Last updated
Gebr. Märklin & Cie. GmbH
Founded1859;162 years ago (1859)
Key people
Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Märklin (founder)
Products Toys, model railway products
Parent Simba Dickie Group
Website http://www.maerklin.com/

Gebr. Märklin & Cie. GmbH or Märklin (MÄRKLIN or MAERKLIN in capital letters) is a German toy company. The company was founded in 1859 and is based at Göppingen in Baden-Württemberg. Although it originally specialised in doll house accessories, today it is best known for model railways and technical toys. In some parts of Germany and in Sweden, the company's name is almost synonymous with model railways.



A carousel made by the company in 1911, from the collection of the Children's Museum of Indianapolis The Childrens Museum of Indianapolis - Marklin Carousel.jpg
A carousel made by the company in 1911, from the collection of the Children's Museum of Indianapolis
A simple Marklin model Modeltrain2.jpg
A simple Märklin model
A coffee-table Marklin layout in Z scale (1:220). The locomotive is about 50 mm long. Marklin Z-scale layout.jpg
A coffee-table Märklin layout in Z scale (1:220). The locomotive is about 50 mm long.
Märklin model steam engine in function.

Märklin was founded by Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Märklin in 1859. [1]

Märklin released its first wind-up train with carriages that ran on standardised track in 1891, noting that railway toys had the potential to follow the common practice of doll's houses, in which the initial purchase would be enhanced and expanded with more accessories for years after the initial purchase. To this end, Märklin offered additional rolling stock and track with which to expand its boxed sets.

Märklin is responsible for the creation of several popular model railway gauges or scale, noteworthy exceptions being N scale and Wide gauge. In 1891, Märklin defined gauges 1-5 as standards for toy trains and presented them at the Leipzig Toy Fair. They soon became international standards. Märklin followed with 0 gauge (by some accounts as early as 1895 or as late as 1901), H0 scale in 1935, and the diminutive Z scale, 1:220, in 1972   smallest in the world for decades   under the name Mini-Club (the scale of Z was assigned after the product line was introduced). Mini-Club was developed as Märklin's answer to Arnold Rapido's introduction of N gauge.

Today, Märklin manufactures and markets trains and accessories in Gauge 1, H0 scale, and Z scale. In 1994 Märklin acquired the Nuremberg based model train manufacturer Trix producing DC-operated H0 and N scale. Märklin's older trains are considered highly collectible, and Märklin's current offerings enjoy premium status among hobbyists.

Although Märklin is best known for its trains, from 1914 to 1999, the company produced mechanical construction sets similar to Meccano and Erector. Between 1967 and 1982, the company produced a slotcar system called Märklin Sprint. Märklin also produced numerous other toys over the years, including lithographed tinplate toy automobiles and boats. From 1909 until well into the 1950s they sold a range of alcohol-burning model steam engines. These were very educational toys, and could be linked to dynamos to provide lighting. In the late 1990s and Märklin purchased the assets of Trix in January 1997, thus adding N gauge to their scale lineup.

On 11 May 2006, the company, which had until then been owned by the three families Märklin, Friz and Safft, was sold to the British investment group Kingsbridge Capital, with the support of the employees. The purchase price was approximately $38 million. At the time, Märklin had approximately $70.5 million in debt, as a result of several years of slumping sales. [2]

In 2007, the company expanded its product offering by buying the remaining assets of the bankrupt firm, Ernst Paul Lehmann Patentwerk, who owned the LGB brand and product line of G scale model railways.

On 4 February 2009 Märklin filed for insolvency at the Göppingen municipal court. [3] A year and a day later, on 5 February 2010, Märklin announced a return to profitability. [4]

In 2013 Märklin was acquired by the Simba Dickie Group. [5]

On July 22, 2013 the managing director Stefan Löbich left Märklin.

