Category Archives: Historical Articles

A History of Marklin O Gauge [Intro & Overview]

O Gauge production was critical to Marklin’s expansion and, as such, the O Gauge product line in conjunction with 00 Scale trains ushered Marklin into a toy-production “Golden Age.”  This series, “A History of Marklin O Gauge,” will take a look at the beginning (1893), middle (Golden Age), and end (1954) of the O Gauge product line.

The first O-Gauge Marklin locomotive (clockwork) was produced in 1893.  These O-Gauge sets were first displayed at the Leipzig Easter Fair.

Early O Gauge Locomotive and Car Set #1020

The Rise to the “Golden Age”

•1921:  First customer-catalog for  Germany (D1)

•1926:  20 Volt System introduced

•1931:  “Fernschaltung” 66 introduced

•1933:   Spur 00 program starts with “Liliputbahn”

•1935:  “Fernschaltung” 70 introduced

•1938:  Gauge 1 production greatly reduced

Coupler Design Patent (1909)

Coupler Patent 1909 (From Marklin Archives)


The above patent from the 6th of October 1909 detail the ingenious coupling design Marklin devised in the early 1900s.  This design was crucial to the easy and reliable coupling and uncoupling of locomotives and cars.  The design featured a “tongue and slot” mechanism with a small cross-pin which securely attaches the couplers together.  This design replaced the earlier “loop” couplers and maintained in existence until the end of O Gauge production.

Electronic Switch Patent (1934)

Electric Switch Patent 1934 (From Marklin Archives)

The patent shown above was an early electronic switch design which allowed for remote track switching by way of a push of a button.  An incredible lever mechanism utilizing leverage over a fulcrum point allows a small electromagnet to switch the heavy metal tracks.

The American Market

As always, I like to focus a little on the humble beginnings of the American market for Marklin.  Early in O Gauge production (1900-1920s), Marklin affixed cowcatchers and bells to German outline locomotives and called them “American.”  With rise to the “Golden Age” in the 1930s, Marklin realized the potential of the American market and – perhaps competing with its rival, Lionel – produced a series of what I like to call “uniquely” American locomotives that were not just cannibalized versions of German outline locomotives, but rather American version locomotives in their own right.  Such locomotives include the “Commodore Vanderbilt” AK 70/12920 of the “NEW YORK CENTRAL LINES” railway.  Other locomotives include the mighty Hudson AHR 66/12920, ME 66/12920 ETAT, and various rolling stock and larger passenger cars including the unmistakable PULLMAN 2924 and 2925 cars.  Important dealers for the American market in the 1930s include Richard Marklin, Bruce Hastie, and many others.

1934/1935 American "SONDERBLATT"

The important, but vastly unknown dealer of NY.

Marklin 1937 Toy Fair (00 Scale and O Gauge)

The impressive 1937 toy fair display for Marklin featured both 00 Scale and O Gauge.  The display featured a complex elevated 00 Scale track section.  From the photo below, a double-header RS 700 train can be seen pulling a stock of 340-series cars.  An SLR 700 locomotive approaches the grand 2039 G/00 Stuttgarter Station and two 424 B platforms.  Two 406 Fahne (Flags) flank either side of the station and are typical of the time period.  Several “Miniatur-Autos” are also scattered around the station to create a realistic scene.  It is clear, however, that since the introduction of 00 Scale in 1935, O Gauge has been put on the back-burner (or the lower shelf in this case!).  Despite its rather low positioning on the layout, a careful observer will notice that many different countries are represented in the product line: (from Left to Right) a German outline HR 66 12920, an American outline AK 70/12920, a SWISS crocodile CCS 66/12920, an English L 70/12920, and a French ME 70/12920 (as far as I can discern).  Running around the ovals are a “Flying-Hamburger” treibwagen and a gray livery ETAT ME 70/12920 pulling a string of 40cm 1940 series cars.

1937 Toy Fair Display

Wartime

•Richard Marklin brought back to Germany

•O Gauge production continued, but at a slower pace

•Newer innovations never realized in O Gauge production line (many prototypes)

•Materials were more scarce

E 70 12920 Locomotives in Factory (1945) Locomotives finished in “dull black”

The end of O Gauge Marklin

•1954: Last year of Marklin O Gauge

•1947-1954 –Marklin heavily phased out O Gauge line

–No new models or special variants

–O Gauge always in the back of the catalogs

–Last few years only clockwork locomotives

–O Gauge pushed out by newer 00 technologies

Marklin 00/HO Track 1935 – 1950

Marklin track changed greatly over the years due to changing designs, available resources, and functionalities.

Here are some of the main track variations over the years 1935 – 1950.  There are many variations of Marklin track especially during WWII when available resources greatly influenced the look of the track.  For instance, towards the end of WWII there is a Marklin track without any roadbed designs because the factory which printed the roadbed design for Marklin was destroyed in a bombing raid.  As such, tracks from this time period do not have any roadbed designs.

