The HAG Model Railways company was founded in St. Gallin, Switzerland on April 1st 1944 by Hugo and Alwin Gahler. The company name is an anagram of
the initials of the founder's first names and their last name. The company was a classic manufacturer
of mostly hand made models of Swiss prototype trains. The Gahler brothers originally manufactured model
trains in 'O' scale but due to competition, particularly by Märklin HO scale, began the transition to HO gauge in 1954 with their
final 'O' scale set being manufactured in 1957. HAG manufactured die-cast metal model trains and became the primary manufacturer
of HO scale Swiss model trains. Models were available in both two-rail DC and Märklin-compatible three-rail AC.
The HAG die-cast trains were electric outline locomotive models, and the cars were wagons and passenger coaches made of solid plastic bodies with metal floors.
Brothers Hugo and Alwin Gahler learned skills in the metal industry when they were young. They devoted part-time
efforts to making tinplate toys. After amassing modest seed money and putting in untiring efforts, on Christmas in 1942 the first train set with track was produced.
The efforts paid off when these products were acquired by the famous Franz Carl Weber toy store in Zürich, Switzerland. Soon thereafter the brothers gave up their
jobs in order to concentrate on the full-time construction of these models. A new workshop was set up in the basement of a joinery in
St. Gallen. On April 1, 1944, the company H. & A. Gahler was established. Growing demand for their products and the lack of sufficient work space
led to the company moving into their own factory at Parketteriestrasse in St. Gallen in the summer of 1947. By 1948 the first scale model
of the Re 4/4 I Pendellok was manufactured. It was in 1:43 scale 'O' gauge. After successfully overcoming the challenges in
producing the Re 4/4 the model train line was continuously expanded to include other models and accessories. From 1949 to 1951 the business
grew rapidly. But the joy of success in making and selling the 'O' gauge products was short-lived. In the post-war period, the competition in the marketplace became
more rampant. Around this time Märklin had launched its HO scale model railway products, which were half as large as the 'O' scale and were becoming increasingly
more popular with hobbyists. The demand for large track 'O' scale products shrank rapidly, forcing Hugo and Alwin Gahler to switch to HO scale manufacturing. This change
meant practically a new start for the business and put the fledgling firm to a hard challenge. Thus in 1954 the company began to gradually build an HO
line. At the same time 'O' gauge production was throttled back and by 1957 stopped completely.
In 1971 Werner Gahler, the son of Alwin Gahler joined the company.
In the period following the departure of Hugo Gahler the model line continued to grow and production tripled in the years 1974-1980.
In 1979 Alwin Gahler retired and the family business was passed to Werner Gahler, the son of Alwin
Gahler. In June, the company was transformed into a corporation.
In 1982 the need for manufactuing space forced HAG to move for the second time in its history to a larger facility in Mörschwil. In 1986 the first scale
loco in HO gauge was built. It was the Re 4/4 II. In 1988 the older flat collector motor was replaced when a new motor type was developed with ball bearings
and a drum collector. The new motor, dubbed the '88', was much quieter and used less power. In 1993 Alwin Gahler died at the age of 82. A year later HAG celebrated its 50th
anniversary. In collaboration with graphic designers RedChili the 'Snow White' (Re 456) model was created. In 2001
at the age of 91 Hugo Gahler passed away. In 2003 Roger Gahler, son of Werner Gahler, joined the company. In collaboration with
the German Importer ESU a 21-pin Decoder plug-in interface was designed and released and AC models all shipped with ESU digital decoders installed,
however, any 21-pin plug decoder can be used in HAG locomotives equipped with the 21 pin interface.
