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Manufacturer: Lionel

Summary: In 1900, Harry C Grant and Joshua Lionel Cowan incorporated a company which became Lionel Trains. Their first product was a simply battery powered.

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General information
Main URL
URL to manuals
Address Originally New York City.
Date Opened 1900
Date Closed
Device Types Other


On September 22 1900, Harry C Grant and Joshua Lionel Cowan incorporated a company which became Lionel Trains. Their first product was a simple battery powered fan motor driven train, sold for use in store display windows. The people wanted to buy the train, Lionel was on its way.

Their main competition was Ives Manufacturing Co., the largest seller of toy trains in the US until 1924, when Lionel overtook them in sales. Ives abruptly dropped their Gauge 1 products in 1921, due to slow sales. They would focus on Wide Gauge trains, which was a generic name for Lionel's trademarked Standard Gauge.

'Standard' or 'Wide' Guage was introduced in 1906 by Lionel to the US market. Standard Guage caught on, at the expense of Gauges 1 and 2. No fewer than four American competitors adopted Lionel's gauge: Ives in 1921, Boucher in 1922, Dorfan in 1924, and American Flyer in 1925. While the track was the same size and the trains and buildings approximately the same scale, the couplers for the most part remained incompatible, making it impossible to mix train cars from different manufacturers without modification.

The increased number of manufacturers seemed to give legitimacy to Lionel's gauge, and because the boom of the 1920s made large toy trains affordable, Standard Gauge had its heyday in the mid-1920s only to virtually disappear during the Great Depression.

Ives filed for bankruptcy in 1928 and its offerings were off the market by 1932. American Flyer discontinued Standard Gauge trains in 1932. Dorfan went out of business in 1934. Lionel discontinued Standard Gauge trains in 1940. Boucher, the last of the Standard/Wide Gauge manufacturers, folded in 1943. Lionel dropped Standard Gauge in 1940, with existing stock appearing in their catalogs for a few years afterwards.

O gauge, was smaller, less expensive to manufacture and it required less space to operate a layout. Thus became the most popular scale in the United States almost by default.

Lionel would survive the Depression, buying its main competitor, Ives, and eventually American Flyer (A. C. Gilbert). Lionel's marketing made a trainset the Christmas present, although Lionel products were expensive. Lionel is still in business today, making O scale trains. Many boys who received a trainset went on to become model railroaders, leaving behind the toy like Lionel trains.

Lionel introduced a number of innovations over the years, including the prewar Lionel Magic Electrol system, and the postwar Electronic Control System. See the DCC History page for more info on those revolutionary systems.

Lionel Command Control Systems

Legacy Control System

Legacy Control System (Legacy) is Lionel's current electronic control system. It was introduced as a successor to Lionel's Trainmaster Command Control (TMCC) in December, 2007. Legacy is backward compatible with all TMCC decoder equipped engines. Models with Legacy sound decoders and/or Odyssey II speed control can be operated with earlier TMCC control systems but also have addition features only accessible with Legacy. The command codes for these additional features differ from the DCC command codes. Lionel has not published or licensed access to the Legacy specific command codes.

Trainmaster Command Control (TMCC)

Lionel's original command control system. It was introduced exclusively in Lionel trains in 1995. Beginning in 2000, Lionel offered licenses to other manufacturers. Licensees that formerly or currently install TMCC decoders in their models include Atlas O, K-Line, Weaver, and Sunset Models 3rd Rail Division. Licensees that formerly or currently offer decoders include Train America Studios, Digital Dynamics, and Electric RR Co. TMCC decoders have mostly been installed in 3-rail O gauge models, but it has also been offered in 2-rail O scale and S scale.

TMCC utilizes the same command codes as Digital Command Control. However, unlike DCC, it uses a 455kHz radio signal to carry the command codes separate from the track power. The locomotive decoders are require the AC track power (50 or 60 Hz) to synchronize the command receiver. Thus, TMCC can only operate on AC track power.

Because TMCC utilizes the DCC command codes, it is possible to control TMCC with DCC compatible software. MTH Electric Trains included support to interface and control TMCC with its Digital Control System. Unlike DCC, TMCC-equipped locomotives can run simultaneously with non-TMCC locomotives.

Lionel ceased the sale of TMCC command systems in 2010, but continues to introduce models equipped with TMCC decoders. TMCC has been superseded by Lionel's Legacy command system.

External Links

  • Lionel - Lionel at wikipedia.
  • TMCC (or Trainmaster Command Control) System is a command control system developed by Lionel.

See Also

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