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From Lionel.com:

1960's: End of an Era

Lionel in the 1960s was a company that had lost its founder and its bearings. America was undergoing social upheaval, and the idealized image of Lionel railroading no longer fit in. In a doomed effort to diversify, the company introduced slot cars, science kits, and even phonographs. Despite several creative covers, Lionel catalogs soon featured uninspiring product shots, devoid of all romance.

Joshua Lionel Cowen passed away in 1965 at the age of 88. Another American legend, the venerable Twentieth Century Limited, made its last run in 1967. That same year Lionel filed for bankruptcy. The company licensed its electric train manufacturing to breakfast-cereal conglomerate General Mills in 1969.

1969, I was a high school senior/college freshman, and you can be sure Lionel Trains were one of the last things on my mind. My father’s Lionel collection, track, transformer, scenery, etc. had been mothballed, and a train around the Christmas Tree was a long forgotten memory (ghost) of Christmas past.

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Many people have depressing views of the 1960s.

I was an adolescent during the 60s (in 1960 I was 8 years old), and though I was later aware of some of the things going on, my world was one of my hobbies, school chums, my entrance into making music, the discovery of girls and other such wondrous things.

So, for me, the 1960s were upbeat with lots of life milestones, thus I have very fond memories of the 60s.

Andre

Last edited by laming

After graduating high school in 1967 model trains were a nonexistent thought I took the Lionel train set down for storage in 1963. My concerns were making money in part time jobs in high school and after high school to pay for college and the military draft. Earned an engineering degree, started my engineering career, got married, had a family and returned to model train in 1990. I lost interest in model railroading as a teenager because of the small size o gauge train layout I had as a kid, turned interests toward muscle cars and the gals.

Last edited by John Ochab

I was a young kid when Lionel went under (so to speak), but we had trains in the house (older brother), which I kind of inherited. I don't really have much memories of the 60's, other than the Moon Landing, the Jets winning the superbowl and Mets winning world series in same year. I came of age so to speak in the MPC era. I did benefit from the end of post war era, you could get a lot of trains for very little in the early 70s, my dad purchased a big collection of power war trains, transformers,acccesories and track and the like for like 50 bucks (and yeah, I realize that is worth anywhere between 250 and 400 dollars these days, but given how much he bought it was a lot)

I was in Vietnam in 1969.  I started with Lionel in the 1950s but switched to HO at about 1956.  I was strongly influenced by John Allen and his G&D HO model railroad.  I wanted a realistic model railroad.  I was not involved with model trains from the late 60s to the early 90s as I built my career, got married, except as a collector.      

I collected HO trains until I saw the first TMCC equipped Lionel engines in the 1990s.  This was before HO DCC was well established.  None of the HO DCC engines in the early 90s had sound or whistles, etc.  I switched to O 3-rail and have been doing that ever since.  I also have a small collection of HO and O 2-rail.  

If today's sound, smoke and light features had been available in HO in the early 90s, I would probably still be mostly an HO modeler.  I am very happy with Lionel's Legacy and TMCC.  I haven't been very lucky getting MTH DCS to work well.  This is probably because no one else in the SF Bay Area that I know runs DCS.  I think that I know most of the 3-rail O modelers in this area.  NH Joe  

In 1969 I was working part time and my dad still had a love for Lionel trains as I got a little older turned 18 I started working with him in the trucking industry making the same money. He being the soul provider as my mom was a stay at home mom I started supporting his train hobby love. He found a group of gents that met once a month at each others home and they called themselves The Gold Coast Train Collectors and through those get togethers I would bankroll his love for Lionel Trains. That was the biggest thing that kept us close being a teenager and knowing it all we generally did not see eye to eye but the trains kept us close. To this day I still collect and operate PW Lionel Trains my dad even collected MPC Era stuff as I still do in his memory I pick up stuff he always wanted but could not afford at the time. That was 50 years ago he has been gone since 1984 and I still miss him.

