Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
This article refers to a model railway company. For other meanings, see K-line (disambiguation).
Its parent company, MDK Inc., based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was founded in 1975 by Maury D. Klein. Like competitor MTH Electric Trains, MDK was a large Lionel dealer, and its mail-order ads appeared in magazines such as Model Railroader in the late 1970s. MDK first used the K-Line name on a line of aftermarket Lionel-compatible tubular track.
Louis Marx and Company's final demise in 1978 led to MDK increasing the K-Line product line. In 1980, MDK purchased the tooling for Marx's Plasticville-like Marxville buildings and accessories for train sets at bankruptcy. K-Line was able to acquire additional Marx tooling by scavenging through old factories and warehouses. In an oft-repeated story, Maury Klein and his plant manager, Brent Chambers, found the molds for the Marx model 333 and 1829 4-6-2 locomotives in a Fisher-Price warehouse near Buffalo, New York in 1984. The warehouse was unlighted, unheated, and was missing part of its roof.
By 1985, K-Line was producing O27 locomotives, cars, and figures from former Marx and Kusan tooling, and, with minor changes, began marketing them under the K-Line brand, competing with Lionel at the low end of the market. The dies mostly remained unchanged, with only the branding changing--for example, "Marxville" plastic buildings became "K-Lineville". K-Line changed the couplers on the Marx-derived trains to make the cars compatible with Lionel, and, eventually, improving the graphics.
During the 1980s, K-Line filled much the same role that Marx had in the model railroading arena, supplying similar trains at a lower price than Lionel, but with less prestige. In the 1990s, K-Line was able to purchase more disused tooling from other manufacturers, allowing it to offer full-size O gauge for the first time, which it supplemented with pricier O gauge locomotives and rolling stock of its own design, shifting its emphasis away from its budget offerings.
K-Line's S gauge offerings are a recent entry, providing budget-priced cars and track compatible with American Flyer-brand trains. Unlike its current O gauge products, K-Line's marketing on its S gauge cars centers its price advantage over the competition. Most of the S gauge products are made from old Marx O27 molds, with S gauge trucks replacing the O trucks.
Although K-Line and Lionel criticize one another's offerings in print advertisements and sometimes also lash out at MTH, the relationship between Lionel and K-Line is more amicable than Lionel's relationship with MTH. Lionel has licensed TMCC to K-Line, and K-Line produces a number of repair manuals for postwar-era Lionel. K-Line has also produced commemorative cars celebrating some of Lionel's significant anniversaries, which has sometimes caused confusion among collectors.
Because K-Line's budget offerings remain almost unchanged from the old Marx designs, Marx collectors sometimes source spare parts from K-Line.
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