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Recap of the LCCA 2023 Annual Convention in Concord

The Convention in Concord Recap Concord is the current home of the Lionel Headquarters and was the site of the LCCA’s 53rd Annual Convention. The Embassy Suites by Hilton Concord Golf Resort & Spa was the headquarter hotel for the LCCA’s first trip to Lionel’s home since they moved to Concord in 2012. All the guest rooms in this hotel were suites featuring at least 2 rooms, one a living area with kitchenette and the other a bedroom. This hotel also featured an onsite spa and golf course as well as an indoor pool and a fitness center. The best part, according to many of our members, was the free drinks and snacks in the evening as well as the made to order omelet bar for breakfast.

Our Club Photographer put together a quick video presentation of the Concord Convention covering the many events and tours.

The convention kicked off with the President’s Welcome Reception & Social Sunday evening. In order to accommodate our train ride hosts, we moved the Annual Business Meeting and Lionel Seminar to Wednesday afternoon. The Lionel seminar was another great success this year with Lionel offering us a special beer in a Lionel branded can. The First Timer’s Reception was Wednesday evening for those who were attending a convention for the first time and this year there seemed to be more first timers than ever! The Get Acquainted Party was Thursday nights meal and entertainment. This was a great evening with delicious food and music BINGO. It was a fun night that saw people singing and dancing in their seats to favorite songs from the 60s to the 2000s. The trading hall was Friday night’s hotspot that saw 88 tables of trains and accessories for conventioneers to peruse and purchase.

The week was concluded at the LCCA Banquet. This sit down and plated meal once again offered either a delicious beef, chicken, or seafood option. The tables looked a little different this year with more than just the Lionel orange and blue boxes. There was a mysterious cardboard box marked do not open until directed. This turned out to be 10 NASCAR style race cars, each with a number that would later tell the attendees which order to select the gifts on the table and a billboard insert. Of course, the first nine picked up something on the table and the lucky 10th person received the highly collectable banquet gift. This year’s banquet gift was a Lionel MUSA boxcar in Aberdeen, Carolina, & Western livery. This also makes us wonder what next year’s banquet gift will be… Make plans now to attend LCCA’s 54th Convention in Omaha, Nebraska, July 8-13, 2024. This banquet was also a little different, thanks to Lionel. Throughout the week attendees were give poker cards, compliments of Lionel and at the banquet Lionel’s CEO Howard Hitchcock, gave 7 lucky winners, who had the best poker hands, a prize pack that included bag and locomotive.

This year’s registration gift was a Lionel blue and orange boxcar featuring Lenny. This is offered to the first 400 members who registered for the convention and stayed at least 3 nights in the host hotel (or live within 50 miles of the host hotel). This is a great keepsake reminder of our time in Concord, NC, the home of Lionel!

And of course, starting on Monday morning, and going throughout the week we had many tours.

Lionel Headquarters & Warehouse Tour
A limited number of convention attendees were given the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Lionel and see where the magic of Lionel trains and racing happens. We were given the opportunity to see everything from engineering to creative production, from parts to shipping and even repairs and testing. And at the end of the tour was a very special surprise. Each member was given the opportunity to be CEO for a moment and sit behind Howard Hitchcock’s desk and have their picture taken. This picture was then printed on a MUSA boxcar and given to the member. A true once in a lifetime opportunity.

Dinner at The Speedway Club @ Charlotte Motor Speedway
Only 225 conventioneers were given the opportunity to have dinner at The Speedway Club @ Charlotte Motor Speedway. This exclusive Club overlooks the world-famous Charlotte Motor Speedway. The people attending this dinner were treated to watching some different types of race cars do trial runs on part of the track. Attendees also ate a fantastic meal and were given two very special gifts by Lionel. The first was a very limited edition die-cast car and the second was guest speaker Richard “The King” Petty. As people made their way to their seats, they found the first gift. And after Lionel CEO Howard Hitchcock welcomed everyone, he announced Richard Petty. Richard Petty shared the story of his life and how racing was and still is a major part of it. He then gave time for attendees to get his autograph if they wanted. All in all, another once in a lifetime opportunity from our friends at Lionel.

