Tag Archives: Marklin Factory

From Germany with Love, Train Sets Shipped Home during WWII


As discussed in previous articles, the Marklin factory continued production during WWII. American soldiers operating in the area are said to have visited the factory specifically.  Not only were they there to collect intelligence, but also indulge in some toy shopping for those back home.  The Marklin factory had an in-house showroom with all the latest models running and many promotional dioramas on display.  Although there are few first-hand accounts available to tell their stories, the memories are passed down to children and grandchildren. Several readers have sent in photos of PX (“Postal Exchange”) sets that were sent from Germany to the USA, typically dating from 1943-1947. The most common sets contained locomotives SK 800, HR 800, or the e-loco RS 800.  One such set retained the original receipt from the factory!


Marklin factory receipt dating 12 June, 1945

The receipt above likely was a return visit as the products are primarily track, accessories, some diecast cars, tons of rolling stock and passenger cars.  The first big purchase must have been a large set or a few locos and the smaller purchase came later!  As the main cover image of this article shows, many of the sets came in large brown cardboard boxes or heavy-duty wooden crates.  Crates filled with military equipment now contained toy, trains and accessories!  They were perfect in protecting the trains during the long journey from Germany back home to the USA. The sets commonly have an APO address (“Army Post Office”) and appear to have been sent through New York before reaching their final destinations.  All packages are careful to note that the crates contain “NO GOVERNMENT PROPERTY.”

Label affixed to crate shows packages were routed through New York


Sets included enough track, switches, and a transformer to make a layout

Marklin crate

Former military crate now contains trains!


Complete example of a SK 851/4 set dates to 1946


Sent from Sgt. G. Moeers 7711 of the 45th Air Repair Squadron in Hanau, Germany APO 757


Sent from Sgt. Hartley to Mrs. George Hartley of Medford, Oregon. Army APO stamp dates to 1946


Postage stamp dates to 1946



Treasures in Unlawful Hands :: Marklin Museum Robbery 2005


The break-in in the Märklin Museum on the night of the 17th January 18, 2005 and the theft of valuable historical items shook not only Märklin, but also the whole tin toy collector and model railway scene. Over 2 months was suggested, and wanted suspects. The outrage in the scene was clearly noticeable on open markets and auctions. Police officers and the firm itself received an unprecedented amount of help and advice from the community. The stolen goods probably did not remain in Germany. The burglars and the stolen goods her sought “salvation” in neighboring countries. However, what they did not know was that Interpol in Vienna enjoyed the products of Marklin and regarded them with high esteem. Some of the special investigators of the Vienna detectives were themselves Märklin enthusiasts. For them, the case was a personal matter and the offenders were ultimately caught.

Excerpt from the book “The Legend Lives”, Klartext Verlag, Essen (ISBN 978-3-8375-0129-2). With kind permission from the publisher.

The museum robbery in the night of the 17th on 01/18/2005.

The museum director had just taken seat at the breakfast table, with newspaper open, when the phone rang. The caller was the CEO of Marklin. That did not bode well. Very rarely he called privately at home and certainly not so early in the morning. The news was devastating and at breakfast, the newspaper was no longer conceivable to read. Despite an alarm and the busy streets, the Märklin museum in Göppingen on Holzheimer road was burgled during the night. Many questions and concerns piled up, what was missing, are the valuables still there, how much was stolen, what was damaged, is there some evidence or tracks, and so on? A short time later he was at the “crime scene.” The criminal investigation teams had already begun analyzing the crime scene, and he was offered a bad image. The scene was much worse than he had feared. The emergency exit door was damaged, display cases with glass over a centimeter thick were broken. Also on the wall with anti-theft cases, there were traces of forced entry. The complete historic Gauge I, Gauge 0, the Scale 00 from before 1945, steam engines, drive models and most tragically, the valuable ships “Auguste Victoria” and “Mecklenburg” and the extremely rare lighthouse were missing. The valuable figures of the ships, the captain of the “Auguste Victoria” was worth in good condition a 4-digit Euro sum at auction. Partially broken into fragments, a figure, a sailor, even completely, they were and gave testimony about which way the exhibits had left the premises. Clearly the burglars of the valuable pieces could not have been collectors or connoisseurs. The suspicion that the “loot” was subjected to abuse and roughly handled came on. The complete area surrounding the firm’s fence was then searched very carefully, but no more traces were found. Because of the amount of the stolen loot, with around 184 pieces missing, it was suggested that a truck would have been the getaway vehicle.

