Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A tale of two Marx halftracks

Soon, I'll be doing some posts on the wonderful playsets of the Louis Marx toy company.  Mr. Marx had a knack for assembling different elements - soldiers, people, terrain, buildings, forts, rockets, animals, characters, weapons and vehicles that created an entire worlds for a child to enjoy.

Profiled here, are two vehicles from two of those famous playsets. Both are Army halftracks, one from the Marx Army Training Center playset, and the other from the various Marx Battleground playsets.  And as you will see, they are very different, one from the other.

The Army Training Center Halftrack is at the top and the Battleground halftrack is at the bottom,...there is quite a difference in size and level of detail.

First, we'll look at the training center model.  It came with 40mm soldiers which are about two inches high, almost all later Marx figures were 54mm which made the Training Center guys considerably smaller, but, nonetheless, a pretty good fit for the halftrack.

This halftrack is moulded in hard plastic which was also different from later Marx sets, in which the vehicles were all moulded in softer plastic, which made them much more durable, as hard plastic breaks easily.

As a matter of fact it is difficult to find these Training Center halftracks that still have the windshield frame intact, they're quite fragile and easily broken.  I'm lucky in that I've managed to collect two of them in perfect condition.  Broken ones can sometimes be found for less than fifteen dollars, unbroken ones, however, can be quite expensive. Just one little piece of plastic makes all the difference.

Marx did a really good job of capturing the sturdy boxiness of this famous WWII vehicle.

A second set of wheels is concealed behind the tracks and allows the vehicle to glide smoothly along the floor of your tabletop or bedroom floor battlefield.

Now we will start our comparison of the Training Center halftrack to the Battleground halftrack.

The Marx designers paid great attention to detail, and it's odd to me that the vehicles, materials, and size of the soldiers were so very different from each other.  Training Ground had large, hard-plastic vehicles, and small soldiers with little detail.  Battleground had small, soft-plastic vehicles, and larger soldiers with very good detail.  This is a puzzle to me.

Training Center on left, Battleground on right.

Here is a detailed 54mm Battleground soldier with the Battleground halftrack. the soldier is way too big for the vehicle!

Here is the same soldier compared to the Training Center halftrack.  He's still just a little too large for it, nonethelesss, the size is much more realistic.

Here's the side-by-side comparison of the Battleground figure with the 
Training Center figure.  
Quite a difference, isn't there?

The smaller Training Center soldier is a much better fit for the Battleground vehicle.

Compare the highly-detailed face of the Battleground soldier on the left with the Training Center soldier on the right.  The difference is pretty startling.

Despite this, the Marx Army Training Center playset is still a very cool playset and one that I will be profiling in a later post.

This is the first of my Marx WWII playset posts.  I will be doing more over the coming year, and I hope that you don't mind the change of pace from my usual toy Civil War soldier posts.

The Louis Marx company isn't around anymore and these fabulous and fun playsets are no longer being made; but that doesn't mean that you need to miss out on the tun that I had when I was your age.  There are still playsets being made for you today, although none of them are as imaginative or as affordable as the Marx sets.  But as we go along we'll talk about ways that you can use your own imagination to design and assemble your own playsets.  Does that sound good to you?

Okay, until next time...

Soldier on!



Major Miniatures said...

G'day Mannie "why the difference between the 2 sets" I ask myself the same question. Here's my "guess". Moulding in plastics was a relatively new process and must have developed rapidly Steel mould engraving was by hand back then? and took a long time? What i see is a technology development between 2 sets even though they were released in the same year?

Rahway said...

The large vehicle first came in the c.1950 US Army Mobile set, along with 60mm flat, hard plastic soldiers. In 1951 the First Training Centers were issued with new 45mm soldiers and the older vehicles. In 1958 both the Training Centers and the new Battleground sets included the new 54mm figures and the new, smaller vehicles.

Mannie Gentile said...

Major and Rahway,

Thank your for your thoughtful comments. Rahway, I have edited the post based upon your input.

One of the things thatI like about writing a blog rather than a book, is that a blog can be continually edited as information becomes available.

Thanks again, and...

Soldier on!