Marx roadbed track is a curiosity today, but it was a cheap way for them to improve their track in the 1960s to try to make their trains more competitive.
Marx introduced its plastic roadbed track in 1961, and sold it individually and in Sears sets. Originally it was a Sears exclusive. Most Sears sets from 1961 to 1963 had it. Why did Marx give Sears an exclusive? Perhaps it was Sears’ idea. Or maybe it was a favor. Marx and Sears had a tight relationship. That’s why Marx named one of its stations Oak Park.
It was O27. Marx did consider O34 and some preproduction examples exist, but Marx never put it into full scale production. Each piece has the Marx trademark molded onto the underside.
How much Marx roadbed track cost
Sections sold for 39 cents each at retail. That’s equivalent to around $3.75 today, so compared to today’s Fastrack prices, that’s still a bargain. Today, if it’s clean and usable, it’s not unusual for it to sell for $5 per section. If the track is damaged or missing, a regular piece of Marx O27 track snaps in easily. You can find Marx roadbed track on Ebay pretty easily. Just look carefully to make sure you’re buying the right gauge, because Marx also made it for HO scale. If it’s gray, it’s HO scale. Black can be either. If it has three rails, it’s O27.
Improving or fixing Marx plastic roadbed track
It didn’t have additional ties molded in and it’s black, when gray would look more like stone. Black ballast exists in some parts of the world, but gray is more common. Molding in extra ties would have been fairly easy, and they did exactly that on their plastic switches.
Some people spray it gray and add additional ties by cutting strips of electrical tape and sticking them on. If you want something more reversible, you could drybrush it with gray acrylic paint. The HO scale counterpart was available in black or gray.
It’s hollow underneath so it’s loud like Fastrack. You can dampen the sound by putting carpet pad inside the cavity, a trick that also works for Fastrack.
If the track is missing or damaged, you can snap it out and snap a piece of Marx track in its place. Other brands of track won’t fit correctly because of the tie spacing, and, depending on the era, the size. If you want to use a piece of postwar Lionel track, you’ll have to move the ties.