Joshua Lionel Cowen

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Word Count: 1848

Works Cited

“140 Years of Marklin.” Marklin Trains. 30 Jan. 2006.

Aren, Hans. “The Wuppertal Floating Train.” Elevator World Inc. 26 Nov. 1997. 30 Jan. 2006.

Carlson, Pierce. Toy Trains: A History. Harper & Row Publishers. New York, 1986.

“Historical Timeline.” Siemens Transportation System. 31 Jan. 2006.

Hollander, Ron. All Aboard: The Story of Joshua Lionel Cowen & His Lionel Train Company. Workman Publishing. New York, 1981.

Senate Department for Urban Development. “Monuments in Berlin.” 2006. 30 Jan. 2006.

Wikipedia. 2006. 31 Jan. 2006.

Joshua is a twenty-four year old entrepreneur from Manhattan, New York living in the early twentieth century. Recently he has started a small business entitled "The Lionel Manufacturing Company," which is in the business of producing electric model trains. Joshua has decided to take a trip to Berlin, the epicenter of the model train world. Although he will be visiting family, his true motive is to steal a glimpse of the technological advancements occurring in Germany and to relay his discoveries to his business partner and friend, Harry Grant. Joshua has his eye on the well-known Marklin factory which is the world leader in manufacturing of model trains. Frequent correspondence with German relatives has left Joshua with a very decent understanding of the German language. Armed with this linguistic skill and his technological savvy; he travels to Berlin with an open and eager mind.

March 3rd, 1901

Dear Harry,

I have finally arrived in Germany. The boat ride was rather long and uncomfortable, but my spirits are high and I am ready to see the sights. I am on a train going west towards Berlin and while I write this letter I cannot stop thinking about my first taste of German ingenuity. I stopped in Wuppertal yesterday afternoon to see the newly completed elevated electric railway, and truly it is a marvel! When I say elevated Harry, I do not mean that the tracks are merely above ground because the tracks for this railway are above the passenger cars! I have enclosed a postcard of this railway, for my description does not do it justice. Apparently the ground here is too wet and rocky for any sort of underground rail system. A man named Eugen Lange was the one to overcome this obstacle by designing a rail system that he called “Schwebebahn.” He put the steel support towers and the steel tracks all above the coaches! That’s right; it is suspended making one think that they have their head on upside down. This is truly the dawning of a new age when one can sit in a railroad passenger car and feel as if they are flying. I only wish I could have taken this mode of transport the whole way here rather than that outdated and sluggish ship. Well, what is done is done, and now I look forward to reaching Berlin. I still have a ways to go, but this train ride is quite enjoyable. I was lucky enough to obtain a window seat and the scenery is breathtaking, much different than the scenery at home. Despite such beauty, I still have my novel to accompany me. You would really like this book Harry. While waiting for the train to arrive this morning I explored the train station bookshop. The bookseller recommended the novel Buddenbrooks to me. He was quite friendly, and jokingly explained to me that it seems bookshops come “standard” with every station now. I since then have noticed that Germany must be a literarily oriented country, because it seems as if every passenger on the train has got their nose stuck in a book! Although this it is good that the people here value their literature, it makes it hard to start a conversation with anyone. However, I hardly have room to speak, for most of my time has been spent reading as well. This Thomas Mann fellow is quite the author. It seems as if the book was greatly influenced by his life. The book follows a family, the Buddenbrooks, from the pique of their material wealth all the way to the deterioration of their legacy. It’s a tragedy, but it is very well written and so far has really started to capture the essence of what it means to be human, and what it means to try and live life…well that is at least what my translation has led me to interpret so far. Well, perhaps I should get back to practicing my German reading; it is a rather perishable skill. I will write again upon my arrival in Berlin. Very sincerely, Joshua

March 4th, 1901


Yesterday my train made its last stop at the Friedrichstrasse station. It was quite unlike any station I have ever seen. It was a tunnel of glass and steel intricately intertwined, twisting around the last bend in the line. And all of this was before I even exited my train. Once I had stepped out and onto the rugged brick platform, I encountered the true scale of this structure. It must be over one-hundred feet tall yet it only spans two tracks, although I think they will add more due to the fact that my train did not have a seat to spare. While on the train, the conductor, the only other person I talked to during my journey, suggested that I take the “Berlin Ringbahn” on the way to my hotel. The “Ringbahn” is its own railway in itself that sole purpose is to connect the major stations in Berlin. I sent a diagram of the “Ringbahn” for you to view. I found the design quite interesting and I thought you might like to have an idea of how it works. The green line is the “Ringbahn” and the light blue lines that seem to slither from the borders of neighboring countries, represent the main railroads.

