North America

Marketing German products in the United States has always represented a problem for the Germans. Typically, German manufacturers have been product driven, which is to say that they market their wonderful items here in the US. and we are expected to marvel at the engineering superiority of the things that they have created.  Although this might work well for cuckoo clocks and beer, it is no longer that way about model trains, automobiles or a variety of other products. 

Somewhere along the way, probably in the 1960’s, the North American market began losing interest in German model trains per se as the quality of other model trains representing North American prototype trains began getting better.  For a German model train company to sell in the North American market, this meant that they would have to produce what the North American market wanted.  In short, they would have to become market driven. Some companies did better than others with this challenge.  Arnold did fairly well, especially when they entered into their relationship with Revell Plastics. This relationship began their broad expansion into the manufacture of North American prototype model trains.

Prior to this point, Arnold had done business primarily with Charles Merzbach, of New York City. Merzbach was a logical choice, for he had extensive relationships with other Nürnberg toy companies. In the US., he already represented Fleischmann, an H0 model train manufacturer from Nürnberg.  Merzbach would also briefly present LGB, another Nürnberger, marketing their large scale line of model trains as “K-Gauge” (The Gauge of Kings).

So, Merzbach was Arnold’s representative, their expert on the North American marketplace. This resulted in at least one interesting thing; Merzbach liked the New Haven Railroad, one of the local brands in the New York market.  So, both Fleischmann and Arnold would have a disproportionate number of New Haven items in their product line.  So, too, the Pennsylvania Railroad, another local brand, would get coverage.  The Pennsy was a better choice than the New Haven, since the Pennsylvania Railroad was the biggest in the United States at that time. And, across the Hudson River in Jersey, the colorful Baltimore & Ohio carried passengers and freight to the west. Only the colorful Santa Fe and the other equally colorful Union Pacific were not local railroads.  The Arnold line would represent them all, and more.

It is not clear when the relationship between Arnold and Merzbach ended; the 1970 catalog still lists him as the US Agent, two years after the relationship with Revell had begun.  But Charlie Merzbach remains a pivotal character in the entry of Arnold rapido into the United States.

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