Neil Young’s Obsession With Model Trains

Neil Young is such a model train enthusiast that he actually invented a Trainmaster Command Control and was part owner of Lionel, LLC, the model train company and model railroad accessories.  In 2008 Lionel emerged from bankruptcy and his shares of the company were wiped out but he is still a consultant for the company. Young was instrumental in the design of the Lionel Legacy control system for model trains and has been named as co-inventor on seven U.S. Patents related to model trains.

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Young’s ranch in the hills south of San Francisco includes a 2,800-foot barn that is home to a setup using 750 feet of track with outbuildings, mountains and twists and turns. Below is Young’s Trainmaster Command Control invention.

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Young wanted to share his love of trains with his son Ben who suffers from severe cerebral palsy that makes movement difficult for him so he first invented the Big Red Button.  Young built it so that Ben, who didn’t have the fine motor skills necessary to flip the set’s switches, could experience making the trains run just like any other kid.  Later, Young worked out a system that enabled the Big Red Button to replicate whatever complex maneuver was last run on the system, letting him program cool runs Ben then could set in motion with a single tap. It hooks up with another of his inventions, the CAB-1, the first remote control device for model trains.

In 2004, to coincide with the release of Neil Young & Crazy Horse 10 song rock-epera “Greendale” that was set in a fictional California seaside town, Young and Lionel trains released a limited edition Greendale Train Set.

Neil Young Greendale Lionel Train Set 6-30002

The set was limited to 500 and quickly sold out.  Each set came with this “Honorary Citizen of Greendale Certificate” signed by Neil Young as well as a DVD movie version of Greendale.

Neil Young Lionel Train 6-30002 Greendale Certificate

Check out this really touching clip about Neil, Ben and the trains…

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