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Joshua Lionel Cowen

How Ives-branded track clips ended up in Lionel sets

Ives-branded track clips for Lionel O27 track are relatively common, and although they are often mistaken for pre-1933 items, they were actually manufactured for several decades after the Ives brand name disappeared from the marketplace, and by Lionel, not its erstwhile rival Ives.

Lionel stamped the Ives name on track clips to protect the trademark. If you don’t use a trademark for several years, someone else can apply for it and start using it. Lionel didn’t want that.

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How to remove paint from a tin litho toy or train

It isn’t terribly rare to find old tin lithographed toys or trains that have been overpainted. Boys will be boys, after all, and have you ever met a boy that didn’t love paint?

When it comes to restoring these toys, there are no guarantees. Removing the paint without damaging the lithography beneath is tricky, at best. And, of course, there’s a pretty good chance that whatever lies beneath that paint is scratched up or otherwise damaged. Generally speaking, it’s the well-worn toys that get painted, not mint-condition ones.

But if you’re feeling brave and at least a little bit lucky, you can remove the paint, see what’s under it, and maybe, just maybe, it will prove to be salvageable.

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The story of MTH vs. Lionel

Inc. Magazine published a story about the MTH v. Lionel lawsuit which ultimately led to a $40 million judgment against Lionel.The article has a lot of good information in it, including insights on how Lionel and MTH came to be such bitter rivals. There’s lots of hearsay out there but aside from combing through very old magazine articles I never found much about the MTH/Lionel relationship that existed in the 1990s. This article isn’t a complete picture either but it gives details that I hadn’t seen elsewhere.

The article mostly paints a sympathetic picture of MTH, at one place saying “[MTH owner] Mike [Wolf] is not sparkling lily white in all this,” but not really elaborating. But I can’t blame the author for this.
Mike Wolf and MTH are willing to talk and Lionel isn’t.

It’s a story of industrial espionage and the downsides of using (or being) contractors, outsourcing, and overproduction, and the rise and fall of the American Dream. The question, yet unresolved, is whether it’s Mike Wolf’s American Dream that’s falling, or Joshua Lionel Cowen’s. Or both.

Side note: Speaking as a journalist, this article is a good reason why it’s good to talk to the press, even when your lawyers may not want you to. You have to win, or at least compete, in the court of public opinion as well as in the court of law. Run what you say through the lawyers if you have to, but make sure you say something. If you decline comment, the next-best place for the writer to get information about you is from the other side, which is the last place you want information about you to come from.

In this case, to look less like the bad guy, Lionel wouldn’t have had to say much of anything that damaged the case. Make some general statement about the case. Even if it’s rehashed from a press release, it looks better than “Lionel and its owners declined to comment for this story.” And then go in for the kill. “Why don’t you ask QSI what it thinks of MTH?” QSI is a former MTH subcontractor currently engaged in a separate lawsuit. QSI might not say much, but now the writer has some dirt on the rival to go chase down. It might have only resulted in one more line being in the story, something like, “Ironically, MTH, years after being a Lionel subcontractor, is now engaged in a separate and unrelated lawsuit with QSI, one of its former subcontractors.” With that information in the story, Lionel still doesn’t look like a poor, innocent little puppy (it isn’t), but it makes MTH look less like one (it isn’t either).

Troubleshoot your locomotives on the floor!

I’m not going to write up a comprehensive tutorial on troubleshooting old Lionel, American Flyer, Marx, and Ives trains just yet. But I’m going to present a hard-learned lesson.

When troubleshooting a locomotive, set it up on the floor, not on a table.I was working on an Ives locomotive this evening. A lot of Ives frames were made of cast iron, where Lionel and American Flyer had a tendency to use pressed steel, or when they were feeling saucy, brass. And Ives locomotives were top heavy.

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