History

Class 38 steam engine with three enthusiasts

Rokal was originally founded in Dusseldorf in 1914 as a metal casting company. The company later moved to Löbberich (NW of Köln, very close to the Dutch border) in 1926, becoming named ROKAL. The name Rokal is an acronym for:

RObert KArmann bberich.

Robert Kahrmann is the founder of the Company.

1887 - 1972

Rokal began manufacturing its model train line in the late 1940’s, probably around 1948. Initial model train development was under the direction of Eugen Englehard, who left the company in the very late 1940’s.  Development continued under the direction of Heinz Thieme.

At that time, TT-Scale was in its infancy, yet to be discovered by model railroad enthusiasts around the world. Even the Rokal company itself was a bit reluctant about its role in the model train world. The words describing the Rokal factory in the Company's catalogs always were just a bit evasive. "Covering an area of almost 24 acres, ROKAL employs over 2,000, in extensive and modern facilities, in which ROKAL TT gauge model trains are produced as a part of widely diversified metal products". This is technically accurate, but the key phrase here is "...part of widely diversified metal products", since the Rokal factory also produced plumbing fixtures, automobile carburetors, and architectural  hardware such as door handles. In short, metal castings.

The electric train business was a sideline for Rokal, more the hobby of the owner, Robert Karmann. Yet, the nature of this manufacture did not detract from the quality of their electric train products. The existence of a profitable manufacturing facility insured that Rokal trains would be produced to high standards of quality materials.

Rokal factory, ca. 1962

Based upon the photograph in the Rokal model train catalog, one got the impression that Rokal was a huge enterprise devoted to model trains. But, in fact, the model  train operation was always delegated to a few small buildings at the Factory.  In the very earliest days, model train production had been at night, after the Factory had ended its production day of the items which Rokal sold.  A few hardy souls stayed on into the evening, making the beginnings of a model train line.  In time, the trains would be built  during the days, but for the first few years, production was informal at best.

An early prototype model

An early production unit

The Rokal model train line reached its height in about 1968. At this point, the product line was well established and, like every other line of German made model trains, complete with everything necessary to build a model train layout that could run automatically.

An example of late production

The Rokal model train product line would change in 1968 when Rokal ran into financial troubles.  Herr Karmann died April, 1972.  His model train line was sold to Willy Ade of Röwa in 1969. In turn, Röwa would go bankrupt in a few years and its assets were sold, in turn, to Roco of Salzburg, Austria, where the Rokal model train line would disappear forever.

The Rokal company continued in Löbberich, Germany, its home town, until about 2006.  The modern day factory building:

Robert Kahrmann Street

Greetings from Lobberich!

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