Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pennsylvania: Train museum packed to move

From Altoona Mirror: Train museum packed to move

The platform layouts at the Alto Model Train Museum in the Rockway Building are vast expanses of plywood covered with miniature landscapes - fields, hills, homes and stores - interlaced with tracks.

They're utterly non-portable.

But the museum association will be moving them, because a bank has foreclosed on the building and has begun eviction proceedings.

Museum association members wonder whether they can find suitable space at an affordable cost and doubt their mostly over-70 membership has the manpower to transfer the layouts by the mid-July eviction deadline.
"We've been panicking," said John Curfman, association president. "We just have a lot of stuff to move and no place to move it to. That's our dilemma."

The museum will likely need to scale down, he fears.

First National Bank of Pennsylvania foreclosed against Rockway building owners Gabriel and Roberta Pellegrini recently, according to the Blair County register-recorder's office.

First National acquired the property on Industrial Avenue at 29th Street at sheriff's sale for $15,000, money that covered tax and other liens, according to Leslie Ott, real estate clerk for the sheriff's office.

The Pellegrinis owed the bank $406,000 on the property, which has a market value of $743,000, according to Ott and the register-recorder's office.

Gabe Pellegrini's engineering firm, Innovative Consulting Group, previously headquartered in the building, recently completed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation.

On receiving the eviction notice, Curfman tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a deal to stay, offering to pay more rent than the gift-level $2,000 the association has been paying the Pellegrinis for the entire 6,000 square-foot third floor.

"But the [new] owners wanted us out," he said.

More recently, he asked the lawyer representing the bank for an extension, but he didn't get a reply immediately, he said.

The association members are breaking down the platforms to move them, Curfman said.

"They were built piece by piece, and that's how they have to come apart," he said.

He guessed that dismantling and resetting would take 300 man-hours or more.

He estimated it would also cost $2,000 for new materials.

The association can reuse the trains, tracks, buildings and scenery if members dismantle them carefully, he said.

And they can mark the plywood and the accessories to help in recreating the existing layouts, he said.
But it might be more practical just to leave the plywood in place in the Rockway building and start over, especially if a new location doesn't allow for similar configurations, Curfman said.

If the association doesn't locate a new home before the eviction deadline, it could store some layout components temporarily.

"But the trouble with storage is you can tie up an awful lot of money," he said.

The association enlisted a real estate agent a few days ago.

Members were half-expecting eviction and had been scouting for a new location, but not seriously, Curfman said.

But after receiving the letter from the bank's lawyer, "we got real serious," he said.
Members were hoping they could find something downtown, where there's plenty of space available, presumably for a reasonable price.

They've had no luck so far.

"You'd think people with space to rent would rent it cheaper, rather than have it sit empty," Curfman said. "But that doesn't seem to be the case."

Because the association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, renting would create the opportunity for a tax write-off for a landlord, Curfman said.

On Friday, at the museum, Curfman looked over the biggest of the six platforms.

"Can you imagine dismantling all this?" he asked. "My back hurts already."

No comments:

Post a Comment