Marx Lane

An Inventory of Marx Playset Figures and Accessories
Manufactured from 1951 to 1979

Wild West Page 9 - Forts, Structures, and Terrain Pieces
Contents of this web site may not be reproduced or duplicated for use on the Internet or for commercial purposes without permission by Eric Johns.

Table of Contents for This Page

(click on name to move to section)
This Page
Fort gates and walls Fences and gates
Cabins Trees and plants
Towns Rocks
Other buildings Other terrain pieces
Other Pages
Page 1 - 45mm Figures
Page 2 - 60mm Figures
Page 3 - 54mm Figures
Page 3A - The Alaska Connection
Page 4 - Large Scale Figures
Page 5 - Figures Manufactured Outside the U.S.
Page 6 - Miniature Playsets
Page 7 - Uncommon and Other Miscellaneous Figures
Page 8 - Horses, Cattle, and Other Animals
Page 10 - Accessories
Page 11 - Wonderland of Wild West Playset Boxes     
Page 12 - List of Wild West Playsets
Back to Wild West Table of Contents
Back to Main Table of Contents

     This web site provides photos and general information on Marx' wild west playset forts, buildings, and terrain pieces, arranged in order of the table of contents above.  I have attempted to make this inventory as complete and accurate as possible.  However, I cannot guarantee that all my information is totally accurate or that I am aware of all items that exist.  I welcome any information that might add to or correct information on this web site.

     The items in the following photos are not all in pristine condition.  Some have small scuffs, scratches, discoloring, bends, or a bit of rust.  If you are a serious collector, I am sure you have seen it all.  However, to the best of my knowledge, the items in the photos have no missing parts unless noted, and the photos provide an excellent representation of what the items should look like.  If you click on the underlined title of the photo -- either above or below it -- a larger photo of the item will appear.

     I have provided measurements for all items, and most photos accurately demonstrate the relative sizes of the items when compared to one another.  The only exceptions are the three town pieces (which appear smaller than they should be in relation to the other items), the close ups on this page of the self-standing block house (which appears larger), and photos that are attributed to others (which could be smaller or larger).  I will be updating photos as I obtain items I do have currently have or items in better condition.  At the same time, I welcome similar photos from you of pieces that I do not have and will be glad to give you credit for them.
     Note that in some instances, the photos may show re-issues.  
If I believe the item is or probably is a re-issue, my narrative below will so state.  However, although I have been seriously collecting since 2002, I am not able to always distinguish an original from a re-issue.  I welcome any additional information anyone can provide for making such a determination or on the items shown.  Even so, to the best of my knowledge, all photos do provide a good representation as to what the original Marx items looked like.

     For the most part, the information on this web page is not original.  I have drawn on numerous sources to obtain the information.  These include issues of the former magazine "Plastic Figure and Playset Collector" (PFPC) edited by Tom Terry, issues of the current "Playset Magazine" edited by Rusty and Kathy Kern, and Jay Horowitz' book The Authorized Guide to Marx Western Playsets.  I have also received much information through discussions and correspondence with many Marx experts and toy soldier collectors.   In addition, several of these persons have web sites that have also given me much information and many points to ponder.  For a list of many of my sources, see my links page, as well as my Inventory of Marx Wild West Playset Figures.

     A special thanks goes to Kent Sprecher, who has provided most of the mold numbers (PL numbers) shown on this page, as well as other pages on this web site.  

Wild West Fort Gates and Walls
Fort Dearborn

       Fort Dearborn was Marx' first wild west playset, though the original Fort Apache was released in the same year.  The pressed steel (commonly called tin) fort consisted of a lithographed gate, walls, and block (or guard) houses that sat on top of walls arranged as a corner.  The gate is just short of 9 inches wide and 5-1/2 inches tall; the walls are the same width and 3-1/2 inches tall.

     The edges of the gate and walls are neatly rolled to prevent nicks and cuts during playtime.  Both ends of the walls -- as were all of the tin walls made by Marx -- are rolled so that the end of one wall will slide vertically into the rolled end of the adjacent wall.  The doors attach to the gate in a similar manner.  This provides a stable fort, but allows it to be quickly changed into a variety of sizes and shapes.

     Fort Dearborn was short-lived, overwhelmed by the company's Fort Apache, and was dropped from the Marx playset line after 1957.  However, the company manfactured and sold it one more time in 1972 using the plastic Fort Apache-style gate, walls, and block houses described below in the Fort Apache section, with the name Fort Dearborn inscribed above the gate in white letters.

     The tin Fort Dearborn gate and walls are not too hard to find today and usually sell at reasonable prices, though they generally have a number of bends, scratches, and dents.  The top part of most Marx metal fort gates found today will have been bent at some time during play or storage.  This leaves noticeable bends in the gates at the level where the fort walls are depicted to join the gate itself.  If you look closely, you can see the bend lines in the Fort Dearborn gate photo below.  For comparison, the original Alamo gate shown on this page has bend lines that are not as noticeable, and the Zorro gate shown does not have any such bends.  
Fort Dearborn gate - tin Fort Dearborn wall (outside)

Fort Dearborn wall (inside)
Fort Dearborn gate - plastic

Fort Apache

     Fort Apache, often called the king of Marx playsets, was sold by Marx for almost the entire time that the company was selling playsets, nearly 30 years.  According to Playset Magazine Issue 12, company records first mention the fort in 1951.  The hard plastic fort consists of a gate, walls, and block (or guard) houses that sit on top of walls arranged as a corner.  Fort Apache playsets never had a tin fort.  

The company made the hard plastic fort in various shades of brown, which can generally be classified as light brown, dark brown, and red brown.  The gate measures 7-1/4 inches wide and 6-1/2 inches tall, and walls are 5-3/4 inches wide and 4-3/8 inches tall.  The inside ledge that is on some of the walls is just 5-8 of an inch wide, rather small to position fort defenders.

     The initial block house
-- the 6-piece version -- is a nice piece of toy engineering that fits snuggly together when assembled correctly.  It is 4-1/4 inches on each side, plus a 3/8-inch roof overhang on each side.  Note that it has two types of walls.  Although otherwise identical, one type has plastic tabs that are slightly further apart than the other (see the two middle walls in the photo below).  The tabs are snapped together to hold the walls in place.  Unlike the block houses of at least one competitor, the floor is plastic, not cardboard.  The bottom of the floor has small tabs that fit on top of two walls fitted together as a corner (or on the L-shaped wall shown below).

     To get up and into the block houses, Marx included 2-pole log ladders with two hooks at the top that attached to the block houses.  Ladders are six inches tall.

