By Allister Townson-Muse
Trains in the Building
A unique discovery was made last fall during the museum clean up. A rare, Marx ride-upon toy train call the “Lightning Express 3000” was found in a storage closet. It was obvious that it had once been a much-favored toy of some young child. Originally, the train was painted a bright red, had a steering “T” handle that protruded out the top, a bell and tin lithograph side panels showing pictures of connecting rods and steam pistons. The owner of this toy must have spent countless hours playing with it, since some of its parts are missing and it’s gently bruised. After a brisk cleaning, it was placed on display for the museum visitors to see.
The Museums toy train was manufactured in 1945 by The Marx Company, but the toy company’s history started in 1919. Twenty-two year-old Louis Marx started his company with no money, no manufacturing, no products, and no customers. But, what he did have, was an endless supply of energy, a go-getter attitude and a goal to “give the customer more toy for less money.” He continually stressed that “quality is not negotiable.” It was these two principals that made the company very successful.
Eventually, he raised enough money to purchase tooling for two obsolete tin toys from his former employer, and with subtle changes, sold eight million of each within two years. Marx continued to revamp old-fashioned toys and within three years became a millionaire. While other toy companies failed during the depression, the Marx Company continued to flourish when they established manufacturing plants in the economically hard-hit areas of New England. Production came to a halt during WWII when the factories were re-tooled to help with the war effort. After the war ended, Marx charged ahead and became the world’s largest manufacturer of toys. A seemingly endless supply of toys were produced, with the electric tin-plate trains being one of the most popular and collectable. Marx was perhaps the last train maker to switch from stamped steel to plastic in their manufacturing.
Those of the baby boomer generation will remember Rock’Em-Sock’Em Robots, Big Wheels and army playsets, “Battle Ground, Custer’s Last Stand and Fort Apache”. With tin-stamped cars, airplanes, fire trucks and numerous other toys, the Marx Company delighted children for decades.
The Marx Empire was eventually sold and is almost forgotten now, except for collectors of old toys. If you would like to see the toy that delighted a local child over seventy years ago, pop-in to the White Pine Public Museum and take a peek.
Entries for the May Cookie Jar Contest are due the first week of May and will be on display all month. In honor of Mother’s Day, Mums, who visit the museum with their families will have free admission during the holiday.
The “Life” magazines are still on display and will continue for the remainder of the year, with many issues for sale in the gift shop. Framed advertisements and stories are available also.
The White Pine County Museum is open 10:00am to 4:00pm seven days a week. Admission is $3 per person and children under 5 are free. If you are interested in becoming a museum member or would like to volunteer, stop by the museum or contact Sally at 775-229-4710.