The era of aviation introduced adventure-seekers to the world of the sky. Previously only enjoyed by birds, the sky was now part of man’s domain – with a little help by some fantastic machines. The first vehicles to hit the skies were powered by hot air, gas, and balloons. One famous example is the Marklin Zeppelin airship. The concept was simple: the air trapped inside the balloon heats up by way of a burner, making the air in the balloon less dense than the air outside. Just as heat rises, so does the balloon! Up until this point, Marklin toys traditionally traveled land and sea with trains, vehicles, boats, and submarines. Aviation introduced a new playing field for youngsters – air!
The first Marklin toys to hit the skies not surprisingly didn’t have wings. The hot air balloon concept was mechanically much easier to accomplish. While hot gases, burners, and thin fabric balloons were potentially dangerous, the concept was much more simple than the power and precision required to get a winged vehicle off the ground. Marklin produced a various Zeppelin-Airships and hot air blimps. Some imitated realistic operation with propellers driven by a clockwork mechanism and could run along a string zip-line. Two rollers affixed to the top of the zeppelin would allow the zeppelin to glide along the string. The first Zeppelins from Marklin were produced in the early 1900s.
A very rare 1909 Airship Hangar for Zeppelins. It floats with pontoons, gangway and anchors. This is the very long version and can take all the Märklin Zeppelins up to 18″ in length. We can see the original floating hangar from 1900 this model was based on in the slideshow below.
Starting circa 1909 we have identified three different variations of the Marklin Zeppelin airship. A table shows the different versions and descriptions:
|5401||Features “ZEPPELIN” and Marklin crest logo stamped in tin on both sides of Zeppelin underside. Length approximately 9.5 inches.|
|5403||Same as prior version, but approximately 11.5 inches in length.|
|5403||The largest version approximately 18 inches in length. The underside of the Zeppelin features a cabin with two windows on each side. The Marklin crest logo and “ZEPPELIN” are stamped into the tin and flank this cabin. Some variations (perhaps early versions) feature a Marklin logo that is rubber-stamped instead of embossed into the tin.|
Later in the 1930s Marklin introduced the “Graf Zeppelin” airships. While airplanes were certainly well into commercial existence, the prospect of luxury airships for civilian air travel seemed promising. Zeppelin Airships were massive and featured smoking rooms, lavatories, dining rooms, sleeping cabins, fully functioning kitchens, and much more. Airplanes of the day did not feature such luxuries and certainly were smaller and much more noisy than a giant balloon drifting through the air. Unfortunately the crash of the LZ 129 Hindenburg in New Jersey in 1937 changed public opinion on the safety of such airships. Newsreel coverage, photographs, and the recorded radio broadcast of the horrific crash shattered public confidence in airships.
To commemorate Marklin’s 140th anniversary, the company produced a special limited edition of the Graf Zeppelin. The airship replica carried model number 11400. The model is silver metal with the following markings: “D-LZ 130” in black, “Graf Zeppelin” in red on the body and “Marklin 1859-1999” and the company crest in black on the tail. It is built to 1:600 scale and nearly 2 feet long.
In 1930, Ernst Zindel and his team designed the JU 52 at the Junkers factory in Dessau, Germany. The aircraft’s corrugated duralumin metal skin strengthened the whole structure while keeping a low weight profile for the plane to carry additional cargo and passengers. The airplane saw both military and civilian service during the 1930s and 1940s.
Marklin’s first prototype of this aircraft Junkers JU 52/53 was likely built before 1933 for an exhibition. Photos of the prototype show the German national colors on the tail of the airplane along with “LUFTHANSA” lettering along the sides of the aircraft. Later special prototypes and exhibition pieces featured the Nazi swastika insignia on the airplane tails. These examples were thus likely produced post-1933 when the German parties transitioned power. The below airplanes have a fantastic provenance coming from the Marklin family and were sold by Auktionshaus Hohenstaufen in Goppingen in a February 2017 auction fetching extraordinary prices.
It has been an exciting time for live auctions containing Marklin lots. Here we present some of the top highlights. The first is a fantastic (original!) Marklin carousel with a built-in musical instrument that functions as the carousel turns. A piece like this embodies Marklin’s incredible charm as a toymaker and also their engineering skill and attention to detail. Marklin employees were both artists and skilled engineers! Marklin has since produced a reproduction of this carousel and also the steam engine that could power the turning of the carousel. These items were released as Marklin 16121 and Marklin 16051 for the carousel and compound steam engine respectively.
