Monday, August 26, 2013

Marx - Marxville Accessories - Pt 1

I think it's time to start showcasing some of the many Marx train accessories marketed for their line of 3-rail O-gauge trains. The line of toys and buildings is generally referred to as 'Marxville'. Lionel had 'Lionelville', K-Line had 'K-Lineville', and Bachman had their 'Plasticville' buildings - lots of villes out there in toy land! 

Production Dates:

Many of the production start dates were taken from the Greenberg books published in the 1980s.  Some of the dates had to be adjusted though as other books published several years after Greenberg bear out the fact that many items were cataloged earlier than believed.  It is fairly safe to date the beginning of production with an accessory’s inclusion in a major retail chain store catalog; i.e., Sears, Montgomery Wards, J.C. Penny’s, or Spiegel’s Christmas catalogs. Complicating the cataloging process are the many variations resulting from the demands of Marx’s big commercial customers. A good example can be seen by comparing Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs. The Sears catalogs simply show the building – no fences, figures, or other accessories, while the Montgomery Wards catalogs showed premium sets, which included a number of figures and accessories. Marx boxes themselves are not always a good source of information as to the contents. One could be assured of getting the building but anything else was speculative. The Montgomery Wards catalogs are the best in that set contents more closely match what appears in the Marx catalogs.  Non-building accessories continued in production for years and some were included in Marx train sets until Marx’s’ demise in the 1970s.


According to Greenberg’s Guide to Marx Trains Volume II by Eric J. Matzke, three-digit numbers were assigned to items in the pre-war accessory catalog with an occasional suffix “A” to note a variation.  Post-war catalog numbers were preceded by a zero to designate plastic.  It was then changed to a four-digit number and during the Quaker Oats period, the suffix “C” was sometimes added.


In general, the very early accessories (i.e., lamps, lights, towers, etc.) came in a neutral-colored, thin craft box with exterior rubber plate “block” printing in blue or black ink.  Later boxes had three-color art; red, blue, and black.  Another change in packaging was the switch from the plain brown craft box to a brighter yellow box, but still with the simplified printing.  Louis Marx was notorious for not giving a hoot about packaging.  He felt the toys should sell themselves and fancy packaging was an unnecessary expense.  Only later as competition from other toy manufactures stiffened did he back off of his stance and allow more detailed and colorful packaging. Lastly, a generic style box, white with red polka-dots, was used for many smaller accessory sets


Marx gray plastic sometimes discolors to a cream color as seen in the photo below.  I used to think this was an actual, separate color variation until I came upon a building in which both colors were present and it was easy to discern the aging process in action

The Marx people included with the plastic buildings are generally designated as 35mm and were initially a tan, rubber-like vinyl but were later changed to a bright cream colored soft plastic designated as “ivory” at the Marx factory.  Marx playsets and road race sets had gray rubber-like vinyl, powder blue soft plastic, royal blue soft plastic, silver-gray soft plastic, and blue hard plastic people. Canadian production accounted for colors like white, red, mint green and perhaps others. K-Line’s reproductions were at first unpainted hard plastic and molded in dark red, dark blue, pink (or beige). Later issues were painted in great detail.

K-Line produced some buildings in the same color as Marx (Fire House, Supermarket, Barn, L-shaped Ranch House, and Diner).  There is a slight variation in the surface of the plastic.  The Marx buildings are usually shinier and can be compared to a high-gloss finish, whereas the plastic for the K-Line buildings is duller and can be compared to a satin finish although I have had mint in box K-Line building which were indistinguishable from their earlier Marx counterparts.  The colors of the K-Line white and green barn are slightly different; the K-Line green is darker and the white is brighter than in the Marx.  The K-Line brown is more of a milk chocolate color vs. dark brown for the Marx and the K-Line yellow is a bright banana yellow vs. a yellowish-green for the Marx.  K-Line produced a silver and red diner, however, the Marx diner can be compared to the shiny stainless steel of a new diner, while the K-Line ‘silver’ is the dull and muted gray of a time-worn patina.

Identification Marks

The Marx logo could be found on many but not all of the Marx plastic buildings or accessories.  There were two styles of logo; a detailed ‘Made In U.S.A.’ logo and a simplified circle ‘MarX’ logo. Marked items have been annotated in this listing.  Sometimes no logo was present but the Marx name appeared as a separate sign as in the Service Station sets or the Factory.

Enough talk. Let's start showing the many fine accessories: Enjoy!

#061 / #0161 Telephone Pole Set (#6061 / #6072 when sold as individual items)
Production beginning or earliest appearance in a catalog: 1950
Marx logo: beneath base 
Size: 7”H 
Color/Description: 12 each dark brown poles with two cross-arms. Poles were generally dark brown but can be found in somewhat lighter shades. K-Line poles were a medium chocolate brown.

#062 Lamp Post: non-illuminated
Production beginning or earliest appearance in a catalog: 1950 
Marx logo: None 
Size: 6”H
Color/Description/Variations: Gooseneck style lamp with fluted pole and molded-in ‘lamp’; uses same body casting as #072 lamp post
1.    Light Green with yellow “bulb”
2.    Dark Green with yellow “bulb”
3.    Red with yellow “bulb”
4.    Yellow with green “bulb

#063 Semaphore
Production beginning or earliest appearance in a catalog: 1950 
Marx logo: None 
Size: 6 1/8”H 
Color/Description/Variations: Manual moving blade.  Red pole and base w/white ladder

#064 Crossing Gate
Production beginning or earliest appearance in a catalog: 1950 
Marx logo: None
Size: 2 7/8”H with arm in down position 
Color/Description/Variations: Manual movable red gate arm with black stripes on arm