Start Of The Crocodile Legend


Märklin and the Swiss "Crocodile" are very close to being synonymous. Strong statement? Hardly. There has been a model of a Schweizerischen Bundesbahnen (SBB) Ce 6/8 or Be 6/8 electric locomotive in the Märklin product lineup since 1934. Models have ranged from the diminutive Z-gauge Crocodile to the superbly detailed Gauge 1 models of the mid to late 1980s. These models have achieved almost legendary status and a desirability that has steeply elevated their prices into substantial five figures.

Like the prototype, the Märklin Crocodiles span several eras, perhaps milestones is a better word, of European railroad history. A single prototype Crocodile (Ce 6/8I), known as the Köfferli-Lok because of its appearance, was completed in 1920. While this prototype was used largely for testing, construction of a successor Ce 6/8II was already underway. With it the classic crocodile shape was born as was the nickname "Crocodile".

A little more than ten years after the Crocodile started serving the Schweizerischen Bundesbahnen (SBB) over the St. Gotthard, Märklin issued their first model of this intriguing and uncommon locomotive. The story has its beginning in the very early 1930s. Märklin's representative for England, France and Switzerland had called on the Märklin dealer in Zürich and returned to Göppingen with the news that there was a strong demand for a model of the Crocodile.

Apparently, management needed very little convincing and proceeded rapidly. The model shop, then under direction of Friedrich Rieker, proceeded to develop the prototype model using photographs but without the benefit of any sort of formal scale drawings.

Before long the feasibility of producing a model of the Crocodile must have been settled, because the new offering was shown for the first time at the Leipzig Fair in the Spring of 1933. When the 1933/34 catalog came out in time for Christmas, the Crocodile was in it, but deliveries started only about two years later, in 1935 to be specific. The Crocodile was to be available in 0 and 1 Gauge. These were designated CCS 66/12920 and CCS 66/12921.

The page in the 1934 catalog covering the CCS 66/12921 model pointed out that it was a "Vollbahn Lokomotive." None of my German-English dictionaries have a translation for this term but I am fairly certain that it implied that this model of the Swiss Crocodile was Gauge 1,a gauge sufficiently large to do justice to this famous locomotive. There was nothing miniature about this engine.

Märklin

The classic 0-gauge from the 1930s. This particular one must be worth a fortune since it still has the original box (photo courtesy Märklin Germany)

Almost crude by today's standards, they were received with much enthusiasm. There was much compromise, with the most significant one being the elimination of one of the driven axles for increased ability to negotiate the tight radii of then available tinplate track. The pantographs were not operational. Both versions were painted green.

This brings up the matter of the Crocodile's color. The prototypes emerged from the factory painted brown but according to H.S. Stammer, author of Krokodil, those pressed into passenger service by the SBB were repainted green because the traditional color of passenger locomotives was green.

The origin of the designation CCS66 remains cloudy and gives model railroad historians a bit of trouble. The meaning of the letter S is disputed. It could refer to Swiss. Other historians feel it may refer to ‘modeled after an electric locomotive'. It is equally possible that there was no real system in place at Märklin before the war. The possibility that the letters CC may refer to two sets of three axles is not true either because these Crocodiles had only two sets of two axles. One Märklin Swiss locomotive with five axles was designated CS. However, it is equally possible that the CCS nomenclature was simple the Crocodile's exclusive designation. When the 00 gauge Crocodile was unveiled in 1947, it also carried the CCS designation. One thing is certain. The numeral 66 refers to Märklin's electric reversing system developed during the 1930s.

The Crocodile's motor was a simple but ingenious design. It consisted of a three-pole armature connected in series with the stator and operated on 20 volts AC. Reversing was by remote control, i.e., from the transformer using Märklin's Type 66 system. Not unlike the American Lionel system, after the locomotive stopped and was restarted, it would start off in the opposite direction. (Ultimately, the Type 66 system formed the basis of the method used to reverse the 800 and 30/31 Series 00/H0-gauge engines.) The former does not use a separate reversing unit and achieves reversing by means of a mechanical latching relay that is part of the motor's stator (field) iron core. Drivers of the large Crocodiles had to exercise considerable dexterity at the transformer controls when negotiating turnouts and other spots on those classic tinplate layouts where there always was danger of interrupted current flow. The slightest current interruption would stop the engine and reverse it on restarting.

