Marx Lane
An Inventory of Marx Playset Figures and Accessories
Manufactured from 1951 to 1979
 
Appendix J-1  - Construction
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
 
Construction Playsets
Construction Figures
Construction Buildings
Small Accessories
Vehicles
Big Inch Pipeline Playmat
Riverside Construction Sets
Large scale figures
Back to Main Table of Contents



Before I begin, I must admit that I know very little about construction.  Much construction terminology used in articles about Marx construction sets was Greek to me before I began writing this page.  Moreover, information in the four articles about these sets in Plastic Figure and Playset Collector magazine (PFPC) and Playset Magazine does not always agree, is not always complete, and sometimes confuses me.  Actually, that problem sometimes exists in articles about other playset themes, but none more seriously than in the construction theme.

At any rate, I have no doubt that the following information has several holes and errors, though I think it does provide a good idea as to what Marx produced in the way of construction playset figures and accessories.  If you wish to get deeper into it, those four articles appear in PFPC Issues 19 and 20 and Playset Magazine Issues 28 and 52.  

The Construction Camp set sold by Montgomery Wards in 1954 was probably the first construction set produced by Marx.  A friend and admirer of President Eisenhower, Marx perhaps conceived the sets as a result of Eisenhower's creation of the modern interstate highway system.  The number of different construction sets issued by Marx is uncertain, but Playset Magazine 28 lists ten Construction Camp set variations.  Figures and small accessories were fairly constant in each set, but vehicles varied greatly.  

Construction playsets faded away in the late 1950s, but were renewed in 1963 and 1964 with two versions of the popular Big Inch Pipeline set, which added many accesories.  For those such as myself who approach these sets with no idea what the "Big Inch Pipeline" was, it was a huge pipeline construction project that was built to safely and efficiently carry
oil halfway across the U.S., ensuring an adequate oil supply for the U.S. military duing World War II.  Though now lost in the cobwebs of history to all but a very few, it was a vital project in the 1940s that demanded and received the exceptional and tireless engineering skills of the U.S. workforce.  If you wish to know more, you can find it on the Internet!

Finally, Marx released two versions of Riverside Construction sets in the late 1960s and/or early 1970s.  Sold by Montgomery Ward, these were made in Hong Kong and were very different from the previous construction sets.  Quality of such merchandise from Hong Kong was poor.

Many of the photos below were graciously provided by a collector who wishes to remain annonymous.  I grant him his wishes and thank him immensely!


Construction Workers

     PL-534

Marx' construction playsets included a team of ten 54mm construction workers that were part of both Construction Camp and Big Inch Pipeline playsets.  Figures were most often made in cream and ocassionally blue, though a few other colors can be found.  Veteran collector and seller Kent Sprecher suggests that red brown figures may have been those sold in header bags and light gray may be figures rescued from the Marx dump.  


The company revised the mold for the Big Inch Pipeline playset, replacing the watchman figure with a lineman, who is posed climbing a telephone pole.  The lineman is slightly smaller than the other 10 figures.

I find "the plank", which one of the figures is carrying, to be the most interesting piece in this group.  Made separately in the same mold as the figures, it is not simply a single plank.  The piece is made to resemble three boards and -- as seen in the photo below -- is well detailed with wood grain.  It is 1-3/4 inches long and 1/8 inch high.  In 54mm scale, that measures out to about 4-2/3 feet long with each board 1-1/3 inches thick.  I don't think you'll find that size at Home Depot, but it looks pretty realistic in this group of figures!

Based on the small size of the plank, I'm wondering how difficult it is to find compared to the very-hard-to-find separate bag that the Marx 54mm cowboy/miner carried?  The plank shown below came from Kent Sprecher, who believes that this one probably came from a Marx dump (based on its color).  

Note that several of these figures could be added to scenes in other playset themes!

1.  Foreman with blueprints 2.  Digging with shovel 3.  Swinging pick axe

4.  Carpenter with hammer and chisel 5.  With jack hammer 6.  Carrying plank
(Plank is separate piece)
Pose 6 in blue with plank

The plank(s)

7.  Kneeling with spray painter 8.  Surveyer or directing traffic, right hand up 9.  Flagman

10A.  Watchman
(Construction Camp sets)
10B.  Climbing lineman
(Big Inch Pipeline set)





Construction Buildings

In most Construction Camp sets, the Lumar construction building was made with the same machine stamping as several other tin litho Marx buildings, such as the early Training Center and Fort Apache buildings.  According to Playset Magazine Issue 28, it measures 11 inches wide, seven inches deep, and six inches tall.  It is 3-sided and has a floor, an open door, a smoke-stack chimney, and was nicely lithographed both inside and out.

