Friday, April 24, 2009

Object Lesson #2 - Lionel's 752E and Cultural Values

This post we continue our look at Ken's father-in-law's train set. What can such an object tell us about the world it was made for?

Cultural Values

The reason Lionel chose to make this particular model was because of the immense popularity of the prototype. In the early 1930’s aircraft design had led the way with the concept of streamlining.

Soon all forms of transportation were adopting the concepts (and the look) of modern aircraft. Car fenders became smoother with fluted edges, while car bodies sported rounded corners and flowing lines.

Railroads looked into streamlining for two reasons: fuel efficiency (and therefore lower costs), and to counter the competition from airlines for the passenger business.

Lionel's version is very close proportionally to the prototype.
In 1934 the Union Pacific unveiled the “City of Salinas” M10000, a train billed as the future of railroading. Instead of a series of separate passenger cars linked together by couplers, the train was one long, integrated (and articulated) unit. Some called it an airplane fuselage on wheels, and the UP was glad for the association.

The M10000 was sent on an extensive goodwill tour across the country, and became the last word in modern rail travel for a while.

If you look carefully at commercial art of the day that celebrates progress, you’ll often see some version of the M10000 pictured alongside a fast-moving airplane, zeppelin, and steamship.

The body made of light-weight airplane-grade extruded aluminum, and coupled with its streamlined contour, made the M10000 one of the fastest trains in service.

By modeling the M10000, Lionel offered a product would have had a great deal of positive association to the general public.

Part 1: Lionel's 752E and Technology
Part 3: Lionel's 752E and Its Function
Part 4: Lionel's 752E and Its Owner

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