Märklin Minex

In the late 1960’s, Märklin was looking for a new product line.  At that point, there was their Märklin H0, which was a complete product line using three-conductor (stud contact) track. Called The Märklin System, the stud contact approach allowed trains to operate very reliably and also to have layout automation.  At the same time, Märklin was seeking to expand into new markets. In addition to their extensive H0 product line, there was the Sprint slot car line, the RAK line of die-cast autos and their Gauge 1 product line.

In 1970, Märklin offered an “0” scale train (1:45 proportion, Gauge-name “0e”) which ran on their stud contact H0 track.  The line was called “Minex”, which was the reuse of a product name; in the late 1930’s, Märklin had offered a metal construction set called Minex.

In any case, the Minex train line was offered for two years, being discontinued in 1972. The product line was a small one:

The trains’ larger size shows their play value for children, along with the bright colors and open-top cars for play car loads. The irony is that the above photograph also shows the entire Minex product line.

There were two sets:

3450

3470

Both sets included an oval of Märklin “M” track, but no transformer. Since the Minex line used existing Märklin H0 locomotive mechanisms, any Märklin H0 transformer could be used. Because the Minex trains used Märklin H0 track, there was no need for a separate line of track.

Prototype?

Many of the Minex cars and the Minex diesel locomotive are lettered for “SWEG”, which is presumably the Südwestdeutsche Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft, a narrow gauge railroad which operated in the Baden state of Germany. Märklin’s home is in Göppingen, which is located in the modern German state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

The Product Line

In addition to the two train sets, Minex items could be purchased individually.

Locomotives

3400

Passenger Cars

4400

Freight Cars

4450

4452

4454

3420

4401

4451

4453

4459

Livery:

  • 4400 - SWEG
  • 4401 - SWEG
  • 4450 - SWEG
  • 4451 - SWEG
  • 4452 - DB “Stuttgart”
  • 4453 - Refrigerator
  • 4454 - Märklin Minex
  • 4459 - unlettered

As with many German model train lines, there was a signal that could be used to control train movements:

And that is the complete Märklin Minex product line. In the 1970’s, Minex trains were ahead of their time.  Several other European manufacturers also tried the same concept.  Peco offered a series of locomotive superstructure kits scaled to 1:45 and meant to operate on H0 gauged track; this was their “0 16.5” product line.  Likewise, Faller also tried this same approach, using 0-gauge track with locomotives and cars scale to approximately 1:32 proportion (meter-gauged trains in Gauge 1 proportion). Fleischmann also tried this with their “Magic Train” product line, which was discontinued in 2009.  Ultimately, it would be Bachmann that would successfully connect, with their 0n30 product line, which is now a very active model railroad sector.

It is tempting to describe Minex trains as a “mistake”, but I don’t see it that way. Given production lead times, it is safe to say that both Minex and the not-yet-announced Z-Scale mini-club both began development at about the same time. I say this because Minex used existing H0 mechanisms, track and transformers, so the only manufacturing consisted of designing and building two new locomotive shells (which fit onto H0 mechanisms), a passenger car (to make No.’s 4400 and 4401) and three freight cars.  These different cars could be painted in any number of railroad liveries. Thus, Minex could be quickly brought into the market. And if they were successful, new cars could be quickly added while new tooling for additional rolling stock was designed to expand the product line.

With Minex trains, Märklin showed its willingness to test new markets. Also, the announcement of a new train line such as Minex kept Märklin visible to the model train enthusiast.  While Minex came out and eventually faded away, Göppingen was also working on a much larger project, mini-club.

For further information about Minex, please see this German language page, here.

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