Last Updated on March 3, 2022 by Dave Farquhar
Marx Standard Gauge? Surely there’s no such thing. Marx was the king of cheap trains, and Standard Gauge trains were the big, over-the-top trains for the wealthy. But near the end of the Standard Gauge era, Marx did made a Standard Gauge train, sort of.
The Marx “standard gauge” floor train
Calling this train standard gauge is a bit of a misnomer, as it was a floor toy and unpowered. But people have called them Marx Standard Gauge for generations, because it fit on Lionel Standard Gauge track.
The train dates to 1933 and it had Joy Line-style couplers. But the cars are unmistakably stamped “Marx.” When these turn up they often confuse people who are more familiar with Marx 6-inch cars from the 1930s and onward.
The wheels can be metal or wood. Marx would make substitutions to hit a price point. Some people swapped in Lionel wheels over the years.
People call them standard gauge because the cars will usually fit on Standard or Wide Gauge track. But the wheel gauge can be all over the place. You may have to use spacers on the axles to get the wheels to stay in gauge better. And chances are they’d work on #2 Gauge track (think Carlisle & Finch) too. Size-wise, the cars are closer to O than to Standard Gauge, but Standard Gauge operators will sometimes change the couplers and run these as a shorty train.
You can also fashion replacement axles from brass rod and place spacers on either side of the wheels, to re-gauge them to O gauge.
They had a longer wheel base than Marx O gauge cars, but the style is somewhat similar. But the parts aren’t lithographed, but rather, painted, with stamped lettering. That’s another departure from their motorized trains of the era. But they have thick, heavy gauge steel like a Tonka truck, in keeping with their floor toys of the era.
Marx accessories and buildings on layouts
And Marx buildings and accessories sometimes turn up on Standard Gauge layouts. Marx streetlights, signals, and other accessories are oversized for O gauge and sized more appropriately for a larger scale. Not that that stops most people from using them on O gauge layouts. I do.
Marx playset buildings are usually close enough in size for Standard Gauge. The freight station is a good fit, but a lot of their other playset buildings fit well too. The skyscraper looks nice on a Standard Gauge layout. The Sears department store may be a little new for Standard Gauge but its size works well. Non-station buildings that look the part are scarce in that scale, so Marx fits the bill nicely.
Repurposed Marx motors in Standard Gauge
Marx never made a powered Standard Gauge train, but in the 1970s, some of their motors turned up in Standard Gauge trains made by others. When Marx train production ended, Quaker Oats had a supply of surplus Marx motors. There was a cottage industry of hobbyists making short runs of Standard Gauge trains. Producing tinplate trains is one thing. Producing electric motors is another. So a lot of these producers had to get creative. Re-gauging O gauge motors was one of the solutions they came up with.
So if you’re ever at a show and see an engine that sounds an awful lot like a Marx motor, it may be.