Listed below are some of the other notable construction toy systems that were produced during the 20th century. The list is by no means exhaustive, as by some estimates hundreds of such systems have come and gone over the years.
  • Bing's Structator (Germany)
  • BRAL (Milan, Italy)
  • Buildo
  • Construction (E.Germany)
  • Constructor
  • Construct-o-Craft
  • Elektromehaniskais konstructors (Russia)
  • Ezy-Bilt (Australia)
  • FAC (Sweden)
  • Lyons
  • Marklin Metall (Germany)
  • Mekanik (Sweden)
  • Mek-Struct (China)
  • Mini Meta-Build (New Delhi, India)
  • Necobo
  • Palikit
  • Pioneer
  • Primus Engineering Outfits (England)
  • Schefflers
  • Sonneberger
  • Steel Engineering (U.S.A.)
  • Structomode
  • TECC (Czeckoslovakia)
  • Tekno (Norway & Denmark)
  • Thale Stahlbau Technik (E. Germany)
  • The Constructioneer
  • The Engineer (Toronto, Canada)
  • TRIX (Germany and England)
  • Trumodel (U.S.A.)
  • Vogue (Melton Mowbray, England)
  • Wisdom / Sagesse (China)

Kenner Girder & Panel System

As all of you regular readers know, our focus here on this website is on metal construction systems. However, on occasion we like to show you some special exceptions to this "rule", such as Armator, Erector Brik, and the system in this pictorial, Kenner Toys' Girder & Panel sets.

As I've documented elsewhere on this website, like many boys who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s I had a Gilbert Erector Set and I loved to build with it. But, in addition to Erector there were other popular building and construction toys available during the period, such as Lincoln Logs (on the simpler end of the scale) and Kenner's Girder and Panel sets (on the more realistic end). Kenner Toys began production of Girder and Panel sets in the mid-1950s, after the president of that company watched a high-rise structure being built, giving him the idea for a new toy that would enable children to create models of modern buildings using the same column, beam, and curtain wall construction that was the primary building mode of the period.

The idea was a simple one: first build a framework of girders on a green masonite base board, then cover that framework with lightweight vacuformed outer wall panels and roof panels. There were three types of red plastic girders: vertical columns, horizontal beams, and column caps. The top of each square column had four V-shaped notches, one per side, and the bottom had a square pin. A horizontal beam with a dovetail tab on each end locked into one of the notches on the top of the column (see images at right and below). Small pins extended from each side of the column pieces and beam pieces; these were used to secure the light plastic wall panels, which had holes along their edges that formed a press-fit onto the small pins. This girder framework with wall panels installed formed a fairly strong finished structure.

To start construction, a first layer of columns representing the ground floor of the building had the square pins on their bottom ends placed into evenly spaced holes in the masonite base board (these were also a press fit, but the holes did loosen over time with continued use). Next, horizontal beams were fitted into the upper ends of the columns, locking everything into place. To add a second floor, more columns were inserted into the top of the first floor columns, securing the horizontal beams below, and then more beams were fitted into the upper ends of the new columns. This process was repeated to add additional stories to the building, as desired, until the desired framework was complete. The framework was then faced with curtain wall panels and roof panels, and column caps were inserted into the top of the structure, securing the top level of beams and the roof panels. Signage, flags, and other accessories could then be added, as desired, to complete the building.

Kenner initially produced three Girder and Panel building sets (No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3), with increasing numbers of parts. The popularity of these sets prompted Kenner to introduce a series of sets with a new theme: interstate roadways. These were the Bridge and Turnpike sets (No. 4, No. 5, and No. 6). As with the previous sets, plastic girders (columns and beams) were still used to build a framework, but instead of supporting a building it formed a structure that supported roadways, bridges, interchanges, etc. The curtain wall panels were not part of these sets. Instead, new parts were introduced, incuding flexible diagonal truss strips to brace and strengthen the girder structure, and flexible gray plastic road segments (straight and curved) which had molded curbs, painted center lines, and tabs at each corner that were used to secure the sections to the tops of columns.

With the success of both of these series of sets, Kenner introduced three additional sets (No. 7, No. 8, and No. 9) that were combinations of the two previous set themes. They included girders, plus wall panels and roadway segments. These sets enabled builders to produce more complex structures that could incorporate roads and buildings in the same model (see image at right). Sets No. 8 and No. 9, which added battery powered motors to their inventories, became Kenner's best selling sets in this product line. A final No. 10 Motor set was added to the line to allow people with earlier sets to motorize their designs.

Over time, Kenner expanded the existing product line with new themed sets including Hydro-Dynamic sets, Build-A-Home sets, and Skyrail sets, among others. The latter sets capitalized on an emerging trend in toy products that were designed to build working scale model monorail systems. By the end of the 1960s, Kenner ceased production of the Girder and Panel product line. Some years later, they became part of General Mills and production of new sets began again. By 1979, these sets also ceased production. The trademark was resurrected and similar products produced twice more through the intervening years, first by Irwin Toys and later by Bridge Street Toys. Their products ceased production in 2016. As for future of products inspired by Kenner's original Girder and Panel sets, only time will tell.

Typical Girder and Panel Model Building

Set No.3 Contents

Set No. 3 Box Lid

Sample Set No. 3 Book Page

Sample Bridge and Turnpike Book Page

Set No. 8 Box Lid