     Classic Toy Soldiers has made several variations of the Marx walls, including some with a wider ledge and others with firing holes cut in the wall.
Fort Apache gate
Fort Apache wall (outside)

Fort Apache wall (inside)
Fort Apache wall with ledge (inside)
2-pole ladder

Fort Apache block house - 6-piece
Fort Apache block house 6-piece (unassembled)

     The fort's overall appearance remained largely the same throughout its existence, though the company eventually added four additional pieces for the fort.  These were
  1. a 2-piece corner block house that replaced the original 6-piece version.  The two pieces were divided catty-corner and four small pegs on one half fit into four small holes in the other.  Each side of the block house is 3 inches wide, plus a 3/8-inch overhang by the roof.  Tabs that extend down from the floor to steady the block house on a corner wall are another 1/2 of an inch long.  This smaller version is not as attractive as the previous block house, but the size reduction was one of Marx' ploys to add extra playset pieces without increasing costs.
  2. smaller 5-1/2-inch ladders for the smaller block houses.  The ladders were also reduced from two to one pole and from two to one hook.
  3. an L-shaped wall that first appeared in 1957 as part of a Fort Apache playset.  Each leg of the wall is 3-3/4 inches wide and the standard 4-3/8 inches tall. 
  4. an enlarged gate that has a long block house on top. The popular larger gate measures 9-1/2 inches wide, 2-3/4 inches deep, and 9 inches tall without a flag on top, as shown below.  Once again, the 8-piece structure is cleverly engineered and has some nice detailing inside the block house, as shown in the close up photo below.  There is a small round circlular hole to place a flag pole in the top center of the block house (see close up view for small platform where hole is located).  Initial gates of this type were made with the name Fort Apache heat stamped onto the front of the block house, which is much more attractive than the other gate in the photo below.  The company also made the gate with 1) no name on it and 2) a separate plastic name piece that fit into holes on top of the block house, as shown in the photo.  The gate shown may be a re-issue, but I have the box for a Fort Apache playset sold by Sears that shows this exact gate, so I prefer to think that it is original.  In any case, this is what it looks like.
      Of note, the Fort Apache gate and walls are totally fanciful, as the actual Fort Apache in Arizona had no gate or walls.  In PM Issue 21, Marc Gaynes suggests that Marx' wild west Fort Apache was initially intended to be a new version of the company's Fort Dearborn.  That fort was established in 1803 and spurred the birth of Chicago.  It was, in fact, enclosed by log walls with block houses similar to those made by Marx.  However, western forts like Fort Apache usually had no walls or, if they did, had walls made of adobe.  Marc also points out that the dress and weaponry of Fort Apache figures (e.g., buckskin clothing, fur hats, long rifles, and powder horns) more closely resemble what would have been found at Fort Dearborn rather than at Fort Apache in southern Arizona, which was not manned until the 1870s, or at other forts in the wild west.
     On the other hand, the name Fort Apache sure did help to sell a lot of playsets!
Fort Apache block house - 2-piece
1-pole ladder
L-shaped wall

Fort Apache gate with block house over gate
Block house over the gate with heat-stamped Fort Apache sign
Photo courtesy of David Schafer

Close up of block house from rear of Fort Apache gate with block house over gate

The Alamo

     The Marx Alamo playsets were a wonderful union of The Marx Toy Company and Walt Disney Enterprises.  Alamo playsets, based on Fess Parker's role as Davy Crockett in the movies and television, were produced in 1955 and 1956.  These playsets included tin Alamo gates and walls lithographed similar to the re-issued ones shown below. 

      The gate is about 9 inches wide and 5-1/2 inches tall.  According to Dave Foley in Playset Magazine Issue 34, Marx manufactured at least three slightly different versions of its tin litho Alamo gate.  The most common is like the first one shown below, with the Alamo lettering filled in with red and reading "Walt Disney's Official Davy Crockett Alamo" at the top, as well as "Fess Parker as Davy Crockett" under the photo on the left side.  Another version is the same, but the Alamo lettering is not filled in with red.  A third -- which was sold in a header bag with no doors -- had nothing but the outlined Alamo lettering on it, again filled in red.  Foley says there may have been a fourth gate with the lettering filled in with white.  

     Marx produced two types of Alamo walls, one with and one without a line of four small holes.  These holes were used to attach firing ledges to the walls.  Small brown pegs, representing logs, were included to insert into the holes, which then supported the separate tin firing ledges.  Unfortunately, the ledges are very narrow, and figures placed on them were highly unstable.  Walls are about 9 inches wide and 3 inches tall.

     When John Wayne released his movie version of the the Alamo story in 1960, Marx reprised the Alamo playset using a plastic gate, but the same tin walls.  The plastic gate is 7-1/2 inches wide and 5-1/2 inches tall; it has connections at each side which clip to the tin walls.  The name "Alamo" is molded just above the gate doors with no reference to John Wayne.  This John Wayne Alamo gate was also used when Marx sold what it called its "heritage" playsets in the 1970s.  I have two of the John Wayne gates, and one is clearly a darker tan than the other, so I would assume I have one from the earlier and one from the later playsets.

     According to Rick Eber, the doors on all the John Wayne gates fit very tightly, which is why the gates are frequently found with broken hinges and/or no doors.  The photo below that shows the back of this plastic gate depicts the latch on the doors which apparently does not fit well either, so that the "hook" that it fits into has been broken and re-glued on the one shown.  The photo also shows a ledge which is on the back of the plastic gate, a nice touch that allowed us kids to place riflemen over the gate to mow down the enemy forces.

     According to Playset Magazine Issue 34, lithography on the Alamo walls is based on the walls as they were depicted in the Walt Disney movie.  The adobe finish and arches certainly resemble the Alamo as it can be seen today, though there is disagreement about what it looked like during the battle in 1836.  The columns on the gate appear to replicate those on the Alamo mission building (see section below on Other Structures), and the gate does not resemble any actual Alamo gate.
Alamo gate - tin
Many thanks to Rob Colwell (Marxplayer on Ebay) for providing original Alamo gate for photo.
Alamo gate - plastic

Back of plastic Alamo gate Re-issue gate from 1990s
(Note no reference to Disney or Fess Parker.)

Alamo wall without holes - outside view

Alamo wall without holes - inside view

Alamo wall with holes - outside view

Alamo wall with holes, pegs inserted - outside view
Alamo wall with holes but without pegs inserted - inside view
Alamo wall with holes and with pegs and firing ledge attached - inside view - note that ledge sits slightly too high, which is common on most if not all walls
Pegs and ledge (showing about half of ledge) for Alamo walls with holes
Re-issue wall without holes from about 1990 mistakenly made with "hanging" artillery shells, barrel, and table where ledge should be connected


     Zorro playsets were another Marx-Disney production, but this time the run was less successful.  The playset was based on the Zorro television program, which lasted only xx years, and Marx produced the playset only in 1958 and 1965.  The playset included a colorful tin gate lithographed with the words Walt Disney's Zorro.  The walls were based on those shown in the television program.  

     Interestingly, the Zorro gate and walls were not the same size as the Alamo or Fort Apache walls.  The gate is the same height (5-1/2 inches), but wider at about 9 inches.  The walls were much more different.  They are noticeably shorter at 2-1/2 inches tall, but were about 10-3/4 inches wide.  At that length, Marx made them so that they could be bent in the middle into what could appear to be two 5-1/4-inch long walls.  I assume that allowed kids to create a wider variety of fort shapes with a smaller number of walls.  I have shown bent and unbent walls below, but I imagine that most walls you find today will be bent.  With a little careful elbow grease, the walls can be straightened, but those bends lines do not fade away.

Zorro gate Zorro wall - outside
(not bent in middle)
Zorro wall - inside
(not bent in middle)
Zorro wall bent - outside Zorro wall bent - inside

Zorro gate and wall on display at Krueger Street Toy and Train Museum in Wheeling, West Virginia

Fort Boonesborough

Fort Boonesborough and Fort Pitt both included this same style fort, as well as the same self-standing block house described in the Other Buildings section.  The fort -- commonly called Fort Wilderness by collectors today -- is hard plastic and was made in both dark and light brown colors.  Marx initially introduced this fort in its Jungle playsets.  

