Engineering entrepreneur Joshua Lionel Cowen designed his first electrically powered train as a store-window attraction around 1900. When customers asked to purchase the train instead of the product it advertised, Cowen founded the Lionel Manufacturing Company to satisfy demand. Lionel built its reputation on train sets noted for their authentic detail, smooth-operating three-rail tracks, and transformers that enabled kids to vary the speed of their trains. Lionel's success continued into the middle of the 20th century in spite of the Great Depression. When the United States entered World War II, the Lionel company transformed its toy production to manufacturing compasses and similar instruments for the U.S. military.