The large and very valuable steam engine and the V track cars were probably too big and bulky, they were still there, as were the large grandfather clock with dials on 4 sides and even the platinum crocodile. Their values ​​were not recognized by the criminals. Clocks of the same design have been achieved at auctions with values ​​over € 15,000. The Criminal Investigation secured traces on and around the crime scene. To make things worse for for the preparation and securing of fingerprints and DNA evidence of public transport was at the museum the day before. The cleaning service came every morning before opening the museum. On this day, however, in vain. The perpetrators’ tracks and traces of previous day were mixed and not clearly definable from those of visitors. By manipulating the emergency exit door, the intruders rendered it incapable of opening. This allowed the intruders to penetrate the door jamb and press the door handle down with a long, narrow tool. The door opened noiselessly. The provision for permanently illuminated emergency lighting was enough light for the bad work. As it turned out later, the burglars had disarmed the external alarm with siren and flashing light by covering it with construction foam on the flat roof of the building. The heavy metal door was in the prescribed safety class, had no handle outside and looked at the building facade does not look like a door. Nevertheless, the thieves knew exactly where they had to fix. The reconstruction of the process revealed that they researched days ahead and manipulated. The alarm system was on the weekend before going several times. Reasons were not found, so on Monday, finally on 17/01/2009 was set for the alarm system. According to the contract had to fix this order within 24 hours after the error. In this case, the 24 hours were too long a period as the service group for the alarm system came almost simultaneously with the police.




At the behest of the Judicial Police could not be immediately communicated to the burglary. Only in the afternoon from 15.00 clock could the public be informed about the dire process in knowledge. Both the criminal and the Märklin press office issued a press release. The museum director was also in personal union with a spokesman and put out the amount of damage and the number of stolen museum pieces and this was all taken up by the media “… the Marklin history was stolen … “. Particularly tragic and painful was the loss of the “stork leg,” the first locomotive of model train history. The locomotive in Cramptonbauart was not the most valuable piece, but in the presentation of the history, indispensable to the exhibit. Immediately the inventory list was compared with the remaining exhibits. The list of the stolen exhibits remained. The sheer number of the stolen exhibits was alarmingly high, 184 pieces, but even more shocking was their quality and value. Unused, almost brand-new products from the nearly 150 year history of the firm were gone. An unrecoverable part of the company’s history was simply gone. The estimation of the insurance value reach a sum of around EUR 1.7 million.


All major media were suddenly at the place of the evil happenings. Interviews were given, pictures of the stolen pieces were forwarded and there were initial suspicions and accusations. The mysterious, unknown people of the offense, was the focal point of all speculation.

Parallel to the work, the theft list was published on the company’s website on the internet. The response and participation in the circle of friends and Märklin collectors subsequently bombarded the company. Daily information came in the form of calls, letters and emails, which all had to be investigated. The director of the museum as a connoisseur of the pieces had to do every day a good part of his time to evaluate the information and disseminate it to the Criminal Investigation Department. Not only from Germany and Europe, but also evidence from the USA and Australia was received. From America, near the Canadian border, the message came from a lighthouse in the oral description of the stolen metal part corresponded almost. That was a hot track at first sight that had to be followed, even though the assumptions of technical and expert circles showed in other parts of the world. Traded highly were Eastern Europe, Spain, Italy and a client in Germany. Very disturbing was the presumption that the goods were already abroad. Nevertheless, a picture of the plate tower was requested. This picture brought clear. Not only details the whole construction of the lighthouse closed it out as belonging to the stolen loot.

Not only information came from the population, also images, slides and image CDs of previous museum visits, so that a diverse representation of the searching was possible. A particular motivation to cooperate in the investigation was the immediate reward for information leading to the seizure of the items awarded in the amount of 200,000 euros.

The robbery was the topic in all major radio stations, public broadcasters in television, with private TV channels and in all major newspapers. Even after publication breaks, notifications of the burglary were reported.

The published list of the stolen items, which was completed in the course of time more and more with pictures of the exhibits had an impact on what happened at tin toy exchanges and auctions. From an exchange dealer, it was reported that a Gauge I had a Budweiser truck in the offering, and a few days after the collapse he no longer offered it, but kept it in the reserve crate left under the table. A note on the auction seemed to be interesting. The French steam locomotive “Coup Vent” with wind cutting cab in the relatively rare movement execution in the Gauge I was also up for sale. However, a detailed comparison with the images of the stolen “coup Vent” concluded a certainly different identity. Details and signs of wear all pointed to a completely different locomotive.