     This fort is more detailed than the standard Fort Apache gate and walls; the upright posts are of varying heights and and the molding has rope or wire that appears to hold the posts tightly together.  Unfortunately, the gate and walls are significantly smaller than Marx' Fort Apache.  The gate, which has no name on it, is 5-3/4 inches wide and 3-1/2 inches tall; the walls are 5-3/4 inches wide and 2-3/4 inches tall.  Some walls have an inside ledge that is about a half inch wide.

     I would imagine that Marx again used this smaller fort to save costs.  The reduction may not have made a lot of difference for us kids way back when, but it certainly does not endear the piece to today's collectors.  It is too small for all but perhaps Marx' 45mm figures.  Most Marx wild west figures can literally look over the walls while standing on the ground (or living room floor).

     Re-issues, such as those in the photos below, exist.
Fort Boonesborough gate
All four photos are of re-issue pieces
Fort Boonesborough wall - outside

Fort Boonesborough wall - inside Fort Boonesborough wall - inside with ledge

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Wild West Cabins
Fort Dearborn cabin
    (click here to see inside the cabin)

   This plain cabin served Fort Dearborn well.  The cabin sits on a base that represents the cabin floor and a front section of land and stone walkway.  The base is 11 inches wide and 7 inches deep, and the cabin stands 6 inches high to the top of the chimney.

     The inside of the cabin is lithographed rather simply with log walls, plank floors, a fireplace, and a wall lamp.

     While called the Fort Dearborn cabin, this same building was used in Fort Apache playsets until 1955, when it was replaced by the smaller "horseshoe cabins" described below.  This cabin also defined the size of the two following cabins, where the front section of land and walkway were replaced by a covered porch.  (Thanks to Tom Hardy for correcting my description of this cabin.)

nch cabin     (click here to see inside cabin)

     The Bar-M-Ranch ca
bin -- with its name over the door -- came with the company's Western Ranch playsets and with the first Roy Rogers Ranch playset.  It is the same size as the Fort Dearborn cabin, but it includes a porch with a roof.  
    The lithography is much more detailed.  Outside, Marx added steer horns over the door, a stretched animal skin, and a wall lamp.  Inside, besides the fireplace and lamp from the Fort Dearborn cabin, are a bear skin on the floor, a deer head over one window, and holstered six-shooters hung on the wall.  Various other items also line the walls, such as trunks, boots, corn, and books, giving the cabin a very lived-in look.  As a nice touch, each end of the cabin has flowers and cactus.

     Today the Bar-M-Ranch cabin is probably the easiest Marx cabin to find, and a nice one can be bought for $20 to $30.

White Clap Board cabin
(click here to see inside cabin)

     This cabin was first included in the Roy Rogers Rodeo Ranch in 1953, before Roy got his own cabin with his name emblazoned on the roof, and in similar Lone Ranger playsets.

     The size of the cabin remains the same as the earlier two.   The lithography, however, presents a bit more civilized cabin, the most prominent feature being painted wood replacing the log structure.  The inside is clearly more civilized than the Bar-M-Ranch cabin, with a portrait of a male ancestor over the fireplace, curtains on the windows, a quilted rug on the floor, and much less "stuff" lining the walls.  Someone might, however, want to get rid of the hornets' nest just above the door outside.
Roy Rogers' cabin

     This cabin first appeared in the 1955 Roy Rogers Rodeo Ranch.  It was subsequently included in most Roy Rogers playsets.  Roy was the only Marx wild west character to get a cabin with his name on it.  
The cabin was made in two versions:  1) first with three sides similar to the previous Marx cabins and 2) later with four sides.  The one in the photo is the 4-sided version; to the best of my knowledge, the outside lithography is the same on both.    

     The cabin measures 10-1/2 inches wide, 5-1/2 inches deep, and about 6 inches high.  The roof overhangs each side by 1/4 to 1/2 inch.  The measurements are smaller than Marx' previous wild west cabins, primarily because there is no front porch.  
Some of the 3-sided cabins had floors, and the inside was painted similar to other such Marx cabins with Indian blanket and deer head hung on the walls.   For those that had floors, Roy Rogers' signature is scrawled across the floor from wall to wall.  The 4-sided version is slightly shorter because there is no floor piece, the first of the Marx wild west cabins to be made with no floor.
Recent Price Lines I have noticed
$45 February 2012 Ebay 4-sided version

Straight horseshoe cabin    
(click here to see inside cabin)

     This cabin was first found in a Rin Tin Tin at Fort Apache playset in 1955 and subsequently was included in many Fort Apache playsets.  Besides being smaller than the early cabins, it featured a new stove-pipe chimney and had no no floor piece or porch, all part of the company's effort to reduce the price of playsets.

     The cabin itself is 10-1/2 inches wide, 5 inches deep, and about 6 inches tall to the top of the chimney.  The roof overhangs the cabin by 1/4 to 1/2 inch on each side.  With no floor piece and no back, the cabin uses a metal bar attached to the two back corners to retain its shape.

     Although a log cabin, the inside walls are nicely paneled with planks, curtains are on the windows, and a large Indian blanket covers one end wall, though the deer head is back.  Someone in this cabin is handy with his hands, as  outside is a wood plane and scythe near the front door, a stump and axe at one end of the cabin, and a saw and logs at the other.

     Note the horseshoe on the door...and then read on...

Crooked horseshoe cabin     (click here to see inside cabin)

     Does this look like the previous cabin?  Yes it does, because it is identical except for a few small details, the most prominent being the crooked horseshoe on the door.  Why was the horseshoe changed?  Is a straight horseshoe bad luck?  Note also that there is a porch step on this cabin that was not on the straight horseshoe cabin.  I've never been able to discover the reason for the changes, but it must have cost Marx a good deal of money to change the litho, so there must have been some reason....  See PM Issue 14 for a short article on these two cabins by Johnny Pinkowski.

Downsized log cabin
(click here to see inside cabin)
     As Marx attempted to control the cost of playsets, it introduced this cabin.  It is similar to the horseshoe cabins above, but is only about half as big.  The cabin itself measures 7-3/4 inches wide, 3-1/2 inches deep, and 4-3/4 inches high (including the chimney).  The roof overhangs the cabin by 1/4 to 1/2 inch on each side.  Again, there is no floor, but does have a back bar.
     I am not sure which playsets this cabin came in, but it was included in the Rifleman playset with the Rifleman cabin shown below.
     To me this looks like a real hunter's or miner's cabin.  Besides the deer horns and lantern handing by the door, inside are a hand-made log table, a rifle and powder horn standing in the corner, and a genuine coonskin cap and buckskin jacket hanging on a peg.
    Marx issued  this same cabin with a plastic chimney that attached at the center of the roof.  However, that cabin was included only in Revolutionary War playsets, which might explain why the rifle inside has a powder horn.  The Revolutionary War cabin is perhaps the rarest of Marx log cabins and can cost $200 or so.

