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A look at The LCCA Train Ride Cars

History of the LCCA Train Ride Cars

The story of the LCCA Train Ride Cars starts in July 2002 during the LCCA Pittsburg Annual Convention.  It was at the convention that the first Train Ride Car was given to all members who took the Carnegie Science Center tour. This unexpected gift was a one time tour memento for those on that tour and created quite a buzz.  This car is included in this series because it was unique to a specific convention tour.  

The next Train Ride Cars were a series of specially decorated box Lionel cars offered during the LCCA Annual Convention Store to all attendees.  Those arriving for the Monday train ride had the opportunity to purchase this tour and year specific item.  Of course these cars were available the entire convention week to attendees and if any were left, offered later on the LCCA web store.

A Little on US Redeco and Production of LCCA Train Ride Cars

There are four (4) cars produced from 2013 to 2016 that were available to those members who took the Monday train ride.  These cars were offered in the LCCA Annual Convention store to all attendees.  These four cars had much in common, they were all re-deco'ed in the US from old Lionel stock, were all box cars from the same mold (read why latter), all had diecast sprung trucks, and came in Lionel Boxes.  Since they were offered in the convention store, none came with an overpack or mailer. During this period, it made sense to use an outside house to re-deco existing LCCA inventory that had already been purchased from Lionel. During that period, Lionel had a minimum unit volume of 500 units and any club cars bought from Lionel were manufactured offshore. As the train ride cars were produced with about half that number, a purchase order to Lionel for a unique deco was not practical, forcing the LCCA to seek these smaller lot sizes from firms that would disassemble, deco and reassemble the cars.

There was no Train Ride Car for 2017Starting in 2017, Lionel opened its US manufacture operation in its North Carolina operation and with its new technology could offer personalization to its in house produced operation.  This was used in 2017 to offer an enhanced on-site car.  For 2017, a diecast vehicle was offered with the logo from each train ride.  That program of having a diecast vehicle for each train ride continues today.

The LCCA Train Ride Cars
2002 - The very first car that can be considered a train ride car was offered during the 2002 Pittsburg Convention when the club surprised those who took the tour of Carnegie Science Center with a Lionel flat car with submarine.  The submarine had the Carnegie Science Center logo and was numbered 481, representing the USS Requin (SS 481). This US Navy submarine was the one that was included on that tour and the sub car was a relevant and proper gift. The flat car had the LCCA logo and built date. The car came in a Lionel box, has sprung trucks and had the Lionel stock number 6-52273. The Carnegie Science Center called this "LCCA Day at the Carnegie".  The LCCA has had a number of subsequent Special Events at the Carnegie Science Center, but our experience there in July, 2002 was really special. This car was a gift to tour attendees, was well received and created quite a buzz with the convention attendees.  These cars were produced in very limited quantities and difficult to find today.  Lionel cataloged a similar car in 2012-2013 but it carried a different Lionel Stock Number and a different deco on the flat car.

2013 – The LCCA decided to extend its line of convention train ride cars and the 2013 car was developed.  The Monday Trian Ride Tour in 2013 was an all-day venture on the 1630 out of Chattanooga on the Tennessee Valley Railroad.  Created as a repaint of an existing car, this year was also a horizonal split paint scheme in orange over brown.  This car carried the Tennessee Valley RR heard and the infamous Chattanooga Choo Choo image.  Its return empty was to the Tennessee Valley RR and while did not have a road number, it was noted as LCCA 2013.  The car is a Lionel Box car re-deco;ed by Weaver in the US, has sprung trucks and came in a Lionel box.

2014 - The Monday train ride in Indianapolis was to be a special run of the 1225 out of Fort Wayne.  Unfortunately, a few weeks before the convention, the LCCA was informed that a local railroad would NOT let the 1225 on its rail.  The stretch in question was only a few miles long, but it was enough to prevent the 1225 and its consist from reaching Indianapolis and boarding passengers.  Multiple options were tried to get around this issue or to change the outcome, all unsuccessful.   The Train Ride Car, with its Monon Herald was a HUGE success with the convention attendees and remains popular with Monon fans everywhere.  This car is one of the only LCCA cars to carry the entire Lionel Collectors of America logo in its classic block format.