North Carolina Transportation Museum & Childress Winery
The people that chose to visit the North Carolina Transportation Museum started their day with a short drive north from Concord to Spencer. They were given the opportunity to tour the facility which includes multiple buildings, a 37-bay roundhouse, train ride, and a working turntable. This facility was established by the Southern Railway to maintain and repair steam engines. It was chosen because it is exactly hallway between Atlanta and Washington D.C. Our members and guests were treated to a short train ride and a ride standing on the operating turntable that serves the largest remaining roundhouse in North America. Tourists were also treated to a catered North Carolina style BBQ lunch. Included with this tour was the option to shorten time at the NCTM and take a short motorcoach ride to the Childress Winery. Those in attendance were given a guided tour and a taste of the “Wine of the Week”. This winery is owned by a well-known NASCAR Hall of Fame owner, Richard Childress.

Concord Mall
Convention attendees were given the opportunity to purchase motorcoach transportation to the Concord Mall. The is North Carolina’s largest and #1 shopping destination. It is an all-in-one indoor facility that is over 1.3 million square feet and features over 200 stores including Lionel’s one and only retail store (as of this convention). Members were also offered great deals and an exclusive die-cast car that could be purchased at the store. The store also features 3 different train layouts designed and built for this store.

RFK Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR Research & Development Facilities
The 3-stop tour offered some LCCA exclusive opportunities.
  • RFK Racing offered a behind-the-scenes look into its pit stop practice area and their museum. The museum gave attendees a peek at the rich history of Jack Roush and his race team. There were also multiple cars and trophies from Roush’s 300-plus wins on display. 
  • Hendrick Motorsports offered the rare opportunity to see inside their race shops where cars for Nos. 5, 9, 24, and 48 teams fabricate, assemble, and prep their Chevrolet Camaro ZL1s. There was also the engine and CNC facilities where over 200 race engines are tested each year. 
  • The last part of this tour was the NASCAR Research & Development Facilities. This place was originally created for safety within the sport. It opened in 2000 and moved to its current facility in 2003. This 61,000 square foot building houses R&D, Inspectors/Officials, Series Directors, and Training/Development personnel from all NASCAR series. This LCCA exclusive visit included views of car setups, parts of the at-track inspection process, the chassis certification process, and access to engineering insights and tests used to execute the great races seen on Sundays, while sustaining the highest levels of safety for driver and fans. 
  •  There was also the opportunity to drive a lap around Daytona International Speedway, with the NextGen Car, in one of the iRacing Simulators.
The Gibson Mall featuring AutoBarn, Antique Mall, Cabbarus Brewery
This mall is an all-in-one tour featuring 3 fantastic venues. The Gibson Mall is the new name for the old textile manufacturing company headquarters. There is a gigantic Antique Mall that includes over 800 vendors. The AutoBarn houses hundreds of exotic cars and most of them are for sale. Also included here are antique restored trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and more. The third location is the Cabarrus Brewing Company. They make a variety of craft beers which members were able to sample. They are also the largest craft production brewery in the county, and they made the Lionel Ale for the 2019 LCCA Reno Convention and surprised us again with a special beverage for the 2023 Lionel Seminar.

The Mustang Owners Museum and The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame & Curb Motor Museum
This tour had 2 stops and 3 very nice museums. One stop was the Mustang Owners Museum. This featured over 25 Mustangs from classics, modified, racing, and few unique versions. There was also lots of Mustang memorabilia and much more. Attendees were also gifted Mustang logo pin on their way out. The other stop was The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame & Curb Motor Museum. These 2 museums are housed in one building. The music side of the building displayed North Carolina music royalty in diorama settings featuring outfits, instruments, framed items, and other things from the stars. The racing side of the building shows Mr. Curb’s collection of older NASCAR, Indy cars, and drag racing cars. Included are cars raced by Dale Earnhardt, Sr, Richard Petty, Dale Jarrett, and more. There are also various trophies on display.

Southern Grace Distilleries at Whiskey Prison and Reed Gold Mine
Another opportunity to sample some of North Carolina’s craft brew awaited those that joined this tour. Southern Grace Distillery is located in an abandoned prison. The prison was built in 1927 and after it closed it was converted into a distillery. The tourists were able to see a couple cells left in their original state, the old Guard Tower, the Warden’s home, and the infamous Hot Box. At Reed Gold Mine, the oldest in the USA, attendees toured the underground mine/tunnels and got the opportunity to pan for real gold. This mine dates back to 1799 when farmer John Reed’s son found a 17-pound rock with gold in it. North Carolina led in gold production until 1848 when California took over.

