Company Profile: Märklin

History in a Nutshell

Gebr. Märklin & Cie. GmbH was founded in 1859 in Göppingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, by three families: Märklin, Friz and Safft. Although they originally made doll house accessories, today they're best known for their fine model railroading products, and they're responsible for the creation of several popular modeling scales. In 1891, Märklin presented Gauges 1-5 at the Leipzig Toy Fair; subsequently they became international standards. Märklin followed with 0 Gauge (1:45) between 1895 and 1901, and Z Scale (1:220) in 1972, Märklin's answer to N Scale.

In addition to model trains, Märklin sold alcohol-burning model stationary steam engines from 1909 until the 1950s; they produced mechanical construction sets, similar to Erector, from 1914 to 1999; and between 1967 and 1982 they made a slot car system called Märklin Sprint. In 2007, Märklin expanded its product offering by purchasing the remaining assets of the bankrupt Ernst Paul Lehmann Patentwerk, who owned the LGB brand; two years later, Märklin filed for insolvency, got bought by the Simba Dickie Group, and was renamed Trix Trains.

From N to Z and Back Again

Märklin made some curious choices back in the 1960s. They'd already developed N Scale products (right) and were preparing to go into production when they commissioned a study from one of the leading market research institutes of the day to determine the opinion of their German customers. The results indicated the vast majority of them had no interest in any Märklin products smaller than H0. Consequently, by 1968 their N Scale production plans were halted, and the prototypes were presumably placed in a safe at Märklin's headquarters.

Then, in 1972 Märklin announced their new Z Scale Mini-Club line—smaller than N Scale—which by all accounts proved quite popular; it's now considered a mainstream modeling scale, although its popularity is dwarfed by that of N Scale. The letter designation of Z was chosen to reinforce it was the smallest—and last—new model train scale in the world, and in fact this held true until 2006 when T Gauge (1:450) was introduced (although T is arguably just a "novelty" scale). But, as it happens, Märklin acquired Trix in 1994, and thus they came full circle back to N Scale.


Copyright © 2018 by David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
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