According to PFPC Issue 19, while most buildings had a red roof, a small number had black roofs.  Playset Magazine Issue 28 notes that the black roof buildings are from Construction Camp Set #4439 of 1957.  The black version is hard to find in today's market.


Lumar Construction Company Building (original size)
(Missing smoke stack and a bit rusty.  The chimney was the same as in the following two buildings, which Marx used for several of its structures.)



In the 1957 Construction Camp set #4446, the Lumar building was revised.  The new building had no floor (or porch in the front) and the door and windows became part of the lithography rather than cut-outs.  As with similar 3-sided playset buildings without a floor, a back bar held the structure in shape (see second photo below).  Lacking the floor and porch, the building is about 10-1/4 inches wide and five inches deep.

Photo not available - we would welcome yours!
Photo not available - we would welcome yours!
Lumar Construction Company Building (downsized)
Photos courtesy of David Schafer


In 1963, Marx replaced the Lumar building with a quonset hut in the Big Inch Pipeline playset.  The quonset hut was also used in a few other playsets.  The chimney is the same that is used for the previous two construction offices and in many other Marx playset buildings, though this one has been installed a bit crooked.  Note also the back bar that Marx used to stabilize its 3-sided buildings.
All photos shown below provided by Tink, Ebay ID isit4god
Quonset hut - front
Photo courtesy of Tink, Ebay ID isit4god
Quonset hut - back
Photo courtesy of collector Jeff Parsons, Ebay ID ihavetheblues54
Quonset hut - sides
All photos shown above provided by Tink, Ebay ID isit4god




Small Accessories


          40-piece construction accessory group (PL-533)
 
Both Construction Camp and Big Inch Pipeline sets had a 40-piece group of small construction accessories.  Some pieces made up 2-piece items, so there were 35 accessories, some in duplicate.  In Construction Camp sets, the pieces came in light or medium brown hard plastic.  Playset Magazine Issue 52 notes that they were dark brown in the Big Inch Pipeline playsets, which unfortunately makes it hard to see
the detail and lettering on some of them.
Photos below courtesy of collector David Schafer
Gas pump
Drafting table Stool
For drafting table
Box of TNT Slurry boat to mix concrete Tool chest
(2-piece)
Sextant Shovel, hoe, and pick Smudge pots and lanterns
50-gallon oil drum Concrete pipe sections Wheel barrow
Sawhorse road block
(3-piece)
Road sign
Detour - U.S. 40
Road sign
Slow Down Men Working
Road sign
Stop
Road sign
Curve
Road sign
Danger Falling Rocks
Road sign
School Crossing
Photos above courtesy of collector David Schafer


          Fencing

Construction Camp sets had straight board fence sections, which also were included in other Marx playsets, such as farms.  They are about five inches wide.  According to PFPC Issue 19, they were dark brown hard plastic in construction playsets, so the example below must have been from a farm.
Board fence section

Big Inch Pipeline sets had what collectors call anchor or mesh fence sections, made in a gray-silver soft plastic.  It too was included in other playsets, such as space sets and The Untouchables.

Anchor or mesh fence section

 
          Telephone poles

The four telephone poles in the Big Inch Pipeline sets -- the reason why a lineman was included in those sets -- appear in no other Marx product, according to Playset Magazine Issue 52.  Sets included about 70 inches of string to use as wire between the poles.  Note that Playset Magazine refers to the poles as telephone poles, but calls the lineman an electrician.  My thought would be that he must be stringing electrical wires into the construction site.  Is there any way to tell if he is a telephone or electrical lineman?  Am I overly complicating things here?
Pole


          Big Inch Pipeline piping

I have never seen the pipeline in the Big Inch Pipeline set, but Playset Magazine Issue 52 states that, "When used as a complete cyclic system, this set provides truely endlessly inventive fun, because the water is circulated round and round endlessly."  That sounds like it might get a little boring after a while for us old guys, but I imagine kids could create a great time with it.  The set contents in Playset Magazine list a gray hard plastic pump with hand crank, thirty-four 7-inch white soft plastic pipes, two 4-inch pipes, and four 1-inch pipes.  Also listed are three connector sprues, each with six small pipeline stands, five end-to-end connectors, one T-connector, a valve with operating shutoff, a 45-degree angle connector and four 90-degree connectors.  Sounds pretty complicated!

 To hold water as part of the recirculating pipeline, the set included a large plastic reservoir made of gray plastic, as well as a small vaccuum-formed, pink-and-green trough for the pump.  The smaller one (above at right) is about 4 inches by 4-1/2 inches, but I am unsure how large the gray reservoir is.