1935


1936


1937 – 1938

1939 – 1942

1945 – 1946


1946 – 1947

1947 – early 1950s

Marklin Patents 1909 – 1942 [Kupplung]

Very rarely does an opportunity present itself  to look  “behind the scenes” of the Marklin factory.  Original instruction sheets, customer catalogs, and dealer items often give added value to Marklin items and set the context of the toy pieces, allowing us to imagine how they were originally sold to Marklin enthusiasts long ago.  Sometimes we are even given the chance to look at a Marklin dealer’s side of the operation such as in the article on Richard Marklin Toys.   Browsing through dealer catalogs, binders, and price-lists also gives us added insight in how dealers interacted with the Marklin factory, but how often do we actually get to see what happened on the production side of the toys at the Marklin factory in Goppingen, Germany?

Marklin Patents Folder

Marklin Patents 1909 & 1938

A blue, musty folder riddled with the signs of old age and many years of storage holds the secrets of Marklin’s engineering brilliancy in the form of original Marklin patents issued from the years 1909 to 1942.  Undoubtedly an incredible insight into Marklin’s clear advantage in the toy industry in the early 20th Century.  Here, the detailed design plans of some of Marklin’s greatest inventions and ingenuous designs are revealed for all to see.

A patent for “Gebr. Marklin & Cie.” dated 15.JANUAR 1942:

Märklin during World War II

Märklin has survived several generations of ownership, three factory relocations, eight gauges of toy trains, and two world wars, but the most crucial and undoubtedly pivotal time was during World War II.  With its introduction of 00 Scale in 1935, Märklin faced huge potential; the smaller scale required fewer raw materials and the dream of creating an expansive model railroad complete with stations, bridges and track accessories was realized for many hobbyists. The range of 00 Scale production expanded at a quickening pace:  the SLR 700 in 1936, the HR 700 and HS 700 locomotives in 1937, the CCS 700 prototype in 1938, and the “Perfekt” reverse system of the 800 series in 1938.  These models were also offered to export markets and sometimes detailed with special paint schemes or additions.  In 1937 and 1938, export models were sent to Great Britain and were painted in the LMS and LNER livery.

Despite its rapid progress, Märklin foresaw the early warning signs of a war.  The last full-release customer catalog was produced in 1940 and contained no new models.  The dream of a 00 scale crocodile was never realized and the CCS 700 prototype was put off until the postwar years.  But Märklin’s pre-war wariness did not show weakness or hesitation, it showed genius.  By not expanding its product range, Märklin vouchsafed a steady flow of revenue during WWII by producing models that had not changed much since 1938.  This required far less materials and technical complexity of the later “Super-Modelle” series from the immediate postwar production.

Märklin employees assemble and test SK 800 locomotives in late 1945.

During the course of the war, Märklin maintained a difficult balance of the production of war materials and toys all the way up to early 1943 when the production of toys ceased.   Märklin had the task of producing the Entlastungzunder 44 (E.Z. 44), a device commonly used to prevent the removal of mines which would detonate when lifted.  These pressure-lifting devices required special fuses, springs, and clockwork mechanisms.  Märklin’s penchant for producing precision technical toys suited them perfectly for this task.  Although Märklin is known as the primary producer of the E.Z. 44, some examples have been found with a marking which is believed to be that of Shuco, a German toy manufacturer.

Design drawing of the Entlastungzunder 44 (E.Z. 44) pressure-lifting device.

During World War II, the Werhmacht assigned production codes to factories that aided the war effort.   Märklin carried the production code “BKG” on the Werhmacht production list.  Similarly, Fleischmann and Wiking had their own Werhmacht production codes, “BZF” and “BXY” respectively.  These production codes would be stamped on crates or engraved into metal goods.  Märklin also produced other technical instruments and machined parts for the war effort including detonators, belt buckles, torpedo motors, and aircraft instruments.  One account from a U.S. Army intelligence officer who visited the factory towards the end of the war states that these war materials were produced in a special section of the Märklin factory located on the lower floors concealed behind a single, unmarked door.  When the American officer visited the Märklin factory to gather intelligence, he was given a complete set of Märklin trains including the 351 F “Fuhrer” wagon, a seemingly controversial gift of the time.

U.S. Soldiers observe layout in the Märklin factory showroom and browse a pre-war catalog with a Märklin salesman.

In addition to its forced production of war materials to support the war effort, Märklin also protected itself from the unstable and violent political climate of the time.  Although no records point to a formal affiliation between Märklin and the Nazi party, Märklin did produce articles which portrayed the symbol of the German socialist party.  These items include the 351 F with two Nazi eagles affixed to the coach’s sides, the 5521/10 Mercedes Fuhrer car, the 00 Scale 406 Nazi flag, and the large-gauge 2611 H Nazi flag.  Only one of these items is pictured in Märklin’s customer catalogs and only some of the others can be found in supplemental catalogs.  Compared to other toy companies in Germany during WWII, Märklin’s production of toys which included the Nazi symbol was extremely minimal and on a very small-scale.

