53rd National TCA Convention Banquet Car
By Ron Stowell, 97-45593
For those of you that attended this year’s TCA Convention in Denver, Colorado and attended the Saturday Night Banquet and were also fortunate enough to be that person at your 10 person banquet table that won the “mystery” 53rd National TCA Convention Banquet Car, you may be aware of some of the things I’m about to share with you.
However, even if you are the proud possessor of one of the approximately 100 total manufactured of this unique and distinctive car, I’m betting that you don’t know all that I’m about to share with you regarding this incredible car.
Let’s start from the beginning with the “Special Denver Mint Banquet Car, TCA 2007-Denver, Co. #6-52417.” This, by the way, is the “official” name and number printed on the box label as it arrives from Lionel LLC.
Our “special” car began life as a regular “Mint” car as manufactured by Lionel LLC, for low these many years. However, we wanted to create a banquet car that would fill several qualifications. Some of those qualifications were; a unique and distinctive car with individual characteristics that would be of interest to the membership at large, with a potential of creating a collectable circumstance, be a great reminder and keepsake of the 2007 TCA National Convention, and be closely connected to the Rocky Mountain Division of the TCA.
After much discussion, plotting, scheming, planning, begging, pleading, and tremendous assistance from Lionel LLC, we created a car designed to some specifications that had never been applied to a mint car. We feel it is a very interesting addition to the line of TCA Banquet Cars and Mint Cars at the same time.
To begin with, this is the first “Mint Car” that is actually a lighted car. Lionel was good enough to install centralized lighting for better viewing of the interior of the car and of course, its contents, which is a full set of “Denver Mint marked” uncirculated coins, from the penny, to the nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar.
The coins have an entire story all onto themselves. You can no longer purchase entire rolls of each denomination of coins nor specify a particular mint or year. With some coins, it’s still possible, just not with all of them.
So, we searched through batches and batches of uncirculated coins to find what we were looking for in the way of a “mint mark.” Well, in order to get these coins together in our lifetime, we ultimately had to purchase some of them, at over face value of course, from dealers in California, Oklahoma and Colorado.
In case you haven’t figured it out at this point, YES, the Rocky Mountain Division had volunteers with white gloves open each banquet car box after they had been shipped to us, remove the body from the frame and insert each coin in the car. That’s when we discovered that some of the coin holders weren’t quite the correct size. We had to file them a bit to allow the coin to “snap” into the holder.
Warren Mizell of Mizell Trains, Inc. was kind enough to donate space in his storage area for us to handle this entire process. Actually, in this storage area, we created an assembly line to accomplish the appointed tasks.
We had one person open the “master case”, two people opened the “shipping boxes” by slicing the tape and then removing the boxed car, open the actual car box and place the car in a cradle, two people with screwdrivers removed the bodies, one person inserted the coins and/or filed the coin holders to accept the coins, one person reattached the bodies and finally, one person placed the car back into its boxes.
All this occurred after many communications between the Rocky Mountain Division and Lionel LLC as to how we could successfully execute our plan to stand the coins up, light the car and get them shipped to us in a timely manner. By the way, Lionel LLC was invaluable in designing, creating and attaching the coin holders to the interior of the “mint car.”
The final part of our plan was to keep the “Special Denver Mint Banquet Car, TCA 2007-Denver, Co. #6-52417”, a secret until the night of the banquet. As you can see, we set some very high standards for this particular project, as we did with all we tried to present to our fellow members of TCA during the convention.
Finally, if you won our banquet car, we hope that you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed creating it. If you weren’t fortunate enough to be a winner of our banquet car, we hope you still enjoy the story that goes with our banquet car.