Marx William Crooks locomotive

Marx William Crooks locomotive

In 1959, Marx attempted to cash in on the popularity of TV westerns by creating an 1860s style locomotive. Today, the Marx William Crooks locomotive is one of the rarer and more desirable Marx locomotives. You don’t often hear the words “rare” and “Marx” together.

The Marx locomotive was a recognizable model of the real William Crooks locomotive, a St. Paul and Pacific 1861-era engine that still exists today.

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Bachmann vs Lionel

Bachmann vs Lionel

Comparing Bachmann vs Lionel is a contrast between two very old, established names in electric trains. Lionel, in one form or another, has been selling trains since 1900. Bachmann, the largest seller of trains in the world, was founded in 1833, though they started selling trains in 1966.

Ironically, it was Lionel that got Bachmann into the train business. In the 1940s and 1950s, when every kid wanted a Lionel or American Flyer train, Bachmann sold buildings under its Plasticville brand so kids and dads could build towns for those trains to run in. As the focus shifted to smaller scales in the 1960s, Bachmann moved with it, with greater success than the companies it once shared a symbiotic relationship with.

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Selling Tyco trains

Selling Tyco trains

I got an inquiry last week about selling Tyco trains. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I certainly remember Tyco, and in recent years Tyco has gained a bit of a following.

If you’re looking to sell some Tyco gear, you certainly can do it, but you have to keep your expectations realistic. You’ll probably be able to sell it, but don’t expect to get rich off it.

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How to disassemble a Marx 490 locomotive

How to disassemble a Marx 490 locomotive

Disassembling a Marx 490 locomotive isn’t too difficult, but it’s very different from other Marx locomotives.

Once you take one apart, though, you’ll see why it was designed how it was. It was Marx’s lowest-cost locomotive, and it could be assembled without tools, so the labor costs were minimal.

For that matter you only need one tool to take it apart, and since there’s so little in it that can break–not even a headlight–you can find anything you would need to service it at the nearest hardware store or auto parts store.

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How many Lionel CTC lockons you need

How many Lionel CTC lockons you need

You usually need at least two Lionel CTC lockons, but most Lionel O and O27 train sets came with a single CTC lockon connector.

If your train slows down as it gets farther away from the transformer, that’s the biggest tell-tale sign that you need at least one more lockon.

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Finding a connection to my Dad in a suburban St. Louis estate

Yesterday I wrote about my greatest estate sale find ever. Well, the very same month as that one, I found another estate sale featuring a Lionel 1110 locomotive, which happened to be my Dad’s first train. So of course I put that sale on my list. The 1110 wasn’t among Lionel’s finest moments, but I’ll note that in 1986 when Dad and I pulled his postwar Lionels out of storage, it was the first of Dad’s locomotives that we got running, and in 2003 when I got them out again, it was the only one that still ran.

Well, this 1110 didn’t run. The motor assembly was cracked and it wasn’t worth the asking price. But behind the locomotive, I found some paperwork. “Build these realistic models!” it urged. It was marked $4. The tag warned it was very delicate. I took it out of the plastic bag it was in, decided against trying to unfold it, and bought it unseen. Read more

The high-dollar cardboard box

There was one other interesting quote in the Post-Dispatch’s Top 10 collectibles for value this week:

10. Boxes (yes, simple boxes!)

For a starter, wooden boxes of all types with and without locking mechanisms, souvenir boxes, tea boxes, cigar boxes, jewelry, knife boxes and the list goes on for value. If you can put something in it, somebody wants to give you money for it.

Don’t get too excited, but a box doesn’t have to be made of wood to be valuable. Even a cardboard box can have some value, depending on what came in it. But don’t get too excited. Read more

Marx windup 490: An unexpected rarity

Marx windup 490: An unexpected rarity

I’ve written before about the Greenberg Pocket Price Guide for Marx, and I frequently recommend it, especially to newcomers, because it’s very easy to end up spending $30 on a car that’s only worth $10. I know when starting out we prefer to spend our train money on trains. But by saving you from overpaying, the guide quickly pays for itself. Here’s how I use mine. The guide isn’t perfect, though. One of the items it omits is the Marx windup 490 steam locomotive.

Marx made clockwork locomotives longer than anyone else and they typically aren’t worth a lot today. But the 490 is different. There are always exceptions with Marx. Read more

Looking back at Sam Posey’s Playing With Trains

I finally got around to reading Playing With Trains (here’s a Nook link), sportscaster Sam Posey’s 2004 memoir of 50 years as a model railroader.

Of course I was mostly interested in the first couple of chapters, where he talks about growing up with Lionel trains. It’s more a personal recollection than a complete history, which was his intent, but that’s good. The history of the consumer perspective often gets lost. He and his mother regarded American Flyer as more realistic but flimsier; Lionel was rugged but ran on unrealistic 3-rail track.

Here’s another interesting tidbit: Growing up in the 1950s, your big toy was either a train set or a fort playset–normal families couldn’t afford both. I was vaguely aware that the fort playsets existed but didn’t know that about them. Read more

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