When war production stopped, Märklin still had over 700 employees and restarted production of toy trains to be sold in 1945.  Although the city of Goppingen was relatively protected because it was a Red Cross camp, it still faced involvement in the war simply because of its many factories and railway centers.  On April 12, 1945 the 9th Air Force escorted by the 95th Air Force bombed a marshalling yard at Goppingen, crippling railroads in the area.  Weeks later, over 1,200 8th Air Force “Forts and Libs” (Fortresses and Liberators) flew to Southern Germany to destroy rail centers in the towns of Hellbronn, Bruschsal and Goppingen.  Although some sources say that Goppingen was untouched by these bombings, it is difficult to determine the outcomes of these bombing raids.

Due to the stress of the war, production dropped from a pre-war average of 65,000 trains to an average of 25,000 trains per year during World War II.  The main source of revenue for Märklin during the wartime was the domestic sale of pre-war trains that continued production into the early years of the war.  Towards the end of Nazi occupation in Europe, trains were also sold through special PX-shops located throughout Europe which offered Märklin miniature railway sets for sale to American GIs and local civilians.  Several PX sets were offered in late 1945 including the SK 841/4, SK 851/4, HR 841/4, HR 851/4, and RS 827 which were all sold in either red set boxes similar to the pre-war versions or a special “PX Box,” a plain brown box with “110 Volts” stamped on the front for American export.  These train sets were sometimes shipped to the United States in wooden crates via the military postal service.  The SK 800 locomotives sold during this time were a special “bruniert” type, unique because of their burnished black finish. These sets also have a distinctive “PX track” because in Nurnberg, the factory that printed roadbed designs on the 00 Scale Märklin tracks was destroyed during a bombing.  For this reason, tracks that were sold during wartime and the immediate postwar period are either leftover pre-war tracks or tracks without a printed roadbed.   The instruction sheets included in these sets, “Instructions for the Electric Miniature Railway Gauge 00,” are commonly found with print code “A 0845 r,” denoting a print date of August, 1945.

An SK 841 PX-set marked 11/1945 which was sold to an American soldier stationed in Germany.

Märklin’s production of toys was so important to Germany that in late 1945 the “Welt Im Film” (World in Film) news crew filmed the Märklin factory and showed its incredible postwar success.  The segment was called “Göppingen: Eine Friedliche Industrie” (Goppingen: A Peaceful Industry) and portrayed the remarkable strength of the Märklin factory.  The newsreel shows several key aspects of the factory including the main production floor, the factory showroom with several American soldiers running locomotives on a layout, and the humble beginnings of the Märklin museum displays.

Märklin had survived the war and found itself in the perfect position for the 1947 introduction of the “Super-Modelle” series which had been a dream since the early pre-war CCS 700 prototype of 1938.  American soldiers stationed in Germany for the rebuilding of the country were delighted to see locomotives of the “Super-Modelle” series based on American designs like the electric DL 800 locomotive.  Märklin’s inclusion of such American models could possibly be seen as recognition of the important role which American soldiers played in Märklin’s survival during WWII.

This article was featured in the ETE EXPRESS in Issue 128 (4th Quarter 2010)

Guide to Marklin Boxes (1935 – 1941)

The range of Scale 00 Marklin boxes has changed drastically over the years.   Boxes can be very helpful in dating trains and adds considerably to the overall value of a train set or individual train.  Collectors are willing to pay higher prices if the original box is included.

1935 – 1936

The earliest 00 Scale box was similar in design to previous Marklin boxes for larger scales:  it had a black and orange label on a plain brown box.  This box was used from 1935 to 1936, but sometimes we even see it in early 1937.

Marklin Box Style from 1935-36

Set boxes for Marklin train sets from 1935-36 were commonly found in a purple colored carton with an illustrated picture of a railway scene on the box top.  The sets also had orange/white labels indicating the set number (example: R 727, or others listed here) and also the voltage label (20 VOLT).

Marklin Set Box Cover from 1935-36

1937-1938

The next type of box had a orange and white label and a similar brown box that was lighter in color.   This type of box was used from 1937 to 1938 but there was another kind of box also introduced in 1938 that will be discussed next.

1938

The year 1938 brought many changes to Marklin.  The “Perfect Reverse” system was introduced as well as a change in design of boxes for the entire range of 00 Scale production.  Marklin introduced their famous red-diamond or bicycle box (named because of the pattern of the red Marklin logo which looked like a bicycle).  This type of box was used for the remained of our focus of discussion (up to 1956) but in many different variations.  The type of box pictured below was used from 1938 to 1943.  Locomotive boxes had an orange and white label and coaches and wagons had a plain white label.

Marklin Red-Diamond Box for R 800 with Orange/White Label

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