Model railways: What's hot in 2023!

New products on and around the tracks

By Peter Pernsteiner

Model railway manufacturers presented some new products full of history at the Spielwarenmesse 2023. Strolling through Hall 7A in Nuremberg, trade fair visitors were able to admire the detailed models close up.

The most popular gauge among Märklin’s new model railway exhibits was the 1:87 H0 scale. Alongside their numerous models in countless liveries, the company announced several new products, including the older design steam locomotive Class 01.10, the diesel locomotive Class 120, General Electric’s heavy American diesel locomotive ES44AC, the Swedish electric locomotive Rc5 and the 468 mm long electric rail car train ET85 together with an ES85 driving trailer. The modern Vectron locomotive comes in a new design as a 236 mm long dual-mode locomotive. As in the prototype, it produces the sound of an electric locomotive when the pantographs are raised and otherwise a diesel locomotive sound. Amongst the new coaches is an impressive six coach rake of an Edelweiss Pullman Express set coming in at 1.57 metres and based on a 1925 train. (Märklin)

H0 train set by Diecast Masters based on the prototype from the Caterpillar company Progress Rail. (Photo: Pernsteiner)

Jouef and Rivarossi presented the heavy modern Vossloh diesel locomotive DE 18 in H0 gauge as a 195 mm long metal model with sound electronics. Diecast Masters, known for its detailed Caterpillar construction vehicle models, exhibited the long announced American H0 train set. The 83 cm long train, based on the original Progress Rail Company model, consists of a heavy, 26 cm long American EMD SD70ACe diesel locomotive, three freight wagons and an oval track together with a speed controller. Two extremely detailed 1:87 CAT construction vehicles are carried on the 22 cm long 4-axle flat wagon - the 12M3 motor grader and the M323F railroad wheeled excavator. (Diecast Masters)

Diversity in different gauges

Let's take a look at the model railway novelties in scales other than 1:87. Tillig Modellbahnen announced a passenger train set in TT gauge (1:120), based on the Prussian KPEV prototype, as well as some more modern versions from the 1950s. They also have a replica of a set of two saloon coaches dating from 1966 which were used by the former GDR government. Also new is a DB AG driving trailer. Tillig plans to launch the double-decker coach in TT scale in 2024. (Tillig Modellbahnen)

Märklin has some new designs in its Minitrix N gauge (1:160) range, including a modern Class 193 Vectron locomotive with four pantographs, 4-axle silo wagons as well as self-unloading wagons and the 115 cm long seven-part Metropolitan express train coach rake.

Kato is putting the legendary 40 metre-long Big Boy steam locomotive on N tracks, complete with electronic sounds. Thanks to its special articulated frame, it is capable of navigating 282 mm radius curves. (Kato)

Lemke also has some new N-gauge products under itsHobbytrain brand, including Class E 60 and Re 4/4 IV electric locomotives as well as Swiss open coaches and a car train driving trailer. (Lemke)

Märklin nowhas a Class ETA 150 battery-powered rail car and driving trailer in Z gauge (1:220), as well as the Class Klv 20 small car, based on a VW Bulli, just 217 mm long.

Märklin presented photos of the gauge 1 Pig's Snout rail car (Photo: Märklin)

As already announced in autumn, Märklin is launching the 6-axle Class 151 electric locomotive for 45 mm tracks in 1:32 scale (gauge 1) and, as the latest highlight, the Wismar Class VT 88.9 rail car. The 365 mm long intricately detailed model is affectionately known by its nickname, the "Pig's Snout”, in reference to its protruding engine at the front. It is produced in six versions and even has sliding doors that can be opened by servomotors.

To YouTube: Video about the Märklin gauge 1 novelties 2023

And lastly, the Märklin LGB brand also has some new items planned for the gauge G garden railway system (also 45 mm gauge, but a different scale). The Swiss steam locomotive Rhaetia is a finely detailed model made of metal with steam output from the vacuum brakes, whistle, cylinders and chimney. The 153 cm long two-part RhB rail car Capricorn can be complemented by two 77 cm long intermediate coaches. USA fans can look forward to the P42 diesel locomotive, also 77 cm long, in two versions, as well as baggage and passenger coaches, 76 and 80 cm long respectively.

New model railway accessories

The 1:87 scale model of a tunnel boring machine (Gripper) recently launched by Faller as a kit, is an impressive 97 cm long (see lead photo above). The original is being used in the construction of the 64 km long Brenner base tunnel, for example. The 85 mm large drill head is turned by a small motor at a sedate pace and if you want an even more impressive Gripper, you can optionally extend it with a supplementary set of three trailing units. (Faller)

Viessmann presented a petrol station kit and a digital price board for the 1:87 CarMotion system (Photos: Pernsteiner)

Last year Viessmann launched the CarMotion car system for H0 model railway layouts and has now added more lorries as well as semi-trailers. Another new feature is an infrared stopping module. It enables the autonomously driving cars to brake at configurable points and then stop completely at another point with the help of an additional stop magnet. The 33 mm high LCD advertising board units in 1:87 scale are also great additions. They have a display with 80x160 pixels that show up to 15 storable images in alternation. The two-sided 44 mm high display unit has a similarly realistic design and shows the prices of fuel at petrol stations. The fuel prices can be changed at any time and as often as desired with a simple Bluetooth app. (Viessmann)

