Model Lionel Trains-Joshua Cowen


Although Joshua Cowen did not have a strong interest in formal education, he successfully gained admittance to New York City college in 1893 where he matriculated for the next three years. Among his many and varied interests was a penchant for tinkering with mechanical things, and fortunately for all of us who are interested in model railroading, his interest eventually led to the creation of model Lionel trains.

What distinguished Joshua Cowen as an inventor were his skills as an engineer and his natural talent for marketing his newly developed model train. Through his instinctive sales skills he was able to outmaneuver his competitors, and place his newly formed company to the front of the industry. Joshua Cowen, in the upcoming decades proved without doubt, to be a force to be reckoned with in the model train industry.

One excellent example of his unique talents was his decision to take advantage of new technology, and with electricity just finding it’s way into the homes of Americans, his battery powered Electric Express caught the imagination of most who saw it, which further guaranteed his companies future success.

By the 1920’s Lionel was experiencing extraordinary financial growth because most Americans were trying to put the recently concluded war behind them, and with the introduction of credit, which was easy to acquire at the time, the Lionel train was a hobby choice many were willing to make. This was truly a prosperous time for Joshua Cowen and his company but as happens with most good things – this was not to last.

The next decade which brought with it one of the worst economic times in the history of the United States, would also bring a tremendous negative financial challenge for the country, and Joshua Cowen would suffer along with the rest of the country. However, Joshua and his company weathered the storm as it did during the upcoming war years, and then began to enjoy a newly found prosperity after the conclusion of World War II.

The fifties represent some of the better years for Lionel, and with the introduction of television in most homes Joshua Cowen even had a Lionel television program of its own. However, with the many choices for viewing that people were beginning to be exposed to, interest in the show began to decrease and Lionel was once again faced with a new advertising challenge.

The 1960’s were extremely challenging for America because of the assassinations of two of the more important figures in American history, the Vietnam war, and the political controversies which were overwhelming the country. The interest in model Lionel trains was at it’s lowest point, and along with this declining interest Joshua Cowen passed away in 1965.

This was not to be the end of Lionel model trains however, and not by a long shot. During the future decades and through to today’s date, Lionel which became part of the General Mills Company has continued to introduce new products and improve upon it’s reputation for excellence in quality. When hobbyist think about model trains the first company which comes to mind is frequently Lionel.