Rifleman or Gunsmoke cabin
(click here to see inside cabin)
PL-1010 (porch and chimney)

     This is the most civilized of the Marx wild west cabins.   The cabin was included in the Rifleman, Gunsmoke, Johnny Ringo, Wagon Train, Western Mining Town, Cattle Drive, and some Roy Rogers playsets, but I have seen it most often referred to as the Rifleman Cabin.  PM Issue 19 states there are some color variations in the cabin among the playsets, but does not state what they are.

     The cabin itself is the same size as the previous downsized log cabin, but the plastic porch and roof add 1-1/2 inches to the depth and a tiny amount to the width.  It is 3-sided, has a back bar, and does not have a floor.  The plastic pieces were made in both gray and brown (PL-1010). 

     I think I like this cabin because it suggests that civilization is at last coming to the wild west.  Construction materials no longer include logs, and a small flower patch is growing at the front corner.  The curtains are white, a Wedgewood plate and clock sit on the mantle, and a stitched "God Bless Our Home" hangs over the fireplace.  The table and chair appear rather formal, and there is even an -- aaaaak! -- broom in the corner.  All it needs is a dinner bell hanging on the porch and the lady of the house coming out to call in the ranch hands for dinner.  I guess at this stage of my life, I like the peaceable cowboy figures more than the much more common fighting variety (though I'm sure that my and most other kids' preferences were just the reverse in the 1950s).  But that's why I like Larry Patterson's figures at P&P; so many of them are just peaceable folks  going about the routines of their lives.

     Despite appearing in several playsets, this cabin is now difficult to find, especially in good shape.  The plastic porch and two chimney pieces are easily broken and lost.
 I paid $100 for this cabin in very good condition, but I have seen them on sale for twice as much.
Recent Price Lines I Have Noticed
$225 March 2011 Ebay dark brown plastic porch and chimney
$140 October 2011 Ebay
$135 February 2012 Ebay
$285 May 2013 Ebay gray roof, dark brown plastic porch and chimney, from Cattle Drive playset

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Wild West Towns

The biggest wild west buildings produced by Marx were its towns, or streetfronts (today we call them strip malls).  The two largest of these were the company's masterpieces as far as buildings go.  They were more than two feet wide and provided such necessary wild west facilities as a jail, general store, barber shop, saloon, and hotel.  About half the length of each is 2-story.  
A boy's version of the doll house, they are colorful, fun to play with, and -- as far as I am concerned -- works of art.  A third 1-story town was 20 inches wide and a bit less impressive.

Marx produced playsets with the two large streetfronts from 1952 to 1958; they are commonly called the jail side town and the hotel side town.  Although the lithography on them is much different, the shape of the two structures is exactly the same.  Each one measures 27-3/4 inches wide, 6 inches deep, and 9 inches tall.  The width and depth are based on the towns' bases, which make up the outside boardwalk that runs along the front and the interior floor.  They are scaled for 60mm figures.      

I can clearly recall finding a jail side town under the tree one Christmas morning when I was a kid.  However, I also recall playing with the hotel side version, so perhaps I had both of them as a kid.  Of note, a Silver City Western Town playset (#4268) issued in 1956 was the only playset to include both town fronts.  Marx made plans for a Sears exclusive, generic Western Town playset in 1958 that would have included both towns, but for some unknown reason it never reached production.
Jail side town

     The jailside town is the quietest of the two, with a large general store, the newspaper office, and the jail to lock up the bad guys (though cob webs in the cells suggest that it is not often used).  It was first included in a Western Town playset in 1952, but overall was included in fewer playsets than the hotel side streetfront, so is a bit harder to find.

Town with jail - front
Town with jail - back

Hotel side town

     The hotel side town looks to be a bit rougher neighborhood.  It houses the saloon (or music hall), the hotel (read brothel), and the bank, which is held up several times a day during playtime.  The photo of the one below has the Silver City sign over the Post Office, but the same town was made with other signs, including. Roy Rogers Mineral City, Dodge City, and Trading Post.

     The town was first released in 1952 in a Roy Rogers Mineral City Western Town playset.  A generic Western Town playset was released at the same time without the Roy Rogers character figures and with a Trading Post sign over the Post Office.  Silver City Western Town playsets were first issued in 1954, and the Wyatt Earp Dodger City Western Town playset came along in 1957.
Town with hotel - front
Town with hotel - back

Wells Fargo town

I know that I never had the smaller town when I was a kid, the so-called Wells Fargo town.  It's a colorful and fun piece, but not as nice as the other two.  It not only is smaller and only one story tall, but also lacks a base other than the boardwalk.  There is no inside floor.  The building measures 20 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and 5 inches tall.  Without the interior floor base, it is not as sturdy as the larger towns.

The Wells Fargo town was used in the Tales of Wells Fargo playset first issued in 1959, but was in other playsets such as Gunsmoke and Cattle Drive.  Marx also used the town in the Alaska Playset with a different outside lithograph, featuring the Golden Nugget and the Alaskan Trading Company (see page 3A of the Wild West section).

Wells Fargo town - front
Wells Fargo town - back
Recent Price Lines I Have Noticed
$76 April 2011 Ebay
$88 June 2011 Ebay
$110 February 2012 Ebay
$51 June 2012 Ebay Good price for buyer
$128 May 2013 Ebay
2-Story Wells Fargo Town Front
2-Story Wells Fargo Town Front

      No, just joking!  This is the Wells Fargo Town with the Alaskan Town on top of it.  It fits perfectly with no manipulating -- just be careful of scratches.  It's a reasonable way to show them if your display space is small (like mine).    

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Other wild west buildings
The Alamo chapel

     The centerpiece of all Marx Alamo playsets was a lithographed tin version of the Alamo's mission chapel, which had been transformed into part of the Alamo fortress.  It was designed to closely resemble the facade of the actual building, or at least what we have come to believe it looked like based on Alamo movies.  On the other hand, the tin litho building is really just a tin box with four sides, with no inside space provided for the Texians to mount their final defense.  I'm sure this was done to keep the cost of the playsets at a level that us kids could afford, but it's too bad that Marx did not make a slightly larger Alamo mission with two stories and a few windows and open door to take aim at the Mexican soldiers.  I am sure their employees had the know-how to do it.  But those are just my recent "grown-up" thoughts, with a few extra dollars in my pocket.
     The Alamo "box" itself is a foot wide, 4 inches deep, and 5 inches tall; the pedestal on top adds another 2 inches of height.  This same "box" was used for other buildings as explained below.  As you may know, of course, the pedastal on top of the chapel was not constructed until well after the Alamo battle.     
     As a kid, I purchased one of the very first Marx Alamo playsets that had Indians instead of Mexicans (I don't recall if I thought that was odd), and I spent many hours of fun with it.  Thank you Mr. Marx!

Wells Fargo building

     This Wells Fargo building came in several Wells Fargo play sets, first issued in 1959.  It was the second of five tin litho buildings, which were differentiated primarily by the litho painting on them.  For each of these five, the basic building is the same four-sided "shoe box" first used for the Alamo chapel, 12 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and 5 inches tall.
 Even the pedestal at the top of the Wells Fargo building is identical in size and shape to that of the Alamo, with simply a different lithography on it.
     Though difficult to see in the photo, the inside of this building was usually a light brown, while the inside of the following three versions of the building is white.