Marklin produced the long 60cm Pullman coaches in O Gauge during the 1930s. Other similar coaches (although much shorter) were produced earlier in both Gauge I and O Gauge. Rarest of all the cars is the Pullman observation coach which has a veranda at the very end. In the United States, these Pullman coaches were popular as presidential trains. Presidents would tour the country on their lavish coaches to give speeches from the end of the train on the small veranda. The Commodore Vanderbilt locomotive AK 66 / 12920 is commonly seen hauling these long 60cm cars from Marklin.
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The Swiss crocodile is perhaps one of the most beautiful and exotic-looking locomotives of the time. Its articulated design makes it an engineering marvel. Seeing it traverse the mountainous regions of Switzerland must have been an incredible sight! Without question, the scale models produced by Marklin of this Swiss legend for almost a century paid close attention to detail and design. Collectors around the world cherish Marklin crocodiles for their incredible design and aesthetic appearance. Whether in green, brown, or white livery, each locomotive is an absolute treasure to behold! Don’t yet have a Swiss beauty in your Marklin collection? There are always many rare Swiss Marklin locos available for sale on eBay at any given time. Click here to view a filtered query for Swiss locos on eBay.
The SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) first ordered a prototype locomotive, named SBB-CFF-FFS Ce 6/8 I number 14201, in early June 1917. These first production “Krokodil” locomotives were built between 1919 and 1927. The original full-production run produced 33 class Ce 6/8 II and 18 class Ce 6/8 III locomotives, making a total of 51 locomotives. These locomotives, with their articulated “noses” and many axles, had incredible pulling power and hauled heavy goods trains, commonly including coal cars, on the steep tracks of the Gotthardbahn originating in Lucerne. This route also went through the famous Gotthard Tunnel in the middle of the Swiss Alps.
Some of the earliest models with semblance to the Marklin crocodiles were actually so-called “alligator” locomotives. These locomotives were first produced in the early 1920s. In HO scale this kind of design would be shown in the SE 800 or SET 800 locomotives. The SE 800 or SET 800 locomotives are not meant to be a “mini” crocodile. Instead, these are made after the German “E44”-class locomotive. They are also called “Eisenschwein” – “metal-pig”, or “rail-pig” depending on the translation.
In the 1934 catalog we can see the Gauge 1 crocodile numbered CCS 66 12921. This locomotive is highly sought after and fetches incredible prices at auction. Since such toys were relatively expensive and only within reach for wealthy families, some collectors surmise that less than a few hundred examples were original sold around the world.
What makes this locomotive easily recognizable from its smaller cousin the O Gauge CCS 66 12920 locomotive is the dual-motor design. Each articulated leg of the locomotive has its own motor that powers the two main drive axles. Since there are two motors in this locomotive, each opposite side of the locomotive has visible brush covers. This makes servicing of the motor and brushes very easy as they are accessible without having to remove the articulated section bodies.
Although Marklin survived the War, its plans for a CCS model in HO scale were significantly delayed. Its pre-war plans for an HO crocodile were not realized until its release of the CCS 800 in 1947. The first prototype of this model carried the number CCS 700 from the pre-war years. Only one example is known which remains today in the Marklin museum in Goppingen. Based on the black claw couplers this locomotive likely dates from 1936 or 1937. Although the pantographs pose a slight discrepancy as they are not the version from the RS 700, but rather appear to be from the RS 800 model which was first conceived in 1938.
Marklin produced Version 1 of the CCS 800 in 1947. This first version is distinct from later variants .2 and .3 because of its Schlitz Schrauben or slotted screws that secure the side linkages to the wheels. Later versions .2 and .3 produced in the following years had hexagonal screws. There is also a slight color difference between the first version and the next few subsequent versions.
In the year 1949 the model CCS 800 was reinvented in a new design with engineering elements more similar to the other “Super Model” introduced in the late 1940s. In the first few years the only change to the new model was the addition of the sandboxes with grooves and a different lamp holder design. The earliest version of the 3015/CCS 800 even feature some of the same parts as the earlier CCS 800. Such parts include the trailer trucks which were often badly affected by zincpest. Variations on the design were often so subtle that some collectors revert to weighing the locomotive to determine the exact version! The CCS 800 and later 3015 (re-numbered in 1957) locomotives underwent subtle changes over the years up to 1958.
Special versions of the Swiss crocodile were produced in a snow-white color scheme for the American market of the railway New York Central Lines. Only one or two examples still exist of the CCS 66 12920 in white. One is in a museum in Belgium of a famous collector who has the locomotive displayed in a private museum display. American distributor Richard Marklin ordered this locomotive specially for the American market. Several manufacturers including Emil Valker of Santhion in Hungary produce a replica of this locomotive in O Gauge. There are no known Gauge 1 variants of this white-painted crocodile but manufacturers have produced this locomotive as a dream-creation as well.
