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.