Note that the color difference in the photo between the left (dark) and right (lighter) sides of the building -- as well as the following two cavalry buildings -- is real, but is not so startling when you look at the actual building.

Cavalry building with pedastal, log ends, and no stable doors

     This cavalry headquarters and stable, the third of the "shoe box" buildings, was a part of many Fort Apache playsets.  In this version, the Alamo-type pedastal remains, but small plastic pegs were used to simulate the ends of support logs, the same as those used on the Alamo's fort walls.  These logs are often missing from the buildings found today, but can be replaced with re-issued log pegs.
   Note that the lithography is identical to the Wells Fargo Headquarters building above, except for the lettering.  As seen in the photo, the inside of the building is white.

Recent Price Lines I Have Noticed
$86 April 2011 Ebay no pegs, seem a bit high to me

Cavalry building with plastic porch and cupola
PL-1112 (cupola, porch, and other plastic parts)

     With plastic porch, cupola and the flag flying overhead, this version of the Fort Apache cavalry building was a significant improvement over the original cavalry building.  It is the fourth version of the "shoe box" buildings, but the plastic building accessories and flag (and absence of the "Alamo" pedastal) make the building look much nicer.  It makes an impressive centerpiece for Fort Apache.  

Note that Marx labeled this building simply "Supply", which allows it to be used in tandem with the previous Headquarters and Stable version. 

Today, it is very difficult to find the porch with all its tabs intact.  There were originally four of them to hold the porch tightly to the building, two a
t the top and two at the bottom.   Generally enough of the top two tabs are present to do a reasonable job of keeping the porch attached.

     The building is four-sided, and the inside of the building is white.

Recent Price Lines I Have Noticed
$56 April 2011 Ebay
$54 July 2013 Ebay

Large self-standing block house

 This self-standing block house was the only wild west playset building that Marx manufactured solely in plastic.  It is 6 inches wide on each side (as measured by the larger top half) and is 10 inches tall, plus another 3-1/2 inches for the flag as shown in the photo.  
A place to heat stamp a fort name on the front of the block house is clearly visible in the photo, and originals can be found with the name Boonesborough or Fort Pitt on them in yellow letters.  It's unfortunate that Marx did not complete the wood detail over the place for the name on block houses which did not have a name on them.  The building is made of rather thin and brittle plastic, so should be handled with extra care.

The block house did not appear often, in Fort Boonesborough and Fort Pitt play sets (neither a big seller) as well as at least one Fort Apache playset.  It actually first appeared in Marx' Canadian Fort York play set, as well as its U.S. counterpart Fort Mohawk.  The contents of these play sets are similar to Fort Pitt, except that they included colonial and British troops rather than wild west frontiersmen.  

     With the exception of Fort Apache, these play sets are difficult to find in today's collector market.  I believe the block house pictured below comes from Fort Apache #4202 made in 1978.  This playset is reasonably available from vintage dealers today, but will still set you back a few hundred dollars.   The blockhouse by itself with "Boonesborough" heat stamped on it sold on Ebay in April 2009 for $95; those without a heat stamp cost a bit less.

     The moderator of the Marx Playsets Yahoo Group reports that only the block houses that came with Fort Apache cavalry figures had a holes at the top for a flag, such as the Fort Apache #4202.  He also notes that this item has never been re-issued, so if you have one, it is original!

Self-standing block house Close up of inside from rear

Zorro hacienda
PL-967 (roof), PL-967A (porch)

  The fifth and final version of the Alamo "shoe box" style was an adobe hacienda, which came in Zorro play sets, to replace the log structures that were included in fort and ranch playsets.  The colorful lithography and plastic roof and porch make it is an attractive, 4-sided building.  The plastic tile roof -- which came in both red and a less common brown -- adds immensely to the look.  A brown plastic balcony dresses up one side of the building (though the stairs of the balcony are painted on, not plastic).  On the opposite side, there is a large opening similar to the cavalry buildings above for a stable, but unfortunately it has no doors.  The inside of the hacienda is white.

     The hacienda itself is the same size as the Alamo -- 12 inches by 4 inches by 5 inches -- and the roof and chimney add 2 inches to the height.  In addition, the roof overhangs each side of the house by about 3/8 of an inch and the plastic porch adds about 1-1/2 inches to the depth.

     As pointed out in Playset Magazine Issue 8, the building was created to accurately represent the "Garrison Barracks" building in the Zorro television series.  As in the show, the balcony where Zorro was often seen fighting is on one side and the garrison's jail cages are lithographed on the other.

Hacienda front - with plastic balcony
Hacienda back - with jail cage
Recent Price Lines I Have Noticed
Hacienda with Zorro stockade gate and fence shown earlier on this page $172 May 2011 Ebay

Marxville Western Ranch House
     This building was intended for use with an O-scale train and was never part of a true playset.  However, it did come in a box with some of the company's 45mm cow
boys, which are discussed on my web page about Marx wild west playset figures.  See both the sections on 45mm Cowboys and on the rare Rodeo Cowboys to read about the mysteries surrounding these figures.  The scale of the house makes it much too small for any Marx wild west figures except for those in the rather rare miniature sets.  However, it does go well with the company's more common 35mm civilian figures and is a nice little house if you just like to collect Marx stuff (like me).

     Considering its scale, it's a roomy place, 10-1/2 inches wide, 6-1/2 inches at its deepest part, and 4 inches high to the top of the stone chimney.  
It is rather difficult to find in today's collecting market, but is available in re-issue through K-Line Trains.  In fact, the photos below are of a K-Line re-issue.  The original building came in brown with a yellow roof and yellow accessories.

     See Page 1 of this web site for a photo of Marx' original ranch house, along with the figures and accessories that came with it.  A photo of it is also in Horowitz' "The Authorized Guide to Marx Western Playsets."
Angled view of Marville ranch house with accessories
Photos are of re-issue ranch house.
Straight on view of Marxville ranch house

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60mm teepee
PL-368 (bottom), PL-368A (top)

     The so-called 60mm teepee was included in Fort Dearborn and early Fort Apache playsets.  It is 6 inches tall and about 4 inches in diameter.  Because the teepee was first included in playsets that had 45mm figures -- Fort Dearborn and the first few Fort Apache playsets -- I would think it could be called the 45mm teepee as easily as the 60mm teepee.  Of course, Marx did continue using this same teepee when it began including its new larger figures (60mm) in Fort Apache.  Moreover, it would be confusing to us collectors to refer to this teepee as a 45mm teepee, because the teepee used when Marx switched to 54mm figures (see below) is smaller than the so-called 60mm teepee, as it should be.  It really would not make much sense to have a 45mm teepee that is larger than the 54mm teepee.

     Of course, it really does not make a bit of difference, because to save on costs Marx used downsized structures in most if not all of its playsets, and it would be hard to visualize any Indian family of 45mm, 54mm, or 60mm squeezing into either of the Marx teepees.  

      The 60mm teepee is nicely detailed and was most commonly produced in yellow, but also in gray and less often in light brown.   It has two pieces: 1) the main part of the tee-pee and 2) the top protruding logs, which fit neatly into a small hole at the top of the main part.  Its hard plastic construction is sturdy.  Over the years, however, the small logs on the top part easily become lost or break with frequent play.  Sometimes the two pieces of a teepee were glued together by some wise child who realized the potential of losing the top part, totally ignoring the loss of value to us collectors today (gasp!).  Today, this teepee is somewhat hard to find and can cost $25 or more if unbroken.  When collectors get into auction bidding wars, I've seen the price go much higher.

