All About Postage Stamp Trains

A Brief History of N Scale

For the uninitiated, it may be helpful to provide some context for Postage Stamp Trains with a brief overview of N Scale's formative years. Naturally I'll focus on on the key players behind Postage Stamp Trains: Trix, Faller and Aurora Plastics Corporation.

N Scale got its start a little earlier than some modelers may realize. In the early 1950s, Lone Star Toys of England created Treble-O-Trains, a line of tiny die-cast metal push-along toy trains (treble-O, or OOO, is 2mm to the foot, which is quite close to modern N Scale). This was followed in 1960 by Treble-O-Lectric, the world's first mass-produced electrically-powered N Scale model trains. The product line was surprisingly extensive, and even included some North American items. It was briefly imported into the States by Montgomery Ward. Unfortunately, the drive mechanism utilized rubber bands, and poor performance, plus stiff new competition, doomed the line.

Most folks tend to agree that the dawn of "proper" N Scale model railroading arrived in 1962 thanks to Karl Arnold & Co of Nürnberg. Coincidentally, Trix Modelleisenbahn GmbH & Co. KG, also of Nürnberg, had already been competing with Lone Star's push-along line, and was also developing electrically-powered N Scale trains. Arnold not only beat them to the punch, but also made some very savvy business decisions, one of them being to permit other manufacturers to use their coupler design, which helped to grow the market rapidly. Thus the ubiquitous "Rapido coupler" (right) became the de facto industry standard practically from day one.

In addition to establishing many other standards to ensure interoperability across the industry (something that had been somewhat lacking in larger scales at that time), it would appear Arnold also bestowed the new scale with its name. Their first catalogs described their models as "N Gauge - Scale 1:160, 9mm between rails, Scale 2mm : 1ft." N stands for nine, the track gauge in millimeters—just in case you didn't know—and Rapido means, among other things, express train.

Under the brand name Minitrix Electric, Trix followed right on the heels of Arnold, unveiling in 1964 what was arguably a technically and aesthetically superior product line. By 1967 the market was truly burgeoning: dozens of European manufacturers were busily churning out all manner of trains and accessories. While it would still be a few years before N Scale manufacturing caught on in the United States, several US companies were quick to start importing it, particularly since, by then, a number of European manufacturers were making North American models. One such early adopter was Aurora Plastics Corporation.

Introducing Postage Stamp Trains

In 1967, Aurora arranged with with Trix to import their growing Minitrix line of North American N Scale model trains, along with track and accessories, under the brand name Postage Stamp Trains. Apparently the rationale for the name was that a typical car or locomotive, when viewed end-on, was roughly the size of a postage stamp, although this may be apocryphal.

Aurora later fleshed out the product line with a nice assortment of bridge and building kits from Faller of Germany. Aurora even included their new N Bus System, part of their AMS slot car line, which was designed to integrate with N Scale trains (even though the buses were closer to TT Scale in size). Since Aurora was the slot car market leader at the time, and was supplying Faller with cars, this seemed a natural arrangement.

Unfortunately, the timing was bad because Aurora was about to begin its death spiral, and Postage Stamp Trains disappeared from the market by the end of 1973 (the details on this point are still a little murky). Yet there's a silver lining to the premature demise of Postage Stamp Trains: because it was so short-lived, the line caught the attention of collectors. Sets in particular are highly prized, and can fetch hundreds of dollars—ironic given that, evidently, the product line wasn't particularly profitable for Aurora.

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Postage Stamp Trains is a Trademark of the Aurora Plastics Corporation.
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