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Lionel

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Lionel Corporation was a toy manufacturer and retailer that was in business from 1900-1969. Founded as an electrical novelties company, Lionel specialized in various products throughout its existence, but toy trains and model railroads were its main claim to fame. Lionel trains, produced from 1900 to 1969, drew admiration from model railroaders around the world for the solidity of their construction and the authenticity of their detail. During its peak years, in the 1950s, the company sold $25 million worth of trains per year. In 2006, Lionel's electric train, along with the Easy Bake Oven, became the first two electric toys inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. They published a television advertisement in the mid-1980s with a very well known and remembered jingle, "Lionel Kiddy City, turn that frown [clap, clap] upside down." 

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Lionel Corporation was a toy manufacturer and retailer that was in business from 1900-1969. Founded as an electrical novelties company, Lionel specialized in various products throughout its existence, but toy trains and model railroads were its main claim to fame. Lionel trains, produced from 1900 to 1969, drew admiration from model railroaders around the world for the solidity of their construction and the authenticity of their detail. During its peak years, in the 1950s, the company sold $25 million worth of trains per year. In 2006, Lionel's electric train, along with the Easy Bake Oven, became the first two electric toys inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. They published a television advertisement in the mid-1980s with a very well known and remembered jingle, "Lionel Kiddy City, turn that frown [clap, clap] upside down." 

Lionel remains the most enduring brand name associated with model trains in the United States, its products prized by collectors. Lionel, LLC now owns all of the trademarks and most of the product rights associated with Lionel Corporation; there is, however, no direct connection between the two companies.

In May 1967, Lionel Corporation announced it had purchased the American Flyer name and tooling even though it was teetering on the brink of financial failure itself. A May 29, 1967 story in The Wall Street Journal made light of the deal, stating, "Two of the best-known railroads in the nation are merging and the Interstate Commerce Commission couldn't care less". Former Lionel treasurer Robert A. Stein said Lionel did not initiate the deal; both companies had farmed out their accounts receivable departments to Walter Heller & Co., who initiated the transaction. While various accounts published over the years valued the deal at $150,000, Stein's recollection was that Lionel simply liquidated $300,000-$400,000 worth of American Flyer inventory for Heller in exchange for the tooling, which, by some accounts, sat unused and neglected in a parking lot for some period of time. Lionel Corporation never manufactured American Flyer trains.

Within two years, Lionel Corp. was bankrupt itself and had sold its train lines to General Mills, including the unused American Flyer tooling. In 1979, General Mills' Lionel division started to reissue Flyer products under that name employing a mix of previously unused railroad heralds and traditional Gilbert American Flyer designs.

In 1984, General Mills sold the Lionel Co. to Kenner, a toy manufacturer. One year later, the company was sold to Richard Kughn, a Detroit toy train collector who made his fortune selling and developing real estate. For over a decade, Kughn moved both the Lionel and American Flyer brands forward, getting a shot of momentum from a resurgence in the toy train hobby in the early 1990s. In 1996, Kughn sold a majority interest to Wellspring Partners LLD, a Chicago-based national turnaround firm headed by Martin Davis. Kughn retained a small percentage, and rock star Neil Young, another toy train buff, also became a minor investor. Young's contributions include designing a sound system for trains (RailSounds) in 1992, as well as the Trainmaster Command Control (TMCC), a unique radio control system. The new company is known as Lionel, LLC.

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