@RJT posted:

In 1969 I was working part time and my dad still had a love for Lionel trains as I got a little older turned 18 I started working with him in the trucking industry making the same money. He being the soul provider as my mom was a stay at home mom I started supporting his train hobby love. He found a group of gents that met once a month at each others home and they called themselves The Gold Coast Train Collectors and through those get togethers I would bankroll his love for Lionel Trains. That was the biggest thing that kept us close being a teenager and knowing it all we generally did not see eye to eye but the trains kept us close. To this day I still collect and operate PW Lionel Trains my dad even collected MPC Era stuff as I still do in his memory I pick up stuff he always wanted but could not afford at the time. That was 50 years ago he has been gone since 1984 and I still miss him.

My dad loved them as well, I was always surprised he didn't do a layout after my brother and I had moved on from them I remember taking him to a big HO club layout and him saying it was great, but wasn't the same thing. Plus being an engineer he always got a chuckle at how Lionel did things in the accessories and of course the infamous E unit. I don't think he ever knew about the command revolution,he passed in 2000 and hadn't been around them for more than a few years.

I guess I'm the oddball here - I never lost my interest in trains and have almost always had an operating layout since childhood. I worked at a train store from the age of 16 well into my 20's, and met many hobby luminaries such as Paul Jensen (his work was frequently featured in Model Railroader), John Allen, and Neil Young. My boss there had been buddies with Gordon Varney and was an American Flier collector.

I managed to discover girls somewhere along the way and married the prettiest one I know - and she lets me have 2 layouts featuring my favorite manufacturers!

L1020731

L1030882

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@Don Winslow posted:

I guess I'm the oddball here - I never lost my interest in trains and have almost always had an operating layout since childhood. I worked at a train store from the age of 16 well into my 20's, and met many hobby luminaries such as Paul Jensen (his work was frequently featured in Model Railroader), John Allen, and Neil Young. My boss there had been buddies with Gordon Varney and was an American Flier collector.

I managed to discover girls somewhere along the way and married the prettiest one I know - and she lets me have 2 layouts featuring my favorite manufacturers!

L1020731

L1030882

Geez, ya had to rub our noses in it....being in trains all the time, met all those neat people and ended up with a top flight wife who checks all the boxes........*smile*

I was in Vietnam in 1969.  I started with Lionel in the 1950s but switched to HO at about 1956.  I was strongly influenced by John Allen and his G&D HO model railroad.  I wanted a realistic model railroad.  I was not involved with model trains from the late 60s to the early 90s as I built my career, got married, except as a collector.      

I collected HO trains until I saw the first TMCC equipped Lionel engines in the 1990s.  This was before HO DCC was well established.  None of the HO DCC engines in the early 90s had sound or whistles, etc.  I switched to O 3-rail and have been doing that ever since.  I also have a small collection of HO and O 2-rail.  

If today's sound, smoke and light features had been available in HO in the early 90s, I would probably still be mostly an HO modeler.  I am very happy with Lionel's Legacy and TMCC.  I haven't been very lucky getting MTH DCS to work well.  This is probably because no one else in the SF Bay Area that I know runs DCS.  I think that I know most of the 3-rail O modelers in this area.  NH Joe  

Hi Joe,

We have several Layouts in the Sac area that are running DCS and Legacy together with no problems,one Layout has 3000 pieces of Rolling stock and locomotives and in the process of finishing landscaping and the Trains are running.

Mikey

Just sharing the love bigkid!

A quick story about John Allen some may enjoy - he came into the store one day and purchased a box of Atlas "N" scale trees. I looked at the box and trying to be helpful said: "Mr. Allen, I don't believe that's your scale." He responded with his whimsical smile saying: "Son, it's all a matter of perspective...".

My gosh, the 1960s.  Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear!  I was born in 1947 and was hot into trains until about 1962 at which point the hormones really kicked in and I was hot for girls.  Stopped putting the trains under the tree in 1963.  Graduated High School in 1965 and College in 1969 and all during that time fully expected to be drafted and sent to Viet Nam as my home state of West Virginia with a small population always had trouble meeting its draft quota.   Somehow I made it through until December of 1969 when I graduated college and by that time President Nixon had initiated the draft lottery and I drew an incredibly high number, 315, which kept me out of the draft.  All during those college years, 1965-1969, my focus was on nothing else but study, study and more study.  I never gave my trains a single thought.  They had been packed away and as the old saying goes , "Out of sight , out of mind".  I got married in 1972 and the trains suddenly re-emerged into my consciousness but we had a small apartment and no room for the trains.  When my wife and I bought a home in September of 1974 the first thing I did was retrieve my trains and they were set up for Christmas that year.  For the last 48 years they have been a constant presence in our home.   I was always on edge a bit during the 1960s because I wanted to get my Bachelor's degree in the worst way before I had to go into the service and Uncle Sam seemed like he was always nipping at my heels so the trains faded into the background.  However, I certainly can't say that the 60s were a dark time for me. The Animal House like fraternity I belonged to during those years provided me with more than enough highly unusual distractions.  The nectar of the Gods flowed quite freely during that time.  Yes, it was the best of times the worst of times.  