All HAG models represented standard gauge Swiss rail equipment. Other companies such as Bemo made narrow gauge models of Swiss
equipment. HAG models represented SBB (Schweitzer Bundesbahn—Swiss Federal Railway) equipment, as well as
BLS (Bern Lotschberg Simplon), Bodensee Toggenburg Bahn, MthB (Mittlethurgaubahn), Südöstbahn (SOB), and RM. They also made a few models
of other European railway operators such as DB and FS. Locomotives were made for both 3-rail 16 volt AC and 2-rail 12 volt DC, and all could be run from track or overhead
power. In times of increasingly lightweight plastic HO scale trains made by other manufacturers, HAG equipment was always satisfyingly massive and durable.
All HAG products came with a full one year warranty against production defects. HAG marketed its products primarily in Switzerland but also in Germany, France and
eventually in the English speaking markets as well. Catalogs were published in all of these languages. In January of 2007 HAG introduced a new numbering system
for its products. The older 3 digit numbering system was abandoned in order to more clearly identify which locomotives were equipped with digital, sound and
which were AC versus DC powered. Thus a 7 and 8 digit numbering system is now used for identifying locomotives and traction vehicles. A 5 digit number is
utilized for all carriages.
In 2009 HAG was still a family run business. The most massive new item introduced in the 2009 brochure was a BLS Ae 8/8 in dark green,
that was two linked units with a total of four motors driving eight axles. The historic brown version was also listed in the 2009 catalog.
According to a note in the main catalog, HAG believed that its 4-motor version of the BLS Ae 8/8 may have been the most
powerful standard issue HO locomotive ever made. There was also a new version issued in the historic brown color
with a special Swiss insignia and flowers on the front, as the locomotive was decked out for its 50th Anniversary.
The second version was designed with just two motors. Unlike many other model train manufacturers that have employed zinc die-casting methods,
HAG models have not been affected by zinc corrosion (zinc pest) over time. The manufacture of the cast housings was based on many years of experience
in the die-casting process and quality-free starting materials were always utilized. Thus, the risk of a zinc corrosion attack on a HAG model is reduced to
practically zero so long as items are stored and handled properly.
On January 1, 2012 HAG was sold to the Tekwiss Engineering company of Hagedorn. The spare parts for older generation products
were sold at the same time to Amiba Engine Shed where they remained available. After ceasing of manufacturing, the company was then
acquired in November 2012 by Heinz Urech. Production of HAG HO trains was planned to resume. Mr. Urech also owned Polytrona, a company that made circuit
boards, and one of the first planned changes to the HAG line was the introduction of modern electronics, with DCC control and sound systems.
A new set of modules would be made to upgrade locos not only to digital but also to more sophisticated LED lighting and all white/red light schemes
of the prototypes using the 21 pin connector interface and bringing the whole range into the 21st century. In time an upgrade kit would be made
available for all the HAG locos, even older ones. The upgrade kit would consist of a couple of drop-in boards with minimal soldering and no need
to change bulbs (LEDs are surface-mounted on the proper spot) making it possible for anyone to perform the upgrade, without the anguish or need to
ship equipment back and forth.
At the end of October 2012, the original production and manufacturing site in Mörschwil was abandoned, nine employees were laid off,
and the company was moved to Stansstad. At the new location, the company remained under the direction of Heinz Urech. HAG produced
one N-Scale model, the Ae 4/7. Several variations of this model were offered and produced in limited edition production runs.
Although the Gahler family sold the company in 2012 after 68 years of operation, Alvin Gahler’s son Werner continued to promote
the products for the new ownership in 2013 at the Nuremburg Toy Faire.
For 2017 HAG planned to release new products including a Werbelok Re 460 065-6 COOP III, an SBB Re 4/4 II 11278, a SBB Ae 6/6 11520, a SBB Re 420 258-6, and a
Werbelok BLS Re 465 008-1 in multiple paint schemes for HO scale. New models feature a 3 pole motor. HAG's service department offers direct repairs and accepts
older products for modification to the lighting and for digital conversions. AC models can be converted to DC operation by insulating the axles, installing permanent
magnets in the motors, and replacing the gears. All HAG products have been designed to operate on track with a minimum radius of 360mm.
Click this link to visit the HAG Modellbahnen GMBH website.