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Marx train set 452

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.

A 1962 exclusive

Marx set 452

Marx train set 452 came with the elusive 490 windup. It was only available in 1962.

Marx set 425 featured the windup 490. Both the windup 490 and set 452 didn’t make it to 1963. Marx discontinued the windup 490 after 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.

The windup 490 isn’t in the price guides. It also doesn’t turn up on Ebay very often.

Marx set 453 replaced set on store shelves, and the 1963 catalogs touted set 453’s sturdy new locomotive.

Marx set 452

My windup 490 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. If you get one in a tatty box like I did, here’s how I fix toy and game boxes.

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. It probably included an instruction sheet as well. Mine is missing.

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.

I got my example at an estate sale in St. Louis.

Why Marx set 452 escaped notoriety

As far as I can tell, set 452 never appeared in any catalogs. We can date it to 1962 on the basis of the 490 locomotive. It happens that its successor, set 453, does appear in the 1962 catalog. And it talks up the durability of the new locomotive. So it’s possible the problems emerged even before Marx printed its 1962 catalog and they didn’t even produce the set for a full year.

Had the locomotive not been problematic, set 452 would have appeared in a catalog eventually. Since it seems Marx had a bit of damage control to do, they promoted set 453 more heavily than they might have otherwise.

Much like the windup 490, I can’t find set in any of the Marx books, so it’s a pretty obscure set.

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