Last edited by OKHIKER

I was born in 1985 (end of the MPC era) and did not fully embrace Post War trains, or any conventional stuff, until 2020. What an awesome ride it has been discovering the trains from this era. I was on an Instagram Live Stream/Chat last weekend with a group of folks I had never met, mostly in their late teens, early 20s. The topic of conversation was the Lionel 773! It was so cool to hear a new generation hyping up this iconic engine from 72 years ago!

Just putting some good out there today that these Post War trains are far from forgotten and are still celebrated today, just perhaps, on other forms of media where the next generation of collectors gather.

Good thread!

Chris (RBP)

I received my first train (American Flyer 310 K5) for Christmas 1949 and I played with them until high school. One Sat I was downtown New Orleans wit my Dad and stumbled into a music store and spotted a Flyer layout in a back room. Was wanting to play guitar and swapped ALL my trains for a $160 Supro electric guitar and small amp. Poor decision as I never got really good on the instrument and later regretted losing the trains! Dabbled in HO some as a SR in high school but went off to college and forgot about the trains until the 2nd year after opening my hobby shop in 1987. One Saturday a fella came in wanting to be an 'Authorized' Lionel Service Station, We quickly became friends and that year we were up to our eyeballs in trains. He still operates as 'Uncle Sam;s Trains' No 224 near New Orleans.

Hobby Shop Card

Still have a few cards from 1989 that were 'hand drawn' and assembled!

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Last edited by c.sam

My dad managed to keep a lot of the post war magic alive in our family. Much like the OP I lost interest in my high school & college years. We still did do some train shows and run them here and there but as I settled in life the trains came back. Now, my dad and my kids and I still go to train shows and those are memories that we may not have many more of... I take advantage of them anytime we can. Working on My dads train layout with him and my kids is something we love doing also.

We all look back at the old catalogs and I can only dream of those simpler times in the golden era of Lionel but we do enjoy trying to recreate them. Trains around the tree forever!!!

We always had trains, pretty simple, but the basement was huge, so 5 sheets of plywood end to end painted brown allowed for lots of activity.  When my brother married he took his trains with him.  Dad retired and we moved to a smaller home, and about that time I joined the service, it was 1964.  Dad immediately set up a nice 'L' shaped table in my old bedroom.  He sent me clippings from Long Island papers regarding the LIRR or Lionel, I still have a few of them.  His hardcover book, 1st edition, Steel Rails to the Sunset is a treasure trove for LIRR lovers.  We were a postwar train family and didn't care for the late 50's early 60's rockets and missiles stuff.  It wasn't until I saw MPC in the very late 80's that we added anything, and that was just a simple 5 car set of NYC baby passenger cars.  Big brother passed early in the 90's, and then Dad did too, all of those trains came back to roost with me, and now, slowly they are finding themselves around Christmas trees owned by my fathers great grandchildren.  My current table offers three levels, each with double track loops.  The lower level has two sidings and the middle level is where 'activity' happens.  The oldest trains are from the 30's, so I guess that means we've been in the hobby, full time for 9 decades.  I recently gave a nice set, diesel switcher with rolling stock and caboose to a neighbor's son, so I told the Mom, when he finds girls or leaves the home, just box up the trains.  Do not toss them or give them away, because, one day he'll come back for them.  His Mom has visited OGRR, she agrees.

Thank you for sharing your stories, so many similar occurrences and thoughts.  I appreciate all of the memories, yours and mine.

