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A Short History of MARKLIN Metall

(Author: G. Eiermann and M. Schild)


 A Short History of MÄRKLIN Metall
by Georg Eiermann and Markus Schild

 Early History

Cutting (or detail) from the cover of a Meccano No.0 for the german market about 1911

Although 1859 is the official founding year of the company, already in 1856 Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm MÄRKLIN (1817-1866), a master tinsmith, started a metalworker's workshop in the town of Göppingen in the South German state, "Kingdom of Württemberg". (Göppingen is about 50 km from Stuttgart). After his death his widow Caroline ran the business. Sometimes around 1875 the enterprise started producing accessories made of tinplate for dolls' houses and other tin-toys.

From 1888 their sons Eugen and Karl changed the company to "Gebr. MÄRKLIN". "Gebr." means the same as the English "bros."

In 1891 they bought out LUTZ from Ellwangen, a company with experienced staff in metal-toy construction. With LUTZ the model-railway as a system toy came to MÄRKLIN. Model trains were known before, but the new railway was the first which was sold as an expandable toy. For the first time separate tracks and switches or cars and locomotives were sold to extend an existing layout.
With another partner, Emil Friz, the name of the factory was changed to "Gebr. MÄRKLIN & Co.".
Their toys became more and more technically advanced. However the real success came in 1891 with a railway-system with clockwork locomotives. In 1907 with a new partner the company renamed itself as "Gebr.MÄRKLIN & Cie".

Early Associations with MECCANO

Wheel from the Meccano-Märklin time: above Meccano , lower Märklin trademark

In 1912 MÄRKLIN was the distributor for MECCANO on the European continent, in France e.g. through their subsidiary "Maerklin Frėres et Cie". Between 1911 and 1913 MÄRKLIN made 60 000 clockwork - motors for MECCANO indicating Hornby and MÄRKLIN had a good relationship. Hornby worked together with MÄRKLIN in Middle and Eastern Europe. In 1910 Hornby founded a distribution-company called "MECCANO-Gesellschaft m.b.H."(= MECCANO private limited company.), settled in Berlin. In Göppingen MÄRKLIN made parts for the MECCANO sets. These sets and also most parts had MECCANO and MÄRKLIN trademarks (MECCANO-MÄRKLIN-Metallbaukasten). At the start of the war in 1914 all rights and trademarks of foreign companies fell to the German Reich. On the 15th of August 1915 MÄRKLIN acquired the trademarks and rights of MECCANO in Germany. The production was continued at least in the first years of the war, but the prices raised frequently.

After the First World War

From 1919, MÄRKLIN produced their own metal construction sets. It was like MECCANO, but made in Göppingen and sold as "Metallbaukasten MÄRKLIN" to distinguish from the old name of “MÄRKLIN-MECCANO”. The tin parts now were black, the gears, nuts and bolts were made of brass, and the wheels were made of brass plated tin. The boxes were made of black cardboard with a green-yellow-black label. In the first years the boxes were green inside, like MECCANO, but changed to dark red, which they remained up to 1940 (when the "black series" was discontinued) for a part of the production. The sets were numbered #0 through to #6. The two biggest sets #5 & #6 were supplied in cardboard or in a wooden box with a lock and key, named "luxury version". The boxes were titled with a big crane with a boy at the side. The font used for the label and the manual were the same as the Meccano font used before. Initially the models in the manuals were similar to the pre WW-1 models of MÄRKLIN-MECCANO, but the number of models increased. You could get clockwork motors (#201, small and #202, big) similar to the motors sold to Hornby before, 2 speed, 2 forward and reverse with 3 output axles. Electric motors were initially for high current using lamps as pre-resistors, but in 1925 MÄRKLIN changed to 20V using safer transformers.

401: The smaller of the two steam engines

You could buy two strong steam engines (#401, small and #402, big), which could operate in both horizontal and vertical position. These steam-engines had been introduced before WW1 and now were adapted to the construction system. MÄRKLIN offered supplement sets for transport plants (#101), bridges (#105) and different sets for clocks.

