Iconic Toy Train Maker Lionel Goes High Tech with their First iPad Game


I spent an hour picking up my sister at the airport yesterday for an afternoon layover in Denver and then suffered through most of it when my car battery died and had to be replaced. On the way to drop her off last night, huge piles of railroad construction supplies caught my eye and I remembered that Denver is building a new rail-line from Union Station to the airport. It seems trains are back in style.

Lionel Trains has been around since 1900 and it seems they are making plans to be around much longer. In July they released an iPad app that can control their model train systems and this week they released their first game called Battle Train. It’s more than that though, because Lionel Trains is active on social media and their app website is brand new with all of the bells and whistles. Instead of relying on the past 100+ years of business they are trying to remain relevant in a digital world.

“Railroads are a symbol of American culture and history, and for more than a century Lionel has manifested the tradition with highly detailed model train sets,” said Jerry Calabrese, CEO, Lionel Trains. “Lionel Battle Train marks the beginning of a larger digital initiative for the Company, as we continue to drive the passion for trains on a platform that kids today are so familiar with.”

Battle Train is not what I would have expected from Lionel Trains but it is a lot of fun. I suppose if you want a train simulation then you should just go out and buy an actual model train but if you want to have armored trains with big guns then get this app.

The style of the game is heavily influenced by the steam punk movement and is a cross between tower defense and platform runner. It uses a freemium pricing model but has a substantial amount of fun without spending. The controls are easy to master and the game is mostly intuitive. The only tricky part was figuring out the upgrading screens the first time but after you figure it out, it becomes easy.

Set in a dystopian future where trains are the only way around (obviously a pleasant daydream for a company like Lionel) you have to protect your cargo and get it delivered. As you upgrade your train, your enemies also get stronger.

In 2016 when the train to the airport in Denver is finished I will be the first to invite visiting friends and family to catch the train and then I can pick them up without the painful drive to the airport. While it wont have armor and cannons, it is still a testament to the lasting relationship we have with trains and companies like Lionel Trains in this country.

About Sam: Teacher, writer, composer, and family man. Maker of delicious Halušky. Contact me via Twitter: @Sam_Denver