I'd think it would be impossible to pick up all the parts unless you can find an unopened or near mint set.  Reproductions of the playset instructions in PFPC Issue 20 explain assembly of the pump and provide a suggested pipeline layout, as well as providing skematics of several other items in the set.  Perhaps someone out there can provide us with some clearly identified photos of the pipeline pieces?  In the meantime, Playset Magazine Issue 52 has some nice color photos.




Construction Vehicles

I wish I had a more complete understanding of the various construction vehicles included in Marx playsets.  The information below is as good as I can get for now, but I hope I can be more specific somewhere down the line.  In any case,  this should provide a pretty good overview of them.

     PL-512

Although the mold number suggests that these vehicles were the earliest Marx construction vehicles, Playset Magazine Issue 52 seems to say that they came only in Big Inch Pipeline sets.  Perhaps they were planned for the earlier Construction Camp sets, but never used in them.  They were made in yellow hard plastic.
1.  Road roller 2.  Steam shovel with large shovel attachment

Photo not available - we could use yours!
3.  Steam shovel cab

     PL-513

A hard plastic road grader and earth hauler were in both Comstruction Camp and Big Inch Pipeline sets.  According to PFPC Issue 19, Construction Camp vehicles were made in hard plastic gold with black plastic wheels and axles, however Playset Magazine Issue 28 states that they were orange.  Both were initially made in two pieces, the grader with a separate blade and the earth hauler with a working door.  PFPC Issue 19 reports that the blade of the road grader is fixed and does not move, but Playset Magazine Issue 28 notes that it is adjustable.  In any case, in 1957, both were changed to one-piece items in yellow, so that neither the blade nor door moved.  Playset Magazine Issue 52 notes that the modified versions for the Big Inch Pipeline sets were made in orange.
Photo not available - we could use yours! Photo not available - we could use yours!
Road grader - two-piece Earth hauler - two-piece



Road grader - second version (one-piece)
Photos courtesy of David Schafer

Earth mover, second version
(about 8 inches long and 3 inches wide)

     PL-514A and PL-514B

PL-514A and PL-514B  included a variety of vehicles that were included in Construction Camp sets.  The two molds were run in metallic green and metallic silver hard plastic, so that the vehicles exist in both colors.  Wheels and axles are are black and made in one piece.

The dump truck is about 5-1/2 inches long and 2 inches wide.

PFPC Issue 19 points out that the only vehicle that can realistically fit onto the flat bed trailer is the sand conveyer, shown below.

         PL-514A
Photo not available - we could use yours!
Truck cab Dump truck

Snow plow
(Plows attach to tabs on the front of the dump truck or cement truck.)
Jack hammer
(These could be inserted into slots just in front of the wheels of the mold's compressor.)
Re-issue dump truck
(Note that wheels attach to truck much lower than on original truck above.  The wheels also have a different design.)


         PL-514B
Towed air compressor Cement truck
(Tab at front of truck is to attach snow plow.)
Molded-on inscription on cement truck
                                        Flat bed trailer - unattached front view and attached to cab
                                                  Photos of flat bed courtesy of David Schafer 

According to PFPC Issue 19, the Construction Camp conveyer is made in metallic blue hard plastic.  A ribbed rubber band attaches to the machine's rollers, and it is then operated by the machine's hand crank.  It does not have wheels.

In 1957, the conveyer was replaced with a metal version (see Friction Vehicles below).
Photo not available - we could use yours!
Sand conveyer/loader


     Friction vehicles

Tin lithographed, friction-powered vehicles with rubber tires were inserted into some Construction Camp sets starting in 1955.  These vehicles were made by Marx' Linemar subsidiary in Japan.  I believe these were similar to friction vehicles found today in which you can hold the vehicle, turning the wheels backwards against the ground several times, then let it go and watch it travel in whatever direction you point it.

Three vehicles were included in most sets: a road roller, bulldozer, and high-lift loader.  
The box shown at left was for Construction Camp #4446, and the box cover cites friction-powered vehicles as part of its contents (photo provided by David Schafer).  First sold in 195X, the set included the down-sized metal cabin shown previously on this page.

The 1955 Construction Camp set (#4444) also had a now rare steam shovel.  Playset Magazine Issue 28 states that the steam shovel is "so hard to find most collectors will be astonished to learn that it was actually included in a playset."  The vehicles were usually yellow with lithographed details, but also came in other colors, such as the red-white-and blue roller shown below.

