Lionel Trains

Lionel Trains

From the time he was a boy, Walt Disney held a great fascination for trains, to the extent that he eventually installed them in his theme parks, and loved to ride his personal railroad around the property of his Beverly Hills estate. While most of us aren’t able to enjoy quite the same level of resources, Lionel Trains has long made sure that everyone who loves trains can have their very own. They have been around for over 100 years now, with no signs of running out of steam.

A man named Joshua Lionel Cowen initially designed these beloved toy train sets around the turn of the century – not for home use, but for store window displays. The public proceeded to fall in love with them and demanded a train set for their very own – and Cowen couldn’t help but realize one heck of a business opportunity. He didn’t invent the toy train concept, by any means, but he did mass-produce them for a grateful population and, in the process, make his name a household word.

Attention to detail is what makes Lionel Trains stand out. Built to scale, the company offers replicas of just about every major line that ever ran in America. With engines that let out puffs of smoke and whistle on command, not to mention reverse direction, they are remarkable representations of the real thing.

Alongside the trains are numerous available accessories to add even more realism to the home train experience. Coal elevators that really work, water towers and crossing gates are just a few of the possibilities made available over the years. Keeping track of them is easy, thanks to the annual catalogs that Lionel has produced for many years – giving kids plenty of ideas for Santa each year.

That’s not to say that Lionel trains are only enjoyed by children. Many an adult has been bitten by the toy railroad bug and created huge mock landscapes in their basements to watch their trains chug through for hours on end. Often, they are a cherished father and son activity, a hobby that both can share in, and one that is often passed down through generations.

It hasn’t necessarily been a smooth ride for the Lionel Company. The Depression and WWII both took the public somewhat out of the toy train mood. And, as other forms of transportation eventually made railroad travel a thing of the past, train sales haven’t always been stellar. The company actually declared bankruptcy in the late 1960s. But, overall, Lionel Trains have proven resilient over the past 100 years and will likely be riding the rails and tooting puffs of smoke across faux landscapes for years to come.

If you are one of the millions of kids who grew up playing with Lionel trains, we’re sure that all you former (and current) engineers have plenty of fond recollections of this popular hobby. We hope you will share some of your memories in our comments section below, as we tip our conductor hat to this fine toy tradition for over a century.

One Response to “Lionel Trains”

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  1. Ron R says:

    Loved these things and spent many hours re-configuring the tracks to make different set-ups other than the one each box was set up for. Loved the fact that one could go and buy just accessories such as various types of track, greenery and buildings. Still had one up into the 90’s but ended up losing it in a parental/step parent split.

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