During the 2020-2021 COVID pandemic, Märklin saw an upswing in sales, leading to shortages of parts such as rails, and even found they had to hire new employees and apprentices to meet the demand. [1]

The Märklin System

Marklin system with contact studs located in the middle of the tracks Binari K C M.JPG
Märklin system with contact studs located in the middle of the tracks

The Märklin system is the technique of using a third rail concealed in the roadbed with only small studs protruding through the ties of the track. The two outer rails are connected electrically. This provides the simplified wiring enjoyed by larger gauges—such as for reverse loops—without seriously detracting from the realism of the track because only two of the rails are visible. Because the two outer rails are not electrically isolated from each other, however, some do not consider Märklin's system to be a true three-rail system. However, older sections of 'M-Track' do have an actual conductor rail rather than studs. This older system is compatible with newer trains, although the reduced clearance for the pick-up shoe can sometimes cause running difficulties.

The Märklin system has some incompatibility with other manufacturers' H0 trains. Because the wheels on Märklin's cars are not insulated, it causes shorts if its cars are used on other manufacturers' H0 track without changing the wheels. The profile of the wheels are also different (see also NEM 340). Additionally, for many years Märklin was the only brand that used AC for its H0 scale trains, although in the 60s Fleischmann, HAG, Röwa, Roco and others started producing trains for the Märklin system. Some people convert Märklin locomotives to DC for use on DC layouts, and by buying HAMO, Märklin had begun offering a line of DC locomotives as well, first under the name of HAMO and, after buying Trix, under that name.

Marklin Digital locomotive Marklin HO loc.jpg
Märklin Digital locomotive

Märklin Digital

Märklin was among the early model railway companies to introduce a digital train-control system. The Märklin Digital system for Märklin's 3-rail AC train layouts was introduced in 1984 using Motorola microchips. A few years later the system developed jointly by Märklin, Lenz GmbH and Arnold GmbH was introduced for 2-rail DC locomotives. The system was used by Arnold in their N scale locomotives. While the first digital Z locomotives were announced in the late 1990s, the plans were cancelled rapidly due to heat dissipation problems in small locomotives. This digital control system was later developed into DCC (Digital Command Control). Märklin's digital system for 3 rail track is not directly compatible with DCC (Digital Command Control) although the systems are electrically compatible and many controllers can work both systems. Today Märklin offers DCC compatible locomotives for its 2-rail DC Trix brand.

Products and collectibles

Marklin model 33190.10, from set 2881; model of KPEV S10 nr. 1008, later DB 17 008; Schwartzkopff factory number 4760 Marklin 2881 - KPEV S10 1008.jpg
Märklin model 33190.10, from set 2881; model of KPEV S10 nr. 1008, later DB 17 008; Schwartzkopff factory number 4760

Over the years, the Märklin marque became valuable to model train collectors, some of the very early models fetching impressive prices at auction. The range of products is extensive, and collectors also pay attention to packaging that were used for the products. Collectors also look for rare and hard to find models, such as the SBB Crocodile model, the AMTRAK ICE model, the Western Pacific 'California Zephyr' model, and the famous Union Pacific Big Boy model, among many others.

The Märklin toy company systematically included a print run number on almost all their printed material, including the boxes in which their products shipped. These print run numbers indicate the printer and also the month and year of printing. This is useful for dating an item that is known to be associated with some printed material. The second group of digits indicates the catalogue number. The last set of numeric digits in the print run number indicates the month and year that the item was printed. The last group of letters identifies the printer.

Koll's Preiskatalog issued by Joachim Koll in German lists all 00/H0 models and provides price estimates. Märklin's products are mainly German (DB) model trains. However, Märklin also produces Swiss (SBB), Dutch (NS), American (various independent railways from the Golden Age of American trains), and various other model trains from around the world.

In January 2005, the Märklin museum in Göppingen, Germany, was burgled and more than 100 pieces, with an estimated value of more than 1 million Euros, were stolen. The items, which included one-of-a-kind prototypes along with pieces that dated back to 1891, were recovered in March 2005. [6]

The third game in the Ticket to Ride board game series, released in 2006, was named Marklin in their honour. [7]

In 2010 Märklin announced the release of its sixth model of the Russian Railways, the Russian Velaro SAPSAN high speed train. The model is based upon the DB ICE 3MF model which began to be sold in 2008. The first SŽD railways Russian HO models was a Transsiberian 100 ЛеТ Транссибирской (100 Let Transsibirskoy) tanker wagon, a rare limited edition from 1991, two locomotives, steam locomotive Series TЭ-5293 (Märklin ref. 34159), a second version of the same Cold War military reserve steam locomotive TЭ-3915 (Märklin ref. 37159) and two SŽD car goods wagon sets (Märklin ref. 47897 and ref. 47899).