Both models had illuminated cabins, and the Gauge 1 model featured three white and one red lamp at each end. The 0-Gauge model, however, had only two white headlight at each end. The motor of the Gauge 1 could be switched off on the track while its headlights remained on. In addition, the lights on the Gauge 1 model could be turned on according to the direction of travel.

The O-Gauge model, CCS66/12920 was available with either one or two motors. It measured 17.7 in. (450 mm) in length. Two motors were standard in the I-Gauge model - CCS66/12921. It measured an impressive 24.8 in. (630 mm). The non-functional pantographs were sprung. Both could be purchased with optional transformers. The 1936/37 catalog listed masts for catenary but pointed out that these were non-functional.

In Germany, an 0-Gauge Crocodile, with one motor, was priced at 110 Reichsmark (RM) and with two motors it was 25 RM more. The larger I-Gauge model listed for 290 RM (260 RM in the 1934 catalog). Keep in mind that the average monthly wage in Germany at that time was

250 RM. Obviously, not too many parents could afford to put a Crocodile under the Christmas tree. Both models remained in Märklin's general catalog until 1943 but this is contradicted in an article in Märklin Magazin 5/97 which gave 1933 to 1937 as the production years for the Crocodile. Given the situation at the time, it is very questionable whether or not a catalog, much less a model, was actually available but there is always the possibility that a simple catalog sheet was prepared.

The history of these large gauge Crocodiles is rich with tales of their value and not without some intrigue. While I cannot offer either of these from a personal point of view, I can vaguely remember my nose buried deep in a Märklin catalog when I was a small boy in Germany during the second World War. Obviously the stuff dreams were made of, and still are.

The author of Krokodil does recall some interesting tales. One such story pertains to a gentleman who, in early 1984, came to an auction house in Germany with a story about how he discovered an 0-gauge Crocodile with two motors produced in either 1935 or 1936. It seems the model was still in its original box and did not have a single scratch. In talking to the auction house, he related that he had seen the model at a relative's house earlier but paid little attention to it. Only later when he learned of the value of such treasures, did he investigate further. It appears that when he learned of the value of his find, he decided to keep this heirloom in the family. His identity was not revealed, and the value of the Crocodile is estimated to exceed $20,000.

In March 1989, eisenbahn magazin, the German monthly devoted to prototypes and modeling, much like the American Model Railroader, carried a small advertisement by a Swiss modeler offering a CCS66/12921 replica. There was no response when I wrote to the advertiser. Since then the author has found other bits of evidence that replicas of the CCS66/12921 are or have been manufactured.

Occasionally, hidden treasures do surface unexpectedly. In 1997, Cor Spreeuwenbarg, the owner of the Toy-Rail Museum in Oostvoome, about 15 miles (about 25 km) from Rotterdam, re-imported 14 Märklin locomotives from New York. These treasures were still packaged in their original boxes but that in itself was not the most remarkable thing about this find. What was singularly unique was that one of these engines was a beige-colored CCS 66/12920 Crocodile with the markings New York Central Line. So far the only explanation is that Märklin intended to challenge Lionel on its homeground but the advent of World War Two prevented further exploitation of this potential business opportunity.

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The priceless Märklin 00-gauge prototype "Crocodile" that is enshrined in the Märklin Museum in Göppingen (Photo courtesy Märklin)

Unquestionably, the prewar Märklin Crocodile is probably the most valuable Märklin locomotive ever produced for a number of reasons. First, since it was made during the great depression of the 1930s, there was a limited market. Production must have been limited. Then came the war and with it countless bombing raids. No doubt, more than a few were destroyed during those years and those that survived might well have been traded for food or that unique form of currency peculiar to postwar Germany - American cigarettes. It is easy to imagine that most those GIs those receiving a Crocodile for a few cartons of cigarettes probably never even sent them back to America and, worse yet, may well have disposed of them in some undignified manner. It would be interesting to know how many survived but it will be very, very few. So, it doesn't require involved mental gymnastics to understand why these have become among the most valuable Märklin objects d'art.

