Printed from www.nzmeccano.com
A Short History of MARKLIN Metall
(Author: G. Eiermann and M. Schild)
A Short History of MÄRKLIN Metall
by Georg Eiermann and Markus Schild
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
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.
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.
|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)|
|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.
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.
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.
|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 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;
|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.
|Basic sets||Supplementary set|
|1947-1956||since 1957||1947-1956||since 1957|
|104||1014||(or 104A/1||or 1035|
|and 104A2)||and 1036|
|1321||1071||Red electrical motor|
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Mke Dennis (at 6:00pm, Tue 22nd Sep, 15)
Very interesting and informative article