The Marx Girard station is one of three tinplate train stations Marx produced during the post-war era. They replaced an earlier, smaller, and less ambitious station from the pre-war era, and solved more than one problem for Marx.
The Marx Girard station had a long production run, from around 1950 to 1973. Marx named the station after the town in Pennsylvania where its train factory stood.
Significance of the name Girard
In his January 2005 article about Marx post-war tin stations, the late Classic Toy Trains and Model Railroader editor Neil Besougloff noted that the names of the three stations sounded like all-American suburbs. And the name was certainly a departure from competitor Lionel, who typically stamped all their stations Lionel City.
But there was more to the city names than just an attempt at versatility. In the case of Girard, it was the location of its train factory. The Girard factory still stands today, housing other businesses.
The Glendale and Oak Park stations have a different significance. Glendale, West Virginia was the location of its largest factory. Oak Park was actually named for a Chicago suburb where Sears executives lived. Sears was a large reseller of Marx trains.
The Girard and Oak Park stations were made in Marx’s Girard factory. The Glendale station was made in its Glendale factory.
Girard station variations
The Girard station is a hip-roof-architecture traditional train station, very much like what you found in small towns and suburbs throughout the United States. The design was identical to the Oak Park station, varying only in the with the design they printed on the parts. The sign had different lettering, and the Girard station had the more traditional red brick and gray roof, rather than yellow brick and green roof.
The Girard station generally came with a steam whistle, while a more expensive variant had both a light and a horn. The more expensive version had cut out windows with glazing to accommodate the light. The version without a light had printed windows.
Besougloff noted that the lithography was less ambitious than many pre-war stations, but it also made the stations look more timeless. I agree, they weren’t up to Bing or Ives standards. But although they date to the post-war era, these stations can blend into a pre-war layout just as easily as postwar.
Speaking of decades, the Girard station had an impressive run. It made its debut around 1950. But Marx was still selling them in 1973, only a year before the company wrapped up its train production for good.
While much of Marx’s product line saw a resurgence under new ownership, be it Model Power or K-Line, the tin stations were not among the products that survived.
The Girard station seems to be more common than the Oak Park station. At least that’s been my experience in St. Louis.
Why put a whistle in a station?
Lionel put sound in its locomotives, and you use a pushbutton, either on a separate accessory controller or the transformer, to make the sound activate. It worked by injecting DC power onto the rails, and the polarity determined whether you would get a diesel horn sound or a whistle sound.
It was clever, but expensive. Not to mention patented. American Flyer competed by hiding a whistle mechanism or diesel horn mechanism in a billboard. Marx decided to hide its mechanisms in its train stations.
If you want sound effects regardless of the brand of train you run, one way to get them is to put Marx stations and/or American Flyer billboards on your layout to get the sound effects that you want. Of course, you can accomplish something similar with modern electronics, if you don’t care about using modern conveniences on your vintage layout. But if you want vintage sound effects, the Marx Oak Park station was the way our forerunners did it in the 1950s.
Marx Girard station value
The Girard station is more common than the Oak Park station, and correspondingly less expensive. You can expect to pay around $50 for an unlighted version and closer to $60 for a lighted example, assuming they are complete and in nice condition. You can usually find one on Ebay if you are in the market for one.
Setup and use
The Girard station wires up relatively easily. Use a push button to activate its horn.
Long-time train hobbyist Richard Getty used to entertain the Marx train discussion group with his fictional tales of operating a Marx-based railroad between the towns of Girard, Oak Park, and Glendale, imitating the history of real railroading in the area of Vermont where he grew up. He chose those names because those were the names of the stations Marx made. He named his railroad the Girard and Oak Park, because those were the first two stations he got. Later, when space permitted, he acquired a Glendale station and added a Glendale line.
Operations versus running
His approach to the hobby was different from mine, in that he actually did operations between two, and later, three towns on his layout. That’s not to say his approach was wrong and my approach is right. He had a lot of fun and stayed within budget, so he absolutely did it right.
Where my approach on my layout was to build something reminiscent of the area of South St Louis where my wife and I met and let the trains run themselves, his operations-based approach requires more distance, or at least illusion of distance.
To replicate his way of doing things, place a station at two different ends of your layout, place a few buildings near the station to make it look like a small town, and if you have the kind of imagination to rival Rich’s, try your hand at concocting colorful tales of what happens over the course of the trains running between those two towns.