While writing this article in the summer of 2008, I could not help but to notice that the sales of auctioned CCS Crocodiles might have peaked. At one auction an 0-gauge model in excellent condition did not reach the asking price of 19,700 Euros ($30,535). Maybe there's a limit after all.

 

Tinplate Replicas

The desirability of the priceless tinplate Märklin Crocodiles briefly resulted in a small cottage industry in the 1980s and 1990s to satisfy enthusiasts' desires to own such treasures, not only the Swiss Crocodile, even if they were in form of a replica. There seem to have been two firms that attempted to cater to this specialized market - Hehr and Selzer (Rüdesheim) with Hehr being the better known.

The Hehr replica, No. 12920/79 was finished in brown or green. It was made to operate on AC or DC and it featured two motors. It had functioning moveable pantographs. There was interior lighting and sockets to provide lighting power to connected passenger cars. Opening doors and sprung buffers were another very nice touch. All in all the Hehr replicas are very desirable judging by the sale of one at a 2004 auction price of 2,400 Pound Sterling. Hehr did not just build the Crocodile; the company made replicas of numerous Märklin freight and passenger cars.

Less well known is the Crocodile replica made by Christian Selzer. One was offered such a model for 7,000 DM in the late 1990s. At that time the exchange rate was about 2 DM for $1.00 USD. More recently in early 2008, a Selzer CCS replica found no buyers at the Rüdesheim auction.

The 09/2008 issue of German monthly Eisenbahn/Modellbahn Magazin reported on the auction sale of an extremely rare, one-off tinplate prototype Crocodile made in 1952 by the Austrian firm Ditmar. The model had two motors, four opening doors and measures 18.3 in. long. The one-off treasure was sold for 18,600 Euros or slightly more than $26,000.  

 

Tischbahn Krokodil

With the advent of the "Tischbahn" or table top railway in 1935, and the availability of the large gauge SBB Crocodile since 1933, it was inevitable that Märklin management would have thought about a Spur 00 Crocodile.

According to Joachim Koll, writing in the 1991 issue of his Preiskatalog, the pre-production prototype 00 gauge Crocodile, CCS 700, was built in 1935. Like its larger gauge brothers, it too had the same wheel arrangement of (1'B)(B1'), (2-4-4-2 in the U.S.). Like all pre-production prototypes, the CCS 700 was handcrafted from light gauge brass, tin plate, and used some small castings produced by Märklin. No doubt Friedich Rieker, Märklin's master model maker who started his career as an apprentice in 1911, crafted this prototype. Quite foreshortened compared to the real locomotive, the prototype model appears chunky and clumsy.

It was painted green with a gray roof. The black windows were only painted on. The three very bulbous headlights at each end give the model an extremely bug-eyed appearance. The handrails are very oversized and out of proportion with the rest of the model. All axles were driven by the longitudinally mounted motor, which powered the countershaft. The countershaft was coupled to the connecting rods. All four main axles were driven. Its overall length was 8.26 in. (210 mm). This model was never produced but paved the way to development and production of the 1:76 scale CCS 800. The CCS 700 is on display in the Märklin Museum.

 

The Prewar Märklin Crocodiles

Year

Gauge

Model No.

Color

Comment

1933-40

0

CCS66/12920

Green

1 motor

1933-40

0

CCS66/12920/2

Green

2 motors

1933-38

1

CCS66/12921

Green

2 motors

1935

00

CCS 700

Green

1 motor

The prewar models were not built as scale models.

This Article

This article originally appeared in the European Train Enthusiasts (ETE) journal EXPRESS, Issue 119

 

Sources

"Märklin Krokodil", H.S. Stammer, Gebr. Märklin & Cie, GmbH, 1984, Märklin No. 0356, 1984.

"Das Grosse Krokodil-Buch", Jörg Hajt, Heel Verlag, Königswinter, Germany, 1998, ISBN 3-89365-715-0.

"Kolls Preiskatalog", 1991, ISBN 3-922164-70-6.

"Eisenbahn/Modellbahn Magazin", 09/2008.

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