The Marx observation passenger car was a 6-inch passenger car based on the design Marx used for its 6-inch freights. The basic design underwent some changes and updates over the years, but Marx used the name from 1935 to 1942, then resumed production in 1946 and continued until 1961. Observation cars ran on the end of passenger trains and had a platform that passengers could use to admire the landscape as the train moved.
The Marx observation coach
There are 22 variants of the observation coach in Walt Hiteshew’s Definitive Guide to 6-inch Marx trains. I reviewed his guide way back in 2011 and still use it. Not every variant of the Bogota or Montclair car has a corresponding observation variant.
The Marx passenger car body is derived from the 6-inch box car. Imagine a rounded off tin box on a frame. Marx either embossed the windows and signage to give the car some depth, or stamped out the windows. The observation car has an end modified to accommodate a platform. The fanciest variants included window glazing, illumination, and brass handrails. Basic variants didn’t have illumination or handrails. The embossed windows were the secondary color of the car, either yellow or ivory, and in a few cases, just punched out and left empty.
The lighted cars have a sliding switch to turn the light on and off.
Most Marx passenger coaches are red, but Marx produced a blue one from 1950 to 1952, and green from 1954 to 1956. Blue and green variants came on 4-wheel frames, with either sliding tab and slot couplers or plastic knuckle couplers. The blue ones with sliding couplers came with a blue Mercury locomotive. The blue ones with plastic couplers were a separate sale item. Although the green cars look good with a Marx Seaboard tin diesel engine, Marx did not sell them together that way.
The red cars had many more subvariants.
Notably, red cars came with riveted tab and slot couplers on either 4- or 8-wheel frames, and automatic one-way couplers on 8-wheel frames. There were also variants on each type of 4-wheel frame, including the common black embossed frame, the early lithographed frames, and the elusive silver frame. The illuminated versions, only available in red, had a spring loaded copper sliding shoe, similar in concept to the pickup shoe on its electric locomotives. And of course there were sliding tab and slot coupler variants of the red cars on 4-wheel frames.
Besides the word “Observation,” the cars were also lettered “Pullman” across the top. Pullman was the major manufacturer of sleeping cars on passenger trains for over a century, from 1867 to 1968. It was a household name when Marx was producing its trains.
How they were sold
Marx sold the cars both as passenger sets and separate sale items. As travel on passenger trains became less common, Marx phased out the passenger coaches. The late Tasker Brush, who had an encyclopedic knowledge of Marx sets, said in a 2006 post to the Marxtrain group that the last Marx 6-inch tin passenger sets date to about 1954. Marx did produce sets for Sears under the Allstate brand from 1956 to about 1960.