Chuck242

Born in the war years, I was a confirmed Lionel devotee from around 1948 through the early months of 1961.Graduated from high School that year and a couple of months later entered THE Ohio State University, studying journalism, with a specialization in photojournalism. I was very active in Army ROTC, and the very day I graduated from college in 1965 (commissioned as a 2nd Lt. by General Curtis LeMay, who was our commencement speaker), I climbed into my new  '65 Mustang convertible and reported for active duty at Ft. Knox.  Subsequently saw a tour in Korea with the 7th Infantry Div., followed by two consecutive tours in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne and U.S. Army Headquarters, Obviously, trains were pretty much long forgotten at that point in my life. Left the Army in 1970. Some years later, after various journeys in my life and career, I moved to Hawaii as Photo Editor of Honolulu's major newspaper. A colleague managed to re-ignite the train spark by giving me an N scale train set as a Christmas gift, and a few years later a girlfriend gave me Ron Hollander's book as a Christmas gift. That was it, and I have been active in O gauge as a hobby and (largely) as a career ever since. . . a good number of years and decades.

As Mark (the OP) knows, I grew up a couple of blocks away from him in Brooklyn… in 1969, as he was exiting Brooklyn Prep, I was entering Both my older brother’s original Lionel set and mine were from the waning days of the post war era (his was around 1960, mine ‘62 or ‘63). I sill have both, and they’re in pretty good shape for 60 years of age - unlike their owners!!! Both were purchased from a neighborhood toy store called Thrift Town on Nostrand Ave. Since we always lived in apartments in those days, our “layout” was a 4x8 sheet of plywood with two concentric loops of track - my Super O was the larger loop. While I never lost interest in the trains, life tended to be somewhat busy in those days, so the did take a bit of a back seat for my HS days. But there was a reawakening during my college days since I went to school out of state for two years and road Northeast Corridor trains a number of times, including a couple of trips on the Amtrak Turbo Train. Then I found an MPC Pennsy engine in a local department store which looked like one of the engines I saw in my train travels and the decent down the slippery slope began When I returned to Brooklyn, my family had moved to the Midwood area near Ave. M… while I was finishing college, Train World opened next to the Ave. M subway station, so I had to pass it every time I took the subway!!! While I only had a Carpet Central for many, many years, I had become an avid collector. And then along came Command Control

Last edited by Apples55
@Chris1985 posted:

I was born in 1985 (end of the MPC era) and did not fully embrace Post War trains, or any conventional stuff, until 2020. What an awesome ride it has been discovering the trains from this era. I was on an Instagram Live Stream/Chat last weekend with a group of folks I had never met, mostly in their late teens, early 20s. The topic of conversation was the Lionel 773! It was so cool to hear a new generation hyping up this iconic engine from 72 years ago!

Chris (RBP)

I purchased a 773 (1964 version) from my LHS a couple of years ago that I treasure. I regard it as a mechanical marvel because it is so big, yet runs so smooth and well through the 031 curves on my layout.

Those smart young hobbyists know great quality when they see it. Arnold

Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari

My childhood Christmas 2 week 027 layout (ping pong table board on the floor w/oval and figure 8) was dismantled in 1954 with my Dads employment transfer from St. Louis to Arkansas with housing in a company rental house for 2 years.   My brother and I were interested in model building which continued into the 1960s with U-control airplanes and radio control (with tubes) boats.  College, employment, marriage and children then came.

We had a employment transfer to Jamaica in 1976 and I had the childhood trains consisting of a Marx 999 freight set and 4 Marx.  The children were 3 years and new born.  I decided they would need a Christmas 027 toy train layout with a Christmas tree on the layout on the floor like I had as a kid.  I build the layout, an oval and figure 8 with another outside loop to allow two train operation.  The idea of a homemade turntable was hatched and built.  The layout was in two sections to allow moving for job transfers in two queen size boxes.

I missed the end of the Post War era but in the 1970s they were still the major way to go.  Post war trains were readily available and train shows were available to find them.  Later on when MPC came PW was still popular and easy to find.  Classic Toy Trains and O Scale and later named O Gauge Railroading magazines helped keep PW trains popular.