From the early 1920s MÄRKLIN published a series of manuals all using the same title by Ludwig Hohlwein, a famous German poster artist. These manuals appeared in several European languages.

Number Outfits
70 00, 0
71 1-6, replaced by 71a and 71b from 1931
71a 1,2,3 from 1931
71b 4,5,6 from 1931
72 Motors and steam engines
73 Transport systems (earlyversion)
74 Clocks
75 Motors and electrical clocks (103, 104)
76 Transport systems and machinery (later version)

In 1921 the smallest kit 00 was added to the assortment.

From 1921 until 1924 Germany suffered from hyperinflation. The exchange rate for the US-Dollar which was 4.20 Mark before the war felt to 8.91 Marks in late 1918, 32 Mark in 1919, 320 Marks in late 1921 and finally 4,210,500,000,000 Mark in November 1923. While the price for a "1" outfit was 16 Marks at the end of WWI, it was 40 Mark in early 1921 and 280 Mark from April 1922. In 1923 the prices raised so fast, that it was impossible to print price-lists. In November 1923 the price in Mark for a "1"-outfit had 14 digits in Germany.

In 1928 the construction kit was the shown in the MÄRKLIN-main-catalogue for the first time. In the years before the main catalogues only contained a reference that there is also a special catalogue for the construction set to be obtained at any toy-dealer.

The number of spare parts that could be purchased separately increased from about 75 parts in the beginning, to more than 260 parts in 1934, plus 20 parts for electrical sets and more than 100 coloured parts. It is conspicuous that in the early years after 1918 MÄRKLIN and MECCANO avoided to have conflicts in their numbering system for parts. A number used by MÄRKLIN was kept unused at MECCANO and reverse. The prices for a single part ranged from 2 Pfennig to 1.80 Mark. From 1930 and later MÄRKLIN and MECCANO diverged because of the different parts they developed.

For the first time in 1929 MÄRKLIN produced coloured sets with coloured parts blue (wheels, round sheets), red (rectangular sheets, string-wheels), green (strips, angle girders) and black (small tin) parts and small parts in brass. Until 1940 MÄRKLIN produced both black and coloured parts. Also the electric and the clockwork-motors were now available in a coloured version "F" (farbig= coloured in German) and a black version "S" (schwarz=black in German). These both abbreviations were also used to differ kits and parts.
After the war you could only get coloured parts. The years 1930 to 1940 were the pinnacle for MÄRKLIN Metallbaukasten, 18 basic and 16 supplement sets. The number of parts in the sets increased. In 1930 more than 700 parts were in the biggest set #6.

Cover of ELEX 501

In 1932 ELEX started. ELEX was a set with parts for electrical and magnetic experiments. The sets were compatible with the construction sets. They were in the catalogue until 1962, only the electrical motor #1072 was sold still in the 1970's using the ELEX brand. Also MATHEMTIKUS, a set which should teach geometry was announced in 1932 but never came to market.

In 1933 MARBI started. MARBI was low-priced and not coloured, but the same specifications: ½" as MÄRKLIN/MECCANO. MARBI can be understood as a response to the success of the low cost TRIX- sets which were on the market since 1931. The assortment consisted of two outfits, one supplemental kit and a special small and cheap clockwork- motor. MARBI was sold until the beginning of the war.

Cover of Minex-Märklin manual

From 1939 MÄRKLIN produced "MÄRKLIN MINEX" for a short time. Like the step in the model-railways from scale 0 to scale 00 (later named H0 - Half 0) they produced a half scale construction kit. The distance between the holes in a strip was ¼. . So you could combine both systems. The parts were mostly made of aluminium, some wheels were made of plastic material. New were sheet metal parts in aluminium and rubber tires. The largest kit also contained some electric parts. MINEX production stopped during the war (1940). The assortment was completed by a special, new motor which used electrical components from the 700 – series 00-gauge trains. This motor exists in two versions: Made of alloy, as shown in the catalogue and more frequent made of plastic material. After the war MINEX was not offered again, although it is shown in some versions of the 1947 catalogue D47.
The production of the regular sets until size "2"continued until 1942. The sets were simplified, some parts were missing and steel was replaced by aluminium at many parts. Also thinner steel was used. In the last kits offered during the war, also the small tin for the nuts and bolts was made of cardboard filled with nuts and bolts made of aluminium. These sets were still also exported. For example a manual in Italian language printed in 1941 is known.

