There have been three major types of Lionel knuckle couplers produced since resuming train production in 1946. Lionel knew it would have to make a splash when it brought its trains back after the end of the War, and the knuckle coupler was one of the keys.
Two of these coupler types are compatible with one another, but one has a gotcha.
In the 1950s, Lionel started putting magnets in the axles of some of its trains to increase their pulling power and help the trains stay on the track as they highballed around tight O27 and O31 curves. They called this feature Magne-Traction.
In time Magne-Traction was replaced with rubber traction tires, but needless to say, if your locomotive has Magne-Traction, you probably want it to work. Here’s how to make sure it works.
Sakai trains were made in HO and O gauge by a Tokyo-based manufacturer and sold abroad, particularly in the United States and Australia after World War II. Sakai’s O gauge product bore a curious resemblance to Marx. I have read speculation that Marx once used Sakai as a subcontractor, and Sakai used the tooling to make its own trains rather than returning it to Marx, but there are enough differences that I don’t think that’s the case.
What I do know is that Sakai’s O gauge product was a curious blend of cues from Lionel and Marx and the trains worked pretty well. They’re hard to find today, but not especially valuable since few people know what they are. They turn up on Ebay occasionally.
Over the years, Marx made electric and clockwork trains in no fewer than seven sizes and two gauges. Depending on how you count Marx train sizes, you can say it was more than that. Here’s an overview of what they made.
If you go to sell Marx trains, correctly identifying the size definitely makes them attract more bids.
In the 1950s, Marx and Lionel took turns being the biggest toy company in the world, largely riding on the popularity of O gauge trains. Neither company particularly liked the other, but both owed some degree of their success to being compatible with one another. Because of their interoperability, the two makes of trains are frequently compared and contrasted even today.
Virtually every schoolboy who is interested in baseball cards knows the story of how Topps bought Bowman. After World War II, Bowman was the leading brand of baseball card, or, at least from 1948 until 1951. Then, in 1952, Topps released its landmark 1952 set. Bowman and Topps battled for baseball fans’ nickels and pennies until 1955. Then, in early 1956, Topps bought Bowman, and that was the end of Bowman until the late 1980s, when Topps dusted off the brand name and started issuing Bowman cards again. And Topps faced precious little competition in the baseball card field until 1981, when Fleer and Donruss won the right to produce cards.
That’s the story as I knew it. But there’s a lot more to the story, starting with the details of the purchase. In January 1956, Topps bought its once mighty rival for a mere $200,000. Normally a company sells for 10 times its annual revenue, and Bowman had sold $600,000 worth of baseball cards alone just two years before. The purchase price makes no sense, until you dig a bit deeper.
One of the most frequent questions I see or receive directly about Marx trains is what a Marx train is worth, or the value of a Marx train. Of course without seeing the train, it’s nearly impossible to give a good estimate, but there are some general rules that you can follow, either to protect yourself as a buyer, or to keep your expectations realistic as a seller.
The Lionel 675, 2025 and 2035 locomotives are three of the most iconic and sought-after engines Lionel produced in the postwar era. They depicted the Pennsylvania K-5, an ill-fated 4-6-2 Pacific locomotive that was intended to replace the iconic K-4, a popular locomotive that had roamed the rails for one of the largest railroads in the United States since 1911, and was later recognized as the official state locomotive of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the K-5 proved less successful and only two were ever made, although the PRR did run both of them into the 1950s.
Some documents identify the 675/2025/2035 as a K-4, but Lionel’s own service literature from the period says it was a K-5.
Lionel’s version proved far, far more successful than the real thing, almost becoming an icon itself. The first edition of Krause’s Standard Catalog of Lionel Trains, 1945-1969 featured a Lionel 675 from 1946 on its cover.
Someone asked me recently about the Lionel CW-80 and how it compares vs older transformers. That’s a fair question, and one that tends to stir up a lot of emotions on train forums. So I’ll try to present the pros and cons in a fair manner.