Dorfan was an American toy company based in Newark, New Jersey, specializing in O gauge and Wide gauge toy trains. It was founded in 1924 by Milton and Julius Forcheimer, two immigrants from Nuremberg, Germany, whose family was involved in the production of Fandor trains. The name was made from the first names of Milton's and Julius' mother's sisters, Fanny and Dora.
A Fandor engineer, John C. Koerber, helped to get Dorfan started and Dorfan opened for business at 137 Jackson St. in Newark, N.J. 1924 was a good year to start making and selling trains - business was booming and the stock market was on a roll. Dorfan was the first U.S. train manufacturer to use die casting in its manufacturing process. However, Dorfan's alloys suffered from impurities, which weakened the metal and caused the trains to disintegrate over time. Dorfan replaced the damaged parts, but at great expense.
Dorfan trains were promoted as being educational in that they were easy to disassemble and actually encouraged customers to take the trains apart and learn how they worked. Dorfan was the first U.S. train manufacturer to use zinc die casting methods on a large scale in its manufacturing process. Their trains were made primarily of a copper-zinc alloy termed Dorfan Alloy, which was strong and light weight, but impurities in the alloy oxidized over time causing the metal to expand and crack.
At its peak, Dorfan had about 150 employees, but the Great Depression wiped out the company. It ended production in 1934, although old inventory was sold at least until 1936.
Few Dorfan trains survive today, making them among the rarest and most valuable of toy trains.
Some of the Dorfan tooling was later used by Unique Art to make its tinplate trains in the early 1950s.
What's your 'Dorfan' worth? Here are some recently sold items (USA):