Bookmark and Share

Archive News Story

Denver Is Host to Lionel Train Collectors

(Denver, CO) The spirit of boyish adventure still energizes mature men who love to play with Lionel trains – the toys of choice in the 1940s and ‘50s when they were boys. About 1,000 members of the Lionel Collectors Club of America (LCCA) and their families will travel to Denver for a week-long convention during July 25-31 to be held at the Denver Marriott Tech Center Hotel.

The Lionel brand is an American business icon. Founded in 1900, by Joshua Lionel Cowen, the company continued to make trains during the Great Depression and World War II – despite the reservation of metals for the war effort. At that time, Lionel made a “paper train.”

Many of today’s models are the classic steam and early diesel trains of yesteryear but have value-added, high-tech features: digital sound effects, wireless control, and amazing details. Today’s Lionel line is up-to-date with models of current diesel and electric trains, including the high-speed Acela in daily AMTRAK service in the NE corridor.

Two Fabulous Attractions
A fully scenicked layout as big as a four-stall garage will be in operation Wednesday morning through Saturday afternoon of convention week in the atrium of the Denver Marriott Tech Center Hotel. With mountains, bridges, an elevated line, and a subway, this “Gee Whiz!” train layout was custom built for Lionel by TW Design of Dallas, Texas.

The 12x24-feet O-gauge modular train layout designed and built by members of the SLX&CK Railroad in Colorado will also be in continuous operation in the host hotel lobby on the same schedule as cited above. Both layouts will be open to the public with no admission fee.

The Train Show
Convention-goers and the train-loving public in the area will also be welcome at the Train Show on Saturday, July 31, in the host hotel. The Trading Hall will contain 150+ tables filled with trains, parts, and hobby accessories for sale, including hard-to-find items. Kids under age 18 will be admitted to the train show free if accompanied by an adult paying $5 admission.

What’s My Train Worth?
LCCA members regard themselves as ambassadors for the hobby and eagerly share their fascination and knowledge about model trains with others. Individuals with pre-1970 Lionel trains stored in the attic or basement may bring them to the convention site on Wednesday through Saturday for expert appraisals at no charge.

Destination Denver
The LCCA convention team selected Denver for the club’s 40th anniversary event because it’s a region with a great railroad heritage and railroad marvels including the Moffitt Tunnel and the hanging railroad bridge in the Royal Gorge. The convention schedule includes tours of railroad-related sites, six train excursion trips, and social and business meetings. Some will travel to the convention via Amtrak passenger trains, an especially appropriate mode of transportation to and from a train-related event.

A Tribute to UP in the Mountain West
LCCA designs and Lionel produces a limited-edition convention car as a memento of the event. It’s traditionally based on the history of the host city of the event. This year, the convention car is a Union Pacific cylindrical hopper with an unfurled American flag, the UP shield, and the slogan, “Route of the Challenger.”

Real Trains and Toy Trains
Club members also enjoy the excitement, elegance, and power of real trains as well as the smaller-in-scale O-gauge electric train models made by Lionel LLC and other manufacturers. Modern technology built into today’s toy trains enables a realistic model railroading experience on home train layouts. The trains spew synthetic smoke from their stacks, provide realistic onboard digital sounds derived from recordings of actual trains, and mimic the crew talk between an engineer and a dispatcher. When a hobbyist applies the brakes to a train, the sound of the brakes “squealing” is presented.

LCCA members approach the train hobby along different paths. Some specialize in collecting and operating trains known as “fallen flags,” railroads that once served a region but were closed, went bankrupt, or merged with a dominant railroad. Others seek to re-acquire trains they once owned as a boy but were subsequently discarded. At train shows, auctions, and online sites, they seek trains like the ones they owned decades ago.

Others purchase a train because of its unique history, colorful paint scheme, or interesting locale. Perhaps the dramatic “warbonnet” décor of the 1940s and ‘50s Santa Fe diesel passenger trains is the most striking example of this aspect of the hobby. This design presented a dramatic splash of Southwestern colors – red, silver, and yellow – with American Indian motifs.

Contemporary major railroads in America command the attention of hobbyists who prefer a home layout as the locale for an active regional railroad in miniature – like BNSF, Union Pacific, or Conrail.

A lingering love of steam locomotive behemoths remains strong among some enthusiasts who celebrate the legacy of the Age of Steam. Lionel LLC manufactures models of entry-level steam locomotives as starter sets for youngsters – many of whom have never seen a steam locomotive in action. The company also makes highly detailed, museum-quality leviathans that once performed the “heavy lifting” on American railroad routes.

While in the Neighborhood
During convention week, LCCAers will board trains for day-long excursion trips on the Georgetown Loop Railroad, the Royal Gorge Route, Leadville, Colorado, and Southern Railroad, and even the Denver Light Rail System. Tours of area railroad-related sites and the Colorado Railroad Museum will keep convention-goers active and cameras flashing. One senior club member said, “This will be like going to toy train heaven without having to die to get there.”