In 1974, Marx introduced a diesel freight set it called the Eagle Express, catalog #7360, that ran on AC electric power and sold through catalog retailers. If you have one today, it’s worth considerably more than its original retail price, even adjusted for inflation.
The Marx Eagle Express train set was part of the Great American Railroads series. It had catalog number 7360 and was manufactured only in 1974, though the inventory lasted years longer.
The story behind the Marx Eagle Express train set
It was 1974. Marx Toys had merged with Quaker Oats 2 years before, and Quaker brought in Spike Fitzpatrick, the former sales manager for A.C. Gilbert’s American Flyer trains in the 1960s. They didn’t give him much budget to work with. But they asked him to do what he could to refresh a 20-year-old product line and reinvigorate sales.
Fitzpatrick redesigned the packaging to include a large photograph of the train set in a realistic looking setting. He improved the paint schemes, modernizing them, and accentuating some detail that the initial design obscured. He dubbed his new, improved line the Great American Railroads series and dubbed 1974 “the time of railroad nostalgia” in Marx’s sales literature they sent to retail buyers.
One of the sets in the series, set# 7360, commemorated the Missouri Pacific, or Mopac. Mopac was a Class 1 railroad that operated in 11 states, running from Chicago to Pueblo, Colo., to Omaha, to Laredo, Texas, to the Gulf seaports of Louisiana.
The Eagle Express was supposed to be a midrange set. A stepping stone to sets like The Mohawk, its priciest set for 1974.
What came in the box
The Marx Eagle Express train set was very similar to other 4 wheel plastic sets they sold at discount stores a decade before, including a 25 watt transformer with circuit breaker, 10 pieces of track, a diesel switcher, and three cars to make a four unit train, rolling on four plastic wheels with fake truck sides to make them look like eight wheels, with fixed plastic knuckle couplers.
- Mopac GE 70 ton diesel switcher locomotive, unnumbered
- Gulf single dome tanker, 4 wheel, orange, #9553
- Erie flat car with 2 plastic autos, 4 wheel, maroon, unnumbered
- Mopac 4 wheel caboose, white, # 1231
The automobile loads varied. The selection included 1950 Ford, Studebaker, or Chevrolet sedans and Ford panel trucks, in varying colors. So the automobile load looked dated in the 1970s.
Unlike the sets that sold for half as much, the Eagle Express came in a sturdy box that had a sturdy and convenient styrofoam insert. That makes the set easier to identify.
Marx made the sets in 1974 and and was still selling leftover inventory in 1975 and 1976. Marx’s claims of the mid 1970s being the days of railroad nostalgia and re-established consumer interest in trains in its catalogs were wishful thinking. Sadly, the inventory in the retail pipeline lasted longer than Marx did.
But if you come across one of these sets today, you have something. They don’t come along for sale very often. The next time I see a boxed example for sale, a $250 price wouldn’t surprise me, if it’s complete and in nice shape.
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. You don’t want to damage it.
What the Marx 7360 Eagle Express train set originally cost
Marx’s retail partners didn’t promote the Eagle Express nearly as hard as they pushed Marx’s cheaper battery operated sets. Perhaps they were hoping to sell more 6 volt lantern batteries. Ads featuring the Eagle Express in the 1974 to 1976 timeframe offer it for as little at $10.88 and usually claim a regular price of $19.88 or $21.98. Magic Mart, a chain of 50 discount stores headquartered in Arkansas, sold it for $16.46, sometimes putting it on sale for $13.31. But Magic Mart’s ads didn’t mention the Marx brand. And newspaper ads for the cheaper battery sets were much more plentiful than ads for Marx’s AC powered sets like the Eagle Express and Rambler.
I think the aggressive discounting was a sign of duress. A decade earlier, Marx’s 4 wheel plastic sets had no trouble selling for $15.95 at retail.
Montgomery Ward offered the Eagle Express for $19.99 in its 1975 Christmas catalog. Sales didn’t live up to the name. So much so that the inventory lasted a decade. No joke. In the 1991 Greenberg’s Guide to Marx Trains Vol. 3, on page 73, there was a photo of an Eagle Express set with a caption stating someone found it at Montgomery Ward in 1986 and paid $21.98 for it.
That makes me wonder how many Marx train sets lurked in the toy aisle at the monster Montgomery Ward outlet where my childhood Saturdays went to die?
I have heard that the battery operated sets sold pretty well. But Marx needed to sell more expensive sets too.
Even now, this set can have a hard time catching a break. A fairly small number of Marx collectors know the 4 wheel cars with black sideframes were only produced for two years and some of them are scarce. So when an Eagle Express set, or part of one, turns up today, there’s no guarantee the person who finds it will recognize it as having any value. And that’s a shame.