Make tracks for German museum dedicated to Maerklin trains and other toys
Stars and Stripes February 8, 2024
The fancy model trains produced by renowned toymaking company Maerklin were a hit with GIs in the aftermath of World War II when U.S. forces set up shop around the German town of Goppingen.
Nowadays, the Maerklineum museum is dedicated to telling the company’s history and showcasing some of the toys that made its reputation.
On a recent visit, I arrived with an awareness of the model trains but little else pertaining to the Maerklin story. Luckily, the information panels in English did a good job of filling me in on the details.
Founded in 1859, the company made its name on the high quality of the metal toys developed at its factory about 30 miles southeast of Stuttgart.
Although I’m not a model train aficionado, knowing some of the background and Goppingen’s history as an old U.S. Army garrison town made my tour more enriching.
There are hundreds of models on display, some dating back well over 100 years. They have the sturdy look of toys from a bygone era when things were built to last.
In the early 1900s, the company was already a major name for high-end toys. A few cargo car models that caught my eye were made for U.S. export from around 1910.
The models advertised the big American beer brands of the time: Pabst Blue Ribbon, “the beer of quality,” Schlitz, “the beer that made Milwaukee famous,” and Budweiser, which even then was called the “king of beers.”
In addition to trains, the museum also displays some of the other toys it was known for in the early days of the company, such as dollhouses and miniature sets to decorate them.
There also are model cars and replicas of German train stations. On the ground level, there is an elaborate setup of a model train track coursing around a German town.
Toy companies, incidentally, weren’t immune from becoming part of the Nazi war machine during World War II. Maerklin was required to use its manufacturing prowess to develop telecommunications equipment, vehicles and weapons.
And it did so with the forced labor of foreign workers, according to the museum.
I noticed a mix of ages during my visit. Young and old alike seemed to check out the displays in earnest, a sign of the multigenerational appeal of model trains.
The gift shop has a huge collection of model trains, tracks and various assembly kits. I left empty-handed, but probably wouldn’t have if I was more of an enthusiast.
Address: Reuschstrasse 6, Goppingen, Germany
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: Admission is 10 euros for adults, 6 euros for children
Information: Online: maerklineum.de