Monday, January 21, 2013

The Tender Trap 8

What is the tender trap? It's an all-too-common error where someone sets up either a model or toy steam locomotive and places the tender backwards. To the folks setting the train up, it "looks right" with the tender backwards.

My issue isn't with their ignorance. It's a pretty esoteric area of interest we're talking about, after all. But most toy trains are designed so that the engine and tender share a unique coupling arrangement, making it impossible for the two pieces to be connected any other way. And yet, the phenomenon persists.

Today's example is perhaps even sadder. Because although there is no unique coupler to give the people setting up the toy train to photograph, it's something they should have gotten right --because they were employees of Lionel.

Lionel is perhaps the best-known brand of toy trains. The company was founded in 1900 by Joshua Lionel Cohen, and continued as a family-owned business until 1969. Since then, the Lionel brand has gone through many hands . It was first bought by MPC (General Mills) in 1970, then real estate mogul Richard Kuhn in 1986, then another group of investors -- Wellspring -- in 1995.

Somewhere along the way, the knowledge of trains got lost, because this is a gaffe that never should have happened.

Look closely at the main photo on this box. (click on image to enlarge)

As you can see from the detail at left, the tender's backwards. It's easy to tell, because there's no opening for the coal.

But look at the train in the upper right hand corner of the box. The tender is oriented correctly! (Here's another view, below).

 Throughout the Cohen era, and even into the MPC and Kuhn ownerships, catalogs and advertising art always had the tenders facing the right way. For those of us who notice such things, it just indicates a further dilution of a once-respected brand.

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