Sets and motors with prices 1938 (extract)
 Sets 00    2,40RM
 Set 0    3,80RM
 Set 1    7,00RM
 Set 2  13,50RM
 Set 3  21,00RM
 Set 4  32,00RM
 Set 5  50,00RM
 Set 6  90,00RM
 201 Clockwork motor, small    7,00RM
 202 Clockwork motor, big  14,00RM
 401 Steam Engine, small  20,00RM
 402 Steam engine, big  36,00RM
 1301F Elecrical motor with wiring and accessories  13,00RM

After the Second World War

The smallest postwar set 99/1009….

In 1947 MÄRKLIN started with a new construction kit program. The basic and supplemental sets now had new numbers (#99 - #105).

The sheet metal parts made of aluminium, rubber tires and some electrical parts were adopted from MINEX for the full size construction kit. So the kits became more modern. It is likely that these changes were planned for 1940, but anticipated by the war.

The volume of the boxes grew bigger and the number of part decreased. For larger part numbers MÄRKLIN counted the fixing clamps in the part list. ELEX was still in the program, but the other special sets for machinery and clocks did not appear again. Also the steam engines and the smaller (200F) and larger clockwork-motors (202) disappeared from the assortment. The boxes were dark green on the outside, and light green-yellow inside.

From 1947 to 1949 also "Z" (100Z, 101Z…) sets are mentioned in the catalogues and in the 71Z manual. These sets should upgrade pre-war sets to the post-war contents. These sets are extremely rare today.

On June, 20th, 1948 the Deutsche Mark replaced the Reichsmark in the western zones of Germany. From that day Märklin – toys became available for West-Germans, too. In the years since the war, the toys only were sold to members of the Allied troops in Germany and exported to foreign countries.

1949 was the last year the motor 1301 was offered. It was replaced by two new models: The small motor 1321 and from 1950 with the bigger motor 1322. Both motors based on electrical parts from the 00-gauge trains.

In the first time the sets were delivered with nearly unchanged (only some swastikas had disappeared from the advertising pages at the end of the books) pre-war-manuals and an additional manual 71Z showing the use of the new parts. This is the first manual containing coloured printing at MÄRKLIN manuals.
In late 1949 new manuals were introduced. #170 for the smaller sets and #171 for the sets from #103 upwards. The 71z disappeared.

From 1952 the manuals were changed again. The smallest sets (#99 and #100) came with a new version of #170, the sets #101 and #102 came with a new 171A and the largest kits got their own new 171B. With some minor changes these manuals were in use until 1974.

1953 is known as the "aluminium year" at Märklin. In the years after the war, the quality of the parts had reached pre-war standard quickly. Now the Korean War causes shortages in thin sheet metal which forced Märklin to substitute with aluminium again. These parts can be differed from the pre-war and war-time production by their post-war painting. Not only parts for the construction sets were made of aluminium, in this year also e.g. chassis for passenger cars or rails were made of alloy.

In 1954 the contents of the sets was slightly changed. The electric parts were modernized and the largest kits got more wheels to make it possible to build a 6-wheel truck.

In 1954 the prices were;

# 99 8.50DM
#100 12.75DM
#101 19.50DM
#102 38 DM
#103 65 DM
#104 95DM
#105 180DM
clockwork motor 16DM
electrical motor 1321 (red) 16DM
universal electrical motor 1322 29.50DM

 In 1956 the “universal gear” (Universalzahnrad) was introduced. It was one of the very few parts MÄRKLIN got a patent for. MECCANO copied the part in the early 1970s as part 27f (Multi-Purpose Gear Wheel).
In 1957 the number-scheme of the sets and the parts changed. The basic sets had #1009 - #1015, the supplementary sets had #1029 - #1036. (#1009 + #1029 = #1010 or #1014 + #1034 + #1035 = #1015). ELEX had #1052, #1053 and #1063. The clockwork motor had #1070, electrical motor had #1071 (red) and the universal e-motor had #1072 (grey). The parts got 5 digit number references.


