Märklin (pronounced Maerklin) is a German toy company, founded by
tin smith Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Märklin in 1859 in Göppingen, as a maker of household
products. They originally produced lacquered tinplate kitchen utilities and as a side business created
smaller versions meant to be toys for little girls to use in their doll houses.
The accidental death of the firm's founder in 1866 was a severe blow, but the hard work and
determination of Märklin's widow Caroline kept the company going. Eventually, one of her 3 sons, Eugen Märklin,
took over the company in 1888 and incorporated it into a larger unlimited business.
In 1891 they took over the Ludwig Lutz tinplate toy company in Ellwangen, and specialized in making mecanical
toys such as boats and trains. From 1892 onwards, the comapny called itself "Märklin Bros. & Co.". At that time
Emil Friz of Plochingen became a joint owner.
Although it originally specialized in doll house accessories, today it is best known
for model railways and
technical toys. In some parts of Germany, the company's name is almost synonymous with model railroads.
Märklin released its first wind-up train with cars that
ran on expandable track in 1891, noting that
railroad toys had the potential to follow the common practice of doll houses, in which the initial purchase
would be enhanced and expanded with more accessories for years after that. To this end,
Märklin offered additional rolling stock and track with which to expand its boxed sets.
Märklin is responsible for the creation of virtually every popular model railroad
gauge or scale, with
only noteworthy exceptions being N scale and Wide gauge. In 1891, Märklin defined gauges 1-5 as standards
for toy trains and presented them at the Leipzig Toy Fair. They soon became international standards. Märklin
followed with 'O' gauge (by some accounts as early as 1895 or
as late as 1901), HO scale in 1935, and the
diminutive 'Z' scale in 1972 — this is the smallest commercially available scale, 1:220.
By 1895 Märklin trains had become very popular and the business grew rapidly.
The demand dictated
that the production facilities be expanded and a move was made to larger facilities at Marktgasse 21.
In 1900 the company again moved to a larger 6,000 square foot factory
located in Stuttgarter Strasse. Additional investment capital was required to facilitate
the expansion. In 1907 Richard Safft was brought in as a partner to the company. From 1908 they traded
under the name "Märklin Bros. & Cie".
In 1911 a six-story, 110 meter-long company headquarters was built along the Stuttgarter Strasse.
Today it is still one of Göppingen's most imposing buildings. By 1914 the number of employees had risen
to 600. Then came the First World War - an event which proved for Märklin, like many another firms, a
painful break. Many of the specialist staff were called up, and only a few returned. Production was
perforce switched to "wartime articles" and the firm's spectacular growth - particularly in the export
field -was brought to an abrupt halt. Suddenly access to foreign markets was cut and there was no customer
base for part of the products which had been made specially to the requirements of the target countries.
Faced with this predicament it proved a boon that - in contrast to other toy manufacturers - the firm
had not neglected the home market and thus survived the difficult post-war era relatively well. Even so,
various changes of course proved necessary after 1920 in both the business and the technical fields. The
switch from an unlimited trading company to a limited liability company - originally planned for tax
purposes - was deemed a necessity after the death of Emil Friz in 1922. It was not until four years
later that his son-in-law, Max Scheerer, became the firm's third managing director. In 1923 Eugen
Märklin's son Fritz joined the company, and in 1935 took over his father's position when the latter
retired after 50 years.
In 1927, when the 20-Volt-system became available, the evolution of
electric trains could really take off, and Märklin became the number 1 maker of toy trains in Europe.
They used the German Reichsbahn (German State Railroad) founded in 1920 as inspiration for the design
of its locomotives and rolling stock, and also the whole field of accessories. Märklin's "Reichsbahn era"
between 1927 and 1939 brought a whole fresh impetus. By 1929 the number of employees had risen to 900.
In 1933 a key competitor, Bing had ceased toy production,
automatically making Märklin the market leader as the Nuremberg company of Karl Bub
- with its cheap mass production - was not seen as a serious competitor.
Trains in gauge 1 were produced until 1935, when the smaller 'OO' came on the market. This gauge later became the
In 1939 Märklin began using new technical procedures such as zinc die casting, first in locomotives,
coach trucks, wheels and accessories. Between 1948 and 1955 freight cars were also produced completely
under this method. The Second World War brought a new enforced break in toy production. Mercifully the
firm's production plant escaped any direct effects of war. Richard Safft died in 1945 and Eugen Märklin
in 1947. Herbert Safft took his father's place as managing director. Soon after the war ended model
railroad production started up again, at first for export only. While the OO/HO range was extended
as fast as possible, 'O' gauge models saw greatly limited production. In 1950 manufacture of the
"wide-tracks" in lacquered tinplate stopped altogether. The last catalogue showing models in 'O' gauge
is the 1954 version, and this was the end of production of Märklin tinplate trains in this gauge.
