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A layout at a 2008 show of 0 gauge trains in Prague, Czech Republic highlights ETS,and Zanka, trains along with the well known M? ¤rklin of the past and ACE Trains of today. Duchess Class steam locomotives, Brighton Bell electrics, Stanier Tanks, steam hauled Pullmans, and French Pacifics dominated the 0 gauge 3-rail scene in 2009 as ACE, MTH, and the new Darstaed all delivered a cornucopia of locomotives, passenger coaches, and freight wagons to the European 3-rail enthusiasts. However, if you are one who still holds to the definition of tinplate trains as trains of all metal, stamped sheet construction, with additional metal castings for detail, and even lithography for added small details, then you would probably be very interested in the Electric Train Systems (ETS) of Prague, the Czech Republic. Considered a two-rail system by most European train hobbyists who operate the trains, ETS equipment readily operates on 3-rail track systems and nearly 40% of the trains produced are made for 3-rail operation. For the US customer, ETS produced a line of logging locomotives and rolling stock (lumber wagons, gondolas, small passenger cars, and cabooses) that have US knuckle couplers and are derived from ETS models of European prototypes. ETS's first locomotives were characterized by small steam, electric, and diesel locomotives representing engines of the Czechoslovak State Railways (CSD). For example, ETS introduced its first Mallet locomotive, a type of articulated locomotive, in 1994 and this model represented the type of mountain locomotives used at the turn of the 20th century in Bavaria and Switzerland. 2004: ETS is the first company to produce an 0 gauge tinplate version of the Garrett 2-6-0+0-6-2 steam locomotive.
ETS produces their model in three liveries; the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), South African Railways, and the "Ferrocarril Entre Rios" (FCER), one of the many railroads to exist in Argentina prior to nationalization in 1947. 2004: ETS introduced their first diesel locomotive, a model of the British Rail Class 20 locomotive previously termed the English Electric Type 1. Two hundred twenty eight of the 73 ton freight locomotive were built between 1957 and 1968. By 2008 ETS offered the Austerity model in four liveries including two British Railways versions, the War Department, and the Longmoor Military Railway (LMR) where the Royal Engineers trained soldiers on railway construction and operations and actually employed two Austerity 2-8-0s after the war. ETS has expanded its range of freight cars from the original four in 1991 to nearly 100 in the 2009 catalog including covered goods wagons, gondolas, wine wagons, tank wagons, refrigerated wagons etc. ETS passenger wagons were also originally modeled on two axle CSD coaches used in local passenger service. ETS and Gustav Taus journey from Prague to attend the large TCA Eastern Division train meet at York, Pennsylvania every six months and you can find him, his son, and his trains along the outer back wall in the noisy, crowded Orange Hall. For the past several years I have been interested in the M? ¤rklin 0 gauge trains and my collecting concentrates on the more prototypical passenger and freight wagons of the 1930s. Hoping to actually operate my M? ¤rklin trains some day I have, for some time, been looking also for firms that produce what I call "M? ¤rklin-compatible" trains; rolling stock that has the look and feel of 0 gauge trains M? ¤rklin might have produced had it continued or revived the production of their 0 gauge tinplate line.
Originally I looked to ETS as a source of additional freight equipment, especially covered goods wagons, with their ever expanding line of colorful private owner wagons. I have discovered two firms that produce both replica and Marlin-compatible freight wagons. DE? ?K MODELLSPORT, of Budapest, Hungary, has been producing both replicas of M? ¤rklin freight equipment and new M? ¤rklin-compatible equipment at least since the mid 1990s. De? ?k also offers M? ¤rklin sized tank wagons without the brakeman's hut and tank wagons without any markings providing an additional variety of wagons for an operator.
A couple years ago De? ?k offered twenty six different 0 gauge freight wagons plus a range of track and switches.
