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British Industrial History

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Bayko

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Made by Plimpton Engineering Co

The Bayko system was invented and patented by Charles Bird Plimpton in 1933. Plimpton set up Plimpton Engineering Co in Liverpool, England, to manufacture the components, the majority of which were made from Bakelite. The sets were called "Bayko Light Construction Sets" (the term "Bayko Light" coming from the name "Bakelite") and went on sale at the end of 1934. The Bakelite material was sourced from Bakelite, a Birmingham supplier, and for the first few years of its life, Bayko was marketed by both Plimpton Engineering and Bakelite Limited.

Initially five sets were produced, "Set 1" (the smallest) through to "Set 5" (the largest). The bricks were red and white, the bases brown, the windows dark green, and the roofs dark maroon. Plimpton began advertising Bayko in the Meccano Magazine in September 1935, unaware that 25 years later, Meccano itself would own and manufacture Bayko. Regular advertisements appeared in the magazine over those next 25 years.

In 1935 three Ornamental Sets A, B and C were introduced that contained decorative parts to supplement the existing sets, including pillars and arches. In 1936 a "Set 6" was introduced, a much larger set than "Set 5" that included all the new ornamental parts.

In 1938 the curved bricks and windows were introduced in the same sets as the turrets, domes, pinnales and bay window covers. By 1938, the Bayko sets were described as "Bayko Building Sets", and in 1939 all the existing sets were relaunched and replaced by a new series of six sets that incorporated new parts and a red, white and green colour scheme.

Production was interrupted in 1942 by World War II when the company switched to manufacturing for the war effort. When production resumed in 1946, the set range was reduced to three, "Set 0" to "Set 2". A "Set 3" was introduced in 1947.

Charles Plimpton died of tuberculosis in December 1948 and his wife, Audrey Plimpton took over the running of Plimpton Engineering. Further new parts were added to the sets in 1949 to increase the realism and flexibility of the system, and in 1951 a "Set 4" was introduced. However, by the late 1950s Bayko came under pressure from other construction toys that appeared on the market, like Lego and Airfix, and Audrey Plimpton retired in 1959. She sold the company to Meccano Ltd in 1960.

Having acquired the rights to manufacture Bayko in 1960, Meccano Ltd moved production to its Meccano factory in Speke, Liverpool. To rationalise and simplify the system, all the Bayko sets were redesigned. Many of the decorative parts were dropped and the cumbersome one-piece roofs were replaced by flat-roof pieces. The colour scheme was changed to grey bases, green roofs, yellow windows and doors, and red and white bricks. In order to reduce production costs, polystyrene was used for all the plastic parts instead of Bakelite.

Four Meccano Bayko sets went on sale at the end of 1960, numbered 11 to 14 to avoid being confused with the Plimpton sets. The Bayko adverts continued in Meccano Magazine, and — due to the cost-cutting measures — the new sets were sold at a lower price than the Plimpton sets. In 1962 Meccano introduced its own decorative pieces, including opening French windows, large shop windows and pantile roofs, and a new "Set 15".

In 1963 Meccano Ltd also began feeling the pressure of competing toys, even though the models Bayko produced were more realistic architectural constructions. By 1964, all advertising for Bayko was stopped, although Meccano continued manufacturing Bayko sets and spares until 1967.

Over its lifespan, both Plimpton and Meccano Bayko was exported across the world, and, besides being a toy, it attracted a modest adult following that still exists today. A healthy trade in original Bayko sets and parts also exists today, with some enthusiasts even casting their own Bayko pieces

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