Bookmark and Share

News Story

LCCA Christmas Cars Series

Early History of the LCCA Christmas Cars

The story of the annual LCCA Christmas cars starts in July 2014 during the LCCA Indianapolis convention.  It was at the convention that final agreement was reached on the joining of the Lionel Railroad Club (LRRC) to the LCCA.  Details such as maintenance of the membership listing, fees adjustments, and other details were concluded with the LCCA offering full membership to any LRRC member wishing to renew with either the EM or RM membership.


Of course the LCCA was aware of the success of the annual LRRC Christmas Car.  It was a year-end classic offered by the LRRC to its members during the holiday season.  With the two clubs becoming one, it seemed right for the LCCA to continue this holiday tradition.  However, it soon became clear that the LRRC had not started the process to create a 2014 car.  So in July, with only 3 months before it was necessary to start marketing a 2014 for year-end sales, there was no design nor plan for production.  Prior LRRC cars were made in China and with a 9—15-month lead time, China production was not a viable option. 

Remembering that Lionel was starting a US manufacturing effort in its North Carolina facility, work was begun to produce our car in the US.  The 2014 LCCA Christmas car Became one of the first items off the Lionel US production line.  The 2014 Car comes in one of the first custom LCCA box designs, modified with the US flag proudly on the box.  The American flag is also printed on both of the car doors.

Design options were offered by the staff at Lionel with the LCCA making suggested changes.  The production prototype was approved and it ended up, like most of our production samples, in the annual convention silent auction along with a certificate of authenticity.  With purchase limited to one car per member, the 350 2014 convention cars sold out rapidly.  And, all available cars were sold during the preorder period.

A Little on US Production of LCCA Cars


A note about US Manufacture of Lionel Box cars – the image is ‘printed’ on the side of the car with a somewhat sophisticated high-end laser printer, not that much different in principle from what you use at home.  Using this digital printing process, it is possible to have many more colors, more complex designs, details, and highlights and even pictures.  These options are not available with traditional pad printing or heat stamping. But this process did require a change to the body molds used, in most cases minor.  Simulated rivets molded into the sides of the car were relocated to provide a clean smooth surface for best printing results. 

Because the printing process is digital, the cars can be printed with similar images or if desired cars in each print run can have different images.  This process allows for producing a car design with different road numbers or personalized info on each item.  The result is that it is now possible to quickly, easily and with minimum cost differential offer either the simple one color on a painted box car side or a multicolor panoramic high-quality image unique to a specific box car. 

Of course, the smaller quantities, somewhat higher US costs, the new equipment necessary for the printing process does cost a premium.  And given the scheduling difficulties of small runs means getting the right cars, the right paperwork (if applicable) and the correct labeling on each item.  This additional effort is offset with the side benefit of digital printing with its break-even quantities for the manufacturer which are often lower thus offering clubs like the LCCA the opportunity to purchase smaller quantities of cars.  This is a real benefit for everyone.

The LCCA Christmas Cars

The 2014 Christmas car was the first of a new series of cars, highlighting both the LCCA and the LRRC emphasizing the joining of the two clubs into the LCCA.





The LCCA 2015 Christmas car and all subsequent cars have been all been US made and come packed in a box clearly identifying the cars as a product of the US. The club continues to order cars in the 300-350 range and limits orders to one per member.



The 2016 Christmas Car – US made in the Lionel Facility in North Carolina -was a similar single door box car  


The 2017 Christmas car again carried the US flag proudly on its door.  The very first production sample had a red that was not as expected and a second sample was made, this one with a much more festive red.



The 2018 Christmas car


The 2019 Christmas car was among one of the first cars to offer “over the top” printing – an improved printing process which extended to the roof of a car.  This allows for greatly increased graphics and design for models, it is not frequently seen on real railroads.



The 2020 Christmas Car again offers an "over the top" image with both sides and the top adorned with Christmas images.  This car is available in the LCCA store and scheduled to be delivered before year end.



Click Here to get to the LCCA Store and order your 2020 Christmas Car

The images above are the "beauty shots" used to approve the final design elements and formalize the contracted agreement between the club and Lionel.  Actual pictures of the cars can been seen on the bottom of this page Click Here

Other LCCA Christmas Themed Cars

To complete the LCCA Christmas Car story it is important to review the two earlier cars offered by the LCCA with Christmas themes.  The first was designed for younger members and while available for all members, was intended as a Junior member car.  This gondola from 2001 (LCCA #52257) came with 4 containers and made for a colorful Christmas Special car.  The top of each of the four containers had a letter - L - C  - C - A.  Yes, if put in the correct sequence in the car, they spelled "LCCA".  This was a fun car for a Stocking Stuffer. 



The second Christmas themed car was offered in 2003 as a “Christmas in July” Lionel Seasons Greetings boxcar.  It  bore an over stamp of a snowflake with a “LCCA 2003” imprint. This car was offered to Conventioneers attending our annual event in the desert despite the location in a winter-weather-free zone – Las Vegas. This on-site car for the 2003 Convention started out as a Lionel  Seasons Greetings 2001 Christmas box car #19998.  The LCCA had an outside vendor add two decals, one to show Santa and a second snowflake to ID the car as the 2003 on-site car.  The LCCA recognized that it was often less costly to offer an item with with an over stamp to an existing Lionel Design rather than create a whole new design.  Recent improvements in Lionel distribution and inventory control has reduced the number of cars that are available for this purpose and progress made in offering lower volume purchases has reversed this trend so it is often less costly and the ability to offer a better car by designing a car from scratch.