Nominal size H0

The largest segment of product range and sales is nominal size H0, with a scale of 1:87 and an H0 track. Märklin introduced it in 1935, about half a year later than Trix, and today it is the most common size worldwide. The company is market leader in H0 in German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), having a market-share of approximately 50 per cent. So, in the area of H0 tracks there are two categories of similar size - the track system with two conductors, produced by multiple companies on the one side, the middle-conductor track system dominated by Märklin on the other. Also, in this area Märklin is the only company to offer a complete assortment of goods - the range in this track size consists of a huge variety of rolling stock, tracks, analog as well as digital control systems, trolley systems and other accessory parts.

Related Research Articles

Rail transport modelling Modeling trains hobby

Railway modelling or model railroading is a hobby in which rail transport systems are modelled at a reduced scale.

LGB (trains)

LGB stands for Lehmann Gross Bahn - the "Lehmann Big Train" in German. Made by Ernst Paul Lehmann Patentwerk in Nuremberg, Germany, since 1968 and by Märklin since 2007, it is the most popular garden railway model in Europe, although there are also many models of U.S. and Canadian prototypes. LGB caused a revival of garden model railroading in the United States when it was introduced. LGB is sold in North America through Wm. K. Walthers, who took over from Ernst Paul Lehmann's subsidiary, LGB of America, when Märklin bought the LGB assets. Most of the European prototypes were manufactured in Germany, while much of the North American rolling stock was made in China. Production was later moved to Hungary.

Digital Command Control (DCC) is a standard for a system to operate model railways digitally. When equipped with Digital Command Control, locomotives on the same electrical section of track can be independently controlled.

O scale

O scale is a scale commonly used for toy trains and rail transport modelling. Introduced by German toy manufacturer Märklin around 1900, by the 1930s three-rail alternating current O gauge was the most common model railroad scale in the United States and remained so until the early 1960s. In Europe, its popularity declined before World War II due to the introduction of smaller scales.

HO scale

HO or H0 is a rail transport modelling scale using a 1:87 scale. It is the most popular scale of model railway in the world. The rails are spaced 16.5 mm (0.650 in) apart for modelling 1,435 mm standard gauge tracks and trains in HO.

N scale

N scale is a popular model railway scale. Depending upon the manufacturer, the scale ranges from 1∶148 to 1∶160. In all cases, the gauge is 9 mm or 0.354 in. The term N gauge refers to the track dimensions, but in the United Kingdom in particular British N gauge refers to a 1∶148 scale with 1∶160 track gauge modelling. The terms N scale and N gauge are often inaccurately used interchangeably, as scale is defined as ratio or proportion of the model, and gauge only as a distance between rails. The scale 1∶148 defines the rail-to-rail gauge equal to 9 mm exactly, so when calculating the rail or track use 1∶160 and for engines and car wheel base use 1∶148.

Toy train

A toy train is a toy that represents a train. It is distinguished from a model train by an emphasis on low cost and durability, rather than scale modeling. A toy train can be as simple as a pull toy that does not even run on track, or it might be operated by clockwork or a battery. Many of today's model trains might be considered as toy ones as well, providing they are not strictly scale ones in favor of a robustness appropriate for children.

TT scale

TT scale is a model railroading scale, whose name stands for table top.

1 gauge

1 gauge, gauge 1 or gauge one is a model railway and toy train standard that was popular in the early 20th century, particularly with European manufacturers. Its track measures 1.75 in, making it larger than 0 gauge but slightly smaller than wide gauge, which came to be the dominant U.S. standard during the 1920s.

Z scale is one of the smallest commercially available model railway scales (1:220), with a track gauge of 6.5 mm / 0.256 in. Introduced by Märklin in 1972, Z scale trains operate on 0–10 volts DC and offer the same operating characteristics as all other two-rail, direct-current, analog model railways. Locomotives can be fitted with digital decoders for independent control. Model trains, track, structures, and human/animal figures are readily available in European, North American, and Japanese styles from a variety of manufacturers.

