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Company Profile: Trix

Trix Modelleisenbahn GmbH & Co. KG was a venerable German model manufacturer that began as two tin toy companies. One was founded in 1838 by Johann Haffner; the other in 1899 by Andreas Förtner. After Förtner died in 1922, the two businesses merged to form Vereinigte Spielwarenfabriken (United Toy Company). In 1928, the company was taken over by Stephan Bing, Herrmann Oppenheim and Siegfried Kahn, who established a manufacturing facility in Nürnberg.

The Trix brand first appeared in 1931, said to have been derived from the design of an early construction set, which had three rows of holes (referred to as Tri-X, and later just Trix). Trix Express was presented to the public in 1935 at the Leipziger Spring Fair; the 14-volt AC electric trains ran on three-rail 00 gauge (roughly HO) track mounted to a Bakelite base. United Toy subsequently introduced the innovative Trix Twin system, which allowed two trains to be operated independently on the same track.

Trix's Jewish owners Bing and Kahn were victims of Aryanization after the Nürnberg Laws; consequently, they were forced to sell their share of the company in the early 1930s and emigrate to England. With the support of W.J. Bassett-Lowke, they began making English model trains under the name Trix Limited. Meanwhile, Ernst Voelk acquired United Toy Company in 1938. Until the beginning of the Second World War, the German and English companies shared close business ties, supplying one another with parts. They also worked with Kindler & Briel GmbH (Kibri).

As a result of the war, the toy industry in Germany came to a standstill. By 1941, United's ability to continue toy production was in doubt, as they began manufacturing precision mechanical and thermoelectric devices for the war effort. Because of the growing danger of Allied air raids, Trix relocated some of their manufacturing to a rural area in early 1943. Two years later, their original plant sustained heavy damage from bomb strikes, and many of their handmade patterns were destroyed.

It wasn't until 1948 when toy production could resume, and that Christmas saw a huge demand. Owing to their relocation effort, Trix was able to meet that demand, and their profits allowed them to rebuild their Nürnberg production facilities. By 1953 they'd begun making DC-powered trains, as had most of their competitors. They also cooperated with many of these companies, including Roco, Rivarossi, Fleischmann and others.

When Karl Arnold & Co launched their Rapido trains (not to be confused with Rapido Trains), Trix had already been competing with Lone Star Toys' Treble-O-Trains push-along toys, and were developing electrically-powered N Scale trains of their own. Their Minitrix Electric line, introduced in 1964, was imported into the United States three years later by Aurora Plastics Corporation and sold under their Postage Stamp Trains brand.

Beginning in 1970, Trix became the property of Mangold GmbH & Company, an investment company. The Minitrix line was distributed in the United States by American Tortoise Inc. (ATI) of Farmingdale, New York; ATI later merged with Model Power, a name that would become synonymous with "repurposed" older products from a variety of sources, among them Pola, Faller (which now owns Pola), Heljan, and Roco. Adding to the confusion, some Minitrix items had also been rebranded and sold by Hornby Railways and Con-Cor. Finally, Model Rectifier Corporation, who had very briefly imported N Scale from Mehanotehnika, Röwa and others in the early 1970s, scooped up failing Model Power in 2013.

After Mangold went bankrupt in 1997, Trix was rescued by Märklin (who, ironically, had refused to make N Scale trains and instead launched Z Scale in 1972), at which point production of all North American models was halted, possibly owing to an issue with tooling ownership. Märklin then went bankrupt in 2009, was acquired by Simba Dickie Group, and renamed Trix Trains. Meanwhile, Arnold went bankrupt in 1995 and was bought by Rivarossi of Italy, who in turn went bankrupt in 2003 and was bought (along with Lima) by Hornby Hobbies Limited of the UK, which is now the property of Phoenix Asset Management.

Trix Limited, the company founded by Bing and Kahn in England, likewise changed hands a number of times. Renamed Trix Twin Railways, it struggled to survive because it had not changed from 3-rail to 2-rail track. The failing company was purchased in 1967 by the German Trix business, and became Trix Trains (not to be confused with ATI's branding of Minitrix, or the current-day Trix Trains). Bankrupt by 1973, it then became the property of Liliput, until 1993 when Liliput was bought by Kader Industrial Company Limited, owners of Bachmann Industries.

Additional details on the history of Trix can be found here.

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