When I arrived at my stop on the “Ringbahn” line, I had lunch at a small café. It was quaint and very good, but oh was it busy! After long travel and the crowds of the Berlin streets, I decided to take a much needed mental rest. At the café I inquired about such a place in where I could find solitude and the waiter proposed a lush garden known as the Luisenstädtischer Kanal. As I walked amongst the delicate flowers I looked above and noticed a striking similarity between this garden and the Friedrichstrasse station. In the center of the garden stood a rigid framework of steel in the same barrel arch shape of the train station. Even nature cannot escape the grasp of modernism here. Upon this thought, any hope of relaxing my overloaded mind vanished like the plumes of smoke of the steam trains. I decided then, that my hotel bed seemed quite inviting. I will write again tomorrow.

Very sincerely,

March 5th, 1901


Today I awoke feeling rested and ready to conquer the task at hand of viewing the operations and technology of the Marklin model railroad company. Yet, when I arrived at the address “Marktgasse 21,” I thought I had fouled up my research because when I arrived at number twenty-one I did not find a building, I found a metropolis! I think that twenty of our stores could fit into this mammoth of a structure. It makes me ponder whether or not they are producing full-sized trains! Here is a postcard that I purchased at the gift shop located inside the entryway. That entryway, under the canopy in the middle of the card, was the farthest I got. It seems they do not allow visitors in to witness their operations. Do not be worried friend, I have a plan that will succeed but I will need to wait a few days before I can implement it fully.

With the rest of my day open to explore Berlin, I walked the few short blocks to the metro station to catch the 10 o’clock express. I decided that if I was going to travel around the city I should try what the Berlin public relies on. I found the train to be very confining though and I am quite glad I am not forced to use this method of transportation. Traveling through this “endless tunnel” was very disorienting as there was not much light and no objects out the windows as to judge one’s speed. In fact I wonder what the point of windows is on this train. Still, Manhattan could benefit from this as the speed is a great connivance in a hurry.

When I arrived at my station, I stopped at a small merchant’s setup just a few feet from the tracks and purchased another postcard, this one of the metro. I do hope you intend on starting a collection from my travels.

Upon leaving the metro I headed for the Altes, an art museum unlike any I have ever seen. The building’s exterior contains enough columns to satisfy the likes of any Roman emperor. I had seen a poster announcing that the works of a younger artist, by the name of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, would be on display for one final day. As I walked through his gallery of paintings I noticed one particular painting that caught my eye. The painting depicted a crowded street scene in Dresden, Germany and I thought Kirchner had truly captured the feeling of the modern times we live in. The faces of the people, mostly women, were blurry, similar to the blurred scene out of a train window and everything had a feeling of acceleration.

As I left the gallery and was walking towards the exit I passed a large set of doors and heard the sound of many men laughing inside. When I approached the doors and peered through the crack in between I saw a bearded gentleman speaking to the crowd of men. He thanked them for some Nobel award he had won and noted that the fact that this was the first annual award ever, meant very much to him. The man clapped and cheered after his speech and they began to exit and I moved just out of sight of the doors. After the room had cleared, I tiptoed in and picked up one of the programs on the table. The man was Wilhelm Roentgen! He was the physicist who had discovered the x-ray. I pocketed the program so you could see his picture and a copy of what the x-ray looked like.

I left the Altes around 6 o’clock and after a short metro ride home, found the comforts of my hotel room once again inviting. Will write tomorrow!

Very sincerely,

March 6th, 1901


I did it. I have been inside. How you ask? Let’s just say that if you were to see a gentleman dressed in a blue suit with a clipboard walking your way, and he told you he was a personal inspector for Emperor Wilhelm II, and he demanded he be shown all operations of your business at once or everyone in the company would be fired on the spot, you would let him in. I did not believe that it would have worked but it did Harry and I have so much to show and discuss with you. For starters, so you believe that I have done what I have written, here is a picture I took from one of the work areas that show the variety of models (including ships) that Marklin is producing and here are some of their designs for some electric train sets. Yes, you have read correctly, they have began to make train sets that use electricity as a power source. We are still producing a single engine but we can learn from the Marklin marketing and have a string of cars for our engine to pull. I know they are of European descent but the motor assembly (some even with live steam that actually work like their real counterparts) and track design could be applied to our American prototypes. I also have learned that Marklin has adopted a standard gauge, thus simplifying their production of their models. There is so much to think about Harry and we must sit down upon my return to discuss some ideas. I am off to my relative’s house for a few days and thus this will be my last letter but we shall talk again when I return to Manhattan.

Very sincerely,