1970s N- Gauge Manufacturers
In my previous blog on vintage N- gauge model railway, I focused on the differences between N-gauge and other gauges of model railway/ railroad.
There is a wealth of information available on N-gauge, and many discussion groups and internet communities, including the N-gauge forum. As I explained in my previous blog, I am not an expert on model railway, and don’t have the knowledge of some of these illustrious institutions, but I did have my own track and set of trains. Many of which were never run due to never having the time or space for a decent layout. I do, however, appreciate the history and engineering behind the models.
For this blog I thought we would take a look at some of the 1970s N-gauge manufacturers around when I started my collection.
Karl Arnold founded his toy company in 1906 at Nürnberg, a major centre of toy production in Germany. Their product line was an extensive one, consisting of tinplate toys, ships and doll house items.
We have already mentioned Arnold in the previous blog, the company whom launched modern N-gauge model railways back in 1962, and invented the ‘Rapido’ coupler.
The Atlas Tool Company was founded by Stephan Schaffan in 1924, in Newark, New Jersey, USA.
The Atlas Tool Co. introduced their N scale trains in 1967. As with other brands of model railway, the models were actually made by other companies. In the case of Atlas, the early Steam and Diesel models were manufactured by Rivarossi (Italy) and Mehanotehnika (Yugoslavia). The freight cars were mainly made by Rivarossi and Roco (Austria), and passenger cars also by Rivarossi.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Atlas were most noted for their structure kits, which were made by Pola (Germany) and Faller.
Fleischmann are a German manufacturer founded in Nuremberg in 1887 as a Toy company. They started making model trains in 1938 but it wasn’t until 1969 that they produced their N-scale Piccolo products.
Fleischmann focus on central European models, and hence are not widely know outside of Europe. Their models are very good quality and very realistic.
Fleischmann and Roco have both been owned by Modelleisenbahn GmbH since 2008. Their main competitor is now Märklin.
Graham Farish, (GRAFAR) based in Poole, Dorset, UK were originally manufacturer’s of radio spares until the 1940s. Post WW2 they diversified into model railway. Their most collectable items are their 1953 commemorative Coronation figures.
Graham Farish ventured into N scale, in the 1970s, with the 9400 Pannier Tank loco and four wheeled coaches. These early products had three pole armature motors and brass gears. Today, the gears are plastic but they do have five pole armature motors. They now focus solely on N-gauge model railway and produce a wide range of Locomotives, Coaches, Wagons, Buildings and Train sets.
Minitrix are German manufacturers whom moved into N gauge in the 1960/ 70s. They made the classic Hornby locomotives and, mainly, European models. Minitrix were noted for their precision and quality. Their model railway items have always been considered collector’s pieces as opposed to children’s toys.
Minitrix did also manufacture for the North American market under the Aurora “Postage Stamp” brand, and later American Tortoise, Model Power and Con-Cor.
Märklin was founded in 1859, Germany and, up to the late 1990s, specialised in mechanical construction sets and doll house accessories, in addition to model railway (but not N gauge). They bought Trix in 1997 but are not entitled to the tooling which was used to manufacture the classic Hornby locomotives from the 1970’s…
Lima Models (Lima S.p.A) were a model railway manufacturer based in Vicenza, Italy from the early 1950s. They were more affordable, and less well made, than Minitrix. Lima partnered with many different distributors and manufacturers such as A.H.M, Model Power and Minitrain before merging in the 1990s with Rivarossi, Arnold and Jouef.
These old brands have been owned by Hornby Railways since 2004.
Peco was founded in 1946 in Beer, Devon, England. In the early days they focused on model railway track but then diversified in to model railway accessories. They also made a few locomotives, as seen in the above image!
The modern day PECO is a tourist attraction known as ‘Pecorama’ and is also home to the Beer Heights Light Railway: a picturesque 7¼ inch gauge railway.
You noticed that I haven’t really mentioned Hornby, whom are now one of the biggest model railway brands, manufacturers and suppliers, in the World. In the 1970s, Hornby was actually a brand for Meccano, whom were more widely known in the model train arena for manufacturing Hornby Dublo (OO) trains. They did sell Hornby branded N-gauge, usually made by Minitrix.
Well, I hope you liked my quick tour of some of the 1970s N gauge Model Railway Manufacturers. I’m so pleased that at least some of them have survived and prospered into the 21st Century. Albeit with the inevitable mergers and Management Buy-outs!