Crafts-Hobbies Vivian | 04 Feb 2010 12:49 pm

Atlas Model Train History

Much like other companies in the model train industry, the story of Atlas model trains is a story of vision, entrepreneurship, and hard work, combined with a passion for a hobby that resulted in a company that grew bigger than what anyone would have imagined at the beginning.

The origin of Atlas Model Trains goes back to the first decades of the 20th century, when Stephan Schaffan Sr. founded what would become Atlas Model Trains. Back then, it was a tool company, not a model train company and Stephan Schaffan Sr. was so undermanned that he had his son Stephan Schaffan Jr. come and help him with the business.

Stephan Schaffan Jr. wasn’t happy with the money that he earned at his dad’s business (if he earned anything at all). He was a young and inventive man who liked machinery. He would go after work and built model airplanes at his house. There was a local airplane model shop where he lived, and he would visit it often. He used to pester the owner by asking for a side job that he could do to earn some extra money, to which the owner would always refuse.

However, one day, the owner of the store grew so tired of Stephan Jr.’s requests that he gave him some old railroads and model trains that he didn’t want to use anymore, in the hopes that Stephan would go away and leave him alone.

Little did he know that these old railroad tracks and models that he discarded so easily would eventually become what today is known as Atlas Model Trains.

Stephan Jr. went back home and worked on those trains. Being an inventive and intelligent young man, he designed a switch set, which would become the staple of Atlas Model Trains, and that allowed the user to start and stop the trains by controlling the voltage on the tracks.

Later on, Stephan Jr. invented more products which made the company grow even more, while his father’s business started to look small in comparison. Somewhere along the line, the original name was dropped and the company took the name of Atlas Model Railroad, although most people know it by the name Atlas Model Trains.

Now with Atlas Model Trains officially existing, Stephan invented several devices that saved work for the people who enjoyed the model train hobby. For example, he invented pre-assembles tracks, that saved his customers the problem of assembling it themselves. In general his inventions made track assembling much easier.

Today, Atlas Model Trains is one of the biggest names in the industry. Although Stephen Jr. is no longer alive, the company and his legacy made model trains a much more accessible hobby for train lovers.

Dave Huffman enjoys model railroading and has several websites devoted to model trains such as

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