Hi-Lift loader
Photo courtesy of David Schafer
Bulldozer
Photo courtesy of David Schafer
Road roller Steam shovel

Road rollers - example of two litho designs found in playsets
Note that anetnna and seat back are missing on left vehicle

In 1957, a tin litho sand conveyer was added to construction sets, replacing the similar plastic version that had been in previous sets.  PFPC Issue 19 suggests that Marx may have done this either due to complaints about the plastic version breaking or problems with the plastic version's mold.

Metal sand conveyer
Photo courtesy of David Schafer



     Big Inch Pipeline vehicles (PL-1183)

According to Playset Magazine Issue 52, this mold for Big Inch Pipeline sets was a revision of PL-514 molds used for Construction Camp sets.  It included all the original items plus a few new items:  a bulldozer with slots for accessories, pipe load trailers, and a revised truck cab.  Vehicles were a light yellow green or gray hard plastic; wheels and axles are black.

The rock included in the photos below supports the trencher accessory; the accessory is so heavy that it pulls the back of the bulldozer off the ground without the support.  The photo on the right shows the "chute" which directs the dirt pulled up by the trencher cups off to the side, perhaps into the earth mover as shown.  The trencher is made up of four pieces and is somewhat difficult to assemble without the playset instructions (which are included in Playset Magazine Issue 52).  
Bulldozer with trencher accessory attached
Trencher accessory set up to shovel dirt into the earth mover
Bulldozer with plow accessory attached Pipe trailer
The 2-piece vehicle is 8-1/2 inches long.


     Big Inch Pipeline Tank Truck and accessories (PL-1180)

The Big Inch water truck had a detachable tank that could be removed and mounted on separate standards.  The gray, hard plastic truck, tank, and standards consisted of several pieces.  Kids could fill the tank with water through the cap on top of the tank.  Besides the items pictured below, the group also had a valve assembly, flexible black tubing, and nozzle so that it could actually pump out water.  According to Playset Magazine, the truck is also found in at least one gas station set and as a milk truck in a few farm sets .
Water truck Water truck tank mounted on standards
(top cap removed)


     Big Inch Pipeline exclusive vehicle accessories

Photo not available - we could use yours!
Sheeps' Foot roller Crane for steam shovel (top) and bulldozer?




Big Inch Pipeline Playmat

A playmat for the Big Inch Pipeline set was sold separately for 47 cents.  PM Issue 52 states that it measured 27 by 42 inches and showed roads under construction and various other terrain features.  A photo of the mat is in the magazine, and it does not look very impressive...but the author notes that it cost him $40!
Photo not available - we could use yours!
Big Inch Pipeline playmat




Riverside Construction Playsets

In the late 1960s and/or early 1970s, Marx made one more foray into construction playsets with at least two versions of the Riverside Construction Set.  This set was manufactured by its Hong Kong subsidiary.  Sold by Montgomery Wards, the set included six cheap, small, fragile, poorly-painted, hard plastic figures.  Based on those shown below, the figures were 45mm scale.  It's hard for me to believe that many survived more than a day or two of play.

One set had various friction-powered vehicles (similar to those in some Construction Camp playsets), while another had battery-powered vehicles that could be operated by remote control, which must have been pretty neat!  The sets included a small number of accessories, such as road signs, pipes, rocks, and trees.  The set with friction vehicles also included two cardboard buildings, a tool shed and dynamite shack.

Other than the two figures shown below, I have no items or photos from these sets right now, but PFPC Issue 20 includes some additional information and nice photos of them.  We'd welcome any photos you have to contribute.  

Man digging Man with axe




Large Scale Figures

     Construction workers
          PL-863

Marx manufacted six construction figures that are about 3 inches tall.  The original figures shown below are in light blue soft plastic.  I am not sure how they were sold, but imagine as a group and/or individually, not in any playset.  I am unaware of any accessories that came with these figures.  The first figure is in hard plastic and is perhaps a well-done re-issue.
Photo not available - we could use yours!
1.  Foreman, holding blueprints
re-issue (?) hard plastic
2.  With jackhammer
3.  With pick axe 4.  With sledge hammer
5.  With shovel 6.  Flagman, pushing plunger

     Telephone Linemen

And, finally, as cited in Playset Magazine Issue 28, Marx produced three large scale poses of telephone linemen.  These were generally sold individually, but based on a brief article on page 22 of the magazine, they were also sold with a metal utility truck marked Lumar Utility Services.  The figures came in a cream soft plastic and are about 3-1/4 inches tall.

1.  Line coiled in both hands 2.  Holding line to right

3.  Holding phone in left hand



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.