Recent additions to the line include two passenger coaches, 35 cm in length and in Swiss markings, and seven scale oriented covered goods wagons including yellow and orange Banana wagons. MERKUR: I should note that Merkur, also located in the Czech Republic, is again producing 0 gauge tinplate trains. The author's ETS BR 64 is temporarily reassigned from local passenger service to move Merkur and M? ¤rklin mineral wagons to the port. With ETS, ZANKA, and MERKUR all located in the Czech Republic, those Czechs must love their trains!! Yet Elettren, of Milan, Italy, has been relatively unknown here in the US and its history and impact on toy train developments apparently is largely undocumented.
Many of us have only discovered these beautiful trains through the internet, on-line forums, and on-line auctions where the coaches command a premium price.
In 1946 Armando Ravasini produced his first 0 gauge locomotives, models of the Ansaldo 2-B-B-2 heavy electric FS E.428 and the Pacific steam locomotive FS 691 in Milan. The start of Elettren also launched another famous name in model trains, Fulgurex of Laussane, Switzerland.
Over the last six decades, three generations of Ravasinis have pushed the state-of-art in model train construction and produced increasingly sophisticated models. One of Elettren's newest wagons, a 2nd class passenger coach of the Italian State Railways, circa 1910. One of Armando Ravasini's first locomotives was a model of the Italian Ansaldo 2-B-B-2 (i.e. Armando Ravasini's second locomotive was a model of the Italian 4-6-2 steam locomotive class FS 691. Incorporating a large number of metal castings such as the Westinghouse type steam pump (used for the compressed air brake system) on the front of the locomotive, pressure gauges, valves, and firebox doors that opened and closed in the engineer's cab, the Elettren locomotive achieved a level of detail not previously seen on ready-to-run tinplate locomotives. In addition to the Pacific FS 691, Elettren also produced a 2-8-2 Mikado, the FS 746 class locomotive which was very similar in appearance to the Pacific. The six axle transformer wagons (originally produced in green and subsequently in brown liveries) are unique models in the world of toy trains.
ETS, De? ?k, Zanka, Merkur, and Elettren all produce 3-rail, ready-to-run, 0 gauge tinplate trains. I want to thank ETS, Zanka, and Elettren for the use of images of their products from their websites and the additional photos they provided for this article.

I have had to read this article a couple of times, so as to take in the written information provided and those pictures really gives the reader extra knowledge into this section of toy trains.
But with the exception of the MTH 231E Chapelon Pacific, most of the trains were oriented towards the fans of British railways. There are European firms that, although not well known here in the US, continue to produce trains for the continental 3-rail, 0 gauge enthusiast. Today the term has come to mean a class of model trains that are produced in quantity and ready-to-run, coarse scale in definition, and operate on non-scale sized rails. The trains are actually made, not in Asia, but in Prague where ETS also has, in the past, produced train equipment for other brands.
For example in addition to their own coupler, ETS trains can be purchased with US knuckle couplers, M? ¤rklin styled fix-couplers, or Hornby and ACE styled couplers of the UK. Typically the steam engines were tank engines, sometimes not based on a particular prototype but rather were a representation of a general type of locomotive, frequently for mountain railways. Over the last 18 years ETS has continued to expand its offerings, producing bigger locomotives and locomotives with a broader appeal. Eighteen of these second generation "Croc" locomotives were originally constructed to pull heavy freight trains over the Gotthard pass in Switzerland.
Although a Swiss company "Keiser" produced an 0 gauge coarse scale model of the Crocodile for a short time, the Keiser locomotives are rather hard to find. Locomotives of the Garrett design have the boiler mounted on the center frame and the two steam engines are mounted on each end of the boiler on separate frames as well.
ETS produces their model of the diesel in two British Rail liveries and also correctly in the orange and white livery of French railway CFD (Compagnie de Chemins de Fer Departementaux'). The prototype locomotives were built in Britain during World War II by the War Department to support the liberation of Europe. Given that 181 of the 2-8-0's locomotives remained in and around the Netherlands employed by the Nederlands Spoorwegen (as the class 4300II), it will be interesting to see if ETS produces the Austerity model in the livery of the Dutch railway. The prototypes were built in 1946 and distributed into Eastern Europe by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The locomotive was nicknamed Glaskasten or "glass box" because the driver's cab with three windows per side that surrounded the entire boiler. ETS freight cars are predominately based on CSD freight cars although the 2009 catalog displays covered goods wagons based on German designs.
