A fellow Marx collector asked recently for information about sets containing the elusive Marx windup 490 (also sometimes called the mechanical 490), so I thought I would share what I know about set number 452.
It was only made and sold one year, 1962, due to reliability problems from what I understand. The design of this locomotive didn’t lend itself well to Marx’s windup motor, although it functioned well as an electric and enjoyed a long production run in that configuration. In fact, the 490 is one of the most common (and cheap) Marx electric locomotives.
Mine came in set number 452, which included an NYC tender and caboose, a Lehigh Valley 28500 high-side gondola, and a Pennsylvania Railroad Merchandise Service boxcar, all of the six-inch tin variety with dimpled sliding tab and slot couplers and plastic wheels. The caboose was the variety without the back railing and ladder and no coupler on the back. These were common omissions that Marx would make in inexpensive sets to meet a price point.
The box was printed in color on cheap, thin cardboard so don’t be surprised if the boxes are hard to find today. I’m sure it was attractive packaging when it was new, but it wasn’t very durable. The number was rubber stamped on the side of the box.
My example came with 10 pieces of two-rail track (two straights and eight curves), and apparently it also originally came with plastic telephone poles. My set didn’t have the telephone poles, but Marx telephone poles are fairly easy to find on Ebay. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an instruction sheet as well, but mine was long gone.
The set sold in 1962 for $3.98, which is about $30 a half-century later. So this was an inexpensive train, but price-wise it wasn’t in the league of the $15 sets you see during the holiday season today. Then again, in 1962, the only company in the United States that was willing and able to hit that price point was Marx.