toys issue 5 Font Cover
It was published by a somewhat complex organisation, with articles being coordinated in Coventry, subscriptions and advertising being managed in Mold, Clwyd in north Wales and the actual printing being carried out in Llay, also in Clwyd, about a mile from where I first met my wife.
The article is excellent, and far more comprehensive than anything previously published on BAYKO.
The BAYKO article was substantial, and was split between two consecutive issues. The first part, shown below, was printed in Issue 5, May / June 1995.
The second part followed in the Issue 6, July / August 1995...
The article is as follows : -
The history of toys is inextricably linked to the history of the materials from which they are made. Plastic is now the dominant material in toy manufacture but sixty years ago plastic toys were rare and wood and metal were still the most popular media for toy production. However, those buying Christmas presents to please the youth of 1934 would have been able to detect the beginnings of a revolution in toy land which mirrored a wider trend to man-made materials throughout the world of manufacturing. Plastic dolls would have been available, electrical sets, such as Meccano Electron, would have had plastic components and for the first time a plastic building toy called Bayko was on sale.
Classic Toys issue 5 Page 12
Charles Bird Plimpton, the inventor of Bayko, was the son of an American immigrant, J C Plimpton, who had established an import/export business in Liverpool at the turn of the century. Charles Plimpton, or CB as he was commonly known, was educated at Liverpool College and then studied engineering at Birmingham University. After service as a wireless operator in the First World War, he studied clock-making and became a partner in his father's firm. Despite being a man of some physical stature ( he was 6 foot 5 inches in height) CB was never a fit man. He was frail as a child and his health was not improved by the long cold 'watches' he had to serve during the war. It was whilst recovering in hospital from one of his long illnesses that he finalised plans for the manufacture of a new building toy to be made from bakelite.
Bakelite had been invented some twenty-five years earlier but the toy industry had been slow to exploit it. CB's great contribution was to re-interpret a previously exploited constructional method in plastic form. It is not known whether CB had ever seen examples of 'Brik-tor' from the American firm of Gilbert, or 'Batiss' which was made by a French company, but both these products used the idea of steel rods which were placed in a perforated base and down which building elements were then slid. In Brik-tor the building elements were tinplate whilst in Batiss they were wooden. It is thought, however, that CB had come across the Dutch toy 'Mobaco' which consisted of thick horizontal fibre bases and square section wooden rods with a groove down each face. The rods were placed in holes in the base and card walls, windows and doors were slid between the rods, after being located in the grooves.
In any event, CB set up the firm of Plimpton Engineering Ltd in 1933 with the sole purpose of manufacturing his new toy and applied for a patent in November of the same year. Unfortunately things didn't go smoothly and he encountered a number of difficulties in manufacturing certain of the parts. The bases tended to warp whilst cooling down from the production process and problems were experienced in drilling 'true' holes in the corner bricks.
However, these difficulties had been sufficiently overcome for Bayko to be hurriedly placed on the market for Christmas of 1934. At this stage there were five sets in the system numbered 1 to 5. Bases were brown, roofs dark maroon and windows a dark green. The ordinary bricks were described as red and white though the 'red' bricks actually came in various shades of brown, presumably as a result of technical difficulties in producing a true red and in maintaining colour consistency.
CB clearly saw Bayko as being more than just something for children's amusement: he strongly believed it had definite educational potential. To quote from the first manual: "These sets teach children to develop skills with their hands and with their brains, and above all, to form the habit of thinking problems out for themselves, because they make these problems a fascinating game."
CB was clearly a progressive educationalist and those of us who have spent many enjoyable hours creating architectural masterpieces in Bayko will vouch for the truth of his claims.
1935 saw continual development of the system. at the begriming of the year converting sets 1a, 2a, 3a and 4a were introduced to allow modellers to gradually progress from a No. 1 set up to a No. 5. There also appeared a set of 'Useful Ornamental Additions' which contained pillars, arches and capping pieces, as well as standard parts in alternative colours.