I have continued with my layout, expanding in 1988 but only really working on it a month or so before Christmas.  The layout was down on the floor for 2-3 weeks in the den or living room with a Christmas tree for 2 weeks.  I have continued to be have a Post war layout and it was installed in the second floor a new 2 car garage since 2011 and now has 31 Marx switches.

Charlie

@RJT posted:

In 1969 I was working part time and my dad still had a love for Lionel trains as I got a little older turned 18 I started working with him in the trucking industry making the same money. He being the soul provider as my mom was a stay at home mom I started supporting his train hobby love. He found a group of gents that met once a month at each others home and they called themselves The Gold Coast Train Collectors and through those get togethers I would bankroll his love for Lionel Trains. That was the biggest thing that kept us close being a teenager and knowing it all we generally did not see eye to eye but the trains kept us close. To this day I still collect and operate PW Lionel Trains my dad even collected MPC Era stuff as I still do in his memory I pick up stuff he always wanted but could not afford at the time. That was 50 years ago he has been gone since 1984 and I still miss him.

Great story.  Sounds like a relationship that may have been a lot closer than you realized.  My only child got killed four months ago at age 31.  I can identify with your loss to some degree.

On the other hand you have those memories forever and it sounds like they were awesome.

Last edited by aussteve

MELGAR, probably not the guy you knew.  My father and mother owned a Delicatessen near the RR in Howard Beach up until 1961.  Later he owned the Port Jefferson Delicatessen on Main Street, a block from the Harbor.  But now that I think about it, he had a large layout of Lionel in the back room of the first Deli too.  Back room of a Deli, then the basement of the house, then in my bed room (at least I had moved out by then).  Yep...Lionel all the way, and we loved him so much.  Today, the trains are up in the extra room of my home, and still running smooth.

I was a PostWar kid of the late 50s and early to mid 60s.......The late 60s/early 70s are a blur, but were very transformative for me.

This is me on a camping trip to Bear Mountain in july of 69........

AD65FC77-BDB2-4DD3-9EDF-4AFF74E91A5C_1_201_a

I kept putting up my Postwar trains in my room at Christmas time till about 1967....

I had not been a serious student in my 1st two years of high school and drifted academically (for me). At the time, I was playing the organ and very interested in the rock music of the time.

Then, something clicked as I started my Junior year. 1st, I got serious about my health, joined Weight Watchers and lost about 60 pounds. In October of 69, I joined a newly-forming rock band..........and amazingly, having some purpose resulted in improved grades.

This is me in August of 70.......

38414A34-2C58-41F4-8B13-DB69AADD362A_1_201_a

Unfortunately, though I had tremendous enthusiasm, I lacked an essential ingredient to make it a career.....talent.......

Luckily, my new found focus on schoolwork lead me to an interest in medicine..... From then on, schoolwork and career dominated my life......though, I occasionaly took out the trains in the early 70s and had an "around the tree" HO layout in my apartment in Buffalo in the late 70s.

This in in my room in the Bronx , either 72 or 73.......

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Then, nothing till a cold rainy morning in Baltimore in the winter of 1980, when I saw an ad for a Greenburg Show at Towson State University.........and, the rest is history.....PostWar and MPC became my passion......

Peter

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Last edited by Putnam Division

I was born in 1953 and played with trains continuously  during elementary school. My layout was on a 4X8 piece of plywood, but it was amazing just how much fun I had on that small piece of real estate.

Every fall, the ritual was to go to the LHS to get the latest Lionel catalog. It was fun to go through the catalog and drool. This one year (fall of 1966?), the shop owner told me there would be no new Lionel catalog because Lionel had folded. It was like the unexpected death of a close friend.

I continued fooling with the trains for the first three years of high school. I remember getting the Hong Kong flu in sophomore year and playing with the trains for the entire week I was out of school. (My recovery took a whole week because as soon as I started to feel better and while my mother wasn't watching,  I went out and played touch football for a few hours).

After high school, my mother packed my trains away. Thankfully, she wasn't one of those moms who put trains or baseball cards at curbside for the junk man. I give her credit because she didn't lose anything, not even the small pieces from the Plasticville buildings. I still have those trains (and some new ones) and have a layout in my basement. Oh, and it's still a helluva lot of fun.

Last edited by Joe Connor

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