The Gilbert American Flyer HO Index

Pikemaster or Marx

Spotting the differences in F3 Diesels

While some people believe that the later Gilbert Pikemaster F3 diesels are cast from the same mold as Marx production from that same era, it is clear that there are distinct differences in the shells.  The blue shell illustrated below is a Pikemaster locomotive (a 31025) and the black shell is a Marx locomotive.

One very clear difference is in the steps, which are filled in between the rungs on the Pikemaster locomotives and not filled in on the Marx locomotives. As noted below, the Marx F3's are slightly longer than the Gilbert models. Also, on the top of the shells, in the area of the steam generator, the venting is different on the two shells.  There are also numerous other differences shown in the back to back photo of the shells below. Marx produced F3 diesels from 1958 to 1962 and brought the locomotive back into production in 1971, so it appears that they used the molds before, during, and after the Pikemaster era of Gilbert production.

It is quite likely that Marx and Pikemaster locomotives were made by the same manufacturer using very similar molds, possibly made from the same drawings. How the similarities between the Marx and Gilbert models came about is unknown. While there are minor differences that distinguish the two shells, the models, taken as a whole definitely give the appearance of having been made by the same manufacturer. In particular, I would cite the similarities in the gear boxes as factor pointing to a common manufacturer. The only difference appears to be that the nylon gears of the Marx chassis were replaced with plastic in the Gilbert Pikemaster models. 

Photos by Joe King

Note that the number boards on the Pikemaster F3 (L-3003 shown at rear) are more squared than the Marx F3 in the foreground.  Also note the rivet detail on the skirt.  The Marx diesel has 7 rivets and the Pikemaster diesel has 8.  In addition, the door below the coupler has a2 point hinge on the Marx diesel and a 3 point hinge on the Pikemaster diesel.  The step on the skirt of the Marx F3 is only found on the Santa Fe unit, and is not an indicator that is common to all Marx F3 diesels.

Marx Pikemaster Length Comparison
Pikemaster locomotive (L3003 top) is shorter than the Marx locomotive (bottom). 

Note differences in steam generator venting at left of photo.  (Marx-top photo and Pikemaster - lower photo)

Note more uniform ladder rungs and sharper detail on Marx locomotive (left).  The door handle is vertically centered at the edge of the plate on the Gilbert model (right) but is aligned vertically nearer the top on that edge of the plate on the Marx model.  Also, the plate itself is more distinct on the Gilbert shell.  Finally, the small extension at the top center of the lower door panel is on the same plane as the door on the Marx model, but is set back on the Gilbert model.

Differences in this photo includes the filled in steps on the Pikemaster locomotive at the right and the smaller size panel at the back of the top row of  panels.  It appears that the entire side panel detail has been cut short at the rear as the vertical section of un-detailed shell between the corner of the car and the beginning of the side panel is significantly larger on the Pikemaster car.  Finally, the distance between the rear attachment lug and the vertical panel separator is greater on the Marx shell.

The Pikemaster locomotive above has black plastic gears and the Marx locomotive at bottom has white nylon gears, indicating an attempt at cost cutting on the Pikemaster locomotive.