Suddenly, a call to the management of the firm. The caller offered to return with payment of a certain sum, the exclusion of the police and of course absolute secrecy. Followed by several phone calls and finally access to the CID. A disappointed member of a gang of burglars, who had spoken in the run for over a possible museum burglary suspects, his cronies, to have run past him to the crime. He wanted revenge and blow the coup leave. But the suspicions were wrong, the band had nothing to do with the burglary. Therefore, during the course of the criminal investigation into the Note, to track the long-sought so-called “Harley-gang”. The theft of many Harley-Davidson motorcycles has been elucidated and arrested the thieves.

After six weeks, they met another promising call. This time from Vienna, by Interpol. Hope sprang up, because on the eve of the collapse of the CID was a police officer on a visit to the Göppingen Märklin museum, a car with license plate from Vienna. He remembered the other day after the announcement of the collapse of this car and a license plate search requests came from Göppingen to Vienna. Interpol Vienna was involved and could possibly undertake future traces and clues that might not have otherwise experienced the same classification. The car in question, whose hallmark was the difference for the search requests, happened in Göppingen and had that revealed the investigation in Vienna, absolutely nothing to do with the museum robbery.

Vienna has a large collection of tin toys, it could be said it Märklin offered. A specialist who can classify the historical pieces, was searched. A specialist and expert of the exhibits in the Märklin Museum was its director and spokesman of Märklin. He had quickly get ready and fly to Vienna. A few days after the first call, it was time. The first date was in Vienna and his presence was necessary. In fact, the first passed pieces could be unambiguously identified by him as the Märklin museum pieces. The investigation began on a large scale. In Austria alone, some 100 criminal police officers were now in use. It was under surveillance, determined observed and tracked and handover dates and handover points. With the third pick resorted to Interpol. In Austria and Germany, one of the burglars and 4 stolen, including a woman, were arrested. Unfortunately missing about 20% of the stolen goods. Among the ships, a part of the Gauge I stork leg and other valuable items. Who remained missing, until 2 days later the Italian police had arrested two people suspected of smuggling shortly before the Slovenian border. In their getaway car, a Fiesta, the remaining valuable components were found from the Märklin Museum robbery. Virtually the entire collection was taken back. The tragedy was the condition of the individual parts. They were partially scratched, deformed sheet metal parts and details canceled. A loss of about 350,000 Euro was mourned. But Marklin had “his story again” and an end time “of the empty display cases” of the museum was to be expected. A few weeks after the solution of the case and the forensic seized in Vienna parts were returned by police escort to the Märklin Museum. The confiscated items required in Italy for almost a year until his return. The two arrested burglars were delivered only after one year from Italy. The trial of the burglars was therefore shared by the District Court of Ulm in two negotiations. The main perpetrator received about 6.5 years, the next about 4.5 years and the lack of evidence for the third ended in a sentence of probation for receiving stolen goods.

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The article text and photos have been used with special permission from the original German article and website:http://www.roland-gaugele.de/der-maerklin-museumsraub.html

MÄRKLIN – Fabrik feiner Metallspielwaren: A historical review



The founder of Märklin (also “Marklin” and “Maerklin” more commonly in the US) was Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Märklin (1817-1866), a master tinsmith. He moved to the small southern German town of Göppingen with his second wife Caroline (his first wife had died) in 1856, where he purchased the “Resident-rights” from the city and was henceforth registered officially as a “tin-smith”. With Caroline he had 3 sons: Wilhem Friedrich, Carl Eugen and Carl Adolf.

Caroline Märklin: the traveling salesman

The firm “Wilhelm Märklin” was established in 1859. The main products consisted of dolls, kitchens, and similar accessories for girls. The firm was very successful and moved into a larger house. This house had a trapdoor into the cellar where the toys were produced. One evening an apprentice had not closed the trapdoor. Wilhelm did not see this and fell into the cellar and sustained broken ribs and other injuries. He died within a few days on December 20, 1866.

