Marx train set #25000 is perhaps the quintessential O gauge 3/16 scale set from Louis Marx & Co., featuring a classic 999 locomotive and tender and a consist of 3/16 scaled tin lithographed freight cars.
The locomotive and tender
A Marx 999 locomotive with a 2-4-2 wheel arrangement led off the set, with a metal New York Central tender on 3/16 style trucks. It was a good match for the included freight cars because they were all designed to go together from the onset.
The freight cars in Marx train set 25000
The freight consist varied a bit. It included a box car, single dome tank car, gondola, and caboose. But exactly which box car, gondola, and caboose seemed to vary quite a bit. Every set I’ve seen had the familiar NIACET 255 single dome tank car, but the included box car, gondola, and caboose varies.
It was a fairly generous assortment. You could add more cars, but the 999 might have trouble pulling the train if you added more than about two.
Power and track
A lower end Marx 720 transformer provided power. The 720 is a 50 watt transformer with a circuit breaker and sets of posts to power the train and a couple of accessories, which was useful when giving the train set as a gift. It left the door open for adding a pair of switches, some lighted accessories, or something to give the set a little more pizazz. At 50 watts, it was definitely a starter set transformer. But Marx equipped it a bit better than its competitors equipped their 50 watt units.
Marx included an oval of track in the form of 8 O27 curved pieces and six straight pieces. This was enough to make an oval of about 27 inches by 53.25 inches or 35.75 inches by 46.5 inches. It was enough to get you started while encouraging you to buy more.
The top of the box reads as follows:
Stream Line Steam Type Electrical Train
Made in the U.S.A. by Louis Marx & Co., Inc.
It wasn’t remote control in the modern sense of the word. The throttle was on the transformer, which connected to the track via wires. You could change the direction of the train by shutting off the throttle and then turning it back on. It wasn’t state of the art even by 1940s standards.
There were exceptions, but by and large Marx set box lids were pretty generic. There were no pictures. The set number was printed on the lower half of the box.
The boxes in Marx’s pricier sets were durable and many of them survive. The number of complete sets that still exist in their boxes 80 years on suggests many people boxed the sets back up when they weren’t using them.
Marx train set 25000: in conclusion
This is a good example of Marx’s effort to undercut Lionel. Sets like this forced Lionel to introduce its Lionel Scout, which gave the Lionel name at a Marx price, but at the expense of quality. In 1948, Sears sold a set with the same consist as train set 25000 (they didn’t mention Marx’s outfit number in their catalog) for $17.98, nearly a dollar less than the cheapest Lionel set they sold. But the cheapest Marx electric set was $10.79, and the cheapest mechanical set was $3.98. In its day, Marx train set 25000 was one of the better sets Marx offered.
As many of them are still floating around today, it seems Marx sold a lot of them.
Also, for whatever it’s worth, when it comes to Marx set numbers, sets with numbers in the 25000s frequently are some type of 999 outfit with 3/16 cars.
If you have a Marx train set 25000, don’t expect it to make you rich. Marx collectors do enjoy collecting boxed sets but nothing in set 25000 is especially rare. I wouldn’t expect one to have any trouble selling one, but its value today is around $75. If it includes original paperwork and a receipt, that would increase the value slightly.
If you own one and don’t have any intention of selling it, I would recommend keeping a piece of paper in the box documenting what it came with. Parts do have a tendency to get separated over the years, and that will help you reunite them if you have other Marx trains.