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Marx 41850 train set: The Mohawk

In 1974, Marx introduced a diesel freight train set it called The Mohawk, catalog #41850, that ran on AC electric power and sold through catalog retailers. If you have a Marx 41850 train set today, it’s worth considerably more than its original retail price, even adjusted for inflation.

Marx’s Mohawk train set was part of the Great American Railroads series. It had catalog number 41850 and was manufactured only in 1974. Today it is one of the most valuable Marx train sets ever made.

The story behind Marx’s 41850 Mohawk train set

Marx 48150 train set ad 1974

Sav-On, a California drugstore chain, advertised the Mohawk set at an aggressive $29.95 price in December 1974.

The 1970s weren’t a great time for American railroads. Marx bet that Boomers would be interested in buying electric train sets for their kids, so they hired a former American Flyer manager, Spike Fitzpatrick, to revamp their train line on a tight budget. He created a series called The Great American Railroads and gave each set a name and a theme.

One of the sets in the series, set# 41850, commemorated the Penn Central railroad. But there was a problem with that. The Penn Central isn’t generally remembered as a great railroad. It was an ill fated merger of two formerly great railroads, the Pennsylvania and the New York Central, that failed to recapture the greatness of its legacy forerunners.

But at least it was a somewhat accurate representation of what you might see in a Penn Central train. Marx was fond of slapping the Penn Central name on steam tenders. Penn Central never ran steam.

What came in the box

The Marx Mohawk train set was intended as a top end set for 1974, including an E7 diesel locomotive that ran in forward and reverse, three freight cars, and a caboose, running on 8 wheel trucks with automatic tilt couplers.

  • 4000 E7 diesel locomotive in green, lettered Penn Central
  • Missouri Pacific stock car, 54099, yellow and brown
  • Erie Gondola, 51170, orange
  • Exxon tank car, unnumbered, white
  • Penn Central caboose, 18326, green
  • 10 pieces of O27 track
  • 50 watt transformer, #1237

The transformer and track are easily replaced, of course. But the 4000 locomotive is different from earlier units that were equipped as an A-B pair. This version was designed to run alone, so its coupler is different. Only the 18326 caboose came in other sets.

If you come across one of these sets today, you have something. When they sell, they sell for several hundred dollars.

If you have one of these sets and you’d like to see it running again, I don’t blame you. Here’s some advice on setting up a Marx train set. But run it carefully, please. And consider getting a cheaper Marx set for casual running, just bringing out the 48150 set for special occasions.

What the Marx 41850 Mohawk train set originally cost

Marx’s retail partners didn’t promote the Mohawk nearly as hard as they pushed Marx’s cheaper sets. The only newspaper ads I could find for it offered it for $29.95. They didn’t state whether it was a sale price or regular price. But that’s an aggressive price for a five unit train with 8 wheel trucks and automatic couplers.

That said, in 1974, 30 bucks was a fair bit of money. That was equivalent to $177 in 2022 dollars. The price was in Lionel’s territory, and that may have been a problem. Marx’s train was a better value. But Lionel had the name, and they were pricing their trains aggressively too.

Marx needed people to buy the cheap sets, then upgrade over time. But you couldn’t operate the cars from the cheaper sets with the cars from the Mohawk set. The same was true if you upgraded to Lionel. So if the price was about the same, there wasn’t a lot of reason to stay with Marx.

You don’t see the words “rare” and “Marx” together very often. This set is an exception. It’s rare. That suggests it sold poorly. Marx struggled with train sales in 1974 except for its cheapest battery operated sets. And that’s why the Mohawk was one of the last of its kind.

It may seem odd that a plastic train set from 1974 is one of the rarest and most valuable Marx trains today. But that was the state of Marx in the mid 1970s. It was a product line on its last legs and management kept it on a very short leash.

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