Diecast toys first appeared on the market in the 1920s, but the conservative Marx was slow to adopt it. Diecast toys from the 1920s and even much of the 1930s often have issues with breaking down over time. By the early 1940s, toymakers had worked out the issues. So early in 1941, Marx started developing its first diecast train, the Marx 999 locomotive.
Marx intended for the 999 to be a 1/64 scale locomotive to compete with American Flyer’s 1/64 scale O gauge line. It’s unclear how many Marx 999s made it out the door in 1941. Marx did sell limited numbers of them in 1942, but the start of World War II curtailed toy production. I’ve seen 1942 sets that would have included a 999, but Marx substituted whatever other locomotives they had on hand to sell through its inventory. Marx reintroduced the 999 in 1946 and produced it until 1959.
A couple of years ago, I spied a couple of lonely galvanized village houses in the seasonal section at Kmart. My wife told me that galvanized Christmas village buildings were popular and laughed at the irony that I was buying them, not her.
The largest maker of toy trains in the United States in the early 20th century was Ives, an old-line toy company headquartered in Bridgeport, Conn. Ives trains retained a following long after the company who made them went bankrupt. MTH produces reproduction Ives electric trains even today.
K-Line was a manufacturer of O gauge electric trains and accessories from approximately 1980 to 2010. Its scrappy, value-oriented approach to the hobby endeared K-Line trains to many of its customers.
K-Line Electric Trains and Lionel tended to target one another in their advertisements. They referred to one another as “Brand K” and “Brand L.” In 2005, the rivalry turned to litigation, which eventually resulted in K-Line admitting wrongdoing, going out of business, and Lionel licensing and selling products under the K-Line name from 2006 to 2010.
I like to support my local dealers, and of course Ebay makes it easy to buy trains, but there’s still nothing like an old-fashioned train show. Here are my train show tips that I’ve found helped me in the past. Hopefully they’ll help you too.
You may recognize some of these from my tips for garage sales and estate sales, but some of the methods are unique to shows. Also, not all shows are the same, and my tips may work better for local shows than traveling shows but most of them should work for both types.
A multimeter is an inexpensive tool that has several great uses in model railroading, especially if you deal with used or vintage trains a lot. Knowing how to use one will save you a lot of time and frustration.
The Lionel 92 circuit breaker provides an important safety feature. Additionally, if you use a low-end transformer that lacks a direction button, it provides a handy direction button. Unfortunately the original Lionel 92 circuit breaker instructions have one mistake in them.
Here’s how to use this critical accessory to maximize your personal safety. Depending on your setup, you may need more than one of them.
In the 1950s, Marx produced hard plastic 60mm figures of U.S. presidents. Louis Marx meant for them to be an educational toy or collectible, but the Marx president figurines turn out to be a great accessory for train layouts too. Here’s how I use them.
If you’re more interested in collecting them, I hope you’ll still read on. I have some tips for finding them and restoring damaged figurines.