– Boston Convention was the first LCCA convention in the Northeast and the Conway Scenic Railroad was the highly successful Monday tour.  This car PROUDLY stated “Boston Strong” along with the LCCA 45th Anniversary logo and American Flag.  The car had the Conway Scenic railroad car logo.  This logo contained a few colors and most will not notice that one color (green pixel on the tender) was not printed avoiding one pass with green paint.  This car did have a road number 041513, the day of the Boston Marathon Bombing April 15, 2013.

2016 – The Kansas City Monday ride was quite special – the LCCA rode on the Burlington Northern business train west out of town.  To celebrate this event, the LCCA offered a special box car in BN green with 2 different deco’s on the car telling the story of the merging of the BN and Santa Fe railroads.  The first side of the car was in a single white with both the BN and the Santa Fe heralds.  The opposing side shown the meagered BNSF herald in color on one side of the door and the Kansas City Convention logo on the other side.  The 2016 train ride car was the first to have the LCCA in the stylish bug format.

Some Background on the Train Ride Cars from 2012 – 2016

All four cars have the same history of being deco’ed from existing Lionel old inventory.  All have die cast sprung trucks and disc couplers and all have the same body mold.  The first two years were redeco’ed by Weaver.  Weaver went out of business and was unable to produce LCCA cars.  LCCA was able to contract with Apex Printing (a point of interest – Apex is owned by an LCCA member).  Apex was able to produce the same exceptional quality car and in fact also did the deco for a few other LCCA convention cars.  All 4 Train Ride cars have a basic two-color separation – top and bottom.  This is achieved using a paint mold providing for a two-color car with minimum cost.  In order to use the same paint mask, the car bodies had to be the same body mold and using these cars, the paint mask was used for all 4 cars.  Each color required a separate print pass and as noted, most of the artwork was a single color over a two-color side.  This allowed for attractive looking cars with limited redeco costs.  All cars had to be completely disassembled before they were painted, reassembled, and repackaged.  All four numbers carry Lionel stock numbers on the box label.  They were replaced in their original Lionel boxes.  None of the cars carried a series name or sequence number.  All four cars PROUDLY carried the US flag, and those with road numbers hd a significance,.  As always all had a discrete reference to the LCCA and the convention year.

Train Ride Cars offer the Basis for the LCCA Convention Volunteer Car

The train ride cars of 2013 – 2016 provided the basis for the LCCA Volunteer cars for these years.  The combined volume of cars offered a price point which not only reduced the price of the on site car, but also made possible the feasibility of a volunteer car.  Generally speaking, redeco’ed units cost less than new product.  More on the Volunteer cars can be found on the LCCA website.  LCCA News: A Brief History of LCCA Convention Volunteer Cars (

Going Forward -

For now, the Train Ride Car series ended in Kansas City. Around 2017, Lionel started to offer production runs in lower quantities (they had been 500 minimum) and with its personalization effort made possible to offer a lower minimum with some limited variation to as low as a 100 unit run. One option was to have a single run consist of multiple road numbers. For Tacoma, with three great rail trips, there was no Train Ride Car offered, although the convention on-site car was produced using Lionel's new USA printing facility in three different road numbers. It was impractical to offer three train ride cars in Tacoma 2017, but Tour Manager Dienzel Dennis had the LCCA produce a unique die cast vehicle decorated for each of the three train rides.

Will the train ride car series continue? Perhaps as it was important memory for those taking the rail trip. But the LCCA is a living and active club, constantly striving for new and exciting ways to add value to its membership.  Stay tuned as the LCCA continues to offer various interesting and unique pieces to celebrate its Conventions and provide these opportunities to its members.