Railroads on Parade - Pottersville, NY

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"The Station" and "Railroads on Parade" once again will be on display.

November 17, 2010
POTTERSVILLE — A world-class, million-dollar exhibit of model trains complete with lavish layouts is planned for development in Pottersville, and area officials say may have a significant impact on tourism in Northern Warren County.

"Railroads on Parade," a project of the internationally acclaimed set designer Clarke Dunham, is on its way to become a reality in Pottersville, Dunham said.

Well-known as the creator of train exhibits across the country, Dunham is acquiring the former Great Northern Auto Parts outlet in Pottersville, and he plans to set up four major, intricate model train displays that feature detailed, realistic, lighted model cityscapes and automated operation of dozens of trains.

Dunham is the creator of the famed Citicorp train display in New York City as well as extensive model train layouts in Cincinnati, Chicago, Omaha and Williamsburg, Va. that have been viewed by more than 5 million people. The Cincinnati display is a national attraction that exceeds 7,000 square feet.

Steve Parisi, director of the Warrensburgh Museum of Local History, has seen Dunham's displays in Manhattan and Cincinnati. The latter layout is housed in the city's former train station that was restored to its original grandeur.

"Clarke Dunham's work is just brilliant — it portrays the role trolleys and trains played in the cities' development," Parisi said. "This will draw people from across the nation — particularly with train lovers. It will put Pottersville on the map."

Dunham said he will be formally acquiring the Great Northern in January, and the target date for opening the train museum will be July 1. He now has a lease agreement in place for the property.

In a business plan that has spurred considerable investment in his Railroads on Parade enterprise, Dunham said his train exposition will spur development of other cultural projects in downtown Pottersville, which in recent decades experienced the closure of a number of businesses.

Town of Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe said Dunham has a "great plan," and he is well-qualified to make his enterprise a reality, considering his proven track record as a Tony-nominee Broadway set designer — and the fact that Dunham's existing layouts elsewhere have attracted millions of visitors.

"I think this is super — Dunham's enterprise has the potential for a huge economic impact not only for the town of Chester, but for all of northern Warren County," Monroe said. "We're going to be doing everything we can to help make it happen."

Dunham said his Railroad on Parade will likely have a dramatic impact on Pottersville, predicting it will prompt the development of galleries and a museum of local history.

His four layouts to be housed in the Pottersville exposition is to include a replica of the Hell Gate Bridge in New York City stretching over a replica of the Pottersville hamlet. This 90-foot display includes a towering curved railway mountain trestle spanned by three looming bridges and features trains traveling at three levels.

The second display is a 750-square foot exhibit of miniature model railroads depicting New York City and Hudson River Valley scenes housed in a replica of a Victorian train station, complete with 30 automated trains traversing the exhibit at different levels.

The third display depicts the 1939 World's Fair, complete with the event's original Railroads on Parade diorama with its "dancing locomotives."

The fourth display, titled Park Avenue, features New York City's subway system with trains running under Park Avenue — featuring a Manhattan cityscape complete with a traffic jam — to Grand Central Station.

Dunham's plans call for the front of the existing Pottersville building and its interior front lobby to be fashioned after a Victorian train station.

The lobby is to include a retail shop featuring train memorabilia, model railroad kits, and souvenirs including engineer's hats as well as Adirondack-themed items.

Dunham has developed a marketing plan that includes reaching out to Adirondack tourists as well as train enthusiasts nationally. He proposes teaming up with other regional destinations, accommodations, and tour operators to set up package deals that have proven successful for other area venues.

Dunham said his plans have been well received by investors, townspeople and noted train enthusiasts.

"The enthusiasm for Railroads on Parade is amazing," he said. "The way people have come together for this project is absolutely outstanding."

One of those on board is North Warren Chamber of Commerce president Barbara Thomas.

"Clarke Dunham's plan blows everybody away — this would be so awesome," she said. "It's so fortunate we have someone with his credentials right here in our back yard."

Dunham and Parisi both said Railroads on Parade would dovetail well with Iowa Pacific's recent proposal to ramp up the Warren County's railroad into a full operation with dome cars, ski trains and tourist excursions.

"Everybody up here has been struggling for years, and its amazing things are now turning around so quickly," Dunham said.

Now, Dunham already has a modest train diorama set up in the railway's terminal, the Depot Museum in North Creek.

Dunham said he was eager to get his new Pottersville train exposition off the ground.

"There would have to be some kind of earthquake for this not to happen," he said.

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