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2011 Dallas Recap

2011 convention logo

2011 Annual LCCA Convention – Dallas, TX

Note: This diary-like recap of the LCCA 2011 Convention in Texas was prepared by Rich and Ellen Levow (RM 27841), who were first-time Convention attendees.

Images from the 2011 LCCA Convention

Texas State Railroad


Tour #1 (Texas State Railroad) on the schedule was an excursion trip aboard the TSR located in east Texas. The terminal in Palestine (pronounced “steen” as opposed to “stein”) was the boarding site for our rail adventure with a steam loco on the point. Anticipating hot weather in July, we booked seats in the air-conditioned car. However, the temperature that day was moderate. The ride along the line to Rusk, TX, brought us to the site of a wonderful lunch catered by Eddie Deen. Some participants visited the Texas Railroad shops and received a complete tour of that facility. Others remained at the depot to shop or listen to live and lively music.

That evening, we attended an informative how-to clinic, “Creating Background Buildings,” presented by Chris Atkins. He focused on how to use “Gimp” photo-manipulation software with an emphasis on correcting perspective problems.

The Bowling Hall of Fame


Tour #4 (Arlington Sports) was like visiting shrines—not of revered saints but of popular sports as America’s pastimes. The other tours scheduled for today were conveniently reprised later in the week, so we didn’t miss Tour #2 (Mystery and Model Trains), Tour #3 (Money and Motors), or Tour #5 (DART and MATA).

Our first stop was the Bowling Hall of Fame, which was recently relocated to Dallas from St. Louis. This museum is now in a world-class facility with multi-media displays about the history of bowling. At the end of the exhibits, visitors could test their skill at a mini bowling alley.

The Ballpark at Arlington Our next stop was the Ballpark at Arlington, the home of the Texas Rangers baseball team. This is a wonderful facility with architectural features that evoke old-time baseball stadiums. Our tour included private boxes, batting cages, and the dugouts. We made a phone call to the bullpen, but no one answered.

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (Dallas Cowboys Stadium) Our last stop was Cowboys Stadium. We were forewarned that the stadium was huge. The TV screen suspended inside this building is humongous. We were shown private boxes, player locker rooms, and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders locker rooms, complete with life-sized photos of the cheerleaders. Our last stop was the playing field, where everyone received a photograph of themselves.

Mayor Tate opens the Lionel layout


Grapevine, TX, Mayor Tate attended the convention that morning and proclaimed the day as “LCCA Day in Grapevine.” He officially opened the fabulous Lionel layout with a flourish. Lionel’s Tom Nuzzo handed him the Legacy controller to run the trains, and the Mayor seemed like a kid on Christmas morning.

We didn’t select Tour #6 (Grapevine Vintage Railroad) or Tour #7 (Cowgirls, Science, and Salsa) today so that we could participate in Tour #8, the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) and MATA (McKinney Avenue Transit Authority) event. So many tours, so little time—but it’s better to have more choices than not enough!


At the DART facility, we saw the light rail system control room, the bus operations center, and the repair shop. The repair shop was very interesting. The facility manager took us aboard a car and explained the maintenance procedures. We also saw the machine shop and wheel-truing machine.


At MATA, we visited the “car barn,” learned the history of the line, and boarded Petunia for a ride. The motorman was a volunteer who in real life is an assistant principal at an area school. After one and a half laps around the track, we went to lunch on our own.

As newbies, we were guests at the First-time Attendees party that evening. President Al Kolis and the rest of the LCCA leadership team made us feel welcome.

Legacy/TMCC session

Later that evening, we attended two of the many seminars offered. “The Eyes of the BNSF – BNSF Network Operations Center” was presented by Chris Norris, BNSF dispatcher. The “Legacy/TMCC” session was presented by Tom Nuzzo of Lionel. He gave a hands-on presentation with a step-by-step explanation of its many features.

Texas Motor Speedway


We selected Tour #10 (Money and Motors). The first stop was the Texas Motor Speedway, one of the speedways on the NASCAR circuit. We saw the winner’s circle as well as the pits and a private box.

Next stop was the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing facility in Ft. Worth. We saw how money is produced from the raw paper right through to the bundling and packaging of bills. The unanswered question was, “How do they ship the money out?” No one would admit to knowing that answer. There were many hands-on displays, and BEP employees demonstrated the printing process.

tour bus repair

As we left the BEP, a warning beeper sounded on our bus. The driver pulled to the side of the road and discovered that one of the motor belts was shredded. Fortunately, he had a spare belt, and one of our conventioneers, a mechanic, offered to help install it. After a short delay, the new belt was on, and we were on our way to lunch at the Golden Corral.

Get Acquainted Party

We attended the Get Acquainted Party that evening with a menu of Tex Mex foods. It was a low-key affair with good food and good company. The Levee Singers, a Dallas fixture since 1961, provided excellent entertainment with “our kind of music.” Bill Schmeelk prepared Lionel trading cards featuring products that were cataloged but never produced. Each person received 12 identical cards as they entered. The object of the activity was to swap 11 cards with fellow conventioneers and achieve a complete set of 12 different cards. Members roamed the huge hall in search of an elusive card and also met new people while completing their set.

Dealey Plaza


We boarded the bus for Tour #13, the Mystery and Model Trains venture. This took us to downtown Dallas and Dealey Plaza, site of President Kennedy’s assassination. Our guide, Juanita, gave us a complete background of that historic but tragic event. The next stop was the Sixth Floor Museum within the Texas Book Depository. The museum features multimedia displays that chronicle the events leading up to the assassination, the event itself, and its aftermath. We lived through that event, and it felt “creepy” to stand behind the spot where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired the fatal shots.

Children's Medical Center G gauge train layout

Our second stop was Children’s Medical Center, which is also the home for a large G gauge train layout. The layout had many interesting features, including superheroes and Disney characters.

When the Trading Hall opened that evening, everyone joined the search for the ultimate bargain.

Reception and Banquet


Some convention-goers chose Tour #14 (Dallas Dazzles) today, but we boarded the Grapevine Shuttle and rode into the nearby town for lunch. The afternoon was spent back at the host hotel “schmoozing” with new friends.

Saturday evening was the Reception and Banquet. This was a time for socializing and previewing the unique items in the silent auction. Once the banquet started, Al Kolis, Lou Caponi, and Bob Carter recognized those who made this event a success. Tom McComas produced and presented a video interview with Richard Kughn, former owner of Lionel Trains Inc. Each person at the table received a Lionel item, and a lucky one received the coveted banquet car, which was a tribute to Richard Kughn.