Tag Archives: marx

When Lionel bulbs burn out too fast

A frequent question I see is why the Lionel bulbs in any given accessory burn out quickly. I can sum up both the problem and the solution in a single word: voltage.

When you have too much voltage, bulbs burn out quickly–sometimes in minutes. When you have too little voltage, the bulbs will last decades.

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Selling Marx trains

Since my advice on selling Tyco trains was well received, I thought I would give similar advice on selling Marx trains. Marx never got the respect that its competitors got, but its trains have built up a following over the years, and in the last decade as I’ve watched prices on competing trains slide, Marx has held its value.

Don’t expect to get rich selling off your Marx trains, but if you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll find an eager buyer, or ideally, at least two interested buyers so you’ll realize a good price at auction.

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Remove and install Marx coupler springs

I did not invent this technique. Last week Al Osterud, a veteran Marx collector of many decades, shared a technique for removing and installing Marx coupler springs without the skills and steady hand of a microsurgeon.

All you need is a piece of 1/8-inch K&S square tube, which resembles the tool Marx used to install them at the factory, and a toothpick or a straightened paper clip. Marx wouldn’t make anything that wasn’t easy to put together, which made its couplers so maddening to work on. Why was it easy in the factory and nearly impossible at home? With the right tools, it is indeed easy.

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The common post on a Marx transformer

When you want to phase transformers, it’s good to know the common (in Lionel terms) or base (in American Flyer terms) post. It’s a shame that Marx didn’t label which of its posts was common.

But it’s easy enough to figure it out. That’s a good thing, because Marx transformers are dirt cheap. I bought one for exactly one dollar at the last train show I attended, and the vendor wanted to sell me a box full of them for $5.

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Repair a Marx 1209 transformer

Want to repair a Marx 1209 transformer? There are two schools of thought. One is that small, sub-75 watt transformers aren’t worth fixing because they are so cheap. The other is that since they are so cheap, you have nothing to lose by trying.

Marx didn’t design its transformers to be fixed, but the design is extremely simple. The hardest part really is getting the case apart and then getting it back together. If Marx had designed them to be serviced, like its competitors did, they would have cost more, so we wouldn’t have as many Marx trains to enjoy today. So it’s easy enough to forgive Marx for this.

Let’s dive in.

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Sakai trains: The “Japanese Marx”

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.

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The low-effort fix for a Marx motor

I had a Marx motor that wouldn’t run, and I fixed it with almost no effort. If you need to get a Marx motor running again but can’t put a lot of time and effort into it, I’ve developed a quick fix. It’s only temporary, but if you want to run trains today instead of fixing them, it can get you out of a pinch.

You need a screwdriver and one drop of Rail-Zip.

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Repairing Marx one-way couplers

Marx one-way couplers were an effort to provide trains that could automatically couple and uncouple. The design was exceptionally reliable, as long as the trains were carefully stored after use. It’s not uncommon today to find them in inoperable condition, but it’s possible to repair them.

Prior to World War II, every train manufacturer tried different ways to make trains that could automatically couple and uncouple, with varying degrees of success. None were particularly realistic, and Marx’s design was probably the ugliest, but did I mention it worked really well?

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