For its 50th anniversary of producing the legendary crocodile, Marklin made the models 30159 and 36159 in 1996. These locomotives were in brown livery and the other in the same construction as the original 3015. Later in 2009, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Marklin firm, they produced two models faithful to the original one. These locomotives came as part of the boxed set 31859. One locomotive in this set was in white livery for the New York Central Lines. This locomotive carries semblance to the special-order locomotive in O Gauge mentioned earlier. Marklin formed its business in 1859 and as a tribute to this, they made the set in a limited edition of just 1859 units. In the summer of 2009, Marklin presented the same set with different numbers, under set number 31860. Marklin limited the production of this set to just 500 units.
With the introduction of Z scale in the 1980s, Marklin of course had to produce a mini-sized crocodile. Despite the challenges of building a difficult and intricate articulated design on such a small platform, Marklin achieved its goal. The Swiss Era II 91mm number 88563 of prototype Ce 6/8 III became the pinnacle of Marklin’s engineering effort in Z scale.
The Italian manufacturer Biaggi run by Francesco Biaggi produced a wonderful Gauge I crocodile with semblance to the original Marklin crocodile. Its design and styling are exquisite, just like the original. The best produced models from Biaggi have a wonderful shine from the hand-lacquering as did the Marklin locos from the time. Jim Kelly-Evans from TinplateTimes.com has done a wonderful video showing his Biaggi crocodile in operation on his layout:
Well-known producers Selzer and HEHR also produce Marklin crocodiles in O Gauge. The manufacturers Thul, Twerenbold, Langefeld, and Santhion of Hungary are also known to produce high-quality reproduction crocodiles. A controversial topic with regard to Marklin crocodile reproductions is the use of the Marklin bicycle insignia on hood of the articulated “legs” of the crocodiles. Most manufacturers leave out this insignia to avoid any potential confusion or copyright infringement. However, some manufacturers include the insignia or add the insignia after normal production.
Another such notable manufacturer with roots in Switzerland where these locomotives were original produced is Elektro Keiser (Alois Keiser). The A3/5 Nr. 700-811 Crocodile was produced in O Gauge possibly in the 1940s or 1950s. The massive, highly-detailed engine measures approx. 18-inches in length.
While many collectors like their replicas exactly like the original, this presents potential problems with fakes and forgeries. When collectors cannot easily differentiate a reproduction from an original there is potential for disappointment.
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hobbyDB of Boulder, Colorado has the ambitious mission of cataloging all collectibles in their Wikipedia-style catalog and search engine. Particularly interesting to Marklin collectors is the Marklin brand page which already has a nice overview of the company and the various categories where collectibles have been added. hobbyDB knows that collectors often like to get very detailed about describing their prized collectibles and analyze all the different variations of a single model. Marklin collectors know this very well: a single cowcatcher added to a locomotive like the R 700 from 1937 could in some cases increase the value by a factory of ten! Original boxes, paint schemes, production years, and more can all influence the value and rarity of a particular piece.
hobbyDB also has a marketplace with stores to sell collectibles and it’s as simple as finding the item in their catalog and clicking the “Sell” button. Then it’s up to the seller to describe their specific item and promote the item to interested collectors.
Here are some highlights we found from the hobbyDB catalog in the Marklin category:
Following the turn of the Century, Marklin produced a series of series of toys that had an incredible attention to detail and sense of realism. Marklin boats and ocean liners were often powered by real live-steam engines and had detailed rigging apparatuses and life boats. Their vehicles had an equal quality. Among the most sought after vehicles are the fire patrol wagons, and if you’re very lucky the fire station which housed these vehicles. Only a few examples of this fire station house are still in existence. Such fire wagons were outfitted with rubber tires, front lamps, ladders, fire crews, and rubber fire hoses that could actually spray water with the help of a hand-crank pump mechanism!
A striking example of American locomotives produced by Marklin was the Commodore Vanderbilt train of the New York Central Lines railway. This locomotive marks the peak of Marklin’s O Gauge production for the 20-Volt “Super Models” which can be easily identified by the orange lighting bolt insignia toward the front of the locomotive flanking the smoke stack on both sides. Such a locomotive like this would be commonly followed by a string of green 60cm Pullman coaches. At the very end of the consist might be the highly sought after observation car which has a small balcony and veranda at the end of the car. The Pullman coaches of the time carried names like “ALTOONA” and “GEORGE WASHINGTON.”
The early paddle steam ships certainly rank among the most charming of Marklin’s line of boats following the turn of the Century. Such boats are also among the most detailed with chains holding the large smoke stack in place, life boats hung at the rear on large hooks, detailed railings and stair cases and incredible hand-painting throughout.