Saturday, December 20, 2014

Retro Saturday: The Wonderful World of Trains

Click the arrow to watch the film. Video source: Classic Airliners & Vintage Pop Culture YouTube channel.

With the Christmas holiday only five days away, this week's Retro Saturday goes back to what was the definitive boy toy for my era.

A Lionel train.

The Wonderful World of Trains is a 1960 promotional film produced by the Lionel Corporation. Founded in 1900 as an electrical novelties company, it was best known for toy trains and model railroads.

The company sold its model train line to General Mills in 1967. The company eventually went out of business in 1993, although the Lionel trademarks are owned by Richard Kughn in Detroit.

Wikipedia has more on the Lionel history.

The little boy in me would still like a model train for Christmas ... Yeah, I know, good luck with that.

General John Medaris and Wernher von Braun at Cape Canaveral in March 1958. Image source: Getty Images.

If you're wondering what this has to do with space ... General John B. Medaris, who headed the Army Ballistic Missile Agency during the time Wernher von Braun developed the Redstone and launched the first U.S. satellite Explorer 1, left ABMA to become president of the Lionel Corporation in 1960. This 2002 edition of The Lion Roars has an article starting on Page 7 about an Operating Satellite Launching Car that Lionel developed for its toy train line once Medaris joined the company.

The Lionel Model 3519 Satellite Launching Car. Image source: Lionel Trains Library.

The Lionel Model 6650 Missile Launcher Car. Image source: Lionel Trains Library.

The Lionel Model 6544 Missile Carrying Flatcar. Image source:

The Model 6544 Missile Firing Car is demonstrated in the film, along with other military-themed toys.

Also note that the film opens with a little boy playing with his toy train set ... while wearing an astronaut helmet.

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