Not only love can break your heart

Another Chapter 11 in the toy world was announced as Lionel filed for bankruptcy after losing a court ruling for allegedly ‘misappropriating’ designs from a competitor. This is the second time the company has filed for bankruptcy – the first occurring in 1991 when it was rescued by iconic rocker, Neil Young.

Now somewhere in the back of my head I filed this information about Neil Young owning a stake in Lionel Trains, thinking that this would be good material for LATDA. Being somewhat hampered by my stereotypical gender inclinations, I figured we’d wait until someone with true train passion and expertise came along to frame an exceptional and provocative train exhibition.

What I didn’t follow over the years is how much Neil Young has put into Lionel – he has been busy inventing and shaping product development. No dilettante ownership here. My outdated perception was that he had invested in Lionel because of the connection it gave him with his two young sons. I had no idea that he was a serious train hobbyist who has helped develop wireless controllers that would enable his son Ben, who has cerebral palsy, to operate complex train systems that don’t rely on fine motor skills.

Young is also responsible for a limited edition train set based on his music. The Greendale Train,with its devil chasing a political activist around one of the cars, has stirred up some of Young’s fellow hobbyists. Apparently politics and trains shouldn’t mix company according to the blogs. The Greendale Train sounds good fun to me and quite refreshing – if LATDA had the budget, we would definitely invest in Greendale and help out Lionel.

One day I found myself in a train store in West LA. I think I was looking for the stuff to make the little trees you see on train layouts. Eavesdropping on a conversation, I heard a man talk about a train layout he had been working on. He was a screenwriter (what else in L.A.?) trying to weather out the writers’ strike in the 80’s. His wife had suggested that he find a hobby to keep busy. He was in the process of creating a layout inside of a glass-topped coffee table. The landscape was based on scenes from a plague-ridden Europe, littered with piles of diseased corpses and feasting carrion. I couldn’t imagine what kind of trains he had running through his 14th century creation, but I hope it was Lionel.