Hornby Railways is a British model railway brand. Its roots date back to 1901 in Liverpool, when founder Frank Hornby received a patent for his Meccano construction toy. The first clockwork train was produced in 1920. In 1938, Hornby launched its first 00 gauge train. In 1964, Hornby and Meccano were bought by their competitor, Tri-ang, and sold when Tri-ang went into receivership. Hornby Railways became independent again in the 1980s, and became listed on the London Stock Exchange, but due to financial troubles reported in June 2017, is presently majority owned by turnaround specialist Phoenix Asset Management.

Third rail (model rail)

The use of a third rail in rail transport modelling is a technique that was once applied, in order to facilitate easier wiring.

Bachmann Industries

Bachmann Industries is a Bermuda registered Chinese owned company, globally headquartered in Hong Kong; specialising in model railroading.

Märklin Digital

Märklin Digital was among the earlier digital model railway control systems. It was a comprehensive system including locomotive decoders, central control, a computer interface, turnout decoders, digital relays and feedback modules. The initial system was presented at the 1979 Nürnberg International Toy Fair, released in Europe in 1985 and the USA in 1986 under the name Digital H0.

Garden railway

A garden railroad or garden railway is a model railway system set up outdoors in a garden. While G is the most popular scale for garden railroads, 16 mm scale has a dedicated and growing following especially in the UK. Model locomotives in this scale are often live steam scale models of British narrow gauge prototypes. 16 mm scale track, the same gauge as O gauge is probably now more popular in the UK than G scale.

Fleischmann (model railroads)

Fleischmann is a German manufacturer of model railway products. Fleischmann was founded in Nuremberg in 1887 by Jean Fleischmann, as a toy company. Their first model train, in O scale, was produced in 1938. Their first H0 scale products were introduced in 1952 and their N scale "Piccolo" product line in 1969.

Trix (company)

Trix is a German company that originally made Trix metal construction sets. One of its co-founders was Stephan Bing, the son of the pioneer toy-maker industrialist Ignaz Bing. In 1935 the company began producing the electrically powered model trains that it became famous for, under the Trix Express label. Prior to the outbreak of World War II the company produced a small range of AC powered three rail loco models running on bakelite rails.

Mehano is a Slovenian toy company, founded in 1952 as Mehanotehnika, produces a large range of both traditional and electronic toys, as well as model railroad equipment. The company had borne its current name of Mehano since 1990. Mehano applied to restructure in November 2008, following reported economic difficulties during the preceding ten years and production in Slovenia ended. In 2010, Mehano was relaunched with production in China and new branding.

Trix Express

Trix Express was the main model train product range of the Trix of Nuremberg Germany, currently owned by the Märklin company of Göppingen Germany.

Digital model railway control systems are an alternative to control a layout and simplify the wiring and add more flexibility in operations. A number of control systems are available to operate locomotives on model railways. Analog systems where the speed and the direction of a train is controlled by adjusting the voltage on the track are still popular while they have recently given way to control systems based on computer technology.


  1. 1 2 Schuetze, Christopher F. (18 March 2021). "'A Perfect World' Around Every Miniature Bend: The pandemic has helped Märklin, a 162-year-old company that makes model trains, discover a new audience". The New York Times . Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  2. "OUT OF STEAM, German Model Train Maker Märklin Goes Bankrupt". Spiegel online. 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
  3. Märklin meldet Insolvenz an In Spiegel Online vom 4. Feb. 2009
  4. Märklin erwirtschaftet wieder schwarze Zahlen in 2009 [ permanent dead link ] SammlerVz news, 6 February 2010
  5. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (20 March 2013). "Spielwaren: Märklin vor Übernahme durch Simba Dickie". FAZ.NET.
  6. "Märklin Museum Break-In and Theft". Archived from the original on 2005-04-04. Retrieved 2005-04-10.
  7. Boardgamegeek.com 24 November 2010
  8. http://www.maerklin.com/en/service/search/details.html?art_nr=26001