Things got better sooner also because of the presence of competition, in the form of Minitrix. The Trix Company of the late 1960’s and the late Willy Ade left us a legacy that is incomparable in so many ways. And not just for models of North American prototypes in N-Scale. Their presence is equally significant for European prototypes, too. But their presence was equally valuable because it offered competition to the Karl Arnold company, the developed of what would become N-Scale.
What I’m saying is that these were very fine trains in their time, and they remain fine trains today, but the market has moved on. That said, we also have to acknowledge that many of the old Minitrix items are valuable for their memory rather than for their current accuracy. And in studying these old models, we can also see the goals the model railroad manufacturers’ and limitations of their market.
As you leaf through the pages of the old catalogs, you see a lot of very familiar faces. The ubiquitous Minitrix F-units, the Pennsylvania Railroad K-4 Pacific steam engine, the numerous freight cars. If you’ve been in the model railroad hobby for a number of years, you probably have owned some of these trains. What Minitrix brought to the N-Scale market was a series of very robust locomotives which helped raise the bar for quality model railroad items.
It is interesting, on the other hand, that when Märklin bought Trix in 1997, the purchase did not include the tooling for these locomotives. At that time, when word came out that a large, well established manufacturer such as Märklin had bought Trix, it might mean that these locomotives would be again manufactured. The N-Scale enthusiasts were excited at the prospect, but it quickly became apparent that there would be no reissue of these engines.
At that time, the enthusiasts were crestfallen, but in looking at the model railroad market in 1997, the Minitrix engines, which had been designed in the 1960’s, would have been hopelessly out of date in comparison to what is currently manufactured in China. Yes, there’s not an awful lot of steam locomotives being manufactured, but it proved to be more than just a matter of redesign. It turns out that Trix, known at that time as Trix-Schuco, did not own the tooling for these locomotives in the first place. And whoever did own the tooling was reluctant to remanufacture a dated design.
It is also interesting to compare rolling stock between the different manufacturers. Consider the various representations of the Santa Fe “Pleasure Dome” cars (#’s 500 - 505):