Modelling in Minibrix
by Tony Parmee

(First Published in Bayko Collector’s Club Newsletter, Bayko News, April 2004)

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Further to my earlier articles I have been busy rebuilding several of my better childhood designs ­ suitably modified to keep within the confines of the No 6 Set: the results being quite pleasing in my view. So here are illustrated my Suffolk farmhouse (note the posh balcony at the rear, built from all the wealth accumulated by poor farmers’ heavily subsidies!); and a Footbridge (the arch effect is real ­ the segments are not stuck or connected together.) Town & Country are contrasted in my London Town House and Country House (note the bay windows with Windows at 45 degrees); and a large and comfortable looking Country Inn compares with an urban Ye Olde Hostel. The Country Inn ­ named the “Rubber Brick” (what else!) ­ of course has foam rubber mattresses: great for incontinence suffers! (paraphrasing the old British Railways poster: Harwich for the Continent” ­ the Rubber Brick for the incontinent!); and a “Latex Lounge”, and does not need to employ bouncers, and of course accommodation is elastic! Ye Olde Hostel was a direct result of my frustrated desire to obtain Tudor Minibrix (see part 1), and I surprised myself by not only achieving the height and bulk of the T3 God-Begot, but by exceeding it by adding a 5th storey!! I had long been disappointed by all the No 6 Set models not exceeding 2 storeys and thereby not being very impressive in my view, that I was determined to add a third to the Country House, making the Inn 3 storeys high; the Town House has a 4th storey “penthouse”, and the admittedly rather austere Hostel is 5 storeys high, topped with imposing Tudor ­ styled chimneys. Actually, the Hostel looks more like a warehouse at the rear, so I emphasised that aspect with a hoist gibbet. My excuse is that it is a warehouse converted to yuppie flats!

In the old Manual was a No 7 Set Opera House ­ presumably based on Covent Garden, but no arcade beneath the impressive balcony ­ which had a puzzling U ­ shaped plan, so where was the auditorium? I not only managed to rectify this, but used up all the Set’s roofs, achieved a logical plan with exit doors and ventilation louvers, and installed doors under the walkway to admittedly somewhat less imposing porticoed balcony.

Talking of illogical designs, it always irked me that chimneys were often placed directly over windows, despite the models being designed by the “well-known architect”, a Mr. W. A. T. Carter, A.R.I.B.A., as stated in the manual. (Well-known no doubt for his glass fireplaces!!) To be fair to the Company, after heavy expenditure on establishing the system, there is no doubt enormous pressure to produce a large number of Set models for the accompanying Manual in double-quick time (certainly this occurred with Meccano on occasions), so many of the models were not as well thought out as they might have been. Not only did I seek to rectify this, but being interested in architecture from childhood, I wanted my designs to be feasible, within the restraints of the system and its scale.

Talking of scale, I have always assumed Minibrix was based on a scale of about 1/2” to 1ft (1:48), which would tally with contemporary popular 0-gauge railway modelling ­ as this would make storey heights around 9ft, and Windows (& Doors!) 4ft wide. Obviously larger public buildings, country houses, etc., would assume a smaller scale within the system. Despite its inevitably “coarse” appearance (bricks scaling at 1 1/2 ft deep x 4 ft long!) I have always found models much more realistic looking than its main rival, Lego. I suppose it is a combination of realistic, rather than gaudy primary, colours, and a distinctively “English” appearance of the models. (Bayko windows will fit into the same sized slots!)

Now that I have acquired Tudor Minibrix, I am a little disappointed that the Half Bricks were not better thought out: - with the slots in the black bricks and lugs on the white bricks, instead of the other way round. Since timber posts would frame a building, it is impossible to infill with red bricks, like so many half-timbered buildings, with a black corner post, without the studs projecting outwards. Robin Lindsay had even cut studs off when so used in his models!

It was also a pity that hips and valleys could not be achieved in roofs with Minibrix ­ in this respect Lego was superior ­ but I suppose it would have been difficult without a complicated separate tile system. In many respects the beauty of the system is its simplicity ­ the more complex the range of parts the less versatile the results it always seems to me. Look at the incredibly rich architecture often attainable with the humble house brick!

(Tony has raised some interesting points in his comparison of Minibrix to real architecture, and many also apply to Bayko. He is at least lucky that Tudor bricks were produced, and early on individual roof tiles were made. Bayko is a much more rigid system and there are certain things you cannot do, however the Club is encouraging this diversification, and we should remember that these were only “toys” and not specifically designed for architects. Even Modulex (Architectural baby Lego) had limitations, was very expensive, not that realistic, but I believe interior parts were available. (I know one system that had bathroom fittings!) Now we can be more critical I agree with his judgement on chimneys. On the swimming pool for the Country Club I placed one over the gable at the front of the building. Criticism, well it is the outlet for the ventilation system and finished the model off for decorative appearance. It would be interesting to hear your feelings about other systems and even more on Bayko. John Lewis has used rubber Minibrix roofs on Bayko models and Lego did make some roof tiles, which I am to try. I know Betta Bilda was poor in what it produced, but they were only toys and once the basics were made little innovation was pursued. They also produced green and red plastic roof tiles and the hips/ valleys Tony mentioned. Yet another thought for a test. This isn’t the case with Lego, and that is here to stay, the others have gone. Fenner in Canada (read Chad Valley Bridge & Roadway/ Panel Sets) report that they never intended producing the product for too long as wants and market leaders change. Let’s face it they are only in the business for profit, but look at Lego’s success story! PS, did Lego buy or copy the Kiddicraft idea? One Lego book shows the Kiddicraft bricks with slot down both edges for windows/ lollipop binding strips. Robin.) (The answer to this is that Lego bricks were first produced under licence from Hilary Page, the managing director of Kiddicraft and the inventor of the first ‘Lego’ bricks, which he patented in 1939. In the 50s Lego bought Page out for a pittance - Malcolm Hanson.)

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