Girder & Panel is a toy construction building set, appropriate for ages 6-13, with which you can build buildings (as well as bridges with the Bridge & Turnpike building set, and powerplant with the Hydrodynamic building set). The completed structure is made to resemble real-life sky-scrapers, fire stations, bank buildings, bridges, pumps, and so on. Originally introduced by Kenner Products in the 1950’s, there is an entire generation of engineers and architects that have many fond memories of playing with this set as children.
The sets include plastic columns and beams which are interlocked together to create the basic outside frame (just like real buildings are built using iron beams and columns). Then, thin plastic panels are added to the outside of the frame, creating solid walls, windows and doors on the frame. The building is completed with roofs, decorative flags and signs! Because the parts are scaled to the common HO scale (1/87), many accessories such as cars, trucks, trees, and trains can be added to your model city.
The initial sets were inspired by the construction of a new office building in Cincinnati, OH, home of Kenner Toys. Kenner president Alfred Steiner was intrigued by the modern steel beam and girder structure of the new building, and the steel and glass wall panels that were later applied to that framework. This led to the development of these construction toy sets.
Most adults today who had Girder and Panel sets back in the 1960s remember the famous building and turnpike sets. These were unforgettably characterized by hundreds of red plastic girders and beams, green masonite baseboards, yellow electric motors and pulleys, grey plastic road pieces, and bright orange, yellow, and brown plastic wall panels. The all-time best-selling set was the motorized #8 set: Combined Girder-and-Panel Bridge-and-Turnpike set.
Girder & Panel differs from other construction building sets in that it lets children experiment with real engineering principles. Because the buildings are actually 1/87 scale of real buildings, children investigate how to build strong buildings and bridges, and how to make water flow for the Hydrodynamic building sets.
The products have been produced by several companies since 1957 and since 2005 by Bridge Street Toys, although I'm not sure if they still exist. Their website www.bridgestreettoys.com is offline.
The set that has inspired many chemical engineers! This set has tanks, valves, and piping (plastic tubing) to move water. First you design and build the structure, add water, and then enjoy playing with this water set for hours and hours. Children learned how it is to be hydraulic engineers with the Hydro-Dynamic sets. These came with pumps (battery operated) and could pump water through plastic tubes. The sets (#11 and #12) contained many clear plastic parts consisting of dippers, storage tanks, funnels, spray heads, turbines, and small and large liquid chambers.
A small amount of classic Girder and Panel and Bridge and Highway pieces were included, to allow an office to be built as part of the chemical plant, with roadways leading to it.
Around 1968, production of Girder and Panel sets had stopped and didn't start again until 1974, when Kenner (now owned by General Mills), introduced the larger 1,100-piece Sears Tower (set #72001) with black girders and panel. This set could make a 5-foot-tall model of the Sears Tower.
Beginning around 2005, and continuing to the present (not sure about this!), the Girder and Panel sets are again being produced and now sold in some speciality shops and on the internet by Bridge Street Toys (site is offline). They have produced a number of different sets, along with matching parts for the older Kenner Toys and Irwin Toys sets.