What happened to Tyco RC and trains?

Tyco is a name I certainly remember from my childhood. If you’re wondering what happened to Tyco, or what happened to Tyco RC, read on.

When I think of Tyco, I think of slot cars and trains. That might have been a problem. But its management had a solution.

No Connection to Tyco International

The solution wasn’t stock fraud or other illegal things. Tyco International had a stock fraud scandal in 2002, but that was a different Tyco from the toy company. By the time Tyco International, the healthcare and security conglomerate, ran into legal problems, Tyco the toy company was already gone. Tyco International was into a lot of different things, but never toys.

It might be good for Tyco Toys that it didn’t have to deal with a like-named company scandal.

What happened to Tyco Toys?

what happened to Tyco
Tyco thrived for decades selling slot car sets like this vintage 1977 set. Image credit: Joe Haupt 

Tyco, the venerable maker of HO scale trains, slot cars, and R/C cars, merged with toy giant Mattel in 1997. Mattel retained the Tyco R/C product name for about 15 years. It now brands them with other Mattel-owned names.

Parents tend to buy their kids toys they liked, or would have liked, and that kept Tyco alive through the 1980s and into the 1990s. Children of the 50s tended to buy Tyco trains for their kids. Tyco trains were smaller than Lionel but Tyco went out of its way to replicate Lionel’s selection of action accessories. In some ways, 1980s Tyco trains more closely captured the spirit of postwar Lionel than Lionel’s own 1980s trains. Tyco discontinued its trains in 1993.

Tyco made slot cars too, so they had a product for children of the 60s to buy their kids too. Mattel continues to sell slot cars but uses the name Electric Hot Wheels, rather than Tyco.

But during the 1990s, Tyco diversified, buying companies like Ideal, Matchbox, and Illco. Illco’s Sesame Street line led to the hugely popular Tickle Me Elmo, which was the most popular children’s toy of 1996. By the mid 1990s it wasn’t the company I remember.

This diversification was probably what made Tyco attractive to Mattel. After the acquisition, Mattel transferred the former Tyco lines into other divisions, such as Fisher-Price.

So Tyco didn’t really go away. It simply integrated into the much larger Mattel and the name slowly faded out. There aren’t very many US toymakers left anymore. Part of the reason for that is Mattel bought so many of them. And some of them found their way to Mattel via Tyco.

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