Friday, August 12, 2011

Model train museum chugs to life in Pottersville

From Post Star: Model train museum chugs to life in Pottersville
CHESTER - For Clarke and Barbara Dunham, it's better late than never.

The anticipated Railroads on Parade model train exhibit and museum officially launched Monday, marking the end of a long journey for the Dunhams and the first of what local officials hope is a renaissance of new railroad-associated business.

"We can actually have a normal life again," Mr. Dunham said during Monday's grand opening ceremony.

The retired Tony Award winning set designer began modeling train layouts when he moved out of the Broadway musical scene as a means to feed his passion for creating detailed representations of reality.

For years, his Railroads on parade exhibit, with models of places like Hell's Gate Bridge and the Adirondack Railroad circa 1955, toured the country and was an annual staple at New York City's Christmas festivities.

But after 20 years, Citigroup pulled its sponsorship in 2008 and left Dunham with thousands of highly-detailed buildings, bridges and trains, and 2,500 feet of track, all collecting dust in his Pottersville garage.

The Dunhams have been working for several years now to open the Pottersville location to display Mr. Dunham's work. They hoped for an early June opening, but were setback when the Warren County Planning Office questioned the total potential occupancy of the building.

Dunham said the two month holdup resulted in an additional $80,000 in unforeseen expenses.

"This is about tomorrow, not yesterday," he said.

Railroads on parade opened its doors two-weeks ago, with half-price admissions cost, even though the entire facility wasn't totally completed.

The families of Paul Rivera and Ronald "Grumpy" Fields, both from Queens, didn't know Monday was the exhibit's official grand opening. Both men said they stumbled on the exhibit while parsing fliers at their hotel.

They were greeted as they entered the building by massive Art Deco-styled wooden cutouts of New York Central Railroad freight trains.

"The detailing is awesome," Rivera said of the various exhibits.

Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe hailed the project as a potentially significant tourist draw for Pottersville.

And other officials hope that Railroads on Parade is one of many new attractions that spring up on the heels of the recent beginning of operation of the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad.

"Something like this is all part of the hop on, hop off experience," said Pam Morin, the First Wilderness Corridor project manager for Warren County's Planning and Community Development Office. "It's all about raising awareness of the communities, which in the past, haven't been featured."

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