Marx train set #26259 from Montgomery Ward

Marx train set #26259 is a somewhat unusual set, dating to the mid 1950s. Marx sold it through Montgomery Ward, and it is something of a transition set. The cars didn’t exactly match the locomotive and tender.

The locomotive and tender

Marx train set 26259
The Marx train set 26259 was a mid-range train set from the 1950s, intended to give good value for money while leaving options open for expansion.

A Marx 999 locomotive led off the set, with a plastic Santa Fe tender on 3/16 style trucks. The trucks on the tender do not match the trucks on the freight cars. So a proper 26259 set looks like a mixup when it actually isn’t. I wonder how many people replaced the tender over the years.

This may be a bit of an odd choice, but the shorter trucks and wheelsets on the tender do help disguise the size difference between the 999 and the larger freight cars.

The freight cars in Marx train set 26259

The freight consist included a familiar selection of cars from three familiar railroads of the day. All of them were plastic and had tall 8-wheel O27 trucks, the same height as Lionel.

  • Rock Island 147815 deluxe box car
  • UTLX 284 triple dome tank car
  • Lehigh Valley 21429 hopper
  • Santa Fe (ATSF) 4427 caboose

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-mid-range Marx 1249 transformer provided power. I have instructions for connecting the 1249 if you need them. The 1249 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 four straight pieces. This was enough to make an oval of about 27 inches by 44.5 inches, or a symmetrical loop 35.75 inches by 35.75 inches. It was enough to get you started while encouraging you to buy more.

The box

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.

Remote Control

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 1950s standards, but it provided the same functionality as Lionel did in this price range.

There were exceptions, but by and large Marx set box lids from this era 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 70 years on suggests many people boxed the sets back up when they weren’t using them.

Marx train set 26259: in conclusion

old montgomery ward store kansas city
Montgomery Ward was a large retailer. It operated massive facilities that served as both huge department stores and regional distribution centers for catalog orders.

This is a good example of Marx’s effort to compete with the Lionel Scout and other Lionel starter sets. Marx would have offered retailers a smaller set than this one, priced lower than Lionel. Then they’d offer a set like #26259 that could sell for the same price as Lionel’s cheapest set or just a bit more, while offering a slightly bigger oval and a longer train. If you didn’t care about the Lionel brand name, a set like this one gave you more train for your money. And having worked on both types of trains, I can tell you that you didn’t sacrifice any quality with Marx at this price point.

Montgomery Ward was a large retailer, operating both retail stores and a mail-order catalog, competing with Sears and JC Penney. They stayed with Marx until the end, taking on Marx’s ill-fated Eagle Express train set in 1974, and still having some sets in stock into the 1980s. They filed bankruptcy in 1997 and closed all their stores December 28, 2000, after 128 years in business. But in the 1950s they were a retail powerhouse.

What about value?

If you have a Marx train set 26259, don’t expect it to make you rich. Marx collectors do enjoy collecting boxed sets but nothing in set 26259 is especially rare. I wouldn’t expect someone to have any trouble selling a boxed example, but its value is probably no more than $100. If it includes original paperwork and a receipt, that certainly helps you get $100 or maybe a touch higher.

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 documentation will help you reunite them if you have other Marx trains. Especially in a set like this one where the locomotive and tender are a bit undersized for the freight cars.

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