Old and new numbers for comparison
Basic sets   Supplementary set  
1947-1956 since 1957  1947-1956 since 1957
 99  1009  99A  1029
 100  1010  100A  1030
 101  1011  101A  1031
 102  1012  102A  1032
 103  1013  103A  1033
     104A  1034
 104  1014  (or 104A/1  or 1035
     and 104A2)  and 1036
 105  1015    
 201  1070  Clockwork motor  
 1321  1071  Red electrical motor  
     (horse-shoe shaped)  
 1322G  1072  Electrical motor  
 502  1052  502A  1062
 503  1053    

(1009 in the version about 1960)

The early 1960s are somewhat confusing:

In 1961 the motor 1072 (the former 1322) was offered the last time for some years. The 1070 (former 201) was offered the last time.

In 1962 the ELEX - outfits appeared for the last time. The 1962 catalogue showed also the largest kit 1015 for the last time. But no supplemental kits to upgrade the 1014 were offered any more: Not the #1034 and also not #1035/1036 (which each contained the half parts of a 1034). In the 1963, #1015 has disappeared, but -surprise- the 1034 is available again.

1014 Box (up to 1974 series)


The set prices were nearly the same as 1957. Single spare parts cost: 5 hole strip 0.20DM; 25 hole strip 0.45DM, 25 hole angle girder 1.10DM; 19 teeth gear 0.60DM; 120 teeth gear 2.00DM; roller bearing 3.00DM. Starting from 1961 and with the sets #1009-#1011 new boxes were introduced. The dark green boxes with an affixed title were replaced by printed light blue boxes. The change of all sets took nearly a decade. The last kit which came in the new box was the #1034 which got the new packaging from 1970.

Box contents of 1014


In 1965 also the motor 1072 appears again. Now in grey colour and in a new box.

1970 The sets #1009 and #1029 were offered for the last time.

Around 1972 an educational set for schools was offered. MÄRKLIN #1019. The set never appears in MÄRKLIN catalogues and was sold only through the KLETT VERLAG who is known for its school-books in Germany. The outfit came in a grey plastic-box and had a special manual, printed by KLETT.

In 1973 MÄRKLIN started the new MÄRKLIN-PLUS construction kit. A plastic-toy which was marketed as “to combine with the metal construction kit”. It was a giant flop and disappeared 1976/77 from the market.
For the first time small sets with spare parts (e.g. strips, gears or wheels) #1040 - #1049 were offered. The sets were pocket-money priced and cheaper than single bought parts.

1975 The construction kits were given new names, content and numbers. Basic sets were named A, B, C, (#1051 - #1053), supplementary sets were named E1 and E2 (#1061, #1062). A + E1 = B ... Spare parts could be bought, but the program was minimized. The largest kit contained approximately the parts of the former 1013.

Not out of the set, but built along the manual: electric locomotive class E60, as sold in the box 1001

In 1976 the motor 1071 was offered for the last time for MÄRKLIN-customers. But British MECCANO buyers could buy them from 1977 as EU1071 together with the larger MÄRKLIN-motor as EU1072 after the end of the E15R.While the EU 1072 was delivered without any hint of its origin, the EU 1071 still had "MÄRKLIN" in its casting.

In 1978 a supplementary set E3 (#1063) was introduced to add a further step to the system. With this set the volume of the former 1014 could be nearly reached. But without any electrical parts.

