Minitrix is the brand name of N-Scale trains manufactured by the Trix company, originally of Nürnberg, Germany. Minitrix was one of several N-Scale model train lines introduced in the 1960’s.
Although an old line manufacturer with roots in the Bing train manufacturing company dating back to the 1800’s, Trix model train production was relatively young in comparison to old line companies such as Märklin, Arnold and Flesichmann. Stephan Bing left Germany in the late 1920’s and moved to England, founding a Trix Company there, also. His son followed in a few more years and the German Trix company was sold to Ernst Voelk.
After World War II, Trix returned to toy manufacturing in Nürnberg, producing metal construction sets and electric trains in H0 proportion (1:87). The Minitrix product line started first with children’s’ “floor toys”, non-powered models of German trains in 1:180 proportion. Sometime in the 1960’s, Minitrix electric was introduced with the assistance of Willy Ade, the floor toys were discontinued and the N-Scale electric trains were simply called Minitrix.
These pages address the early Minitrix N-Scale electric product line only, but this can still be a complicated topic. Ownership of Trix has changed several times since the early 1920’s. From the 1930’s until the late 1960’s, Trix was known as Trix Vereinigte Spielwarenfabriken Ernst Voelk, K. G. Ernest Voelk was “the President of the Chamber of Trade in Nürenburg and owner of the Distler, an old local toy manufacturer.” [Source]. From the late 1960’s, the Company was then known as Trix-Mangold GmbH + Co.
To add to the confusion, certain “Minitrix” items appear in catalog sheets from an English company which were manufactured by Trix of Germany; other items sold by this English company were not manufactured in Germany; remember that the Bings started a Trix Company in England in the late 1920’s. These items are typically referred to as “British Trix”. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, these items were typically marketed by Hornby.
After at least two mergers and consolidations, the German Trix company was ultimately purchased in 1997 by Märklin, GmbH, which is itself now in the process of being sold. Prior to the 1997 purchase, Trix often acted as a “branch factory” for Mother Märklin, producing items when the Märklin factories were operating at full capacity. It was this relationship which led ultimately to Märklin’s purchase of Trix.
Likewise, keeping track of the various elements of the Minitrix product line in the North American market is also complicated. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Minitrix products appeared both under the Minitrix name and also, in North America, as Aurora “Postage Stamp” trains and also as Trix Trains - Division of American Tortoise, Inc.
The product lines of both Postage Stamp and of American Tortoise incorporated both Trix-made items and also rolling stock manufactured by Roco of Austria. It was common practice in the early days of N-Scale for products which were made by one company to appear as part of another manufacturer’s product line. This is the case for some Atlas N-Scale items of that era which were manufactured either by Rivarossi (of Italy) or Roco (of Austria). Likewise, Model Rectifier sold a couple locomotives and some passenger cars that were manufactured by Röwa. So, keeping track of things can be a challenge.
Another example is when Märklin purchased Trix in 1997. This news generated great excitement in portions of the North American N-Scale model railroad market. Minitrix locomotives had set the standard for operating excellence in the early days of N-Scale. So, there was a certain level of anticipation that Minitrix would return to the market, but it was not to be. As Märklin factory staff started digging into the matter, it was determined that Trix did not have title to the tooling which was used to manufacture those locomotives from the 1970’s.
In fact, this manufacturing tooling and the related prototype research had been funded by another financial entity, so there would be no reissues of the 1970’s era Minitrix locomotives. In a way, this would prove to be a good thing. Reissues if the 1970’s era locomotives would have pointed out the progress that had been made in model locomotive design over the ensuing 35 years. These older designs had been executed before the era of command control, so converting these units to operate in the DCC environment would have been a challenge. So, too, because the rolling stock was manufactured by Roco for Minitrix, there was no possibility of reissues of earlier Minitrix North American cars. For those who want the Minitrix locomotives and cars of that era, there is an active market on eBay where they can be obtained.
Because of this confusion, these pages show items from various catalogs, with more information becoming available with time, but there may not always be a clear identification as to who owns what. As usual, corrections of errors of fact or additional information are always welcome.
Also on these pages are some brief explanations of Minitrix technology. Like other German lines of model trains, Minitrix offered signals and such for automatic operation. Some of these signals and related items are still in the Minitrix product line.
Here, a brief sample of the Minitrix product range: