by William Eric McFadden

revision 01012015-1627

"It's not the trains you want; it's your father's arm around you"--from All Aboard! by Ron Hollander

Table of Contents:
Links to sites not related to toy trains can be found in my Bookmarks.

Read my disclaimer.

Manufacturers & Parts Suppliers (return to top)

"Marlines Makes Your Dreams Come True"--pre-war Marlines Timely Table catalog

Ameritrains / Marx Trains -- gone!!!

K-Line Trains (now part of Lionel)
Mike's Train House (MTH)
Bowser Trains

"Don't ever forget to have fun." -- Robert Grossman

The Robert Grossman Company--manufacturer of high-quality parts for Marx

Olsen's Toy Train Parts with parts for Marx
Toy Train Parts with parts for Marx
Mike Marple's Mike's Trains & Hobbies--with parts for Marx; west of the Mississippi

Bulbs for Toy Trains at Autolumination

Faux Toys--way cool plasticized wraps to customize Marx 6" tin; look here for articles

Walt Hiteshew's Toy & Train Publishing Co., with the "The Definitive Guide to Marx Trains" CD

Kitt Works--modular O-gauge track

Railroad Press On-Line, now with o-gauge freight car loads

Champ Decals

American Dimestore, maker of reproduction plastic vehicles from the 40s and 50s

Retailers (return to top)
Ray Ellen's at Vienna Station with used Marx equipment
Jim & Debby Flynn's JDP Limited with used Marx equipment

The Smokestack (Lancaster, Ohio)
Glenn V. Bosch, with new and old Marx, Lionel, and McCoy
Jim Holman (Sidney, Ohio) email
Harmar Vintage Toys in Marietta, Ohio

Albrecht Schindler (East Berlin, Pennsylvania) email | newer email

Al is a dealer for Robert Grossman. It is rumored that the shipping amount for small orders from Al is likely to be lower than that of the same items ordered directly from Robert Grossman.

Classic Collectibles with used Marx
Thom's Trains with New Marx/Ameritrains

Micro-Mark--tools for hobbyists for hobbyists

Ken Stutt's Tins Galore--this guy has tins

From Trains from Grandfather's Attic by Peter H. Riddle:

Antique toy trains are beautiful!

They are also cute, quaint, and charming. They are nostalgic and evocative of a simpler era, when learning to do things with one's own hands was a fundamental part of every child's education. Toy trains are sturdy and durable, as witnessed by the huge numbers that have survived decades of hard play and neglect. Equally important, they are works of art, finely crafted examples of the manual and creative skills of inventors and artisans from earlier generations. And they possess one quality that communicates all of these attributes most effectively.

Toy trains are functional!

Embodied in their name is the key to their function: they are trains, miniature representations of the most revolutionary development in transportation to come out of the 19th century; and they are toys, artifacts that were meant to be played with, by children of all ages.

Toy trains should be played with! They are most beautiful when fulfilling their intended purpose.

Forums (return to top)
MarxTrain forum on Yahoo (and sign in page)
Marx Train Neatstuff forum on Yahoo
Marx Commodore Vanderbilt forum on Yahoo (and sign in page)
Marx Traders forum on Yahoo (and sign in page)

Tinscale Scenery forum on Yahoo (and sign in page)
Toy Trains forum by TCA on Yahoo (and sign in page)--mostly Lionel and American Flyer
WhimseyRails forum on Yahoo (and sign in page)
AllGauge forum on Yahoo (and sign in page)

On-Line References (return to top)
From the 1935 Lionel Train Catalog:

"Any man with pretensions to normality knows a lot about toy trains. The essence of toy railroading is contained in the nostalgia in his heart. Apparently, the toy train is irresistible. And the moral for economists is clear: There is no depression, if your heart is set on owning and landscaping a railroad."

How important were toy trains in the lives of young boys in the early 20th century?
How Six Boys Built a Railroad, by the Ives Manufacturing Corporation, 1912

Marxtin by Walt Hiteshew

Steve Eastman's Dr. Marxenstien

Bill McConnell's guide to Marx locomotives

Mike Spanier's Guides to Marx (Marx Trains FAQs) at eBay Reviews & Guides: Marx

Marx "Steamer" Guide .......2-4-2 Steamers 666 & 1666
Marx "3/16 Scale" Guide -------- Metal Freight Cars
Marx "Handcar" Guide ......2002 Electric Handcars
Marx "Diesel" Guide .......... Mostly Postwar Plastic
Marx "1998" Switchers ......Alco S-3
Marx "Postwar" Tinplate Guide -----Lithographed Diesels
Marx "Customized"... One Man's Art

Guides to Marx by "Railhorse" at eBay Reviews & Guides: Marx

Marx King of the Road Steamer 333 Train Locomotive
Marx Mercury Toy Trains
Marx Canadian Pacific F2A Jubilee Streamline Train
The Bunny Train by Marx
Marx Diesel Switcher GE-70 ton & Alco S-3
Prewar Army Train by Marx
Ameritrains New Marx Trains in the CP F2A Jubilee Style
The Great American Railroads by Marx
Marx HO Trains by Ben Calcott
Marx Train Collectors Site by Jeff Morris--will there ever be content?
The Virtual Marx Museum

Jim Kelly's Tinplate Times
The Tinplate FAQ maintained by Christopher Coleman
Layout Design Primer

History of Toy Train Companies at Wikipedia: Marx | Hafner | K-Line

Electric Train Price Guide by Charles Siegel of by Jason Moss--gone!

"(Marx trains) were--and remain--the vintage train of the common man." -- Thor Sheil

All-Gauge Model Railroading Page by Thor Sheil, with paper models and articles, including...

Fun with Original Marx Trains
Marx Accessories
Why Marx?
Tinscale--"Toward Better Ways to Run O Gauge"
Tinscale--the Classic Way to Run Toy Trains
O-Gauge Tinscale Facts
Proposed Standards for O-Gauge
Classic O/O27 Layouts
Ovalling and Switch Dynamics
Basic O/O27 Manual
Things You Need to Know for O/O27 But They Don't Tell You!
O and O27 Tips
O27 on the Cheap
O-Gauge on a Budget
Standards for O27

Note: Thor's .pcx paper buildings open in Photoshop

Big Indoor Trains by Paul D. Race

Easy Street Scene
O-Scale Building Front Photos
Building the (Lionel) Union Station
(American Flyer's) Lewis Park Station

Little Glitter Houses by Howard Lamey

Easy Street Scene
Building the (Lionel) Union Station
(American Flyer's) Lewis Park Station
Making Tin Train Cars

(Joshua L.) Cowen had no patience with the notion that electric toy trains were for children and that grown men had reason to be apologetic if they were caught playing with them. "It makes me mad," he fumed. "Why shouldn't a man run a train? Why, operating a good train layout is one of the greatest challenges I know!" -- from All Aboard! by Ron Hollander

Trains99 by Terry Gibbs--needs to improve index
How to Clean Your Toy Trains
How to Find Toy Trains: introduction article 1 article 2 article 3 article 4 article 5
Two Action-Packed Marx Layouts

Wayne Beachy's Wayne's Trains, including custom Marx 6" tin; gone?
Custom 6" tin by Wayne Beachy for sale at RapidRail--custom tin; gone?

O-Gauge Model Railroading

Tin Display Layout of Wayne Beachy and Dave Conyers
This and That Marx layout by Don Fries

Sites by David Helber:
Hints and Tips for Marx Trains Operators, including...
couplers for 6" tin
locomotive front coupler
Christmas 2002 Layout with custom 6" tin

Rich Petty's Girard and Oak Park Railroad -- Marx 6" tin and Faux Toys Railroad Wraps

Dave Farquhar's Tinplate & Midwestern Railroad

Moe Belisle's Marx Layout (and other other layouts)

Fun With Tinplate--fantabulous custom Marx 6" tin by Lee Reynolds

Trains Toys n' Travel by Ed "Ice" Berg

Colin's Pictures of Classical Toy Trains by Colin Duthie

The Donald Gorsuch Collection of Vintage Model Trains

Lionel Trains (article) at Popular Science
The Toy Train that Ruled Christmas, an article the Detroit News

Model Train Journal--devoted solely to 3-rail
World's Greatest Hobby

Toy Train Revue by TM Books and Video (Tony McComas)

articles at Train Collectors Association:

Riding the Marx Rails, Streamlined Style by Richard Getty
Smoking Marx 999 by Dave Hess
You can build your own switches! by Richard Reichard
The Little M&AF--a Study in Fun by Ed Commander
Digital Photography of Toy Trains by Bob Mintz
How Six Boys Built a Railroad--a vintage story by Ives

All Things Trains --, including...

Getting That Old Train Running Again
Cleaning Plastic Train Cars
Do-It-Yourself Restorations--Eight Easy Steps to Renew Beat-Up Trains
Wiring ABCs for Toy Trains
Ready for the Road -- Cleaning and Oiling O Gauge Car Wheels
Ten Layout Mistakes
Ten Tricks for Better O Gauge Track
A Short Course on Electrical Basics
Road Work -- Create Realistic Paved Roads

Classic Toy Trains Magazine

12 Design Tips--Advice to build a better sectional-track layout, by Steven Seidel
Can You Say "Ubiquitous"?--Marx's no. 413A Switchman Tower, by Neil Besougloff
The Secrets of Smoke

Model Railroader Magazine, with downloadable company logos
Brands of the World, with downloadable company logos

Look here for links to sites featuring paper models suitable for use with toy trains.

Modular Tinplate (return to top)

"What if we could get a group of people together to build an impromptu layout, using standard three-rail track, so that each could run his favorite old O scale trains?" -- Thor Sheil in his proposal for Train Runners

Train Runners of North America
concept description
sample layouts
forum on Delphi

Tinplate Trackers Specifications Manual

Museums, Display Layouts, and Shows (return to top)
Dresden Junction in Trinway, Ohio
Harmar Station Historical Model Railroad Museum in Marietta, Ohio--gone!
Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum in Wheeling, WV (and an article at CNN)
Train-O-Rama in Marblesburg, Ohio: URL 1 2
Medina Toy and Train Museum in Medina, Ohio (and another site)
Cincinnati Museum Center in the Cincinnati Union Station, with Cincinnati in Motion

Smoky Mountain Trains in Bryson City, NC--now with the Harmar Station collection

National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg, Pennsylvania
The Choo Choo Barn near Strasburg PA

The Official Marx Toy Museum of Glen Dale, West Virginia

The Marx Toy & Train Collector Convention in Wheeling, WV June 26-27, 2009

Great Train Expo
Buckeye Railroadiana & Model Train Show

The Railroad Model and Historical Society of Southeastern Ohio

The Good Zoo at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, WV has a 1200 square foot O-gauge layout with a scratchbuilt blast furnace and an operating steamboat (pulled by an under-table car with magnet).

There's a Marx Museum in Moundsville, WV, near Wheeling. The old Marx factory building still exists in Moundsville. It's currently a giant flea market. The rooftop water tower still sports the Marx logo. (Here is a photo from the Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum.)

On Hwy 30 southwest of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is Carver's Toyland (305 Buford Ave Gettysburg PA 17325 717-334-6937). A small blue locomotive sits out front, while indoors can be found a most incredible collection of prewar, postwar, and modern toy trains: Marx, Lionel, AF, K-Line, etc.

Notes on Marx Trains (return to top)

The following notes were compiled by me from various sources. Some of this information really belongs somewhere in the main portion of but I haven't had the time yet to do it up properly...

Timeline of Marx Cars, derived from the archived remains of Jason Moss's TinplateMarxists:

Joy Line: Louis Marx and Co. got started in the toy train business in 1929 when Marx entered into an agreement with the Girard Model works as the exclusive sellers of Girard's "Joy Line" electric trains. This arrangement continued until 1934 when the Girard Model Works went bankrupt. Marx bought the company, and reorganized it in 1935, and ceased production of the Joy Line.

6" Tin: To replace the Joy Line, Marx produced a line of six inch, four wheel cars. These cars were produced in one form or another from 1936 until 1972. Around the same time, Marx offered six inch, eight wheel cars. The couplers were expensive and problematic, and the cars didn't re-appear after the war.

3/16" Tin and the Plastic Cars: The 3/16" cars were introduced for the 1942 Christmas season, but disappeared because of the war. They returned after the war but were displaced in the 1950's by plastic cars in the four wheel and eight wheel variety. The plastic cars appeared in both four wheel and eight wheel varieties. They stayed in production through the 1970's.

7" Tin: The tin seven inch cars were introduced in the 1950s. This line was produced to counter a threat from Unique Art, another manufacturer of toys. The seven inch line lasted about ten years, and included the "Mickey Mouse Set" and the "Old Time Set." With the switch to plastic, and Unique Art's demise, the seven inch line was discontinued.

Identifying 6" Tin Car Frames, courtesy of Walt Hiteshew:

In 1935 Marx introduced the six inch trains. The cars rode on a black frame with silver lithographed details. The frame had a short wheel base and two journals at each wheel. There was no coupler pocket.

In late 1935 or 1936 the early frame tooling was modified to produce the frame (with round ends and no coupler pocket). The reworked frame was used on the early six inch trains and was carried over to later production. When you find early six inch Marx on all black frames, that is the frame you have. In 1937 or so, Marx retooled the frame completely to produce the common, square end frame that was used until the end of tin production.

For some reason, Marx continued to use the round end frame for wedge tenders. Besides the 551 rivet tender, 552 yellow tank car, 553 red gondola, 555 yellow reefer, 1678 hopper, 694 caboose, and 245-246 coaches, the round end frame was used for the 550 wrecker and the 559 floodlight car. It is remotely possible that the lumber car first appeared on these frames although I have yet to see one.

Occasionally the round end frame can be found on later production cars. It appears there was some quantity of the frames around when Marx began the four color series of lithographed cars. I have seen some sets where the later bodies were on the earlier frames but they are rare.

(More complete information and photos can be found on Walt Hiteshew's "The Definitive Guide to Marx Trains: Six-Inch Tin & Joy Line" CD, available at Toy & Train Publishing Co.)

Identifying Early 6" Tin, courtesy of Ray Ellen of Vienna Station:

The "two color lithograph" freights phased out pretty much by 1937. Most of these cars are found on rounded end, riveted tab and slot coupler frames. Most of the 1937 material had frames punched for the four holes needed for wrecker cars that had track clips installed. 1934-35 were silver and black lithographed frames with Joy Line Couplers and 1936 had the same frames but with riveted tab and slot couplers. I have seen some two-color cars with square end black frames, but all of those are for wind-up trains with sliding tab and slot couplers. Beginning in 1938, all of the two color cars were phased out and three or more colors were used to produce the rolling stock. In other words, more passes through the lithograph press, one for each color.

Versions of the #552 Gondola, courtesy of Walt Hiteshew:

The 552 first appeared about 1935 in the red with black lettering on a silver litho frame. In 1936 the same litho was used but the frame was changed to the all black round end frame. Next it appeared on the square end frame (probably 1938).

The green and red litho appeared about this same time and there are several different litho patterns, including the fully riveted version, no rivet litho, horizontal rivets only and vertical rivets only. This litho was also run with the black trim. There is also a blue and green version which has several distinct shades as well. All of the second series can be found on square end frames in black, silver (tinplated) and red and white litho. Eight wheel versions can also be found on either black or red frames.

Now, for the four wheel black frames you can have tab and slot couplers (riveted), twisted sliding, punched sliding or plastic knuckle couplers. The tinplated frames are twisted sliding tab and slot while the red and white litho frames are riveted tab and slot. The wheels on these can be either pressed steel tinned or black, die cast or plastic.

The eight wheel frames can have tab and slot couplers or automatic (one way) couplers either pressed steel or diecast. The wheels can be either tinned or black.

Of course all of these could have any of the litho patterns, so, as you can see, there are many , many possible variations already!

The 552G Grocery and Sundries car can be found on the four wheel black frame and probably on the tinplated frame as well as the eight wheel black frame. Many of the above subtleties would apply.

The 548 Guernsey Milk car is also part of the series as it, too, is a CRI&P gondola. It can be found in blue with yellow trim or blue with green trim. Available on the black square end frame, red and white litho frame, probably the tinplated frame and black eight wheel frame. Again the subtle variations apply.

I forgot to mention that the earlier bodies had cut ends which were sharp. Not too long into production the body tooling was altered to add a flap to the end which was turned over eliminating the sharp edge.

If you are interested in the 552 you have to include the 91257 Seaboard gondola which can be found in red, brown, blue or light blue. These are from sets of later production and are on four wheel, square end black frames with either sliding tab and slot or plastic knuckle couplers and steel or plastic wheels (did I mention that the plastic wheels can be either black or brown!).

The 241708 B&O gondola is also a 552 lithographed in yellow with either red, grey or charcoal (black) interior. These would be subject to the same variations as the Seaboard gondolas.

With all the possible variations I'll bet there are upward of 100 distinct variations of the lowly little 552 gondola.

(More complete information and photos can be found on Walt Hiteshew's "The Definitive Guide to Marx Trains: Six-Inch Tin & Joy Line" CD, available at Toy & Train Publishing Co.)

Tab-and-Slot Couplers, courtesy of Walt Hiteshew:

The riveted tab and slot coupler first appears in 1936 on the round end frame (modified silver litho frame). In 1938 Marx put out the sliding tab and slot coupler in the square end frame. First came the twisted version. Sometime later the punched dimple sliding tab and slot coupler starts to show up. This was likely a result of tooling designed to speed up production. To my knowledge there is no way to determine the date when the punching began since there is no way to determine, from catalog pages, which sliding coupler is on a particular car.

(More complete information and photos can be found on Walt Hiteshew's "The Definitive Guide to Marx Trains: Six-Inch Tin & Joy Line" CD, available at Toy & Train Publishing Co.)

Identifying Age of Locomotives:

As a rule, prewar electric motors had the 10 spoke drivers and postwar motors had the Baldwin type drivers. So if you have a postwar Commodore, it will have Baldwin drivers. (attribution lost)

The Baldwin drivers were introduced in 1948. The one piece pickup shoe predates the Baldwin drivers by a short period. It appears the only electric engines made after the war until 1948 were the 999 (spoked pilot versions/rivet pilot) and the black sideboard Jubilee. The "Marlines" Jubilee has baldwins as do other engines that were introduced/reintroduced (red 198, red Mercury, black CV, M10005) in 1948. (attribution lost)

How to Tell One-Way from Reversing Steam Locomotives, courtesy of Mike Nickerson

The non-reversing steamer motor was a postwar cost cutting move. They had shorter one-piece pickup shoes, a tad over 2" long i nstead of the reversing ones, a tad over 3" long. But what do you do on an eBay auction where the seller does not show a picture of the underside?

Imagine you are facing a map, and an electric Marx steam locomotive is headed westward (loco pointing to the left). What do you see?

If a typical reversing steamer, you see the sparky (brushplate) side, because the brushes are on the left.

If a one-way or William Crooks steamer, you see the gear side. (William Crooks locomotives have the reversing mechanism 'e-unit' at the rear of the locomotive, which is flipped from the typical reversing steamer -- all the electric William Crooks steamers reverse.)

Clean Locomotives & Cars:

Most of us would probably not recomend trying to remove the rust on litho because it is almost impossible to touch up. Some lighter rust will be removed with delicate cleaning. I do not recomend the following for a piece of any value, but just for regular runners. I usually disassemble the car and scrub the pieces (not the wheels) with a very mild dish soap and a soft bristle toothbrush. I use cool water. I have had warm water cause a cloudiness in the litho that never went away. Keep an eye on the area you are scrubing to make sure no litho is coming off. Next is wipe off as much water as possible then blow it with air to get water from the nooks etc. The next step is to use Maquires cleaner/wax. Between the washing and wax, some of the very minor rust may come off. I use a wire wheel with soft brass bristles to clean the wheels and axles. Care must be taken whenever you bend the tabs. Time to re-assemble. I usually try to only use a couple of the tabs when putting a car back together. That saves a few good tabs for later if I ever have to clean or repair again. -- Steve Eastman

Polish black cast iron and plastic engines with "Scuff Coat" liquid shoe polish -- Harry Chavez, Sr.

Remove rust from wheels by soaking in "RustAid". -- Dave Farquhar

Forget alcohol for cleaning wheels on tin litho. Goo Gone or even WD-40 will do the job without hurting the litho. Sometimes just a Scotch Brite pad will do the job. (attribution lost)

A good paint match for the red Mercury is Weekend Spray Paint 362 Cherry Red (Sherwin Williams) -- Walt Hiteshew

White Powder on Die-Cast:

The white powder is either Zinc Oxide or Lead Oxide. This shows up when the trains have been stored under moist conditions. The old white paint used lead oxide for the pigment. The newer pigment is zinc oxide as a cheap white color. Coating the metal should seal the metal. small quantities should not be harmfull, but care should be taken if you use a wire wheel to clean the parts and raise dust that you breath. -- Dick Desens

I've been using a product call klean-strip rust remover, it does a wonderful job, and does not seem to hurt plastic, only takes a few minutes. It's a gel so it stays somewhat put. and works on a viriate of metals, preparing them for piant. that white corrosion, sounds like rust of an alloy, no worries,8oz is only a few bucks @ the hardware store. it'll stop it. -- jeff (silverfox9605)

Several posts have been made concerning a white substance on die cast locos.This is simply a mould release compound. No elaborate cleaning with any type of chemical is required.Simply blow the area with a hair dryer and it will disappear.Caution- a paint stripper heat gun can get too hot, so just use the hair dryer. -- garrymarx

Remove Rust:

I use EVAPO-RUST. No more rubber gloves, no more fumes, non-toxic environmentally safe. No more sandblasting cabinets. Got mine at Auto-Zone for about $8.00 a 32 fl. oz. contaner. Use a gal. anti-freez, lay on side and cut out top side to make a cleaning tray. When done pour back into container. -- beggsrail

Motor Won't Run?

(Walt Hiteshew's The Definitive Guide to Marx Trains: Six-Inch Tin and Joy Line CD contains an excellent illustrated guide to servicing Marx electric motors. The CD is available from Toy and Train Publishing Co.)

Verify that no material is wrapped around the axle. Verify that the armature is straight; loosen the nuts that hold the outer plate on the motor and re-align the armature before re-tightening the nuts. Clean the reverser. -- Dave Farquhar

Make sure that the screw on the bottom brush plate is tight; this screw provides electrical ground for the motor. -- Bryan Robbins

The finger contacts within the reversing-unit might need to re-bent. He also suggests re-soldering the connections on the reversing-unit. -- Tom Cummings

Verify that the wires going to the reversing-unit aren't shorting. -- Rich Getty

Thanks to Graeme Eldred:

The basic wiring of the AC motor is power runs to one side of the coil, through the coil, from the other side of the coil straight to one motor brush, through the motor and back out of the other brush.

One would normally find that the centre rail collector powers one side of the coil, and the second brush is 'earthed' to the chassis, and therefore to the outer rails.

To bypass the reversing unit, use a length of wire with a crocodile clip at each end. Clip one end to the coil (the side that isn't connected to the centre rail pickup), and the other end to the brush holder that isn't earthed to the chassis. The motor should then run, irrespective of the reversing unit.

