A Short History of Märklin Metall
By Georg Eiermann

This article was originally published on the spanner discussion group.

Link to Märklin parts illustration

For an illustration of the parts currently available from Märklin click the image on the left.  To ensure sufficient detail, it is a very large file.

From the end of 1999

Märklin have announced that they will cease manufacturing Märklin Metall from the end of 1999.  They will occasionally release commemorative sets such as the "LaBlanche" set 10861, the Bleriot airplane, about 1500 parts.  Sets and parts will still be sold by stockists, but once they are sold, that is it.

Early History

In 1859 Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Märklin (1817-1866), a master tinsmith, started producing accessories made of tinplate for dolls' houses 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. From 1888  their sons Eugen and Karl founded a new company. In 1891 they bought out another toy manufacturing company with experienced staff in metal-toy construction. With another partner, Emil Friz, the name of the factory on all its signs and printer labels was changed to "Gebr. Märklin & Co.".
 "Gebr." means the same as the English "bros." 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

In 1912 Märklin was the distributor for Meccano on the European continent, in France e.g. through their subsidiary "Maerklin Freres et Cie". Between 1911-1913 Märklin made 60 000 clockwork - motors for Meccano indicating Hornby and Märklin had a good relationship. Hornby tried to work together with Märklin in middle and eastern Europe. In Berlin in 1910 Hornby founded a distribution-company called "Meccano-Gesellschaft m.b.H."( = Meccano private limited company.). In Göppingen Märklin made parts for the Meccano sets. These sets 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. During the war Märklin only sold stock parts, because they produced war material in Göppingen.

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 "Märklin Metallbaukasten" to distinguish from the old name of Märklin-Meccano. The tin parts 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. For a short time the boxes were green inside, like Meccano, but changed to dark red, which they remained up to 1940 (the end of the black series). 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. The "Trademark" was a big crane with a boy at the side. The letters on the label and the manual were the same as the Meccano letters. Initially the models in the manuals were similar to the prewar models of Märklin-Meccano, but the number of models increased. You could get clockwork motors, 2 speed, 2 forward and reverse with 3 output axles. Electric motors were initially 220V AC, but since 1925 have been 20V AC.  You could buy 2 strong steam engines, which could operate in both horizontal or vertical positions. They had supplement sets in the program for transport plants, bridges and clocks. 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 for electrical sets and more than 100 coloured parts. The prices ranged from 2 Pfennig to 1.80 ReichsMark. For comparison: My father was a young teacher, earned 60 RM a month, the smallest Mercedes-Benz was about 6000RM. From 1930 and later Märklin and Meccano diverged because of the different parts they developed. For the first time in 1929 Märklin produced 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. After the war you could only get coloured parts in the same colour scheme. 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 about 700 parts or more, were in the biggest set #6. 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 till 1962, only the electrical motor #1072 was sold still in the 1970's. In 1933 Marbi started. Marbi was low-priced and not coloured, but the same specifications: ½" as Märklin/Meccano. Marbi was sold till the beginning of the war. In 1939 Märklin produced "Märklin Minex". Like the step in the model-railways from scale  0 to scale HO (Half O) they produced a half scale construction kit. The distance between the holes in a strip was ¼", but the diameter of the hole was the same as Meccano/Märklin. So you could combine both systems. The parts were mostly made of aluminum, some wheels were made of a cheap plastic(?). New were sheet metal parts in aluminium and rubber tires. Minex production stopped during the war (1940).

After the Second World War

After the war Minex was not produced. Only the sheet metal parts made of aluminum and coloured blue and the rubber tires were adopted by the standard construction kit. Toy production stopped until 1947 when Märklin started with a new construction kit program. The basic sets now had new numbers (#99 - #105). New also were the rubber tires and the blue facing sheet metal parts. 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. The boxes were dark green on the outside, and light green-yellow on the inside.

1954 The prices were :

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

1957 This was the year of my birth. 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 had 5 digit number references.

1962 Elex production stopped. #1035/1036 were taken out of the program. In 1963, #1015 the biggest set, was taken out of the program. 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.

1971 The sets #1009 and #1029 were taken out of production.

1973 You could buy small sets with spare parts (e.g. strips, gears or wheels) #1040 - #1049.

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

1979 A supplementary set E3 (#1063) was introduced. Three really big sets in wooden boxes were introduced to the market. With #1001 you could build a electric loco German series 160 (or E60), a 2-6-0 shunter.  #1002  was the first (steam) loco in germany : "Der Adler" (= the eagle), a Stephenson loco 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.

1980 This year saw the introduction of new sets: #1054 farm engines,  #1055 building vehicles and #1056  trucks. Later a set #1057 cable (suspension) railway was added. Instead of the standard red and green, the parts in these sets were orange in colour.

1987 The program was renewed again. All old sets were removed. The 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" (#1007,  649 parts, included 4 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 screws had an internal hexagon head plus the well known slit. I don't like them, although sometimes it is good to have them.

1988 For the Eiffel Tower anniversary, a set "Eiffelturm" was introduced to the market. It came in a wooden box, it's weight was 16 kg and it had about 4200 parts. The price was about 1000DM. At this time about $US600.  The model of the Eiffel tower was 1.85m high.

1989 A jubilee set (#1075) was introduced. It was in a box like the old sets of the 1920's. Inside was a reprint of the old manual and a short history of Märklin Metall construction sets.

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

1991 The DoX set (Dornier aeroplane from the 1930' with 12 BMW aero-engines), #1079, 4700 parts, in a wooden box was introduced. Also came 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.

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

1993 M-Start, #1010, 540 parts, was produced.

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.

1996 The MAN-trucks came, #1085, 1070 parts, supplementary set #10851.

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 white instead of 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.

For an Excel, Marklin parts list, in German, click here.
Georg has kindly created 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. The old Märklin numbers are often the same as the Meccano numbers.  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.

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