The Marx Pennsylvania Railroad Merchanside Service boxcars are colorful tin representations of real, prototypical cars that ran on the Pennsylvania Railroad during the late 1940s and into the 1950s.
The real cars hauled loads that were less than a full freight car on expedited schedules, competing with over the road trucking. They could cover the 900 mile trip from New York City to Chicago in 32 hours. The cars were rebuilt X29 boxcars, with a larger capacity body sitting on the original underframe.
Marx produced versions of these cars in both its 6-inch and 7-inch line. It gave them another colorful boxcar alongside the patriotic State of Maine car to compete with Lionel’s popular line of colorful 6464 box cars, and American Flyer’s colorful S scale boxcars.
The Marx PRR Merchandise Service box car
The key difference was Marx included this colorful car in inexpensive sets, where Lionel’s 6464 was intended for Lionel’s most expensive sets, or sold separately, at a Lionel price. Well, the other difference was Lionel and Flyer made theirs out of plastic, while Marx used tin lithography. Tin litho was cheaper at the time.
It was a smart move for Marx. Including the car in inexpensive sets meant you could get something resembling the look of a high-end Lionel set at a fraction of the price. These cars aren’t rare, but they are popular. And chasing down all of the number variants presents a challenge for Marx collectors.
Both full size and fun size!
Marx never made a plastic version of the PRR Merchandise Service boxcar, but did include it in both its 7-inch and 6-inch lines. The 7-inch cars had 10 road numbers, 37950-37959, while the 6-inch cars had 6 road numbers, 37960-37975, and an unnumbered variation.
Marx printed cars in sheets, so they would sometimes vary the road number depending on the car’s position on the sheet. In this case, they did with both the 6-inch version and 7-inch version.
Marx introduced both sizes in 1954. The 7-inch cars ran until 1958. The 6-inch cars ran into the 1960s. The unnumbered version dates to 1965.