This was a very difficult time for Caroline: she had 3 young sons (the youngest merely 6 months old) and a young daughter from a previous marriage. She undertook the difficult task as salesperson to promote and sell their articles to toy-shops everywhere in the country. She died in 1893, and the helm of the firm was taken over by her son Eugen and his brother Carl under the name of “Gebrüder Märkin” (Wilhelm Friedrich had moved to Alaska. He never saw his family again and died there in an old folks home).

Laying down the tracks

In 1891 Eugen bought the firm Ludwig Lutz, a firm which at that time produced the finest metal toys, including the first trains. The first O Gauge Märklin locomotive was produced in 1893 with a strong clockwork mechanism that when wound up several times, would send a single locomotive flying around the track enough times to make your head spin. These O Gauge trains and subsequent standard gauges (O, I through V) were standardized by Märklin at the Leipzig Easter Fair where new innovations and produces were commonly first introduced.


In the early part of the 20th century Märklin built metal toys, including miniature stoves that actually worked, steam ships with clockwork or real steam power, steam engines, toy guns (Germany was of course geared towards war for many years), clockwork cars that could be disassembled to be fitted with other types of car bodies, electric slot-car systems, metal tops, and other non-train related metal toys, including die-cast cars, not unlike Dinky. Märklin produced toys of every kind, some playful and others built for realism: from shooting games with clown characters to realistic fountains and fire trucks that pumped water through tiny rubber hoses. During the years 1909 to 1914, Märklin produced a two-gate cattle rampe Nr. 2552/0 in Gauge-O that featured a cattle shepherd, two working gates, and even a little ramp to load the sheep! During this first period of rapid expansion, Märklin solidified itself in the toy industry and built its name in international markets as a produce of fine metal toys. When looking across the entire span of Märklin production from its founding to today, Märklin during this period offered some of the most diverse and interesting products that were unfortunately discontinued in later decades.

Such masterpieces took workers in the factories hours to meticulously build. Tin toys which represented a majority of the Märklin produce line during this period would begin as large sheets of tinplate which would be cut down to size using large presses and cutting dies. The next step would be to form these smaller cut sheets into desired shapes with some contour to them. This process was either done with a rubber hammer in hand or with a large die press. Tinplate sheets sandwiched between two large engraved plates would cut out window holes or doorways with force coming from both plates. After tin sheets were cut and formed to shape they would be soldered together by experience tinsmiths. Finally the painting phase would begin which perhaps required the most skill and attention to detail. An array of brilliant enamels would be applied to the tinplate and baked in an oven between coats to ensure the durability of the paint. Finally gold lining and finely detailed embellishments (such as painted rivets, destination signs, and flags) would be applied all by hand. Stamps and brass engraved name plates would be applied and the final produce sealed with a coat of varnish to ensure a brilliant finish that would last for decades (even centuries) to come. Surely pieces still existing today in excellent condition which were produced in this period are a testament to the skill of Märklin craftsmen.


The firm was growing! Eugen Märklin had 9 children, amongst whom Fritz, who later took over the business, Richard, who headed the firm’s branch in the US and Willy, who even later took over the firm. Claudius Märklin, son of Willy, later became editor of the Märklin Magazin. The firm expanded to its current location on Stuttgarter Strasse in Goppingen in approximately 1907 and had around 700 employees according to a newspaper article. The factory and Märklin’s business remained relatively in tact during both World Wars despite considerable losses of employees to the war effort and a temporary shift in production to war materials. During World War 1, Märklin produced shell casings, belt buckles, and various other manufactured items which could be made relatively easily with the already present metal stamping equipment. The Second World War forced the Märklin factory to stop production in approximately 1945 to yet again produce items for the war effort including pressure sensitive detonators and small engines for torpedo propulsion. More can be read about Märklin during WWII in the episode EP #11 – Märklin during World War II.

Other people that were important in the history of the firm include Richard Saft, whose command ot other languages helped in the export to foreign countries, and in post WW2 years Helmut Kilian and Otto Bang Kaupp who furter developed the H0 line.

After the death of Fritz Märklin in 1961 the Märklin family was no longer represented in the firm after a period of 102 years.

