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Collector’s portrait: Marcel Erb collects what he likes: A colorful collection

Trucks & Construction - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 5/2019 vom 06.09.2019

Marcel Erb is an enthusiastic collector of 1:50 trucks. Before he limited himself to this segment of collecting he had an interesting journey through the world of a variety of modeling scales …

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Together with his sister, Marcel Erb grew up in the picturesque village of Blumenstein near Thun (Switzerland) at the foot of the Alps and he still lives there today. His father worked as a crane and excavator operator on a Liebherr tower crane with counterbalanced arm which left an inedible impression on the youngster that would last for a lifetime. Even today, Marcel is a great fan of the Liebherr brand and the ...

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... only display case with construction machinery is populated in the main by models of it. The young boy was not allowed to drive himself, however, he regularly helped his father with maintenance work on weekends.

Marcel found everything that moved on roads interesting. In the municipality where he lived there was also an excavator company which used to transport their Menzi Muck walking excavator to the construction sites in the dumping bins of their Volvo N 88 4x2. The company also had a garage with a car dealership which still exists today but now they have the dealership for socalled Mini tracked transporters and small excavators from Takeuchi.

While many of his school friends played soccer in their spare time, Marcel preferred to occupy himself in the sandbox with his trucks and Siku construction machines. Some of these have even survived and quite clearly show signs of enthusiastic play. He got most of the toys as presents and still remembers a large tinplate truck he wished for and finally got from his godfather. Even though a career as a driver seemed to be logical and was within his interests, he decided to apprentice as a construction carpenter. The then-expected long hours of overtime at the wheel of a truck had taken the shine, even the glamour, off this interesting job. Marcel wanted to have time for his hobbies after the end of the working day.

exactly lined-up and displayed models look very attractive in their glass cases.

First collection in 1:24 scale

In a warehouse in Thun, fifteenyear-old Marcel discovered two kits from Italieri which were offered at half the original price. Without any previous kit-building experience, he purchased the two tractor truck kits for a Volvo F12 and a Peterbilt 378 and immediately began putting them together at home. As his ‘beginner pieces’ they were finished just ‘out of the box’ as one would say today, without any modifications, because the young model builder had to get some experience first.

The oldest still-surviving toy models: Volvo N12 and F12 from Siku. On the left side, the ‘first’ model of the collection.

These were not the last ones and soon the collector began to adapt his models according to his wishes, to paint them in wished-for color schemes and even lettered them with specially ordered water slide transfers. During the next few years he continually refined his handicraft. The pinnacle of that development was a truck and trailer set modelled down to the last detail, exactly as on the original. At that time a friend of Marcel was at the wheel of the original Scania 113M. This made it possible for Marcel to study and measure all the details and take pictures of them without being rushed. The model is an exact copy of the original, down to the smallest decal on the front fender. The wider tires of the trailer where then not available commercially; they had to be made up by cutting up two standard-size tires and reassembling them. At the beginning of the project Marcel kept track of the hours spent on it but gave up counting at hour 120.

A heavy-duty transport like Marcel Erb was able to observe from his work place: Scania R420 ‘van der Vlist’ from NZG with a Komatsu HM400 from Diecast Promotions.

Also created were some of the vehicles of the very well-known transport company of Martin Wittwer (a friend of Marcel’s) from the neighboring village of Wattenwil. That is how the collection grew continuously and needed more and more space.

From 1:87 to 1:50

2003 was a year of change. Because, even as a carpenter on construction sites, the overtime hours grew more and more and the amount of stress increased; Marcel searched for alternative employment. He found it at a recycling company where he was paid to learn how to drive a fork lift and also to take classes in metallurgy. This is the material he is mostly working with today. Later on, he was able to train as and excavator operator on a Fuchs 331MHL material transfer excavator.

Marcel is enthusiastic about Fuchs machines and the tilting cabin has a wonderful side bonus. From high up he was able to observe the goings on in a nearby company compound during his breaks. It was the yard of the Komatsu importer Kuhn, which regularly received new machines via the Netherlands. The transports from Holland were made by the easy-to-recognize orange vehicles of the well-known transportation company ‘Vlist’.

Not only in his profession, but also his personal life took a new direction. In 2003 he married his wife, Jing, and two years later, with the birth of his first child and four years later with the second, founded a family.

