Company Profile: Rokal
History in a Nutshell
Originally founded in Dusseldorf in 1914 by Robert Karmann, the metal casting company moved to Lobberich in 1926 and became Rokal GmbH, from Robert Karmann Lobberich. The company principally made plumbing fixtures, carburetors, architectural hardware such as door handles, and other cast metal products.
Production of TT Scale (1:120) trains began around 1947 as a sideline to the main business. Rokal worked in joint venture with firms such as Zeuke, Zeuke & Wegworth, Berliner TT-Bahnen (now Tillig), and others, all located in (what was at the time) East Germany.
Arnold's initial N Scale trains were fitted with crude C-shaped metal hooks that could not be uncoupled remotely, and they declined to use the hook-and-loop couplers that Lone Star (and indeed much of the model industry) was using. Arnold approached Rokal and secured a license to use a version of their proprietary coupler design, which was somewhat different from what became known as the "Rapido coupler."
Arnold's first several catalogs bore notice of the license agreement they had with Rokal:
Rokal ceased producing TT Scale trains in 1969 upon the death of owner Robert Karmann, and Röwa took ownership of the Rokal product line around 1972. However, Röwa was a public company, and Rokal was their principal shareholder; when Rokal went bankrupt in 1973, Röwa did likewise the following year. Roco picked up most of the tooling, but never did anything with it.
In recent years TT Scale has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in eastern Europe, especially Rokal's history and products. Curiously, unlike nearly every other modeling scale, TT was created in the United States: Hal Joyce, a former automotive designer from Hartford City, Indiana, developed it in 1945.
Copyright © 2018-2019 by David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.