Export markets around the world

Of course Märklin toys circulated around the world during the very early years of production as Märklin was always known for its incredible quality, but the Golden Age period of Märklin brought many international importers of Märklin products. Märklin responded not only by supplying its toys to these importers in bulk but also by manufacturing toys and trains for specific markets. Toy enthusiasts of Great Britain enjoyed beautifully colored trains of the L.M.S, L.N.E.R, and G.N.W.R. railways and stations and platforms (many feet in length!) of all gauges delivered through distributors Gamages and W. Seeling of London. The American market was sustained by the flagship toy stores and distributers F.A.O. Schwarz in New York, Richard Maerklin Toys (see more EP #8 – Richard Maerklin Toys: A US Maerklin Legend), and Charles C. Merzbach in the late 40s and 50s. Toys for the American market not only had English lettering for signs and inscriptions but also featured cowcatchers instead of front buffers, bells, tunnel lights, and sometimes special paint schemes as was produced for Richard Maerklin Toys: a swiss crocodile CCS 66 12920 locomotive painted snow-white for the NEW YORK CENTRAL LINES and a French mountain locomotive ME 66 12920 painted apple-green. Political relations around the World War II era stunted the export production for Märklin which meant many planned models were never produced. However, the first customer catalog after the War featured in 1947 a series of 00 Scale wagons and locomotives produced specifically for the U.S. market including the ST 800 and DL 800 streamlined diesel-locomotives.


In their assorment of trains, Märklin standardized several gauges. The first trains were “floor runners”. The first “system-railroad” was developed as early as 1891 by Märklin, and the firm was instrumental in developing a standard for trains and tracks, accepted by other toy train makers, a novelty in the toy-train world. Their Gauge 1 had its culmination in the famous “crocodil”, first built in 1933. This electric loc became soon the “flag-ship” of the firm, produced in the pre-war gauge 1 and 0, and in the post war gauges 00/H0, Z and 1.

Gauge 0 started in 1896, and in the thirties this gauge became more popular than their gauge 1, which was abandoned in the mids thirties. All these trains, altough very realistic looking, were of course TOYS: the doors of the cars could be opened, signals and switches were often manually operated, and so on. Play-value was very important.

Märklin experimented with a smaller gauge than 0 in the late 20s, which they called 00 “Liliput-Bahn”, scale 1:70, (roughly equivalent to S-gauge) with one wind-up steamloc, later augmented with an electric 4V steamloc.

This experiment never came off the ground in significant numbers however. Even in the 30s a very detailed prototype steamloc was built for this scale but was never produced.

It was not until 1935 that Märklin came out with their first mass produced 00 scale, later in approximately 1947, the scale was dubbed H0 (or half-0). Trix, a competitor, was equally engaged in the early production of 00, and Marklin had to rush to present a display layout at the 1935 Leipzing spring toy fair to meet the competition. Märklin came out with a slew of 00 wagons and two electric locomotives: a steam 0-4-0 R 700 and an electric RS 700 of the same wheel arrangement (pictured right: top-to-bottom 1935 versions of RS 700 E-Lok, R 700 Steam, and 3600 AR regular track). Märklin always maintained its historically grown three-rail AC operation, which is more reliable and electrically less complicated than two-rail DC. An exception to this was the “Hamo” line, which ran on 2rail DC. Marklin purchased the Hamo company that made H0 streetcars in the 1964 and equipped some of the Märklin train models with DC 2-rail motors. The production of 0 gauge trains was phased out after WW2 and stopped completely in 1956.

The decrease of large-gauge production had several reasons:

  • After the war many people had moved into smaller houses where there was little place for an extensive 0-gauge layout.
  • People had more leasure time available for hobbies. H0 trains had become mass produced, and with the introduction of plastic, products had become more readily available to lower income people.
  • A smaller scale allowed for enthusiasts to build extensive layouts complete with buildings, track, small figures, and realistic trains in a relatively small space.
  • One must not forget that most Märklin products such as trains, steam engines, boats etc. were very expensive at the time and were mostly available only to the children of affluent families.

In 1969 Märklin introduced the new gauge 1 system with DC current.

In 1970 Marklin re- introduced an 0 gauge train that ran on H0 track: an 0H0 train for children, the “Minex”.

In 1972 the firm surprized the world with the production of the smallest system model railroad: The Z gauge.

Gauge Track Width
00 (1928) 16.5 mm
00 Liliput (1912) 26.5 mm
O 35mm
I 48mm
II 54mm
III 75mm


When Märklin introduced movement and motion to their toys, the excitement reached a whole new level of play-time entertainment. Toy trains in the late 1800s which moved by pulling a string attached to the front buffer were propelled down the tracks in the 1893 by clockwork motors and a little later by electric and steam ones. Today digital technologies allows precise control over toy locomotives and accessories that mimics the complexity and possibilities of a live railroad operation.


