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Toy Train Hobbyists Have a Passion for Steam, Smoke, Cinders, and Noise


Lionel® Collectors Club of America

Media Contact for LCCA:
Mike Mottler
Conway, AR

Posted June 11, 2007
Date of the Event: July 22-28, 2007
For Immediate Release for Use at your Discretion

NOTE: Reporters and photographers in media organizations are welcome at the LCCA convention site at any time. Media-savvy LCCA officers will be available to reporters and editors as interviewees by phone in advance of the event and during the week of the convention at the hotel site.

The LCCA website contains News Briefs, News Releases, and sample high-res photos about the convention. To download these materials, click on the large NEWS & INFO button on the main page, then select NEWS MEDIA CENTER.

(Chicago) Members of an international club of toy train collectors and operators enjoy the excitement and noise of real trains and also for their 1:48-scale smaller equivalents. Because of modern technology built into their model trains, their railroading experience on a home layout is complete with synthetic puffing smoke, a glow from the locomotive firebox, and life-like sounds from onboard digital recordings derived from actual trains. Some models “talk” with simulated radio communications between the train engineer and dispatcher.

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The Lionel train catalog remains a “wish book” for boys in this generation and previous ones going back to the early 1900s.
Most members of the Lionel Collectors Club of America (LCCA) are men over 45 with spouses and families that understand the impact of “Toy Train Fever” on the imagination. Some LCCAers had electric trains as boys in the 1950s and 60s when trains were the Christmas toy of choice. Others discovered the hobby later in life.

During the final week of July [22-28] 2007, more than 1,100 club members and their families will leave their home towns and travel to Chicago, a city with a great railroad history, for the club’s annual convention.

LCCA President, Lou Caponi, said, “I invite kids and their parents and grandparents to visit us at the convention site and see Lionel trains in operation, on display, and for sale. If you want to get closer to your kids, put your kids closer to toy trains. Join the club and enjoy the fun!”

The hobby isn’t necessarily a “guy thing” any more. A regular participant in LCCA conventions for years, Krysti Dewey (15), of Wichita, Kansas, will attend the upcoming event in Chicago with her mom. Krysti’s favorite railroad is the C&O – Chesapeake and Ohio – and she has her own trains of that railroad. “Wherever there’s steel wheels on rails, I’m interested,” she said. Krysti is a skilled train operator and often helps out at LCCA conventions by showing visitors how to operate trains and talking with visiting youngsters about trains.

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Visitors to the CLRC layout are encouraged to operate the trains “hands on” with command control technology.
The Chicagoland Lionel Railroad Club (CLRC) will display and operate its large modular layout for visitors at the convention site – the Crowne Plaza Hotel Chicago O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois. The layout will be in continuous operation Wednesday through Friday evenings of convention week and all day on Saturday, July 28th with no admission charge. The layout is wired with operating accessories that visitors may activate with trackside pushbuttons and controllers. Club volunteers serve as coaches to youngsters – and the young at heart – who want to operate the trains hands-on.

Herb Koch, President of CLRC, said, “Many youngsters in this generation have never seen or operated a Lionel train. I love to see their eyes light up and hear the ‘Wow!’ on their breath when a steam locomotive chugs by belching smoke and presenting realistic sound effects.”

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This fabulous Lionel layout will be presented to the public in the hotel atrium during the convention.
Another very large, artistically scenicked layout will also be in operation – the custom-built layout made for Lionel LLC. This layout is a Christmas-time attraction at the museum located within Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The company has arranged for it to be shipped and shown at the atrium of the convention hotel. This layout will be open to the public without charge.

LCCA members consider themselves as ambassadors for the hobby and are eager to share their fascination and knowledge about model trains with others. Persons with pre-1970 Lionel trains stored in the attic or basement may bring them to the train show at the host hotel on Saturday. With paid admission, owners can request a free, expert appraisal. According to John Fisher, convention co-manager and an LCCA appraiser, “Many older Lionel trains are valuable if they have been well preserved.”

Convention-goers and train hobbyists throughout the area will enjoy the Train Show on Saturday in the hotel. “The Trading Hall will be full of trains and accessories for sale, including hard-to-find items. Every year, I find something I have to have for my train collection,” said Eric Fogg, Immediate Past President of LCCA. Kids under 18 will be admitted to the train show free if accompanied by an adult paying a modest $5 admission fee. Persons interested in joining the LCCA may become a member at the site and participate in convention activities immediately.

Members Bob and Dinah Carter from Texas have for years planned their summer vacation around the convention events. They also look forward to the release of a souvenir of the convention – a unique, limited-edition collectible car created by Lionel™ exclusively for club members. The 2007 convention car will be a dual-road C&NW - Union Pacific tank car. “It will become very collectible,” Bob said, “because a limited number of units will be made.”

“You can have a lot of fun with O-gauge trains on a 4x8-foot sheet of plywood as a layout platform,” President-elect Dick Johnson said. “Thoughtful parents realize that it’s better for kids to play with toys that encourage creativity, develop useful skills, and stimulate the imagination instead of video games based on grim scenarios laced with gratuitous violence.”

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Most Chicago area commuters may merely endure the daily routine of the “L” trains, but to LCCAers the train is an extension of their hobby. A narrator on board a special CTA train will explain the system’s history and describe the landmarks of the “Loop” to LCCA visitors.
During convention week, LCCAers will visit train-related attractions in the area, ride real trains and trolleys at locations in the region, and explore the Chicago Loop area with a narrated tour on a CTA “L” train.

Looking forward to this annual event, one senior club member said, “This will be like going to toy train heaven without having to die to get there.”