Darstaed is the name of a train manufacturer with an acclaimed heritage. The original Darstaed line was founded in 1966 by
Marcel R. Darphin of Zug, Switzerland. Original production of Darstaed items took place in Switzerland. In addition to a less known fine scale line
of 'O' gauge model train wagons produced in very limited quantities, primarily of Swiss and French prototypes, Darphin also manufactured excellent reproductions
of the classic Märklin 40 cm tinplate #1941 series 'O' gauge (1:43.5) coaches, and then he also produced models in the #1941 style that Märklin
never made, most of which have become classics in their own right.
In the mid-1930’s Märklin pushed tinplate train construction to its zenith with their 'O' gauge #1941 series of passenger cars commonly referred to as the
40 cm coaches. Märklin produced nine different passenger, baggage, and postal wagons in their #1941 series in Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) green,
Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) blue, and MITROPA burgundy-red liveries. Five cars with Swiss SBB markings were also produced.
Features on these cars included doors that opened and optional detailed interior fittings and lights were available. Today these Märklin wagons
are highly sought after and draw steep prices in auctions. From the late 1960’s until 1987 Darphin, along with his friend Marcel Rossi, under the
Darstaed name produced 31 types of passenger, baggage, and postal wagons replicating this style. The expanded range included Rheingold, Swiss SBB,
French SNCF, KPEV (Prussian State Railways) and early CIWL teak-sided cars. They were all very attractive train wagons. But only 6000 of these
cars were produced and today these original Darstaed wagons are highly sought after and come with high price tags.
In 1993 Andries Grabowsky, of the Netherlands bought the Darstaed Tinplate line of products including the tooling, dies and
brand name from Marcel Darphin. Since then Darphin sporadically produced an occasional model and some accessories. Grabowsky had been engaged in model
train manufacturing starting in 1991. Originally based in Taiwan, he designed and manufactured two models in HO scale for the Dutch market. These were the
NS 2400 and the NS DE-2 (diesel electric 2-coach motor units). Both of these models won the first prize at the Nuremberg toy show for Dutch models in 1991 and 1992.
Grabowsky planned to again produce and expand the famous line of Darstaed tinplate coaches. In 1994 Andries paid a visit to the U.K. and
spent time with a former distributor of Mr. Darphin's products, Mr. Ron Budd. Budd was a well-known and respected collector as well as a founding member of
the Hornby Railway Collectors Association (HRCA). In the course of their discussions, Ron put forward an idea to Andries, that of
manufacturing an 'O' gauge replica of the Hornby 4-4-4 clockwork locomotive originally produced in the 1920's but this time
with an electric motor. The 4-4-4 electric was subsequently made. In 1995, Grabowsky partnered with Allen Levy, and a company originally called Allchem
Trains Ltd. to distribute the
4-4-4 locomotive in Great Britain. The name changed later to ACE (The initials of Allen, Charlotte and Emily Levy) and the company
began producing other tinplate trains in British style. Andries Grabowsky was the creator of the line of ACE trains that were
produced first in Taiwan and starting in 1996 in Madras, India. Another manufacturing facility was opened in January 2000 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The success of the ACE product line delayed the start of reproduction Darstaed coaches.
Among Andries Grabowsky’s creations designed and manufactured by him and sold under the ACE Trains brand can be counted the 4-4-4 locomotive, a 4-4-2
locomotive, an A3 and A4 locomotives, an 0-6-0 locomotive, a 4-4-0 locomotive, Castle class locos, a Station Canopy as well as all coaches and tankers
made until 2009. In August of 2008, the arrangement
with Allen Levy and ACE Trains ended. Andries Grabowsky returned to his original company name, Vintage Trains, and continued to manufacture trains in Bangkok.
Under the Darstaed name, Grabowsky began to produce Pannier Tank engines, 3F Jinty tank locomotives, an A1 Peppercorn Tornado, a Castle Class 4-6-0
express passenger locomotive, and a die-cast A4 Pacific locomotive in coarse scale 'O' gauge.
