…Märklin H0

The house of Märklin dates back to 1859, when a plumber based at Göppingen, Southern Germany, started making metal toys. His wife would hawk the family’s products door to door as far afield as Switzerland; it was she who maintained the business after her husband’s death in 1866. Her sons Eugen and Karl succeeded her in 1888 and the company was renamed ‘Gebrüder Märklin’. Products in the palette at that time included dolls’ kitchens, model ships, caroussels and other mechanical contraptions.

Artwork from 1950s Märklin signal manual

Märklin’s first model railway was presented in 1891 at the Leipzig toy fair. It was clockwork powered and had a figure-8 track. The scale chosen back then was 1:32 which is known to this day as Gauge 1 and runs on 45mm track. Up until then, there had been no modelling standards whatsoever, resulting in a mass of incompatible products.

Size comparison between gauges II and Z

By the turn of the 20th Century, the venture that started as a family business had become a market leading manufacturer of technical toys. Before long, model railways were crystallising into being their strength and Märklin became synonymous with model railways. Continual technical development and miniaturisation lead to the then known as Gauge 00 electric table top railway in 1935. Though not the first manufacturer to present such a revolutionary product (that honour goes to Bing’s TRIX Express), it was Märklin who made it their own.

Märklin 00 catalogue title page from 1952

Renamed ‘Spur H0’ (Halb-Null) in 1950, this is the area I am most interested in collecting. While I do own a number of models from the 1940s, they are far outnumbered by more recent products. What fascinates me most is the product development which resulted in there being so many different versions of the same prototype.


The inner workings of a Märklin DA800 locomotive

An invaluable source of information is the annual ‘Koll’s Preiskatalog’, a publication which lists everything Märklin has produced in H0 since 1935. It’s essential to have a copy of this book for anyone wishing to establish the age or value of any Märklin item. It is often the smallest detail that makes the difference between a rare collectable and a much less valuable standard version.


Märklin F800 BR01 express steam locomotive. This is version 3 with the old style tender but moulded in plastic, made only in 1954

The vast range of products presented in the Märklin catalogue each year covered everything that was requried for a complete model railway. Locomotives and rolling stock of all kinds of types and nationalities, track and bridges, level crossings, signals, lights and bells, transformers and electrical components, cranes, turntables, station buildings and still no end in sight! I remember as a child studying the Märklin catalogue as if it were the Bible, bookmarking the next items on my wish list.


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