This review is on Marx's pre-war #999 2-4-2 steam engine. (For those of you who don't hang around the Model Railroader forums, posting reviews is something I frequently do. Since this one's on a "classic toy train" rather than HO scale, it ended up over here where it belongs)
Marx made seven different versions of their #999, with most of them having only simple variations to the front pilot. The first (and rarest) had a pilot with open spokes, but it was found to be too fragile and was quickly replaced with the second version of the 999, which had a closed spoke pilot. The next (and I believe most common) version had a simple, fully sealed pilot with the rivets on what appears to be horizontal braces. The fourth version had the "braces" removed, leaving only the rivets on a very flat looking pilot. The fifth had the Marx logo on the cab instead of the smokebox, and the sixth had no Marx logo at all. The last was made from plastic instead of metal. Versions five through seven used the version three pilot. (information from http://marxtinplatetrains.com/)
Marx's #999 steam engine is built nicely and very sturdily, which is a good thing since many of the owners of these trains were children (and we all know kids can be pretty rough with their toys). The one reviewed here is a version three model, with the horizontal braces across the top and bottom of the pilot. The actual scale is S, but it's designed to run on O gauge track. It's actually pretty detailed for an old toy train, with lots of rivets and piping cast onto the aluminum body. It's very cleanly cast too, with no flash and very few seams. The wire handrails and bell are stainless-steel, which seems to only tarnish instead of rust. The cab is fully open, making room for a crew incase you'd ever want one. The drive wheels are, except for the flanges, very realistic looking, although they're not quartered (which isn't really a problem). There are only two siderods, which are the ones going to the cylinders, so the front drivers are connected to the rear ones only through the gear (which is why a lack of quartering wasn't a problem). The paint seems very durable, and after existing for around 65 years, it only needed a little touch-up in a couple spots. The 999 numbers on each side of the cab are water decals which flake apart easily, so finding one with the decals fully intact can be a little hard. The tender is 100% stamped steel, so it's less detailed than the engine and rusts easily. The coal load is very flat, and the only separate detail part is the stamped ladder on the back. The whole thing is painted high-gloss black, with the yellow New York Central lettering and Marx logos printed on. The trucks are very simple looking with little detail, and the couplers are an odd design (kind of a spring loaded loop, instead of the more common V-shaped couplers). It's still a pretty nice looking tender once it's been de-rusted and repainted.
Aside from a slight wobble, the Marx #999 is a nice running steam engine. It's also very fast, due to a gear ratio of around 6:1. Because the gauge is O but the scale is S, I'll give speed measurements for both. At 13 volts with a 50 watt Marx transformer, the top speed in O was around 130 MPH, and in S, 175 MPH. Low speed running was a little shaky, but it still managed to run at a minimum of 6.5 MPH in O, and 8.75 MPH in S. Through the whole speed range, just about all you can hear is the wheels on the track, some gear noise, and the hum of the AC power in the motor. It's designed so that it can run on O-27 track, but it seems to run better on larger curves. The direction is controlled by an automatic E-unit, which switches when you turn the power off and back on. The power consumption of the AC motor is enough that I wouldn't recommend any less than a 50 watt transformer (it works with my 25 watt American Flyer transformer, but not nearly as well). The drawbar pull is enough to pull more than ten Marx cars, but I wouldn't recommend more than five or six. Pulling too many cars for long could stress the motor out, and it gets pretty hot when pulling four cars for very long. The engine's electrical pickup alone can get flakey with any dirt build-up on the wheels, but with the tender helping it's much better.
Although it may be considered "vintage" now, Marx's pre-war #999 is still a nice looking, smooth running, reliable steam engine. And at only about a third of the price of a new Lionel, it's a great, affordable way to build up your roster.
_________________________________________________________________Darth Santa Fe, doing weird and challenging projects for the fun of it!
I have often seen the claims that Marx and Lionel (for O27) used S scale. With a scale model whose prototype's dimensions one knows, the scale can be determined from any measurement. However, when selective compression is used or there is no specific prototype, I think that the most reliable way to determine the "intended" scale is to measure the width, since (American) prototypes are almost all built to a width of 10 feet 8 inches. This means that the piece whose length has been shortened should still be close to 2 2/3 inches in width if it is meant to be run as O scale. Likewise, it should be 2 inches wide for S scale. Using this criterion, I find that almost all pieces described as O27 are larger than S scale, somewhere between 1/55 and a full 1/48.