The development of a strong and compact clockwork motor which could be fitted inside a locomotive engine was a huge advancement in motive power. At first the motor was a bit primitive: when wound, the engine would shoot forward as the internal spring unwound, possibly derailing on the curves because of the high speeds. Although Märklin’s clockwork springs were known to be very efficient and could propel a train around a loop many times, a lot of winding was necessary and a train would be out of power in no time.


A novelty was that Märklin offered electric trains as early as 1895. In those days few cities in Europe had electric power available, but it was present in the halls of Göppingen! Electric power for the locs was either through high voltage (220V, reduced to 50V by means of lightbulbs) or 4V DC (battery). Eventually the 50V system (“Starkstrom”) was prohibited by the government. At that time the low voltage transformer had become feasible and the less dangerous 20V systen became the main power for 0 and even 00, from 1926 on. Advertisements of the 20s and 30s lauded the safety and ease-of-use of electric current for toy operation which undoubtedly was much more safe than live steam or gas-powered operation! And of course the digital age took control of the power in the Märklin H0 trains as early as 1980 and used the pathways of electricity to control the digital functions of the trains and railways operations.

Live steam

Another form of power was of course live steam: this was available in the Gauge 1 and 0 steam engines. Live steam engines could be found in many Märklin products including locomotives, ships, stationary steam plants (which generated electricity to power lamps and accessories), and rolling tractors. Almost all products running off live steam were powered by an alcohol burner which heated a boiler tank filled with water. These toys were vary dangerous for small children because of the open flame to burn the boiling hot water. Such live steam products were often sold in sturdy wooden crates and were packed with various tools to assist with maintenance of the engine: a small bucket to fill the water reserve, a funnel to pour the water and alcohol, and various wrenches to adjust the pressure valves.

Air and Lift

Worth mentioning here is the compressed air that Märklin used in the 20s to operate signals and switches by means of thin rubber hoses.


Toys for children, which had been Marklin’s main product from the inception of the firm, had by this time almost completely disappeared from their line. Children no longer played with the more sophisticated and delicate scale models: these were now sold to serious adult model railroaders. The era of toy trains for children to play with was over. Marklin recognised this waning market and made several attempts after the mid-fifties to rekindle the interest of children in trains and other toys, well expressed in many of their catalogues.

In 1953 Marklin introduced a clockwork H0 train, with a plastic streamlined 0-4-0 locomotive, the S870 (loosely built after a Pennsylvania RR streamliner), which came as a set with 2 passenger cars #327/2 in maroon-red, or as a freight set with a silver or red coloured dump-car and a #4503 gondola. The train could run on the common M-track. This track was offered for the clockwork train without the central power stud system, which could later be installed. The train did not sell well: it found only a limited market. The plastic locomotive (with plastic wheels!) broke quickly under the rough hands of childs play. By 1957 it had disappeared from the catalogue. H0 clockwork

In 1970 Marklin tried again to get children interested in H0 trains by producing an 0H0 train: “Marklin Minex”: this was an electric 0 scale train system which ran on the common H0 M-track. The engines ran on 16V AC and had the same reversing mechanism as the H0 engines. Two sets were offered: a set with a lighted 0-6-0 tank locomotive with 2 passenger cars, and a freight diesel engine set with a gondola and a dump car. A separate hand-operated semaphore signal with train control was also available. The engines and cars were very attractive. They were made of plastic and metal and were equipped with the regular Marklin H0 couplers. These large trains were easy to handle for children, but again they disappeared from the Marklin offerings after a few years in 1972. Minex

Märklin also re-introduced a slotcar set in the early 70’s” Märklin Sprint”, and plastic building blocks not unlike Lego, the “Märklin Plus”.


Marklin once more tried to capture the childrens market in the late 80s. This time the firm invited children to design their own “dream-train”, which resulted in the production of Marklin’s “Alpha adventure sets” in 1988. High-speed locomotives (an 0-6-0 with tender) and cars had a futuristic look, were equipped with the regular Marklin H0 couplers and ran on a new “three-rail” plastic-based track system, called the “2000 track”. The boxes in which the sets were sold could also be used to act as tunnels, mountains and other scenery. Cars could store futuristlic looking automobiles and trucks. These trains were indeed built for “high play” value. The system could be powered by rechargeable power units (which unfortunately did not function very well). The Alpha adventure sets were last seen in the 1995 catalogue. They were too expensive and did not sell as hoped for. However, the good news resulting from the Alpha sets was that Marklin developed the plastic base track system further into the “C-track”!

