All aboard, next stop artifact spotlight #3

Chosen for its attractive color and sheer delight factor, this Lionel Train model passenger car known as the “Macy Special 341,” is definitely something special. With its sturdy molded steel casing and charming exterior  details, it is no wonder that Lionel trains were once a staple in living rooms across the country.

The Lionel Corporation was founded in 1900 by Joshua Lionel Cowen in New York City. Cowen’s family immigrated to New York after the Civil War during the height of railroad progress. As a child, trains immediately captured his imagination. At age seven, Cowen carved a small steam engine and wooden locomotive. Years later, he sold his first electric train in 1901 to a store owner in Manhattan. His model trains achieved instant success. By 1902, he was so adept at making toy trains that he started his own company. It went on to being one of the most successful model train companies in the United States until it was bought by General Mills in 1969.

The model belonged to Manuel Benero in the 1930s and donated to the museum by Blanche Kloman in 1996. Although currently not on display, this model train car is a favorite piece in the museum’s permanent collection.
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