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April 13 - LCCA Special Event - NJ Hi-Railers (recap)

Members Have a Great Time During 4-13-13 LCCA Special Event Commemorating the 151st Anniversary of the Great Train Chase of 1862. (Recap of Special Event in Paterson NJ)

The Lionel Collectors Club of America hosted a Special Event on Saturday, April 13, in Paterson NJ,  This event appealed to toy train enthusiasts, real train enthusiasts as well as Civil War History Buffs.  There was something for everyone to enjoy.  We were in Paterson NJ to commemorate the 151st Anniversary of The Great Train Chase of 1862.  Members and guests attended several activities at the Paterson Museum throughout the day and other activities throughout the afternoon at the NJ Hi-Railers club.  We Know event which featured an entire day of Lionel Trains, Real Train history, Civil War Re-enactment activities and music was enjoyed by our members of all ages.

Duncan (Age 11), of the local Make-A-Wish Foundation, was designated the honorary Engineer of the Day at the NJ Hi-Railers Club.  At 10:00 AM  Duncan kicked off the event by starting up the Standard Gauge Trains on the Tom Snyder layout.  Duncan is an avid train enthusiast and a strong Susquehanna fan.  The MAW Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.

The Paterson Museum was open with Free admission from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  The Paterson Museum is the site of the Rogers Works Factory for the Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor Company where the original "General" steam locomotive of The Great Train Chase was built.  The 12th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Company "K" Reenactment group was on-site demonstrating encampment and daily life back in 1862.  This group led by LCCA member Rich Mendoza, performed demonstrations at 12:00 PM and then again at 2:00 PM.  At 1:00 Dr. Richard Banz, Executive Director of Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw GA gave all the attendees a brief, informative and entertaining "Stealing a General in Georgia" presentation.  The LCCA presented Bruce Balistrieri, curator of the Paterson Museum with a LCCA Norfolk/Southern Switcher engine - the convention registration gift for our 42nd Annual Convention held last summer in Norfolk VA.  We finished the festivities with a concert performed by the Libby Prison Minstrel Civil War band.  Our sincere thanks to Bruce and the Paterson Museum for allowing our members to enjoy their  museum, the site of where "The General" was built and providing us with interesting information about the history of Paterson NJ.   Back in Alexander Hamilton's time, Paterson was the hi-tech, leading manufacturing area of our country, somewhat analogous to Silicon Valley today.  Paterson NJ played a vital role in the manufacturing of steam trains and consequently the development of our country.

In the afternoon, LCCA member and Director Bill Schmeelk conducted a demonstration on the new LCCA/Lionel FasTrack Modular Railroad system at the NJ Hi-Railers Club.  This new national modular layout standard utilizes Lionel's patented FasTrack system.  We believe this system will allow people who don' t have the space in their homes to build a layout,  an opportunity to get together with other modular enthusiasts and run and enjoy their Lionel trains on a layout.  We believe building a LCCA/Lionel FasTrack Modular Railroad layout will be a great activity for local groups such as Boy Scouts, Schools, Clubs and other organizations.  We have LCCA members in Florida, California, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Texas that are in the planning stages of building their own group's LCCA/Lionel FasTrack Modular Railroad layouts.  Members expressed an interest in building a modular layout for future LCCA Special Events in the NJ/NY vicinity.

We invite people to get involved, build a module section and bring their LCCA/Lionel Modular Railroad Modular sections to our upcoming 43rd annual convention to be held this summer, July 14-20, 2013 at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel.  We will also have several Civil War Related tours and special events in Chattanooga this summer.  Go to the convention tab on this website for more detailed information about our 43rd annual convention.

LCCA Members attended the private evening dinner event at the NJ Hi-Railers club, where they enjoyed the highly detailed 185' long operating toy train layout, flag color guard presentation provided by the 12th New Jersey volunteer Infantry Company "K" Reenactment group, civil war themed musical concert  performed by the Libby Prison Minstrel band , a magic show by LCCA's Bill Schmeelk, and an more detailed entertaining and informational presentation "Stealing a General in Georgia" by Dr. Richard Banz, Executive Director of Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw GA.  Richard told the story of this daring adventure of Union spies who infiltrated behind enemy lines and captured a confederate locomotive, resulting in some of our nation's first medals of Honor awards.  Dr Banz explained the Raider's plan, their motives, why their scheme failed and how the Chase is still significant 151 years later.

For me,  the highlight of the day was when LCCA President Dennis DeVito and NJ Hi-Railers Vice President John Scaravella presented a brand new Lionel Christmas Train Set to 11 year old Duncan of the local Make-A-Wish Foundation and his family.  Duncan was ecstatic when he received his first Lionel Train set.  Duncan wore out his parents and he stayed all the way to the end of the evening events.  In fact, his parents had to push for Duncan to go home.   He was having so much fun, he did not want to leave.    He stayed almost 11 hours there enjoying and running  the Lionel Trains on the NJ Hi-Railers layout.

LCCA member Marie Dean and her daughter in-law Maryann, were there in attendance and enjoyed the evening.   Marie or "Mrs. Lionel" as I call her, is the widow of the late "Mr. Lionel", Lenny Dean.  Lenny worked for Lionel for over 65 years and was an avid supporter of the LCCA.  Marie continues to attend and support the LCCA by attending our Special Events and conventions.  Thank your Marie for you love and support of the club!

Our members came and enjoyed the NJ Hi-Railers Club's massive and highly detailed toy train layout.  Members saw the layout used in the filming of a season ending episode of the HBO popular Cable TV Series "The Sopranos".  The NJ Hi-Railers Club is also the home of the Standard Gauge Lionel layout which was previously owned and operated by the late night TV show personality and avid Lionel train enthusiast, Tom Snyder.  After Tom Snyder passed away, his lifelong companion Pam Burke donated this layout to the club.

Our sincere thanks go out to the Callens, Ben Fiorello, John Scaravella and the entire NJ Hi-Railers club for their gracious support and hospitality.   They extended a sincere family type welcome to all of our members and guests.  If you are in the Paterson NJ area, I recommend that you stop by and visit with them and experience this great toy train filled place.  You will not be disappointed!

Members and guests enjoyed an entire day full of FUN, Lionel Trains, Real Train history, Civil War Re-enactment activities, Magic,  great music and most importantly, the camaraderie with other LCCA members.  Thank you to all of the LCCA members and their families for attending this LCCA Special Event commemorating the 151st Anniversary of the Great Train Chase of 1862.   We thank you and invite you to attend, participate and possibly host LCCA Special Events in your area.  We are looking for future, family friendly train related activities in your area.  Please contact me at 248-709-4137 or to discuss your ideas.


Al Kolis
Immediate Past President & Special Events Manager Lionel Collectors Club of America