The Marx 994 was Marx’s largest tin-bodied locomotive. It dates to 1952. It wasn’t made for very long, but thanks to its size, collectors still like the Marx 994 locomotive.
Marx released the 994 in 1950 to compete with Unique Art, a rival maker of tin toys who had entered the market in 1949. Unique’s trains were priced like Marx’s and ran on the same O gauge track but were slightly larger, which made them appear to be a better value. Marx countered by introducing its own line of trains in a similar size.
The Marx 994 locomotive
The Marx 994 measured 10.25 inches in length. For comparison, a Marx 999 or Commodore Vanderbilt is about 8.5 inches in length. Marx’s top-of-the-line 333 locomotive is 10.5 inches in length. The 994 used the same common 4-wheel Marx motor as the 999, Commodore Vanderbilt, and other engines of the day.
The motor had four drive wheels, and Marx complemented them with fake stamped-in leading and trailing trucks on the body itself. This made the locomotive look like it had additional wheels (kind of), but only having four wheels on the track meant the train was much less likely to derail when kids ran it on tight curves at high speeds. It wasn’t a very good model, but it was a good toy.
Typically Marx shipped the 994 with 7-inch freight cars. These cars weren’t quite the same size as Marx’s 3/16-scale cars, but they were close. Their 4-wheel design and plastic knuckle couplers made them cheap to produce and sell, while narrowing the gap between Marx’s product and Unique’s. And if Marx had to beat Unique on price, it would substitute a smaller locomotive for the 994 in a 7-inch set.
Why the 994 wasn’t produced long
Unique went head to head with Marx on more than one front, including a tin toy typewriter and trains. Unique’s trains didn’t sell all that well, though its typewriter did outsell Marx and Marx had to produce a similar toy in Japan in order to beat Unique’s price.
Unique went out of business in 1951 and Marx acquired the tooling. Without Unique to compete with, the 994 was essentially a solution in search of a problem. The industry was moving toward plastic and diecast, and Marx suddenly had the tooling for Unique’s locomotive on its hands as well. Some experiments with Unique’s tooling existed in Marx’s archives, so Marx considered producing Unique’s design, but in the end, Marx ended up using its diecast 333 and plastic 1829 as the largest offerings in its product line. Marx discontinued the 994 in 1952.
Marx 994 variations
The Marx 994 came in black and red and two major variations. The unnumbered variation is worth between $20 and $40, depending on condition. The variation with a number on the cab is worth between $35 and $75, again, depending on condition.
Marx did produce a windup version of the 994. This version isn’t in the price guides, so it’s a secret among advanced Marx collectors. They don’t come up for sale very frequently, but like the windup 490, not many people know what it is, either. If you pick up a windup 994 at a good price, I strongly recommend against modifying it. I’ve seen windup 994s sell for as little as $45 and as much as $500. If you want an electric 994, you can sell your bargain mechanical 994 and buy two or three, if not several electric 994s with the proceeds.
Marx also produced a lithographed Disney-themed train using the 994 tooling in 1952. It is popular with both train and Disney collectors, so the Marx Disney train is expensive.