Märklin I

Starting in 1969, Märklin reentered the large scale model railroad market. At about the same time (1968), LGB had announced its large scale model trains, so it’s hard to tell if the Märklin large trains were in response to LGB or not. Märklin was first in one sense because it had originally produced large sized trains in several different proportions in the late 1800’s.

Märklin’s 1 Gauge trains of the late 1960’s were generally scaled to a proportion of 1:32, but there were some exceptions. The early Märklin line of the 1960’s had many toy-like features and exact scale proportion was not strictly followed.  The trains did run on 45 mm gauged track and their general adherence to the 1:32 proportion qualifies them as Gauge number 1.  It should be noted that there is some dispute about the proper terminology, with many people using the term “Gauge I”.  This comes from a literal translation from the German language term Spur I, literally Gauge I. At the same time, there is the propensity for model train operators to simply call something “XYZ Gauge”. It’s easy, but it also starts the confusion because it is possible to have trains which are modeled to a specific proportion operating on a smaller gauged track.

Gauge Confusion

In this way, LGB had chosen the same 45 mm track gauge as Märklin with taller rails, but proportioned their trains to 1:22.5.  These trains represented narrow-gauged trains. Typically, the LGB trains are identified as being Spur IIm; the “m” means that the 45 mm gauged track represents meter-gauged track rather than Standard Gauge.  With the passing years, the matter has grown even cloudier, with several model train manufacturers using 45 mm gauged track, but different proportions such as 1:29, 1:20.5 and such.

The whole notion of unique “Gauges” to identify different model train product lines was not uniquely Märklin’s.  Lionel had 0-Gauge and “Standard Gauge”.  Bing, and other European model train manufacturers also had different “gauges”, but it was likely to first have been Märklin’s idea. They produced 1 Gauge, 2 Gauge, 3 Gauge and a few trains which are identified as 4 Gauge. Again, depending upon your perspective, they were Spur IV, or Gauge 4. 

Early Märklin Gauge I

In any case, the early Märklin Gauge 1 trains were glorious stamped metal toys:

Märklin’s Gauge I offerings of the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century fell by the wayside because of the smaller 0-Gauge trains made by Märklin and other manufacturers. The fact was that few households could justify the space demanded by Gauge I. The fact also was that the large Gauge 1 trains demand attention; they simply aren’t like smaller trains and by the late 1960’s, these large trains were back.

As with other pages on this web site, much of what is detailed here about Märklin Gauge I covers the early years of the product line.  At this writing (2012), Märklin’s Gauge I trains are still being manufactured. And they’re still running around my basement:

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