Sprint, Lego

In recent years The Marklin production line offers trains only. Three scales of trains are being produced: H0, 1 and Z. All other toys, once depicted in the early post war catalogues such as ,the Marklin construction sets (“Märklin Metall”), electric experiment sets (“Marklin Elex”), die cast cars, slot cars (“Marklin Sprint”) and even a Lego-like building blocks system (“Marklin Plus”) are no longer being offered. Once in a while Marklin produces nostalgic expensive replicas of their famous older toys, such as metal construction car and airplanes, a metal steam ship, a steam engine, a dolls pram and a carouyssel. These “toys” are meant for collectors only. The basic underlying message is that Marklin is no longer a maker of toys. Whether this is due to a changing world or to the vast array of different other, cheap mass produced toys available everywhere, is a matter of opinion.


The firm had some of its glory-days in the mid to late 30s. During WW2 production of trains etc. had stopped and Märklin was involved in the war machine with the production of mine-detonators and a few other mechanical devices. The factory was spared from a bomb-attack on the nearby railway in 1944. By the way, Hermann Goering was an avid Märklin enthusiast. He had an enormous 0 gauge Layout built in his estate, CarinHalle. The building was destroyed at the end of the war. No records remain of the collection other than in a few pictures. In the post war years the firm established itself once again as maker of high quality model trains and went through a period of growth and success (in 1959 the company had 2000 employees).
Märklin trains were considerd the “cadillac”in the model train world for eye to detail, reliablility and quality. Financial troubles started around the turn of the 21st century and around 2010 Märklin had to file for bankruptsy protection. It went through a series of staff reductions and the firm seems to have established itself once again, with this difference that numerous components and possibly complete trains are now……..”made in China” (like the famous German Leitz microscopes!).


With just over 150 years in existence, the firm Märklin has earned a reputation for top quality toys and model trains. The genuine toys have by now disappeared from their line of products. Arguably the firm is no longer a leader in fine model railroads, but is still an active producer. They have taken over Trix and even more recently LGB.

Märklin trains are being avidly collected: Old gauge 1 trains and larger gauges have become very expensive and rare. Gauge 0 is also becoming expensive and even the 00/H0 trains from the 40s and 50s have soared in value. For years, auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christies refused to handle these old trains: they were not “antique”. In more recent years however these auctioneers have a steady stream of valuable Märklin (and other) toy trains in their “toy-auctions”. The trains were always expensive new, and even now the old trains are very expensive.


Several books have been published (mostly by German authors) on antique toy trains, and more specifically on Märkln. These books offer a wealth of information.

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)

Marklin Boxes: Stamps, Labels, and Patterns (Part I)

The Marklin boxes changed frequently over the years, from being wooden crates in the early 1900s to the boxes of the 1960s with colorful graphic drawings and cardboard inserts.  The boxes of the 1940s – 1950s, however, are the most interesting because the effects of the war often changed production runs and the materials available.  Here we examine the box of a 342 passenger car from the year 1945:

Marklin 342 Box 1945

The particularly interesting fact about this box is that it was used for what seems to be three different purposes.  Not only can we see that there are (or were) three labels on the box, but also that there are three different stampings on the box.  The first and earliest stamp being “21″ (first quarter of 1942), the second stamp “24″ (fourth quarter of 1942) and finally “53″ (third quarter of 1945).  The labels also fit this strange array of production dates: the earliest label wraps around the box and is much lighter in color: common characteristics of earlier labels in the 1940s.  So why does this box have so many stamps and labels? The reason has to do with the state of the Marklin factory during the Second World War.  Perhaps first produced in 1942, this 342 was never shipped out to a dealer and it was therefore held in Marklin inventory.  During the period from 1942 – 1945, Marklin sold very little and was seemingly dormant.  When 1945 came around, Marklin was allowed to sell again to American and allied soldiers.  All the materials they had were old boxes from 1942, so they had to rip the labels off, re-label all the boxes, and stamp the boxes with the appropriate year and quarter.  This is the same with many boxes from this period and it is common to see whole sets (341, 342, 343, and 344) with these characteristics.

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