The tinplate era was at an end.
Plastics largely took over in the range of materials used for toy making. The company dedicated
itself to developing and perfecting HO railroads which established themselves equally as trains
to play with and as first-rate models. This dual strategy - seen through largely by the
efforts of Fritz Märklin before his
death in 1961 - clearly helped towards the world wide success enjoyed by Märklin. Märklin reintroduced
1 gauge train production in 1969. In 1997 Märklin acquired Nüremberg based model train manufacturer
Trix. Today Trix is another brand of Märklin Holding
and covers N-scale and DC-operated HO scale.
Although Märklin is best known for its trains, from 1914 to 1999, the company produced mechanical
construction sets similar to Meccano and Erector. Between 1967 and 1982, the company produced a slotcar
system called Märklin Sprint. Märklin also produced numerous other toys over the years, including lithographed
tinplate toy automobiles and boats.
The 'Märklin system' is Märklin's technique of using a third rail concealed in the roadbed with only
small studs protruding through the ties of the track. The two outer rails are connected electrically.
This provides the simplified wiring enjoyed by larger gauges — such as reverse loops — without
seriously detracting from the realism of the track because only two of the rails are visible. Because the
two outer rails are not electrically isolated from each other, however, some do not consider Märklin's system
to be a true three-rail system.
The Märklin track system has some incompatibility with other manufacturers'
HO trains. Because the wheels on
Märklin's cars are not insulated, it causes shorts if its cars are used on other manufacturers' HO track,
without changing the wheels. The profile of the wheels are also different. Additionally, for many
was the only brand that used AC for its HO scale trains, although in the 60's Fleischmann, HAG, Röwa, Roco and
others started producing trains for the Märklin system. Some people convert Märklin locomotives to DC for
use on DC layouts, and by buying HAMO, Märklin had begun offering a line of DC locomotives as well, first
under the name of HAMO and, after buying Trix,
under that name.
In 1984 Märklin came out with its first generation digital signal processing
system with electronic
receiver circuits in each locomotive called 'Märklin Digital train control'. Märklin was the first
model railway company to introduce a digital train control system. It was jointly developed with Motorola.
This technology facilitated having independent, multi-train operation for HO-scale and 1 gauge model trains.
Märklin has released several newer versions of this proprietary Digital train control over the years for
controlling trains and accessories digitally, however, this system is not compatible with DCC (Digital
Command Control), which was developed by a number of different people and companies and was standardized
by the National Model Railroad Association in the 1990's. The difference in the Märklin system and the DCC system
is that it has more available addresses
programmable decoders and a feedback-function from the mfx-decoders that helps the control unit identify
the locomotives. Märklin does offer DCC powered locomotives, but only for its 2-rail DC Trix brand.
Over the years, the Märklin marque became valuable to model train collectors,
some of the very early models
fetching impressive prices on auction. In January 2005, the Märklin museum in Göppingen, Germany, was burgled
and more than 100 pieces, with an estimated value of more than 1 million Euros, were stolen. The items,
which included one-of-a-kind prototypes along with pieces that dated back to 1891, were recovered in March
With greater than 150 years of manufacturing, the range of products is extensive,
also pay attention to the packaging that was used for these products.The Märklin toy company systematically
included a print run number on almost all their printed material,
including the boxes in which their products shipped. These print run numbers indicate the printer
and also the month and year of printing. This is very useful for dating an item that is known to be
associated with some printed material. The second group of digits indicates the catalogue number.
The last set of numeric digits in the print run number indicates the month and year that the item was
printed. The last group of letters identifies the printer.
In 2006, the company, which had until then been owned
by the three families Märklin, Friz and Safft, was sold to the British investment group
Kingsbridge Capital, ending nearly 150 years of family ownership. With the support of the employees,
the new shareholders planned to restructure
the company and make it profitable again. The purchase price was approximately $38 million.
At the time, Märklin had approximately $70.5 million in debt, as a result of several years of slumping sales.
In 2007, the company expanded its product offering by buying the remaining
assets of the bankrupt firm,
Ernst Paul Lehmann, who owned the LGB brand and product line
of 'G' scale model railways. In 2007 Märklin also acquired Hubner.
Today, Märklin manufactures and markets trains and accessories in Gauge 1, HO
scale, and 'Z' scale.
They offer two different lines of 1 gauge equipment, one less expensive, made of tin plate metal, and less
detailed. And one that is a premier line, which is super-detailed and more costly. These products
are distibuted in the United States exclusively by Walthers. Märklin's older
trains are considered highly collectible today, and Märklin's current offerings enjoy premium status among
Link to Märklin Website