Grabowsky's array of Darstaed tinplate locomotives also included an 0-6-0 Tender engine, the LNER (London North Eastern Railway)
J-Class 0-6-0 in five different LNER and British Rail liveries. These locomotives were a derivative of the ACE 0-6-0 tender locomotive manufactured
for ACE by Grabowsky in Thailand. A tinplate 'O' gauge 2-6-2 Prairie tank locomotive was also offered in a wide variety of British,
French, Australian, New Zealander, Dutch and German liveries. It sold for $445. Locomotives were made of die-cast metal and ran natively on 12-24 volt DC current fitted
with Mabuchi motors and gearbox. AC conversions were available on request for an extra $25. Locos also feature working headlamps and sequential lighting systems.
In 2009 a series of 35 cm British Pullmans including models of the Southern Railway's electric powered luxury train the Brighton Belle which ran from
Victoria Station, London to Brighton on the Sussex coast were produced. Production included a limited number of 35 cm 1st Class Parlour Pullmans to
celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Hornby Railway Collectors Association (HRCA). Regular Brighton Belle production consisted of 3 rakes of 5 cars
each with full interior details, working table lamps, working tail lamp and route indicators and sprung bogies. Nine Pullman sets and 4 bar cars in other
British liveries were also available. These included the Golden Arrow, Cunarder, New Century Bar, Queen of Scots, Devon Belle, The Hadrian Bar, Yorkshire Pullman,
South Wales Pullman, The Trianon Bar, Thanet / Kentish, Tees / Tyne Pullman, Daffodil Bar and Torbay / Bournemouth Belle.
Darstaed 'O' gauge Tinplate Advans
Modern Darstaed production also included the introduction of a series of 'O' gauge 4 wheel tinplate Advans. These original Darstaed Advans bore
classic British advertisements from products available during the golden age of railroading. They were adorned with detailed lithography, and sold for $49 each.
8 different vans were modeled, including Rowntree's Cocoa for the North Eastern Railway, Melrose's Teas for the Caledonian Railway, Wright's Coal Tar Soap for the
South Eastern & Chatham Railway, Bass Ale for the Midland Railway, Henry A. Murton LTD. Waterproofers for the North Eastern Railway, Rocket Lubricating Oil for
the Great Eastern Railway, Wood Milne Rubber Wheels for the London North Western Railway and The Captain Magazine for the Great Western Railway. Only 500 of
each livery were made. Modern Darstaed also manufactured die-cast metal 'O' gauge mineral wagons packaged in a set of six with different numbering on each
wagon in the set. These sold for $225 per set.
Darstaed had gone into a slumber in 1996 but was revived by the summer of 2008 and was then able to look
back on very successful years, not only in the British market but also in the U.S.A., Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand and
subsequently appointed nine distributors and numerous agents world-wide. All sales are through these distributors. Production was moved
out of Thailand in 2009 to Xiamen, China. All production takes place on-premises using on-site facilities which include metal stamping, tin printing, plating
and spraying, always striving to achieve the very highest of production standards. Darstaed attempts to recreate models of the classic British
locomotives from the golden age of British railroads. Products are produced in batches based on customer demand, but any one of the company’s range could be brought back
into production. It is the company's policy to never artificially limit production numbers to actively drive up the values of the products.
In 2013, Darstaed announced that they would be issuing reproductions of the famous Dorfan Wide gauge line of
freight cars in 'O' gauge as part of their Trains de Luxe line. The targeted delivery of these new cars was 2015, but to date, no cars have been delivered.
In 2016 Darstaed celebrated its 50th birthday and planned to commemorate this occasion by reissuing the celebrated Darstaed 40 cm coaches based on the
ones originally made by Märklin in the late 1930's. Using the original tooling of the Darstaed 40 cm coaches acquired from Marcel
Darphin as the basis of his works, Andries Grabowsky intends to both reproduce the original
Darstaed line and to expand the line to model famous trains of the past such as the Fleche d’Or and the Rheinpfeil.
The current company originally announced its intention to continue production of this type of car, but these have yet to be reproduced.
Darstaed also planned to venture into the realm of 2-rail. In the future their locomotives will be issued in either 2-rail or 3-rail. The 3-Rail locomotives
will be suitable to run on all 3-rail track from 2' radius tinplate tubular track and larger and the 2-rail locomotives will be suitable to run on all
commonly used 2-rail track down to PECO code 124 and LENZ. Darstaed rolling stock is suitable to run on everything, and 2-rail conversion
kits are also available for purchase.
Click here to visit the Darstaed web site.