The Duke Mansion and the NASCAR Hall of Fame
The Duke Mansion was built in 1915 and tripled in size by its most famous owner, James Buchanan Duke, who purchased it in 1919. Visitors on this tour got to see the 20-room bed and breakfast’s public spaces and its beautifully manicured grounds. They were also given a wonderful history of the mansion and its owners. The mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in addition to the bed and breakfast, hosts countless weddings and other events year-round. Since Charlotte is the heart of NASCAR country it makes sense that the NASCAR Hall of Fame would be built here. Attendees to this stop were welcomed in by seeing a life size replica of a portion of a racetrack complete with race cars and trucks from all eras of racing and different places to stand on the banked turns demonstrating the varying degrees of slant. The museum also features a room of all the Hall of Fame drivers, a couple different examples of the differences between race cars and stock cars, and over 50 interactive experiences. People had the opportunity to see famous drivers’ cars, outfits, trophies, and other memorabilia from the history of NASCAR. There was also the opportunity to get behind the wheel in a racing simulator and try your chance driving your favorite track and see if you are cut out to be a member of a pit crew, changing tires and fueling up the car all in 15 seconds.

Aberdeen, Carolina, and Western Train Ride
This year members saw a unique day for the big train ride. On Friday morning 440 guests boarded their motorcoaches to take a drive east from Concord to Candor, North Carolina. When arriving at Candor, the early riders headed to the train for their ride, after being greeted by owner Robert Menzies and his wife. The excursion train consisted of open-air cars, a baggage car, a double diner, and a rare Budd full dome car. Following the train ride, people toured the 80,000 square foot railway shop and other passenger cars, that included a restored and updated dome car, that were not on the ride as well as other locomotives and rolling stock. Train riders were also provided a box lunch.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden and NarroWay Dinner Theater
Travelers that picked this tour were treated to sights of one of the most picturesque spots in all of North Carolina, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Daniel Stowe, a retired textile executive from Fremont, N.C. reserved 380 acres of prime rolling meadows, woodlands, and lakefront property and established a foundation on which to develop a world-class botanical garden. The travelers entered the gardens through a stunning 13,500 square foot pavilion seeing the breathtaking 100-year-old stained-glass dome. They also saw eight different gardens and twelve exceptional fountains. Further included was seeing the Orchid Conservatory, the Kimbrell Children’s Garden, and Piedmont Prairie Garden. From the Garden, travelers were taken to the NarroWay Dinner Theater, just south of Charlotte. NarroWay is considered the premier Christian Theater of the South and known as “The Broadway of Christian Entertainment”. They were treated to a delicious lunch and saw “Samson, The Last Judge”. It’s the Biblical story of Samson and also the story of America.

Billy Graham Library and NarroWay Dinner Theater
Billy Graham is considered one of the most prolific Christian crusaders of all time. Those that selected to go to this tour headed south to Charlotte to visit the “Ongoing Crusade” that is the Billy Graham Library. This property features Billy Graham’s childhood home, Library, beautiful gardens, and a chapel. Here they learned about “The Man, The Message, The Ministry and The Mission” that drove Billy Graham to preach for more than 60 years, pointing anyone who would listen to Christ. From the Library, travelers were taken to the NarroWay Dinner Theater, just south of Charlotte. NarroWay is considered the premier Christian Theater of the South and known as “The Broadway of Christian Entertainment”. They were treated to a delicious lunch and saw “Samson, The Last Judge”. It’s the Biblical story of Samson and also the story of America.

The LCCA Modular Layouts
The clubs growing modular railroad community provide wonderful variety of railroads. Filling three rooms and spilling out into the main hallways, seven railroads were constructed. Throughout the week club members built, modified, and operated 139 modules. This far surpassed the record set during the 2022 Nashville Convention. This year a small team of dedicated and experienced module railroad experts built a pair of lift bridges. These bridges greatly enhance accessibility.  A new light weight module design, introduced, and performed brilliantly. The Modular Layouts were an exciting attraction to all convention attendees.

Other Exciting Events and Activities
In addition to all these wonderful things, there were informational seminars from Bruce Greenberg, author of Greenberg’s Guide to Lionel Trains (and others), Ed Richter, the LCCA’s “Video-tographer”, and Angela Trotta Thomas, painter of Lionel trains among other works. Also, another record-breaking modular railroad spanning over 3 rooms and even at the Lionel Retail Store. And multiple Lionel Kid’s Club, by LCCA things to do including a Scavenger Hunt and the Switch-back Railroad. Overall, this convention was one for the history books! Be on the lookout in the February 2024 The Lion Roars for what’s in store for our next Annual Convention to be held in Omaha, Nebraska, July 8-13, 2024. Make plans now to attend! Not a member, you can sign up today!