Then in 2005 ETS introduced rugged, four axle wagons, 41 cm in length, based on passenger coaches found on the German, Swiss, Austrian, and French railways including MITROPA sleeping and dining coaches. First, you can purchase the drive trains, including motor, worm gear drive, and wheels, for two, three, and four axle locomotives for your own modeling efforts.
He is always ready to talk about European trains and demonstrate his rugged 0 gauge system. Today the better known firms involved in M? ¤rklin trains, such as Ritter Restoration and Hehr, tend to produce replicas of M? ¤rklin freight wagons on a limited production basis and don't venture into equipment that M? ¤rklin did not originally produce.
If you look closely at the ETS web site and the ZANKA web site you'll note that Gustav Taus and Jiri Zanka have collaborated on a couple of their wagons including the silo and acid wagons. They are not inexpensive but they are well constructed, solid, hefty, and very smooth runners.
Merkur started out in the early 1920's producing metal construction kits, like our Erector sets, and in 1930 began the development of metal electric trains.
Whereas the other model train firms, right after the war, furthered the development of their H0 models with improved fidelity at the expense of the 0 gauge trains, Armando Ravasini focused on what we today would call a niche market. Fulgurex was started by Antonio Giansanti Coluzzi - Count Coluzzi - in 1947 to handle the distribution of Elettren trains. Taking advantage of the latest in manufacturing technologies, first in stamping tinplate and subsequently in photoengraving and pad printing and today with chemical milling and laser cutting, Elettren trains are renowned for their precision and fidelity to their prototypes. The models are illuminated and upholstered and considered the high-end of coarse scale trains. Over the last 63 years Elettren has produced this engine in various liveries and with one or two motors.
Thirty-three of these large steam locomotives were created around 1930 and used for fast passenger service out of Milan to Venice, Bologna, and Domodossola on the Italian-Swiss boarder. Today it is considered a transitional locomotive in the developmental history of toy trains as the locomotive represents a significant step up in the detail that was applied to model locomotives. Unfortunately neither of these detailed locomotives are produced any more but they both have been appearing at the major toy train auction sites. All the wagons were fairly large wagons with four or even six axles and employed both stamped sheet metal and diecast construction but detail was an important feature of these wagons as well.
Maurizio Ravasini expects tinplate products will continue to represent about 20% of Elettren's range. The fan of European continental trains does have a good range of products to choose from today.
I also want to thank Gustav Taus of ETS for taking the time to talk to me at the York TCA meets while also demonstrating his products to interested customers. Those interested in 3-rail 0 gauge trains of the European continent may have thought that they had to wait for 2010 to see new 0 gauge trains. The purpose of this article is to look at what is happening on the European Continent today in 3-rail 0 gauge trains.
The rugged "MAXI" gauge 1 system was initially produced for M? ¤rklin by ETS for a short time.

Today's ETS 2009 catalog lists no less than 33 steam locomotives from 0-4-0s to 2-8-0s to 2-6-0+0-6-2s, twenty electric locomotives including the famous Swiss Crocodiles, and three diesels. A total of 3 built in 1926 and all three were retired around 1983.The locomotives also had electrical heating equipment so that they could be used for passenger service in the winter if needed. The Crocodile has been part of the M? ¤rklin model railroading program, in gauges 1, O, HO, and Z, since 1933 and the many M? ¤rklin models alone have immortalized this famous locomotive. The ETS models are available today and prove to be a good representation of these famous Swiss engines.
Articulation of the three frames permits large locomotives to negotiate tight curves and light rails, and these locomotives were employed in Europe, Africa, and South America on various track gauges. ETS produces the locomotives in the liveries of the UNRRA livery and the US Army Transportation Corp.
