[Translate to English:] Geschichte des Metallbaukastens

The predecessor of the metal construction set is the Lilienthal set. It was invented by Gustav Lilienthal, brother of the aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal. The Lilienthal set was made of wooden stips with holes and cardboard plates, which were used to fill the spaces between the strips. The patent was registered by Otto Lilienthal, because Gustav almost went bankrupt, due to a lawsuit he lost. The patent from 1888 (Patent DRP 46312) stated:

The production of construction sets made of strips of different length, containing of multiple holes with standard spacing and connected by using straight and bended v-sized split pins and wedges. Additionally open surfaces can be covered by plates which are fixed by grooves connected to the strips.

Now it was only a small step towards metal with screws and nuts. Julius Weiss from Hamburg registered a patent in 1892 with the patent number 67599 a so called „Brückenbaukasten“ fully made out of metal parts. The set was sold in 1896 by a company called Richter, from Rudolstadt, but already one year later stopped again due to lack of success.

In the last century approx. 450 brands and systems were developed, but most of them disappeared shortly after.


The real breakthrough for metal construction sets was made in 1901 with the patent from Frank Hornby from Liverpool (UK). Frank Hornby was an ingenious inventor from Britain, a business man and a conservative politician with a membership in the parliament. His objection to existing systems was their complexity as well as the lack of dynamics, i.e. moving resp. rotating parts.

Firstly he brought a construction set named „Mechanics made easy“ to the market, but changed the name in 1908 to „Meccano“. The advantage of this system is the standardisation of components, especially the 1/2 inch hole spacing (1 inch = 25,4 mm), which still is a international standard today. Also revolutionary although obvious was the screwing technique (in 5/32 inch) used in this construction set. Due to these facts this system and others based on it found high acceptance especially among engineers who used it for simulation of statical and other problems.

Meccano Ltd. only took a few years to become a worldwide enterprise. In 1916 the Meccano Magazine was published for the first time and reached a number of 70'000 copies at its zenith. In 1926 at the 25th anniversary „Meccano in Colours“ in red and green was introduced. The colours were changed several times in the following years. In 1930 Gold became the standard in the UK for girders etc and blue with gold grid for plates. In 1960 Meccano Ltd was acquired by Lines Bros Ltd. To redefine the image colours were changed to yellow, black and Silver. After another takeover by Airfix industries in 1971, production of Meccano in England was discontinued in 1980.


In Germany Märklin produced a metal construction set since 1914. As from 1917 Märklin officially acquired trademark right and protection of the Meccano brand. Märklin integrated the product in their own range of products. It was brought to the market named „Meccano Märklin“. In 1919 it was rebranded to „Metall=Baukasten Märklin“. Märklin's official statement was:

Our construction sets are now furnished with a wide range of extensions and innovations. The new sets will be distinguished from the old ones with the new brand „Metall=Baukasten Märklin“ instead of „Meccano Märklin“. Märklin provides full warranty for our construction sets which reached perfection and ingenuity.

The emblem of the „new“ construction set was a boy in shorts who stood besides a tower crane.

In 1929 Märklin also introduced colours; green, red, blue and black became the standard. In 1975/1976 the construction set was rebranded to „märklin metall“. Also the number of basic sets was reduced, but all single parts were still available. In the early 80's new sets like farm machines, construction and freight vehicles were introduced. All parts, normally in green and red, were painted orange. In 1987 again a full revision of „märklin metall“ was done. The orange coloured sets were discontinued and also the basic sets were redefined. In 1989 the set „Eiffel tower“ was introduced. In the 90's Märklin created an airplane (DO-X), a Mississippi steamer, the Giant Ferris Wheel from Vienna as well as several transmission extension sets. In 1999 Märklin discontinued production and „märklin metall“ was no longer sold.


METALLUS and ASHOK are 100% compatible to Meccano and Märklin metal construction sets and offers more than 1000 different parts. Many Meccano- and Märklin-, as well as a large number of newly developed parts are available in our Shop.