54mm teepee

     When Marx introduced its smaller 54mm figures about 1956 as a way of increasing the piece count in its playsets, the company significantly revised its teepees.  Not only were they smaller, but instead of top and bottom pieces, the new teepees fit together side-by-side.  Though still well detailed, the teepees are made of soft plastic and do not fit together as well as the hard plastic version.  The protruding logs at the top tend to warp.

     The piece is 5 inches tall and about 4 inches in diameter.

     The teepees were made in many colors, including yellow, gray, brown, and -- in at least one play set -- red.  They are not expensive, unless you have to have one of those red ones.  If you do and you don't have money to spare, I'd suggest you look for re-issue teepees, of which there are plenty.

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Fences and gates
Bar M R
anch gateway
     This was t
he gate used in the Western Ranch playsets.  Manufactured in a dark brown hard plastic, they are very difficult to find unbroken, especially with all four feet that keep the gate upright.  If unbroken, the gate swings open on two hinges and locks tightly closed.  Though not painted like the later gateways, the sign reads Bar-M-Ranch.

Roy R
ogers gateway
     Marx' early Western Ranch playsets evolved into Roy Rogers playsets, which significantly increased play set sales.  In 1952, the first Roy Rogers Ranch play set introduced the gateway shown at right, manufactured in brown.  The Roy Rogers Rodeo play set from that same year included the gateway in white or cream (at left), and most later Roy Rogers play sets had the gate in one of those two colors.  The white and cream gates are much easier to find today.

     The gate is about 6 inches wide and 5-1/2 inches tall.

     Did you know...that the Roy Rogers gate is based on a real Roy Rogers gate?  I admit that I did not until I ran across the photo below while surfing the Internet for a photo of Roy.  And, yes, those are the real people, not plastic figures!

Lone Ranger gateway

     Soon after Roy Rogers playsets came out, the Lone Ranger got one too.  The Lone Ranger gate was made from the same mold as Roy's, then simply heat stamped with a different name.  The first Lone Ranger playset -- the Lone Ranger Rodeo -- had a white gate.  That white gate is hard to find today; with a few pieces of fencing, it sold on Ebay in early 2009 for $40.  Later Lone Ranger Ranch playsets had brown gates, with either white or yellow lettering.  Today, it is much easier and cheaper to buy the gate in brown.  I purchased the white gate at left from Rick Eber at the 2009 OTSN, and I have to admit it is the only one I have ever seen "in person."

Blank Roy Rogers style gate
   According to Playset Magazine Issue 25, Marx ceased production of the once popular Roy Rogers play sets after 1962.  The magazine points out that the last Roy Rogers set and a few Western Ranch sets afterwards included a gate of the Roy Rogers (and Lone Ranger) style, but no name was on it.  These gates are not easy to find, but I was lucky enough to pick one up at the 2009 Marx Convention for just $3.

     Buyers beware, however, as re-issues do exist (and they look pretty much like the one in the photo, which is original -- look for the tell-tale sign of "old dirt"!)


Rifleman gate

     The Rifleman gate, of course, was part of Marx' Rifleman Ranch Playset.  It is identical to the Western R
anch gate, except that the Rifleman Ranch name and rifle logo are heat stamped onto the name board in white.  Like the Western Ranch gate, it is in dark brown hard plastic.  The Rifleman Ranch Playset was produced only in 1959, so the gate is difficult to find.  A gate in excellent condition sold on Ebay in early 2009 for $84.  You can probably buy one a little cheaper, but you may have to look hard to find one.

Split rail fence
    One of the most common items in Marx wild west playsets -- as well as many other playset themes -- is the split rail fence.  This fencing appeared in the first Western Ranch playset and was still being churned out when Marx went bankrupt 30 years later.  The fence pieces were ma
nufactured primarily in brown, but were also made in white when the Roy Rogers and Lone Ranger gateways were created in white.  It can also be found in gray/silver, but I do not think that this color was included in a wild west set.  The split rail fence -- unlike the plank fencing shown in the next section -- did not properly attach to the Roy Rogers style gate.
     The fence is about 6-1/4 inches wide and 1-7/8 inches high.  It is built so that one end snuggly attaches to the fence piece next to it.
     I am not sure of the origin of the term split rail fence.  I assume it was named this because the back side of the fence is flat, as if a log had been split right down the middle.  Personally, I would think that Marx did not intend this to represent such a fence, but simply molded the fence on one side to keep its costs down.  I would think a more straightforward name for it would be simply log fence.

log fence - brown log fence - white

Plank fence

When Marx introduced its white Roy Rogers gate in the 1952 Roy Rogers Rodeo playset, it also debuted this plank fencing in white.  With square end posts, it fits snuggly into the gate posts, as well as to the fence piece next to it.  It is about the same size as the split rail fencing, 6 inches wide and 2 inches high.

The plank was included with the initially white Lone Ranger gateway also.  Soon afterward, however, Marx changed the contents of its Roy Rogers and Lone Ranger playsets back to the split log fence above, which did not attach to the gate posts.  I am uncertain of the reason for the change, but I believe this type of fence was used much more in farm playsets than wild west.

The same fence in brown was included in the Gunsmoke and Indian Warfare playsets.
Civil War fence

     This fence -- which includes one purposefully broken section -- was originally made for Marx' Civil War playsets.  For most wild west playsets, it was logical that the cowpokes would keep their fence in good shape, so it did not really fit there.  However, for at least one Custer's Last Stand playset, the "Civil War" fence was used and included five fence sections instead of the usual three that Civil War sets had.  The photo below shows the full group that came in a Custer set.
Civil War fence sections included in Custer's Last Stand
Photo courtesy of Jill and Karl Lorenz, Ebay Trekrjill

Gunsmoke fence

This fence came in the Gunsmoke Playset.  I am not aware that it came in other wild west sets, and I would hope that it did not.  Each piece is a teeny 3/4 inches high and three inches long.  You can judge how small it is by comparing the photo to those of the fence pieces above.  Playset Magazine Issue 19 reports that this fence was used in Cape Canaveral and some farm playsets.  It may have fit in fine there, but it looks absurd in the Gunsmoke set.  The best I can figure out is that it should be used around Miss Kitty's backyard flower garden.  It sure won't keep any critters in or out.

     It was made in a dark brown hard plastic, and the Playset Magazine issue shows the set came with five pieces of the fence.  It is not often seen today, which is not a bad thing for wild west playsets.

Rodeo chutes

     As would be expected, these rodeo chutes were included in both the Roy Rogers and Lone Ranger Rodeo playsets.   They were first introduced in 1952, in the initial Roy Rogers Rodeo playset.  The piece is nicely detailed and very well made, and I think it is one of Marx' most attractive structures.  
     That being said, I am not comfortable with the scale of these pieces, perhaps because I have not attended a rodeo since I was a kid in Oklahoma (about the same time I was enjoying my first Marx playsets).  Each of the three enclosures is large enough to hold as many as four Marx horses or bulls.  My thought is that rodeo chutes would be just large enough for the animals to get into, so they could not turn around or cause too much commotion before they were released into the arena.  Am I mistaken or are these things oversized?  