Three really big sets in black wooden boxes were introduced. With #1001 you could build an electric loco German series 160 (or E60), a 2-6-0 shunter. #1002 was the first (steam) locomotive in Germany: "Der Adler" (= the eagle), a Stephenson locomotive from 1835. The 3rd set #1003 was a German 2-10-0 freight train loco series 50 from the late 30's, which ran until the end of steam traction in Germany. The model had a length of 1.65m. These sets were in production for two years. Except for the smoke-box-door for the large steamer, the sets only contained regular parts which were also available in regular sets of the same period. So MÄRKLIN also offered the manuals, which were large posters, separately.

Also a new motor appeared. The 1073. A large red thing with a very small BÜHLER- DC-motor inside. It was delivered with a rectifier and a small switch, so the traditional MÄRKLIN transformers could be used to supply the motor.

1980: This year saw the first introduction of really new sets and parts since decades: #1054 farm engines, #1055 building vehicles and #1056 trucks. In 1981 a set #1057 cable (suspension) railway was added. Instead of the standard red and green, the metal-parts in these sets were mostly orange. For the vehicles a new rim-system with new wheels was introduced. This rim and the two types of wheels only appeared in these orange sets. Also some new plastic parts were introduced with these sets.
The motor 1072 was offered for the last time. 30 years after its first presentation.

Announced in 1980, but available from 1981 again a new motor was offered. The 1074 with a five-speed gearbox. The motor remained from the PLUS-assortment, and was only slightly modified for the metal construction sets.

The roboter set 1007

In 1987 the program was renewed again. All old sets were discontinued. The new sets were called M30, M50 and M60, #1004, 1005, 1006. The supplementary sets were E30 (#1016) and E50 (#1017). The old rule M30 + E30 = M50 was still valid. The big sets "Roboter" (robotics, #1007, 649 parts, including four electric motors) and "Solar" (#1008, 215 parts, plus a solar-panel) and the small gift-sets "Motorrad" (Motorcycle, #1034), Seilbahn (cable railway, #1035) and "Hubschrauber" (helicopter, #1037) were also new. The colour of the boxes was light grey. The motors were the 16V AC/DC #1073 and the 6V AC/DC motor #1018 with a multiple-use gearbox. The new screws had an internal hexagon head plus the well-known slit. I don't like them, although sometimes it is good to have them.
A computerized control unit (#1019) for the robotics set #1007 was announced but never delivered.

For some years a cordless screwdriver (#1020) was available. It was an OEM-product, originating from Asia.

The reuse of numbers in these years is sometimes confusing. If someone offers a “1034” it can be a very large from the 1960s or also a very small kit from the 1980s.

1989: For the Eiffel Tower 100th anniversary, a set "Eiffelturm" was introduced as a onetime-series. It came in a wooden box, its weight was 16 kg and it had about 4200 parts. The suggested retail price was about 1300 DM. The model of the Eiffel tower was 1.85m high. Also in 1989 a jubilee set (#1075) celebrating 75 years of Märklin construction sets was introduced. It came in a box inspired by the old sets of the 1920's. Inside was a reprint of the old manual 71 (on very bad paper) and a leaflet with a short history of MÄRKLIN Metall construction sets (and also metal-parts).

1990: The Go-Kart set (#1084, 343 parts) was introduced.

DoX made from the set 1079

1991: The DoX set (Dornier flying boat from the 1930s with 12 BMW aero-engines), #1079, 4700 parts, in a wooden box was the one-time series of the year. Also new came the M-TRAC, a model of a Mercedes-Benz tractor, #1077, 420 parts, and a gift set tractor #1030, 170 parts and tractor plus trailer #1031, 300 parts.

Around 1992 the production was moved to Hungary.

1992: This was the Mississippi-steamer year, #1082, 4600 parts in a wooden box.

1993: M-Start, #1010, 540 parts, was introduced.

1994 The M100 set (#1080, >1400 parts), the supplementary set M60 (#1081), and the Unimog-set, a Mercedes-Benz-vehicle combination between a tractor and a truck, which is an off road vehicle, #1083, 850 parts was released. The supplementary sets #1067...#1070 and the solar-supplementary set #1060 were also new. The colour of the boxes was red.