I have wondered whether this is also true of Marx. If any Marx piece was made to a particular scale, the much-admired 999 surely was. However, I don't have a single Marx piece to measure. So, Darth, would you mind putting a ruler to your 999 and reporting its overall width for me?
i love marx trains... all his steamers, with or without sound and smoke !!! this is in very good condition... have you restored ?!?
Cesco wrote:this is in very good condition... have you restored ?!?
Except for a tiny bit of touch up here and there and cleaning up the mechanism, I haven't done anything. It was pretty cheap too (less than $30 after shipping; I got it off eBay). I already had the tender for it from my grandpa's old Marx and AF trains, and it still needs restoration. Now if only I could get a pre-war AF Burlington Zephyr for as cheap as I got this one...
I presently have 3 Marx 999's. The first one I got with a set that had all of the track and it's original box for $100, the second I got as a birthday gift from my wife 2 years ago. The final one (so far) was a mercy buy. She is in bad shape, rust all around. The wheels are all there though.
I just need to find the box she made her way into so I can use my new sandblaster on it and get her running again.
I have done some major restorations over the past few years.
My best job so far has been this Marx 666:
There was a lot of rust on it, it was missing the lead and trailing trucks, and a drive wheel. After I scraped off the corrosion off of the pick up shoe, she ran, albeit not very far.
I have not had to do a lot of work on my fleet of Marx trains, most has been cosmetic, such as adding a front truck to my 1973 Wm Crooks.
I will post photos of my 999 as it restored.
So many scales, so many trains, so little time.....
Darth.....thanks for the great story and pictures!
Railroader.....you're killing us here, you tease. The pic came out quite blurry!
IF IT WON'T COME LOOSE BY TAPPING ON IT, DON'T TRY TO FORCE IT. USE A BIGGER HAMMER.
I know, I need a better camera, it does not like taking photos in low light conditions.
I wish i had taken photos of the engine as I got it and then through the restoration. I have taken a lot of photos of my 8 3/4" train as I have been restoring it, and my Lionel 221, but for some reason, I never got around to taking photos of it while being fixed.
I have another 666 that the running gear is pristine, but the shell is not that is now going through the same process, as well as a Marx 898 with about a half dozen 6" cars that are also rather rusty and beaten.
Trust me, it is better than using those disposable cameras, most of the "before" photos of my 221 were taken with that.
I will try to get a better photo taken of the "Blue Belle" and submit it, although Ihave no idea what railroad to assign it to.
I recently found this engine
in an old homestead that has been abandon since the 50's, thanks to
your page I have been able to identify this engine as the Marx's
pre-war #999 if this is what it is called, I found it in the right
hand drawer of a singer treadle sewing machine, it survived a fire in
this homestead, as I looked further I found a few of the tracks
strewn about the messy floor, the engine is missing the electric
drive motor and my question is this, I plan to restore this engine
but, is the electric motor so rare that I should return to this
homestead that is over 300 miles from my home state to search for the
original electric motor or do you think there is someone out there
that I can buy another drive motor for it ? I never used to be
interested in hobby trains but the detail of this engine has sparked
a new interest. I plan to soak the engine in an anti-rust solution to
rebuild the exterior and replace the stainless steel handrail, does
this sound like a good idea ?
For the price you would spend on gas to go 300 miles you could buy a half dozen Marx 999's on eBay.
Dennis San Fernando Valley CA. Joined August 2009
The 999 used Marx's most common "fat wheel" motor throughout its life, and they were made in the tens or even hundreds of thousands in their 15-20 year production. Keep checking eBay and train shows, and you'll find one. They shouldn't be more than $20 to $25 for working units. Just make sure it isn't one of the ones with a smoke unit, because the 999 isn't built to hold one of those.
I believe the body is cast aluminum rather than steel. It shouldn't need anymore than a repaint if it looks bad. The handrails and bell can be cleaned with an anti-rust solution, or you can just use fine grit sandpaper (600 or greater). Be sure to give the steel parts a clear coat when the rust is gone if you don't paint them, because rust and tarnish can reform rather quickly in the right conditions.
Hi, new to this forum. I must say customizing and restoring Marx is by far my favorite. These little guys are bullet proof.
I have several #999 Marx steamers and love them! Also in my collection are the various rolling stock over the years. Marx made some excellent litho 3/16 scale rolling stock, as well as plastiic and the 6" cars.