Voters pick Marion man's boxcar design

Booth Rankins of Marion holds a copy of his design which is the likely winner in the “Design Your Own Boxcar” contest by Lionel LLC. Rankins is the unofficial winner of this online contest held by the manufacturer of O-scale electric trains. He apparently won the contest on Tuesday, June 30, which was also his birthday. (Photo by Mike Conley/McDowell News)

By just 12 votes, Booth Rankins of Marion appears to have won the “Design Your Own Boxcar” contest held by Lionel, LLC. This means the iconic electric toy train company will produce an O-scale boxcar featuring his design as part of Lionel’s 115th anniversary celebration.

The results are unofficial but by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Rankins’ preferred design had 3,185 votes. It features a wavy arrangement of orange and blue with the Lionel trademark “L” on both ends of the boxcar. The design is the same for both sides of the boxcar.

The second-place finalist was the design submitted by a Rochester, N.Y. man whose design received 3,173 votes. It featured vintage 1950s-style ads for Lionel Trains with different ones for both sides.

Even though it was very close, Rankins’ design emerged as the top vote-getter in the contest held on Lionel’s Facebook page. He received lots of support from local people like Marion Mayor Steve Little, who is also a railroad buff, and friends on social media who helped spread the word.

“First there was the incredible work of everyone who posted the LINK over and over, the friends and family that worked so hard to remind people to vote,” he posted on his Facebook page. “You laid the track so the train could roll into the station. Second, the voters made this happen. As many of you already know, we won by 12 votes. Our total was 3185. EVERY SINGLE VOTE COUNTED. We have come together at a special moment in time. YOU are part of something very unique and will have that memory for the rest of your life because every single VOTER made this happen. Thank you so much and thanks LIONEL.”

To make the victory even sweeter, Tuesday was also his birthday.

“What a birthday present,” Rankins said to The McDowell News.

“I know Booth has been telling me for days how touched he is by all of the support, and I can really see too how you all pulled together to make this happen for him,” said his wife Sharon Rankins on her Facebook page. “I am blown away! Really...thank you so much for all of your support! It is truly amazing and we...I can't thank you enough.”

Now based in Concord, Lionel, LLC is a company that makes and imports O-scale toy trains and model railroads.

Terrie Lee, company spokeswoman, said she was working on Wednesday to double check the results of the contest.

“I do not anticipate anything changing,” she said to The McDowell News.

The official announcement of the winner will be made on Friday, July 17 by Lionel on social media.

“I can safely say Booth is one of the top three finalists and will receive a prize,” she said on Wednesday to The McDowell News. “You can also state he obtained the highest number of votes online but Lionel will not officially announce the winner until July 17.”

The winning design will be in Lionel’s fall 2015 Signature Catalog, which will be available middle to late August. It will have a photo of the actual boxcar along with the winner’s photo and name and photos of the second- and third-place designs.

“The winner will be invited to the corporate offices in Concord, N.C., where they will be presented with the first boxcar off the assembly line,” said Lee. “The boxcar will be available at as well as through Lionel dealers.”

If Rankins is determined as the winner, he will be invited to the headquarters in Concord to tour the facility and have lunch with company President Howard Hitchcock.

The winner will also get a $300 gift certificate from Lionel.

There were a total of 16 finalists in the online contest. Rankins had another design that was chosen as a finalist but he urged friends and supporters to vote for his wavy orange-and-blue design.

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