BAYKO in the 'Classic Toys Magazine' - Issue 6
July / August 1995

The 'Classic Toys Magazine' was a high quality, but, sadly, short lived publication, with a self explanatory title.
Classic Toys issue 6 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 was printed in Issue 5, May / June 1995 and is shown separately...
The second part, shown below, followed in the Issue 6, July / August 1995.
 
The article is as follows : -
THE ORIGINAL PLASTIC BUILDING SETS
Continued from Classic Toys Vol 1 Issue 5
During the war years, Plimpton Engineering, the manufacturers of Bayko, produced a range of war related products including parts for Wellington bombers.
Production of Bayko started up again in 1945 with a good range of spare parts being available by the middle of the year. Complete sets were not marketed again until later, possibly not until 1946. Initially just three sets were produced, namely sets 0,1 and 2. New to the range of parts were flat roofs and roof ends. These were the only roof parts contained in the newly introduced, bottom of the range, set 0. With them small flat and pitched roofs could be constructed whilst at the same time it was possible to pack them in small, flat, cheap to produce boxes.
Classic Toys issue 6 page 12
At this time of austerity, Plimpton Engineering often had to 'make do' with limited resources, just like the rest of British industry. This showed itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes steel was in short supply and rods had to be made from aluminium which meant they were easily bent out of true. Again, the packaging was crude, with parts being attached to cheap card by elastic bands and small parts being packed in linen bags. Ambition also had to be trimmed to suit the times. It was evident from the first manual to be produced post-war for sets 0, 1 and 2, that there was a clear intention to produce sets right up to at least No. 5. But this never happened and all mention of larger sets was soon removed from the manual, It was not until mid-1947 that a re-vamped No. 3 set appeared.
Despite these difficulties, Charles Bird Plimpton (CB) continued to experiment with the system. Various colour variations were tried. The earliest post-war appeared in a very light pastel green but they soon changed to grey, which they remained until 1948 after which they became the familiar dark green, which was retained through the '50s. Other parts, such as the canopy and the bay window cover, also appeared in grey during the mid-40s. From 1948 onwards the basic bricks appeared with indentations in their reverse sides, thus economising on the amount of plastic needed. For the beginning of 1949 many new parts were introduced. These included gable roofs, short pillars, balustrades and crazy paving, which all added to the decorative potential of the system.
Unfortunately, CB was never to see these new parts for sale in the shops. He died on December 29th 1948 after a prolonged struggle against TB, at the age of 55. He had spent much of the last year of his life at home being nursed by one of his daughters. However, during this period he had continued to draw and sketch new Bayko parts. On his death his wife Margaret became chairman of Plimpton Engineering, although the everyday running of the firm was left in the hands of the managing director Bob Cowell.
As with most British firms at this time, Plimpton Engineering was encouraged to export as much as possible. This it did with a good degree of success: large markets being established on the continent, in Canada, South Africa and most particularly Australia. Despite the factory running almost non-stop, with a night as well as a day shift, the pressure from export production was sometimes such that customers in the home market had to wait long periods for the orders with the factory to be met.
Nonetheless the system continued to be expanded. By March of 1949 side bricks and side windows had been introduced which allowed the construction of rectangular bays that could be topped by the new gable roofs. In mid-1950 these parts were joined by opening windows and gates with matching balustrades, which increased the play value in building fences around buildings. In the middle of 1951 all the new parts introduced over the previous two years appeared in a new set No. 3X which was followed a few months later by a full N0. 4 set. The manual which accompanied these sets contained a good range of subjects from civil buildings such as a library and a Fire Station, to places of entertainment such as a Cinema and a Seaside Pier to a number of very comfortable looking detached houses that epitomised the height of suburban desirability.
The period following the release of the No. 4 set probably represents the high point of the popularity of Bayko sets. Exact sales figures are no longer available but manuals for the sets were coded for both the date and the number printed in that particular run. Using this information the approximate number of sets of all sizes sold in various years in the 50s was as follows: 1950 - 155,000, 1952 - 125,000, 1954 - 12,000, 1956 - 16,000, 1958 - 50,000. Certainly in the mid-50s the factory could sell all it could make, a fact which possibly lead to a degree of complacency. No new parts were added to the system between 1950 and 1958 and the manuals were neither altered nor added to. In the short term, with high sales figures this did not seem to matter, but in the ling term it meant that the toy became dated, lacking the visual impact of a new product. Not even the packaging was altered in any way during this period.
With falling sales figures and increasing competition from products such as Airfix Building Sets, the factory responded in 1958 with some small changes. Firstly, two new parts were introduced: opening garage doors and ramps, both of which recognised the increasing likelihood that families would possess a car. Secondly some of the parts ceased to be made from bakelite and instead were made from polystyrene. The latter was both cheaper to purchase and introduced savings in the cost of manufacture as less 'finishing off' was required. One of the new polystyrene parts, the window, appeared with the option of glazing. Lengths of 'glazing material', made from a celluloid-like material, came with the sets and could be cut to appropriate lengths which then fitted in lugs moulded in the reverse of the windows 9interestingly this option has been mentioned in the original patents of 1933). Lastly, three small accessory packs (A, B and C) were introduced which contained some of the more unusual parts. These changes were rather half-hearted as the building plans in the manuals were not altered to take account of the new parts and no extra plans were included.