This of course had far-reaching consequences for his model building which was very time intensive and needed more and more space. Because family was important for Marcel, and he wanted to spend every free moment with his children, the hobby came to a stand-still and he looked around for space and time-saving alternatives.

That was when he discovered models in 1:87 from AMW, Herpa and, of course, Saurer models from Roskopf. Even though the models from that time are still around, the collector soon changed to the more valuable-looking metal models in 1:50. He already knew about these from a few Scania promotional models from Tekno.

Many company vehicles are displayed together to give a focal point in his colorful collection as here with the models from ‘VSB’.

When, in the window of a store in Berne specializing in such items, he discovered a Corgi model of the Scania 144L V8 silo tractor-semi trailer ‘Ian Hayes’, he was thrilled. This became the first, but not the last, Corgi model in his collection because the English producer was a ‘nose ahead’ as far as the shaping of the cabins was concerned. On top of that, Marcel liked the colors and the extensive lettering of the English models. He therefore regrets very much that Corgi has stopped producing models.

That Corgi has withdrawn from making trucks is regretted by the collector because the models were really solidly built. Scania 144L V8 ‘Derek Marston’ and R470 ‘Lawsons’.

Only models in 1:50

After his boss, a woman, unfortunately died much too soon, and because nobody was there to continue, the company where Marcel had worked for the last 10 years was wound up and sold. He changed over to a larger recycling company, where, once again, he works in the old metal department. For the last five years, using a Fuchs MHL320 he has fed scrap metal into a metal shredder and crusher with 500 tons of crushing power.

Of course, models of Martin Wittwer Company from a neighboring village had to be included in the collection.

His collection continued to grow and the focus soon became apparent: Scania. Today, the collector does not remember where his enthusiasm for the Swedish brand came from: ‘it was simply just there!’

Marcel Erb quickly learned that models have to be ordered when they are announced if one does not want to miss out. He visited swap meets in Switzerland and abroad and met several dealers that he trusts and orders models from. Through a collector friend, he finally got to know more about Tekno and later on WSI. Later on, they visited the truck races on the Nürburgring (Nuremburg) race course together. At the races there were also stands with models for sale and he even drove all the way to the Netherlands to the well-known large swap meets.

He estimates that today his collection contains about 1,000 models. Even today, the collector does not want to limit his collecting efforts and the only thing that counts when he is thinking of buying a model is that he must like it. That is why the models in his glass display cases are very colorful but are set out in exact order. A wooden measuring stick is used when setting up the models for display to make sure the parallel distances between them are all the same. He collects heavy-duty transports and freight hauling models of internationally active companies. For him it does not matter which kind of semitrailer is pulled by the tractor truck in front. Here too, models that are not true to the original in all details do not bother him: “Whether a truck has two or four horns on the roof is known exactly by only a very few!”

Real collector’s pieces that Marcel Erb discovered at this work place and rescued from the scrap metal bin.

Today Marcel Erb orders most of his models over the Internet because the swap meets have lost a lot of quality merchandise for his collecting interest. There have been hardly any problems receiving goods by mail and anyway, he knows all the dealers personally.

Housed in one of the display cabinets is his construction machinery collection which dates from the beginning of his collecting. Construction machines are his preferred load on the low-boy trailers. The current hobby room has existed only since 2008. At that time, the garage was renovated and the possibility occurred to him to add an extra basement room under the garage. After that, the first four display cabinets were ordered and finally, the beautiful models that until then lingered in their boxes, could be adequately displayed. Nowadays, the cabinets have grown to nine in number and the room for even 1:50 models is slowly becoming scarce.

But stopping collecting is out of the question for Marcel. One solution would be selling off his 1:24 collection, but he put a lot of effort into it and is emotionally attached to the models. Only the future will show what kind of solution is to be found.

The Eddie Stobart models are a small collection within a collection.

On the Scania R730 from Tekno the heavy-duty shoring tower was replaced with a truck-mounted crane and, naturally, all details were adjusted accordingly.

The collector

Marcel Erb (48) trained as a carpenter and later became a material transfer excavator for several recycling companies.

He never gave up on the carpentry but now it is a hobby for him and he works on his own home, so that it is always up-todate. He and his wife Jing are the parents of Ken (14) and Justine (10). He is open to visits from like-minded collectors, who should book an appointment with him by telephone: +41 (0)793741980