... the (idler) gears tend to be sloppy on the shafts and there is little that can be done to correct this since there is not a ready supply of replacements anyway. I have a 1998 switcher that was noisy and didn't run the way I thought it should. I too suspected it was on account of the idler gears being so loose. As it turned out the armature hole in the brush plate was worn oversize and once I replaced the brush plate with another from my spares box there was a dramatic improvement in operation. -- James McClenin

"A quick test for a worn brushplate bushing/hole is to put a drop of 30 weight oil at the brushplate - armature shaft. Then run the engine. If the howling/growling stops it indicates the brushplate bushing/hole is enlarged and the brushplate needs to be replaced. The oil is not a fix, the howling will start again in a few minutes when the oil thins and runs out of the hole." -- Lou Lauderbaugh

How to Clean Locomotive Motors, courtesy of Dave Farquhar

... you mean there's a best way to clean motors? I've used several methods, and the only one that ultimately did harm was when I used WD-40. So ignore any advice you see about using WD-40--it will soak into your brushes and ruin them, and then your motor won't run until you get new brushes.

What I do is take the motor out of the locomotive, douse it with contact cleaner, turn the wheels around to make sure the stuff moves around in there, and then I clean any and all copper parts with cotton swabs dipped either in more contact cleaner or rubbing alcohol, depending on which one I have more of on hand at the time. If I'm feeling really industrious, I'll pop the springs out, which hold the brushes in place, and take the brushes out and clean inside the brush holders too. You want to remember which brush was where and how it was positioned. Then drop the brushes back into place the same way they were, and pop the springs back in.

Let the motor drip dry. If you see a lot of crud running out, it never hurts to spritz it down again. Make sure it dries thoroughly, then lubricate it. Put some silicone grease on the gears and a light oil (3-in-1, sewing machine oil, Labelle #107, or automotive 10w30 will all work) on the axles, including the armature axle. If there's a felt pad, put a couple of drops of oil on the pad. One drop of oil is usually plenty.

At this point I'll hook the motor up to a transformer to make sure it runs. Connect one wire to the pickup shoe and the other wire to the copper tab that usually goes to the locomotive body. If the motor runs, great. Now you can clean the wheels the lazy way. With the motor running, put some alcohol or contact cleaner on a cotton swab and swab down each wheel while it turns. Replace as necessary, and repeat until the swabs don't get dirty anymore.

If the motor doesn't run, it could be a few different things. Make sure the copper tabs inside the motor that are supposed to touch the axles are making good contact. Make sure the solder joints are reasonably bright and shiny and not broken. Make sure the screw at the bottom of the motor is present. Those are the last three problems I remember seeing that a good cleaning wouldn't fix.

Let it all dry again, let the motor run for at least 10 minutes in both forward and reverse, then put the motor back in the locomotive and give it a test run. Run it on a loop of track on the floor before you run it on your table (if your layout is on a table). You want to make sure the motor runs at a consistent speed before you take a chance on it taking a tumble.

That's just one method. I've heard of others, but this one uses stuff you probably have around the house already or will need anyway to fix other problems.

How to Clean Reverser Units:

When faced with a sticky Marx reverse unit I remove the motor from the body and spray the reverse unit from every angle possible with LPS contact cleaner without lubricant. That will usually clean it sufficiently to work. The only problem with any of the lubricants, graphite or other, is the plunger is supposed to work dry and the lubricants seem to make things even stickier in the long run. However, if the contact cleaner does not work, anything that will work, even for awhile, is worth it. -- Barb Jones

I use a product called CRC QD Electronic Cleaner 05101. It comes in a little red can with a black lid. It has a small WD-40 type straw for spraying into tight places. It is only 4.5oz, but seems to last quite a while. My local True Value Hardware has is for $3.29. Simply spray it into the e-unit to remove any gum that might cause sticking. It is a good idea to wait for the cleaner to evaporate before applying power, as an engine fire could result! -- Dave Hess

Description of Locomotive Reverser, courtesy of Donald Huddleston:

(The Marx locomotive reverser unit) is a solenoid-activated switch. The coil of the solenoid is powered constantly as long as power is applied to the locomotive pickup points and it pulls the core up to throw and hold the rocker portion of the switch. The switch has 5 contact points that switches 4 different inputs. The 4 inputs are:

Upper motor brush
One end of the stator winding
The other end of the stator winding

The headlight is tied to the center rail pickup.

