Neil Young: Sounding Board for Lionel
When rock ‘n’ roll icon Neil Young hits the publicity circuit, he doesn’t just talk music or his latest literary endeavor. Surprisingly, he often talks about his passion for trains – and so does his interviewer.
When Young appeared as a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman, the late night host immediately wanted to chat about their shared love of Lionel model trains.
There’s good reason for that.
Young was instrumental in the development of the digital components the iconic American company puts in its higher end trains.
“Neil was the vision behind some of the core technology Lionel uses today,” said Howard Hitchcock, President of Lionel.
“Our LEGACY Control System, which is considered a groundbreaking piece of innovation in the model train world, was largely built from a platform that Neil invented.” Hitchcock continued.
One of Young’s biggest contributions was his development of “RailSounds.” Young took recordings of actual real world trains and developed an algorithm-based system which the control system uses to mimic those sounds digitally during model train operation.
The result is that now Lionel model railroaders have a truly authentic hobby experience.
“Neil’s not just a creative visionary; he’s a mechanical visionary as well,” Hitchcock said.
While model train aficionados the world over appreciate Young’s love of Lionel, a few of his contemporaries are surprised by the breadth and depth of Young’s personal collection.
In his 2013 book “Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream,” Young wrote: “I remember one day David Crosby and Graham Nash were visiting me at the train barn during the recording of American Dream, a lot of which we did on my ranch at Plywood Digital, a barn that we converted to a recording studio.”
“I saw David looking at one of my train rooms full of rolling stock and stealing a glance at Graham that said, ‘This guy is cuckoo. He’s gone nuts. Look at this obsession.’ I shrugged it off. I need it. For me it is a road back.”