ETS produces the engine in three liveries; the green and black livery of the K? ¶niglich Bayerische Staatseisenbahn is very attractive. ETS uses multi-colored lithography extensively and has a large roster of vividly colorful private owner wagons including beer reefers.
Second, and probably more unique, is that as you scan through the past years catalogs you realize that they normally include previous years trains that continue to be available. But looking back, M? ¤rklin's range of prototypical 0 gauge train products, particularly the covered goods wagons, was somewhat limited.
M? ¤rklin's #1774 series tank wagons all had a screw type filler cap on the top of the wagon and a spigot on the side so that young engineers could actually transport liquids around their home railroad empire (and which may account for the rusted condition these neat tank wagons are frequently found in today.) De? ?k offers a replica line of the #1774 but also has a line with a more prototypical hatch release and no spigots.
The acid wagon, with its ten acid flasks, is quite detailed for a coarse scale freight wagon. The only English language book that I have found to address Elettren's history of production and illustrate many of its products is the beautiful coffee table book "The Trains on Avenue De Rumine" by Count Antonio Coluzzi. But Elettren started in the mid-forties by producing tinplate 3 rail trains and even today nearly 20% of the firm's production is tinplate trains. He set out to make 0 gauge trains that were intended to improve upon the pre-war trains of Marklin. Fulgurex, of course, has been known for many years as a leader in developing model trains for the connoisseur. With interior lighting, doors that are spring loaded to open and close, upholstered furniture, cloth bedding and pillows on beds in sleeping coaches and cooking gear in kitchens of dining cars, Elettren passenger coaches are elaborate in the included detail. Built in the late 1930s, early 1940s by the company Ansaldo, the prototypes were huge, heavy locomotives intended for fast service on the Italian State Railways' new electrified lines. But where Lionel employed diecast detail, such as the piping on the engine, Elettren used externally applied wire and rod to represent the locomotive's piping.
Representing mobile power substations used by the Italian State Railways for work on their electrified system, with insulators, radiators, transformers, and personnel cabins, one wonders if the Ravasinis made this wagon in order to inject their love of detail into the freight wagon series.
Significantly, he notes that "in the future we like to continue our tradition of tin plate with some new models." An exciting possibility is a new steam locomotive! With the expected arrival of the new Darstaed coaches and the new MTH continental locomotives in 2010 it looks like the range of products available will be expanded in the future. A special thanks also to Maurizio Ravasini for entertaining an international phone call and providing an interesting discussion of Elettren trains.
Moreover, those who are surfing around the Net will also benefit from this information provided. Five companies: ETS, De?  k, Zanka, Merkur, and Elettren all have been producing hand made, 0 gauge, tinplate trains in their native countries of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Italy for many years. They can be constructed from various materials including plastic, stamped sheet metal, and die cast molds.
ETS is the only company to produce this locomotive in the coarse scale, 0 gauge tinplate style. The M? ¤rklin 0 gauge model of this locomotive can command prices of $20,000 or more at auctions.
Additionally, after an initial production run has been sold, ETS may even be willing to reproduce the train item based on popularity and production priorities. The last time we visited I asked Gustav why he has made the trip so regularly over these many years. There was not a great variety in the freight wagons with the exception of the colorful #1774 tank wagon series where M? ¤rklin produced the bulky looking tank wagons in seven different oil company liveries such as Shell Oil, British Petroleum, and ESSO. First, the profiles of the Czech freight wagons are different than those of the German covered goods wagon M? ¤rklin modeled - the "type GR Kassel". This work has four and a half pages of pictures and text illustrating several Elettren locomotives, passenger, and freight wagons through 1980. One might say that MTH took this approach of added detail through many castings to its next level with their beautiful Chapelon Pacific 231E delivered in 2009.
Finally I need to thank my friend Robert Schreyer who always is willing to help me keep my facts straight.
Even though I do have a couple Merkur wagons in my collection, I really don't know much about the trains or the company.
The resultant size difference is noticeable when the two products are together making up a freight train.

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