The history of Märklin M-rail
Märklin launched the M-rail without the center rail 20 years before the French
railsystem with the center rail with point contacts was introduced.

The prototype of Märklins new Model Rail Road (MRR) system was a 2-rail system shown on the exhibition in Leipzig in March 1935. However, when the Märklin MRR prospect reached dealership in June 1935 it was a 3-rail system for sure. A third rail would make the powersupply more reliable and also make layout construction easier to make. It was a toy and nothing else in the beginning.

Many variations in the early days
The first months 1935 was the M-rail produced using a narrower centre rail compared to the year after. These early type of rail is very hard to find, but should be out there somewhere. In 1936 they increased the diameter of the centre rail by 2mm! In 1937 Märklin added the cut-out for cable feed through under the tracks. At the same time Märklin moved the holes for the fixing screws from a location in the centre of the rail to the ends. In 1939 they changed colour of the rails to a brownish colour based on Phosphate. The rails produced right after the war, in 1945 and 1946 didn’t have a relief, but were only painted directly on the metal.


Märklin M-rail dated mid 30's

3600-series M-rail is being introduced
Next revolution from Märklin hit the market in 1947. It was the 3600-series and the most common series of 3-rail system before the third rail went under the track. 3600-series was also produced in quite a few variants. One of them was a number of aluminium track made only in 1953. The 3600-series was manufactured using brass rails 1947 to 1952. The rails made of bent metal, which is shown by the hole inside was introduced in the market 1949. All tracks after 1952 was made using this type of rail.

Rockefeller Center 1949

Märklin participated in April 1949 a great exhibition in the Rockefeller centre in New York. It was an initiative from the German military government to promote export. Märklin displayed in addition to their standard range a “super model series” which had isolated wheels and a 2-rail system running on the same rail geometry as the standard HO-series.

Et voilá: Modelgleis
1953 was another year of revolution for Märklin M-rail system. The third rail went under the track and made contact to the pick-up shoe only by small point contacts, which came up through punched holes. It was at this time Märklin introduced the 3800/3900 modelgleis series as well. It was horribly expensive, had plastic syllar and a completely new geometry with more realistic radiuses for the turnouts. This new concept was really based on a French design made by company Veron et Braun and was manufactured on licence by Märklin. Märklin developed their system by introducing the point style contact and et voilá – The modelgleis was born ne en France… In 1956 you can therefore find three different rail systems in the Märklin catalogue.

The plastic "C"-rails is introduced
Last M-rails series 5100/5200 was manufactured in Göppingen in the early 1990s. Then they moved production to Metal Toys Kft ( today Märklin Hungary Kft).
The M-rail series 5100/5200 was included for the last time in
the main Märklin catalog 2000/2001. The production, however, went on another few years, and stocks were at retailers for some time after that. Towards the end of 2004, however, the C-rail in plastic had completely replaced the 70 years old sheet metal rails.
Perhaps plate rails back again when in the future supposed shortage of oil pushing up prices of plastic. Who knows?


Text by Thomas Johnsson and Marcus S in Sweden.