Mechanically, the switch is made up of two copper alloy strips that rest on top of a rocker assembly that has 3 contact points. One of the copper strips is tied to the headlight and the other is tied to the upper motor brush. On the rocker, the two outer contact points are both tied to one side of the stator winding and the one in the center is tied to the other side. When the rocker is thrown back and forth by the solenoid, it swaps the ends of the stator windings between the headlight pickup and the upper motor brush.

If any of these contact points are dirty, oily or the copper strips are not bent at the right angle to make good contact, the motor may not run. If the solenoid sticks and does not throw the rocker assembly correctly, it will not reverse correctly.

Build a Custom Smoking Locomotive:

Instructions and photos of how Steve Eastman built a smoking 2-4-2 CV using a #666 motor can be found in the "Smokin' CV 2-4-2" folder within the Commodore Vanderilt group on Yahoo Groups.

Instructions and photos of how Dave Hess built a smoking #999 using an American Flyer chugging smoke unit mounted in a Marx tender can be found here at the TCA.

"K-Line Smoke Assembly": Part number is K2630-EX001, has the heat chamber, stack and is fan driven. Blows a pretty good stream. $15.00 plus S&H, total $22.00. It's fairly small so it could go inside some locos, in the tender on others. You wouldn't have to buy and disect AF units. -- Steve "Papa" Eastman

Retrofit an Electric Motor into a Wind-Up M-10000:

Just about any reversing Marx motor can be retrofitted into the M-10000 with the use of Grossman's bracket #196. -- Rolland May

Painting Bulbs:

I would strongly recommend you use DEKA transparent paint for glass. This German product is available at craft stores. I have orange (amber), red, and green. You dip the clear light bulbs into the paint. The result is an extraordinarily even, transparent colored bulb that doesn't smoke when hot and looks just like the clear colored bulbs I remember in my original Marx signals. -- Paul Wassermann

Marx Place Names:

Girard and Erie, Pennsylvania, and Moundsville and Glen Dale, West Virginia, were sites of Marx factories.

The station in Erie was called "Union Station" and the factories in Erie and Girard were only minutes away. (Dave roccomarxho)

The factory in Moundsville, West Virginia, was actually in Glen Dale. (Charles Archbold)

Oak Park and Wheaton, Illinois, were rumored to be the home cities of the Sears or Wards toy buyers when Marx was creating each of these stations. (Tasker Bush)

Montclare and Bogota, New Jersey were rumored to be the home cities of Woolworth's toy buyers during the 1930s. (Tasker Bush)

Transformers for Running Marx Trains:

Small Lionel transformers aren't adequate to run Marx trains. Lionel transformers provide 18-22vac at the rated wattage; Marx transformers of the same wattage rating provide 14-17vac and, thus, are capable of sourcing more current. Lionel transformers rated at 90 watts or higher will work. K-Line transformers provide voltage similar to Marx transformers and should work. -- Jim Bray

The K-line #950 (20 watt) that came with sets until about two years ago, will NOT run a Marx 666. Between the the weight of the die-cast locomotive and the smoke unit this engine just draws too much wattage for such a small output transformer. The newer black or silver 100 watt or the yellow 120 watt K-line transformers will work fine but they are a bit more expensive. -- Bryan Robbins

Marx Railroad and Village Construction Set:

The Marx Railroad and Village Construction Set was made around 1950 by Jaymar, 220 Fifth Ave. New York, NY. (John "slipswitch")

Jaymar was founded by James Marx, Louis's brother. The company produced paper lithographed items. (Walt Hiteshew)

The 1955 Montgomery Wards Christmas catalog offered the village as part of a "Smoking" Mechanical Freight Train Set with Cardboard Village". The set included a mechanical, smoking 400 or 490 locomotive, plastic 4-wheel NYC tender, #59 UP stock car, #19847 black Sinclair tank car, #20102 NYC caboose.

It was included with many 4-wheel plastic sets. (Bryan Robbins)

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos copyright 1995-2017 William Eric McFadden


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