Classic Toys issue 5 Page 13
By the middle of the year a special 'de luxe' set, No. 6, was being marketed. This was substantially larger than a No. 5 set and contained many of the newly introduced ornamental parts. It also had a distinctive colour scheme with green roofs, white doors, pillars and windows and other parts in 'oak' which was a mottled brown, characteristic a a whole range of bakelite goods available at the time. Because of the distinct nature of the No. 6 set, there was at the time no 5a converting set. A No. 1 set then cost 7/6d whilst a No. 6 set came at 42/-. By the end of the year there were three distinct and progressively larger Ornamental Additions Sets called A, B and C, the largest of which was the same price as a N0. 1 set.
As well as producing new parts and sets CB was still busy perfecting the production of existing components. For instance, at least five distinct versions of the corner bricks have been noted, each new variant being subtly different from its predecessor and presumably, introduced to ease production difficulties and achieve greater consistency of quality. Again improvements were made in colours. By the end of 1937 the 'red' bricks were a true red and the green of the doors and windows was a light pastel shade of a far more pleasing appearance than the original rather drab green which had sometimes bordered on a muddy brown.
1936 saw the introduction of further new sets and parts of a more exotic nature. The old Ornamental Additions Sets were scrapped and replaced by a new series of four such sets numbered 20 through to 23, this time with corresponding conversion sets. This new range contained orange coloured domed and pinnacle roofs along with variously shaped turret pieces. In addition there were curved bricks and corresponding bow windows. The models in the original Bayko manuals had mostly been solidly suburban in structures. Examples in the manual that accompanied the sets included a Bird House, Coast Guard Station, Sunshine Shelter and Old Tram Bungalow but with sufficient parts one could attempt a reasonable likeness of the Brighton Pavilion! An additional change for 1938 was that the No. 6 set was made available in standard colours as well as oak and so a 5a conversion set was introduced.
Classic Toys issue 5 Page 14
Most building and constructional toys of the past saw only slow and gradual changes to the parts or systems as a whole. In fact, some systems such as Wenebrix and Arkirecto underwent no alterations at all throughout their years of production. this was not the case with Bayko, at least not whilst CB was alive. After the major introductions of the previous year, 1939 witnessed even greater changes. All the previous sets were scrapped (apart, briefly, from the standard conversion sets) and replaced by a new series of six sets plus five conversion sets. These incorporated the recently introduced parts together with several more new ones. The old large heavy bases were replaced by the more familiar small green bases, which at the same time were a mottled green (a colour scheme first used with bases provided in the previous year's Ornamental Additions Sets). The old corner bricks were replaced by a combination of standard bricks and the new 'end' bricks. And all the sets also contained 'long' bricks and windows which were one and a half times the length of the standard items.
All these innovations added to the flexibility of the system. Base configurations no longer needed to be rectangular in shape, a fact exploited in new manual models of a Pier, Bathing Pool and even a Football Pitch! The long bricks allowed different wall lengths and hence new ways in which 'extensions' could be built onto houses. They also allowed, in combination with curved bricks and bay windows, for a greater range of possible wall and window shapes. In addition, the use of end bricks meant that windows could be extended right up to the corner of the wall.
All these possibilities were exemplified in various of the new manual models. There additional complexity led to the building plans for the models for set 3 and above being printed separately on small cards that came with the appropriate sets. The contents of all standard sets were now basically red, white and green but any set could be specially ordered with oak and white parts at no extra cost.
Just as this new series of sets came onto the market the Second World War began. At first this had little effect on production but gradually, in line with all industry, Plimpton Engineering had to adapt to the new situation. Metal became a scarce commodity and so metal tie bars and corner ties were replaced by extra floor pieces. Economies were even made with rods which instead of being made from solid metal were produced by rolling pieces of tinplate into a cylindrical shape, thus rendering the rods hollow! Again, colours became less consistent. The oak parts, instead of having just small flecks of non-brown in them, contained much larger cream coloured patches. Windows from this period have been found in a shade of violet, Finally, for the very first time, sets and parts became subject to price increases.
To be continued in issue 6.
I should point out that there are a few errors in the articles, mainly typesetting, but I still think they are excellent.
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