Children of all age groups are interested in toy trains. So was little Joshua Lionel Cowen! At the age of seven, he carved a miniature locomotive from wood. It however exploded when he tried to fit it with a tiny steam engine.
Initially the trains available in market were just pull-along. Later, miniature steam or clockwork engines began to be used to pull trains.
Lionel never lost his interest in trains. Once when he saw a push train kept in a shop window, he was struck with an idea. He thought of making a toy train which would run without any supervision. He designed his first train, the Electric Express, not as a toy, but as an eye-catching display for toy stores.The early versions of Lionel trains were powered by wet-cell batteries. These were soon replaced by the 110-volt electric transformer.
Lionel founded the Lionel Manufacturing Company in 1900 near City Hall in New York City. During those days, Americans were captivated by the railroads and awed by electricity which was rare in many homes.
Lionel was not the first person to manufacture trains but his talents as an engineer and salesman soon put Lionel ahead of its competitors. In 1909, Lionel proclaimed his electric trains to be the ‘Standard of the World’!