     The chutes consist of nine piece
s -- a front and back section that sit on bases, four fencing pieces that run from back to front, and the three gates that can open and close.  Measurements are about 10 inches wide and 5-1/2 inches deep.  The height varies, but the top of the gates is about 2-1/4 inches, the back railing is 2-3/4 inches, and the top of those number boards is 4-1/4 inches.

     The rodeo chutes are made of hard plastic and came in cream an
d white.  Marx made a few in brown, but this color is very rare today.  A complete brown chute in very good shape sold on Ebay in early 2009 for $140.

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Trees and plants

     Tim Geppert, currently of Classic Toy Soldiers, wrote a primer on Marx trees and rocks that was published in PFPC Issue 22.  I don't believe the information has ever been presented better.  According to the article, Marx had molds for eight trees and five other plants that came with Marx wild west playsets.  Four of these trees are what I would call "regular" trees, in that they are deciduous trees that could be found most anywhere in the U.S. other than the desert.
 Oddly, despite recreating the American west, Marx did not create any pine trees for its wild west playsets.
     The two of these trees that were included in the Marx' earliest wild west playsets were what Tim calls the "full" tree and the "scraggly" tree.  I often see the "full" tree referred to by collectors as an oak tree.  It is 5-3/4 inches high, and the scraggly tree is 5 inches high.  Marx made them in both soft and hard plastic in various shades of green.  
     These two trees were eventually replaced by a third tree that is called a "delta" tree by Tim (as it is roughly in the triangular shape of the Greek letter delta), but is more commonly called an "A" tree by collectors.  The change to the "A" tree, 5 inches tall, came at the same time that Marx downsized its figures to 54mm in the mid-1950s, and it also came in both soft and hard plastic green.  The full tree is noticeably larger than the other two, more so than in the small photos below.
Full tree or Oak tree
Scraggly tree
Delta tree or A tree

     The fourth "regular" tree is actually four connected trees.  Tim calls it the "stand of trees."  Playset instruction sheets advised boys and girls to break the trees in half at a scored line in the middle of the piece, which can be seen in the middle of the photo below.  This produced two sections of two trees each:  1) one section that had one tree with a forked trunk and one with a single trunk and 2) a second section that had two single trunked trees.  So Tim called these the "forked" and "nonforked."  I'm not sure what the common collectors' term is for them.  The trees are slightly shorter than Marx' single trees, standing about 4 inches tall and 8-3/4 inches wide.

     You can find these pieces that have not been separated and remain a stand of four trees, as well as ones that have been separated into the forked and nonforked sections.  Made in soft plastic, the base of the long section of trees tends to warp, sometimes so much that it is hard to keep the piece standing.  As far as wild west playsets, this item seldom appeared -- perhaps only in Marx' Cattle Drive -- and was most commonly found in military and Yogi Bear playsets.
Stand of trees (not separated) - Unforked section on left, Forked section on right

     Marx included three palm trees in its Zorro playsets.  These trees were in two or three pieces with the top parts in a soft plastic green, and the bottom trunk part a hard plastic brown.  Tim has named this trio the "large single", "large double", and "small double."  Tops are interchangeable among the trunks.

     Mold numbers for the plams and the ferns below are PL-760 for the tops and PL-761 for the bases.  Rather nice re-issues exist in slightly lighter colors than the originals.
Large single palm tree Large double palm tree Small double palm tree
Many thanks to Rob Colwell (Marxplayer on Ebay) for providing original palm trees and ferns for photos.

     To go with the palm trees, Marx also produced two fern plants, also two-piece items with soft plastic tops and hard plastic bottoms.  One has three leaves on it and the other four leaves; the bases are identical.

     As noted in the previous group of palm trees, mold numbers for the ferns are PL-760 and PL-761.
 As with the palm trees above, re-issues are slightly lighter in color than the originals.
Fern  with three leaves Fern with four leaves

     The eighth and final tree included in the wild west playsets was a "dead tree", 4-3/4 inches tall.  Marx produced it in both hard and soft plastic gray, as well as two tree stumps that Tim dubbed simply "large" and "small."  The large stump is 1-1/2 inches tall, and the small one 1-1/4 inches.  With roots going every which way, breadth of the stumps varies, but the larger is about 3 inches in diameter at its widest point, and the smaller is about 2-1/2 inches.  These three items appear in Marx military playsets much more often than wild west playsets and are also seen in brown.
Dead tree
(PL-332 and PL-332A)
Large stump
Small stump

     A final plant that was included in probably every wild west playset was the Marx cactus.  According to Tim, it was one of the earliest Marx accessory pieces, and it was never changed, except for being made in both hard and later soft plastic.  God knows that it would have been very easy for Mr. Marx to create a few versions of cacti, but now all we can do is set a few of these clones on the layout forward, backward, and sideways, and hope that our visiting playset admirer overlooks the fact that every single cactus in the whole gosh-darned countryside looks exactly the same.  It is 2-1/2 inches tall.

     The cactus mold number is PL-148.
Cactus frontward Cactus backward Cactus sideways
...but any way you put it, it's still the same cactus!

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     Tim Geppert's article on Marx trees and rocks in PFPC Issue 22 divided the company's rocks into two types:  1) boulders and 2) piles of rocks.  Made in hard plastic, all of them were manufactured in both a gray and a flesh color.  Larger rock formations did exist and are described in following sections.

     Boulders were included in many Fort Apache playsets.  Marx made two boulder "poses."  One is a boulder with three small rocks attached beside it, about 3 inches wide and 1-1/2 inches tall at its biggest measurements.  The other is a smaller boulder with a still slightly smaller boulder attached, about 2-1/2 and 1-1/4 inches.  Tim labeled these simply "large" and "small."

large boulder
small boulder

     The piles of rocks -- three of them -- were not introduced until the 1960s and are all about the same size, a bit smaller than the two boulders.  To differentiate them, Tim pointed out that one has a protrusion of rocks on its left as it faces you, another at its center, and the third has no such protrusion.  So he named them "left bulge," "center bulge," and "bulgeless."  Just a simple left, center, and none might be just as telling.  

     The bulge left is widest at 2-1/2 inches by 1-7/8 inches deep.  Bulge center is 2-1/4 by 2 inches.  Bulgeless is 2-1/4 by 1-5/8 inches.  They are all about an inch high.  If you look closely, the bulge center pile looks as if it might have a steam of water running down the center of it, at least part of the year.

     Rusty Kern, co-editor of "Playset Magazine," has confirmed my suspicions that these piles of rocks never appeared in a Marx wild west playset.  Tim's article stated that they appeared in Revolutionary War and Civil War playsets.  However, Rusty agrees with me that they should have been in some wild west playsets!  They certainly look like the scenery of the wild west to me.

pile of rocks - bulge left pile of rocks - bulge center pile of rocks - bulgeless

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Other Terrain pieces

Zorro's Cave
     Zorro's cave, of course, came in Zorro play sets.  It is made in a thin vacuum form plastic that is very fragile.  Not many were made, and many fewer survived the boys' toy wars of the 1950s and 1960s.  A slightly damaged one was auctioned off on Ebay in July 2009 for $177.
Zorro cave - front side
Zorro case - back side

Rock Formations and Pond
PL-1018 (all four pieces), PL-1018A (three pieces, no pond), PL-1018B (pond only)

Borrowed from Marx' Pre-Historic playsets, these four hard plastic terrain items were included in Wagon Train playsets in 1958.  Despite having been designed for the dinosaur age, they are very reminescent of the wild west.  The cave is a nice touch and probably was the scene of much action when used by us kids.

