Thank you, Richard Kughn

Posted by Bob Keller
on Monday, June 17, 2019

 

Thank you, Richard Kughn

It would be hard to come up with a name of anyone who changed the face of the toy train world than Richard Kughn.

Like many of us in the hobby electric trains were an exciting part of our childhood, and they were memorable in his. The main difference between he and most of his fellow enthusiasts was that he was in a position to change the course of the hobby.

In my case the trains went into boxes in the late 1960s and other than for re-packing, didn’t come out of the boxes until the early 1990s. In between I was totally unaware of the MPC era. I had only been in few hobby shops over the years, and the few I had visited only have a random collection of dirty bottom-of-the-line used postwar trains. I knew my trains in the boxes were in better shape and never bothered to add anything.

Then I went to a train show. Specifically I was hoping to find some American Flyer “Boys at the Gate” catalogs that featured a Scottish terrier. But my world exploded. Countless vintage trains I dimly recalled from boyhood catalogs were there, for sale in quantity. I didn’t know where to start looking!

But what caught my eye was all the new-in-the-box stuff. Locomotives, rolling stock, road names I’d never have expected in quality ranges from decent starter set gear to scale-sized Hudsons and Mohawks. All wearing the Lionel brand.

The more I dug into the topic, I realized all these new toys were inspired by someone who’s love of O gauge trains made him “one of us.” His philosophy seemed to be: Make it new, if possible; maintain the quality of the brand, and help people to have fun! He charted the course and his executives, craftsmen, and sales staff strove to make it happen.

Let me confess something. When he sold Lionel I sent him a fan letter.

When MPC could have simply dropped the product line – or sold it to a lesser company who would make junk. I mean, in model railroading O gauge was dead, right? Nobody thought it had a future. Nobody, that is, but Richard Kughn. He bought it and reinvigorated it. I thanked him for saving something that was a cherished part of my childhood.

And you know what, he took time to send me a reply thanking me.

 So let me again, most sincerely thank Richard Kughn. He saved the brand and we are enjoying the fruits of his labor to this day.

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