To YouTube: Interview about Viessmann’s H0 CarMotion-System

Digital technology for railway layouts

Hornby wants to simplify entry into digital model railway control with its new HM7000 control concept based on a free Bluetooth app for smartphones. Various digital decoders with and without integrated sound electronics are being developed that can be installed in locomotive models using one of the common 6-, 8-, 18- or 21-pin decoder interfaces. Locomotives that have been converted in this way only require a DC voltage for operation on the track using a smartphone. Alternatively, the locomotives can be controlled on layouts using a DCC digital command station. (Hornby)

Wireless handheld control from Märklin for one-hand operation in landscape and portrait format (Photo: Pernsteiner)

Wireless model railway control is becoming increasingly common everywhere, predominantly on the basis of WLAN technology. From May, a wireless remote handheld controller will be available for the Märklin CS2 and CS3 digital control centres. The layout of the battery-operated wireless remote handheld controller is based on the mobile station handheld controller, which is still available, but its handling has been adapted. The control button is easier to grip and there is a pop socket on the back to facilitate one-handed operation. A position sensor ensures that the display can be read in portrait format - even for left-handers. (Märklin)

To YouTube: Interview about the Märklin Mobile Station WLAN

Great fairground lighting effects can be created with a Smart Effects LED light strip set from Faller that can be controlled via Bluetooth. It includes an amazing 150 individually addressable RGB LEDs over a length of 50 cm. Three light strip extensions are available for the control unit supplied with the starter set. The universally applicable USB Car System charger, announced in 2021, will be available from May 2023. (Faller)

To YouTube: Interview about the Faller Smart Effects LED light strips and H0 tunnel boring machine

Dietz Elektronik also presented a wide range of electronic model railway accessories. The company has expanded its tried and tested STP-16 point switch and universal panel to include the "indirect points" function. It enables users of simple digital control units and handheld controllers to trigger and store complex routes easily. The 14x9 mm small sound module with SUSI interface is ideal for N-gauge models. The 270 mm long digital LED light strip for coach retrofitting has some interesting extra functions such as a random timer and an adjustable switch-on delay. (Dietz Elektronik)

Model railway Creativity

The H0 model "Forgotten Place Locomotive" by Noch is made of hard foam. (Photo: Pernsteiner)

Noch presented a variety of innovations for model railway layouts at the fair in Nuremberg. For example, they announced the launch of 3D printed colour figures in 1:87 and 1:160. They bring to life the theme worlds of engine sheds, station platforms, freight loading, police operations, post offices and road works. The sets of four to six 1:87 figures each come with numerous extra items for the particular scenario. A further addition is the H0 Easy-Track Layout Kit "Theisensee”. It enables the construction of a compact little mountain scenario with bridges and tunnels on an area of only 125 x 105 cm. And anyone that has ever dreamt of integrating forgotten places into their layout can now purchase the Abandoned Place model “Locomotive” made of hard foam. It can be painted to look like a decayed steam locomotive. (Noch)

There were some interesting locomotive kits in other exhibition halls. Cobi, for example, exhibited a first model of its Class 52 steam locomotive with tender consisting of more than 2400 bricks. It is said to be on a scale of about 1:35 and is compatible with the typical Lego rail spacing of just under 38 mm. It comes with matching tracks and sleepers that even have a wood grain. (Cobi)

Finely detailed Revell Class 03 kit in 1:87 scale (Photo: Pernsteiner)

If you want to build a very detailed locomotive and tender in 1:87 scale, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Revell. They have a 266 mm long Class 03 express locomotive as a plastic injection moulding kit consisting of 136 parts. (Revell)

Although not quite so true to detail, the many wooden and metal locomotive kits on show at the Spielwarenmesse were nevertheless very decorative. For example, Ugears exhibited a laser-cut wooden kit of 504 parts for a 57 cm long and 12.5 cm high Hogwarts Express train for 4 cm tracks. It consists of a steam locomotive with a tender and a passenger coach. The locomotive has a mechanical motor with a metal spring winding mechanism. (Ugears)

The metal locomotive kits from Metal-Time are also fully movable and some even have lighting. The 36.5 cm long Polar Steel locomotive with tender, based on the film Polar Express, was among the exhibits. Depending on the version, the kit consists of 239 blank or coloured sheet laser-cut steel parts. It includes LEDs, sound electronics and a drive motor. The second new kit is called Heavy Loco and is 48.5 cm long. This is a steam locomotive with winding spring drive, a tender and a coach that can be built with 234 parts. (Metal Time)

The 256-piece metal kit for the very futuristic-looking 51 cm long streamlined steam locomotive Dazzling Steamliner from Time for Machine exudes technical brilliance. The locomotive has a spring lift motor and the kit includes parts for tracks with a total length of 153 cm.  (Time for Machine)

Kit by Veter Models made of plywood and plexiglass (Photo: Pernsteiner) Pernsteiner)

The 3D puzzles from Veter Models are a fascinating combination of thin plywood panels and laser-cut Plexiglas panels. One of the highlights at the stand was the Thunderstorm Express kit consisting of 538 parts. The 35 cm long streamlined locomotive with tender has lots of moving parts and a spring winding mechanism as well as a changeover switch for forward and reverse. (Veter Models)

About the author:

Peter Pernsteiner, Engineering graduate and freelance journalist, discovered his love of technical journalism when studying electrical engineering and joined the editorial staff of a large ICT trade magazine soon after. Since 1994, he has worked as a freelance journalist, focusing on tech topics – including for model railway magazines. In 2016, he also started a YouTube channel for technology reports which has since attracted global attention. He also publishes video interviews with exhibitors on this channel under the search command ”Spielwarenmesse 2023“.