Lionel Train sets are one of the most popular electric model trains and trains sets ever produced. They have been making great Christmas gifts for children, collectors and train enthusiast for a very long time. Did you know that they became associated with Christmas right from the time they were first introduced? It's true.
In fact, with a history that spans more than a century, Lionel Train sets are the longest running electric model railroad train company in the world. Although Lionel has gone through many changes since its inception, the name and its association with the wonderful world of electric model trains has continued to elicit exciting pictures of toy trains racing around the tree on Christmas morning from President Theodore Roosevelt's day to the present!
Lionel Trains began with Joshua Lionel Cowen. Mr. Cowen was in love with trains when the extraordinary new day of trains and electricity transformed his childhood world the world around him. It was this love of trains combined with his innate inventiveness that led to the creation of Lionel Trains with his first toy train, The Electric Express.
These early electric Lionel model train sets were used to attract business for large department stores.Because Christmas was the biggest time of the year for department stores, the amazing Electric Express quickly became associated with the season. Prominently displayed in their street-level showcase windows, it drew crowds of fans, eager to see Cowen's colorful train set racing merrily around the track.
Before long, people wanted to be able to buy Lionel Train sets for their children. (You decide if it their desire was solely for their children!) Lionel Trains were already famous with a market just waiting for the product, simply from the department store displays. Combined with the fact that Lionel train sets make wonderful Christmas gifts, electric model railroad train sets made by Lionel Trains soon began showing up in homes, all across America.
Joshua Lionel Cowen was simply passionate about model railroading. He strongly believed that boys who were exposed to model railroading early on in their own homes would one day become the successful leaders of tomorrow. He thus advertised and marketed Lionel Trains, with tremendous success.
At first, most Lionel electric train sets were bought for family members in the homes of the more well to-do of American society. They were quite expensive. The quality of Lionel Trains was exceptional and durable. At a time before Henry Ford's innovative idea of mass production in mechanized factories, high quality came with a cost. Cowen, who valued quality above all else, focused strongly on quality before quantity or lower production costs.
Thanks to Mr. Ford and others like him, a new world began to take shape, where high quality items could be produced at lower costs than in previous times. Mr. Cowen and Lionel Trains did not miss the trend and eventually began to build Lionel Trains in his own factory, without sacrificing any of the quality and craftsmanship his electric model trains were known for.
When other companies mocked Lionel Trains for their bright and cheerful colors, he simply answered that children loved the bright colors, and made sure mothers were well aware of the fact! In truth, collectors still crave vintage model trains made by Lionel.
Lionel Trains went through a time of struggle in the depression years, as did so many, but Lionel Trains was able to adapt and survive, finding new ways to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality standards that they were known for.
During WWII, Lionel Corporation, like many other companies, was busy producing items for the US Navy. Even though the work caused a hiatus in the production of toy trains, Mr. Cowen planned ahead, continuing to advertise the products he had in mind for the inevitable end of the war.
When the war did finally end, Lionel was ready to go. The new focus was on more realistic and less colorful electric model train sets. At the same time, Lionel Trains began to produce only O gauge train sets. To the delight of model railroad fans, many of the new locomotives featured real smoke, which was created by putting a tiny tablet or special oil in the smokestack, which had a heating element at the bottom.
Although all the model train companies faced great difficulties late in the 20th century as interest in trains began to give place to planes, spacecraft, and the computer age, Lionel Trains continued to be a familiar name, with new products coming out to once again bring smiles to many faces at Christmas.
Though Mr. Cowen has long left this Earth and the original Lionel Train company was purchased from Lionel Corporation as it went through its many trials with other electric model train companies from the late 1960s into the early 21st century, Lionel lives on, today, as Lionel, LLC. Lionel Train sets continue to bring joy to model train enthusiasts more than a century after The Electric Express made its first circuit in a department store in 1900.
Today, with the huge resurgence in interest in electric model trains, Lionel, LLC is booming and Lionel Train sets are better and more popular than ever. Many model train enthusiast and collectors say they are better than ever. Adults and children of all ages and genders are once again in love with the excitement and history of trains. The romance of the days when the world was connected by trains, yet moving at a more relaxed pace holds a whimsical and joyful nostalgia that draws young and old in its almost mystical attraction.
Lionel Trains make wonderful Christmas gifts for everyone, because not only are they still so beautifully detailed and painstakingly crafted, but also because they are so affordable!
Trains and Toy Soldiers has a huge selection of Lionel Train sets and accessories for Christmas. The cheerful elves at Trains and Toy Soldiers are very helpful and love to chat about model railroading, too. Whether by phone or by email, Trains and Toy Soldiers is the place to find new or vintage Lionel Trains for every train lover on your list, from 9 to 90!