     I have three of the pieces, what I call the mesa rock and the cliff rock -- because that is what they resemble -- as well as the rock formation with a cave entrance.  The so-called mesa and cliff are, of course, much to small to actually be a mesa or cliff in playset scales.  All three are about the same size.  The mesa rock is 7-3/4 inches wide and about 2 inches high.  The cliff version is 6-1/2 inches and about 2-1/2 inches, and the cave rock is 7 inches and 2-1/2 inches.  Besides the Wagon Train playsets, these two pieces were included in at least one version of Custer's Last Stand playsets, #6014.  I believe that the top two formations pictured separately below are re-issue.

     A complete group in excellent shape (as shown in the bottom photo below) sold on Ebay in May 2008 for $159.  However, those were advertised on Ebay as coming from a Wagon Train playset, and the same items from a Pre-Historic playset might be a bit less expensive.  The pieces are more often seen individually than together, and re-issues of obviously lesser quality exist.  I purchased two of the pieces below for $10 each, but the piece with a pond costs quite a bit more.
Small mesa rock Small cliff rock
Notice the nice marbling in the plastic.

Rock formation with cave
Again, notice the nice marbling in the plastic.
Hill with pond
No longer in the best shape, but it is original and also nicely marbled!

All four large rock formations and pond
Photo courtesy of Curtis Snell (pomspart on Ebay)
Recent Price Lines I Have Noticed
Hill with pond $38 June 2012 Ebay

Comanche Pass Mountains
PL-10511 through PL-10517

     For me, the Comanche Pass mountains are the most impressive and beautiful of Marx wild west terrain pieces.  The photo looks OK, but the Pass looks much better in person than it does in photos.
     This hard plastic piece is huge; there is more than one way to set it up, but it is approximately 19 inches tall and wide and 14 inches deep.  It comes in six pieces: two mountains, a top arch, a middle bridge, and a roadway between the mountains (see instruction sheet below).  The sixth piece is a boulder that the Indians can push off on the unsuspecting cavalry below.  The piece is hollow with no finished back and includes screws to keep the pieces firmly attached. (The one I purchased did not include any, and I expect most pieces that exist today are missing these small parts.)  If you are using it for display purposes, missing screws are no big deal.  
     The mountain came with the Comanche Pass Playset, as well as with an almost identical playset called Ambush at Falling Rock.  The instruction sheet for assembly shown below is from an Ambush at Falling Rock Playset.  Both sets were produced in the mid-1970s after Louis Marx sold the company, and neither was made in great quantities.  The mountain itself was well-made, but very fragile.  I'm sure that few went unscathed in the boys' toys wars.   So, today this item is hard to find and a bit expensive.  I've seen several sell in the range of $200.

     The same mountain pass was included in some Pre-historic playsets, with a rope bridge replacing the middle rock bridge between the two mountains.  I would think that anyone who had a playset with this in it must have been the envy of the neighborhood; unfortunately I was not one of them.  

     The picture at the left in the photo below shows the Ambush at Falling Rock playset (note the boulder at the top, but no middle bridge) and a Pre-Historic playset with the mountain pass.  This is a page from the 1975 Sears catalog that was provided by Kent Sprecher of Toy Soldier HQ.  Below at right are close-ups of the Pass.  

     I've always thought it would be nice to paint the road blue to make it a river, and if you look closely at the Sears catalog page and the photo below it, you can see it was painted just that way for the Pre-historic set.  I'd say that as Comanche Pass the "roadway" might portray a seasonal creek that dries up during the summer.
     I do not believe that this entire piece has been re-issued, but the larger of the two mountains has been re-issued in a bright garish orange.  The color is so awful that my wife has forbidden me from displaying it.  I also have one of the small boulders that I was told is a re-issue.

Photo to left courtesy
of Alan Ford.


Gold Mine

      Marx introduced its gold mine rather late in its playset period, including it in both the Gunsmoke and Johnny Ringo
playsets in 1960.  Though nicely done, it does not occupy a lofty place in the history of Marx terrain pieces.  Based on Marx' limited use of the gold mine, kids must have had a lukewarm reaction to it.  I would add that Marx' attempt to include molded vegetation on the mine and panning stream is somewhat absurd, with plants looking more like snakes than vegetation.  A little paint would have done wonders.  I really don't care for the gold mine pieces, but the mine would look much better if even partially painted, similar to most plastic figures manufactured today.  As shown in the photo below, Marx did paint the stream blue.
     The pieces were made of hard plastic and molded in tan.  
The gold mine is 9-1/2 inches wide, 3 inches deep, and 5 inches tall.  The panning stream piece is about 9 inches wide, 6 inches deep, and 2-1/2 inches tall.  The top and bottom photos below are re-issue pieces from a Gold Rush playset produced in 1991 in an attempt to generate interest in a re-issue of complete Marx playsets.  The middle photo is of an original panning stream, which I obtained from Rich Ebert at the 2008 Texas Show in San Antonio.  The original is so incredibly well made and attractive (with painted stream) that it is hard to believe the re-issue panning steam I have came from the same mold.
     Collector John Pyle recently educated me on the proper positioning of the miner figure that should be working the sluice cradle beside the sluice (see photo below).
Gold mine
Photo courtesy of David Schafer

Panning stream and sluice Sluice rocker
Photo courtesy of David Schafer
Miner figure properly positioned with sluice cradle

Ore car on track for gold mine
Photo courtesy of David Schafer
Ore car
Photo courtesy of David Schafer

Non-Wild West Cave, Arch, and Pond

    OK, I know, this piece is from a Marx prehistoric playset and never appeared in a wild west playset.  But -- like the rock formations and pond above that Marx used in some of its Wagon Train playsets -- the company COULD HAVE very reasonably added this item to a wild west playset.  It's actually undersized for all but perhaps the 45mm figures, but it's such a nice piece that I cannot resist including it with my wild west shelf displays.
     As you can see in the photo, this cave-arch-pond  is made in three pieces.  Marx provided two plastic clips to hold the pieces together in the back, but these were usually quickly lost by us kids and are hard to find today.  I was fortunate to grab a couple cheaply in an Ebay auction, probably because not many others knew what they were.  However, the three pieces will stay together on their own unless touched, or make-shift clips can be created easily.  The pond piece can be swiveled 90 degrees if you need to display the piece in a corner.
     Although the piece can vary a bit in size depending on how it is placed, it is about 16-1/2 inches wide, 5-1/2 inches deep, and 6 inches tall.  The backs of the three pieces are open and hollow.
     Marx manufactured the piece in brown hard plastic -- the one in the photo has an attractive marbled coloring -- and painted the pond blue.  I bought this one for $25 at the 2007 Marx Convention, which I consider a more than re
asonable price.
Recent Price Lines I Have Noticed
$66 May 2011 Ebay seems a little high

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