Classic Toys issue 6 page 13
By the end of 1959 Margaret Plimpton was 64 years old and, not having played a particularly active role in the running of the company, accepted an offer from Meccano Limited to purchase Plimpton Engineering. This decision came as a great shock to the factory workers who were generally very disapproving of the move from a small family concern to being part of a much larger, unionised conglomerate. Quite why Meccano made this purchase is not totally clear. They had been moving towards the manufacture of plastic items themselves, particularly with the introduction of 'super-detail' rolling stock into the Hornby Dublo range, and may have valued the relevant expertise within Plimpton Engineering. Again there were no building toys within Meccano's intensive range of products (dinky Builder, unsuccessfully 'relaunched' in 1958, was by now defunct) and buying Bayko, still a reasonably successful product, may have represented an easy way into the market. But, whatever the reason for the move may have been, the assimilation of Bayko was to prove difficult and costly and the timing disastrous.
It was decided to move the manufacture of Bayko from the Plimpton works in Tabley Street, Liverpool to Meccano's Speke factory and the last 'Plimpton' sets rolled out of the Tabley Street factory early in 1960. Considerable changes were made to the system. All plastic parts came to be made from polystyrene. All the 'one-piece' pitched roofs, which were relatively expensive to produce and pack, were abandoned and replaced ny 'four-piece' roofs consisting of two flat roofs and two roof ends in the style of those first introduced in 1946. A large range of more decorative parts, such as domes, balustrades, wall bricks and gable roofs were abandoned altogether. The colours of the parts were changed. Roofs became green, bases grey, windows and doors yellow and the 'white' bricks actually became a creamy colour. Instead of sets being numbered 0 to 4, the smaller three sets were renumbered 10 to 14, whilst the largest set was abandoned. there were three conversion sets 11c, 12c and 13c. Unfortunately, the new manual to accompany the sets consisted almost entirely of re-vamped versions of the models from the old Plimpton manual. Dated buildings such as the Toll Gate and Village institute disappeared, but other than the Drive-in Bank and Heliport there was little to represent the life and architecture of the early 60s.
The new sets were first announce, somewhat prematurely, in the Meccano Magazine for September 1960. Next month's edition explained that the sets would be 'ready soon' whilst in November they were 'now becoming available'. What is sure is that they were available for Christmas that year. The economy measures introduced by Meccano had certainly proved effective in lowering the price of Bayko. the old No. 3 set had been 54/3d whilst the equivalent No. 14 set was only 39/6d.
Bayko continued to be advertised in MM throughout 1961 and the August 1962 edition announced what was to be the final major addition to the system with the introduction of the No. 15 set and its accompanying 14c conversion set. These sets contained new parts designed to bring the system up to date. Included amongst these were a dormer window, which fitted into a modified version of the largest roof piece, a range of red pantile roofs, a large shop window, opening French windows and a range of different coloured and styled roof ends. Instead of a new manual, the sets contained six 'Special Model Leaflets' with a total of twelve new models. Included among these were a Railway Station, Factory and Loading Bay and a Coach Station along with a good range of detached houses in reasonably contemporary style.
Classic Toys issue 6 page 14
In a further effort to promote the product, 1963 saw a series of model building articles in the MM by 'Architect'. These were a mix of models designed by Meccano and sent in by members of the public.
Unfortunately, by this time the writing was on the wall for Bayko. In the very year that Meccano had relaunched Bayko, a Danish firm called Lego introduced their bricks into the country. The next few years saw the introduction of Lego-like products such as Airfix Betta Builda and Tri-ang Pennybrix as well as alternative plastic building toys such as Arkitex (again from Tri-ang). These other products tended to be easier to use and requires less planning than buildings made from Bayko, even if the end results were not so realistic. As a consequence Bayko's market share dropped. The last advertisement for Bayko appeared in the MM in February 1964 and at the end of the same year, Meccano introduced their Lego-look-alike called Cliki.
Bayko was still listed by Meccano until 1967 but probably to service existing customers as it was certainly not promoted. even during this period there were minor changes and variations. Sometimes the 'white bricks really were white and some sets contained 'minimalist' bricks which were trimmed of all unnecessary plastic presumably in an attempt to save money.
Despite the demise of Bayko, many 'aging children' still enjoy playing with it and recently some splendid supermodels have been constructed from it.
List of all known sets produced:
1934 - 1939
Sets 1, 2, 3 4 and 5
1935 - 1939
Set 6 + Converting sets 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A
1935 - 1938
Ornamental Addition Sets A, b C
1937 - 1939
Accessory Set 5A
1938 - 1939
Ornamental Additions Sets 20, 21, 22 and 23
1939 - 1941
Sets 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 + Converting Sets 1c, 2c, 3c, 4c and 5c
1946 - 1960
Sets 0, 1 and 2 + Converting Sets 0X, 1X
1947 - 1960
Set 3 + Converting Set 2X
1951 - 1960
Converting Set 3X
1952 - 1960
Accessory Packs A, B and C
1960 - 1967
Outfits 11, 12, 13 and 14 + Accessory Outfits 11c, 12c and 13c
1962 - 1967
Outfit 15 + Accessory Outfit 14c
 
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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