In 1995 for the first time MÄRKLIN started to sell special sets which combined model railways and the construction kit. A little bit surprising that this took 81 years.
Both sets were sold for the MAXI-railway, a 1-gauge model railway, mostly produced of metal, which was introduced in 1994. The first set was a small bridge (#5629), 60 cm long. The second set (#1511) was a basic-set to make different two-axle freight wagons. Unfortunately these two sets kept the only ones. A locomotive – set, for example, was never published.

In 1996 the red MAN-trucks came, #1085, 1070 parts, supplementary set #10851. The sets contained a new, all-metal driver's cab and also new rims and wheels.

Theme set Unimog – example for the red boxes of the last series

1997: The Vienna Ferris-wheel was produced with more than 5000 parts, the model is 1.40m in diameter. Also a MAN- truck came, based on #1085, but with a white instead of a red cabin and with a little crane. The "biggest" novelty in this year was, that all parts received new numbers. Now they have 6 digits, mostly the old numbers with an added 0.

In 1997 MÄRKLIN bought the TRIX Modelleisenbahn GmbH & Co. KG in Nuremburg. The production of TRIX metal sets was ended. But before as a limited series of 333 examples the TRIX – BUGATTI was sold.

In 1999 the "La Manche" set 10861, a Bleriot airplane, about 1500 parts, was delivered as a part of the special assortment celebrating "140 years MÄRKLIN". This was the last regular model.

End of regular production

In October 1999 MÄRKLIN announced that they will cease manufacturing MÄRKLIN Metall from the end of 1999. MÄRKLIN announced to occasionally release commemorative sets. Sets and parts were sold by stockists as long as they were available.

In 2004 the Supermodel Excavator #10900 “Menck Bagger” was sold. The model was designed by Andreas Abel and was manufactured by Metallus. It contained new and special parts. All threads were M4.

In 2009 an old #1011 set (1960ies-style) was offered. It was called #10110, new box, standard thread, unknown manufacturer.

In 2014 a jubilee set was offered: the tower crane #10891. It was a replica of the typical “Trademark” crane shown on prewar manuals and small parts tins. The parts were powdercoated black and grey. Standard thread (5/32”BSW). The box was made of wood. Unknown manufacturer.

Box lid of 10891

Contents of 10891










For a PDF file, MÄRKLIN parts list, in German, click on link on the next line  www.nzmeccano.com/image-94072
It contains a column with the English part description and a column with the part number of the MECCANO part which looks to be the same part.

Please note: You may have to zoom to 400% or 600% to make the text readable.

In the table below is a translation of the colours.

blau = blue messing = brass
rot = red gummi = rubber
grün = green blank =without colour or surface
schwarz = black                 



* The little book in set #1075 from 1989
* The internet site of MÄRKLIN
* The book "Eisenzeit" (= iron time) about metal construction sets worldwide, written by H.Schwarz, A.Henze and M.Faber. German language. ISBN - No.: 3-921590-39-6.
Note: the letter "ä" is the same as "ae", and it is pronounced like the English "a" in the word bad.




Robert Nisbet      (at 12:45pm, Wed 23rd Nov, 22)

Brilliant article. Thankyou.

bob t      (at 8:36am, Mon 13th Jul, 20)

Dave Go to Meccanoindexdotcodotuk - other systems - Marklin

Dave Boltz      (at 3:25am, Mon 13th Jul, 20)

Are there any sites that contain some documentation on the Marklin prewar construction sets?

Dave Boltz      (at 2:42am, Mon 13th Jul, 20)

Are there any sites that contain some documentation on the Marklin prewar construction sets?

Courdoux Daniel      (at 2:32pm, Sun 14th Jun, 20)

Dear Sir,
Would you please advise the mean to use the following
Märklinmetall part Ref. 11720.
Are there some internet sites ilustrating some
montages usinng this part, please ?
I thank you in advance for your reply.
Best regards
D. Courdoux

Mke Dennis      (at 6:00pm, Tue 22nd Sep, 15)

Very interesting and informative article

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