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Pottersville train museum on track for summer opening

Pottersville train museum on track for summer opening

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CHESTER -- When Clarke Dunham lost corporate sponsorship in 2008 for his long-running model train exhibit, Railroads on Parade, he was left with years of work, hundreds of detailed model buildings and 2,500 feet of track.

But come July 1, the fruits of his and his crew’s labor are expected to see the light of day, this time in Pottersville.

"The detail, that’s what it’s all about," Dunham said. "The people who don’t understand call me overly demanding."

Local officials have lauded the coming launch of the Dunham Studios exhibit in downtown Pottersville, citing its potential as a tourist attraction.

"When kids see it advertised in restaurants, they’re going to have to see it," said Fred Monroe, town supervisor of Chester. "I think their parents will be interested, too."

However, recent holdups with county code permitting had some area officials wondering if the $1.3 million museum was going to get off the ground this summer. Dunham and county Code Enforcement officials differed on the total occupancy of the building where the attraction will be housed, and how weight was distributed on the building’s floor.

"I know he’s been frustrated," Monroe said. "Paul (Dusek) has had several conversations with our code enforcement people. I guess there were some differences over how some things would be set up."

Dunham said the venture’s financing is in place, and any hiccups with county code enforcement have been largely smoothed out, though he claims it cost him $70,000 and two months worth of work.

"After being in Broadway, ‘won’t happen’ isn’t in the lexicon," he said.

Dunham is represented by local attorney and Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed.

The 74-year-old Dunham didn’t expect to make a new career out of model trains, but after the Citibank exhibit in the mid-1980s, he said he was flooded with orders.

It started as a side job and turned into a business with museums and train enthusiasts ordering specific layouts.

Dunham, a set designer by trade, fell into modeling trains nearly 30 years ago.

Along with a single anonymous investor, Dunham and his wife, Barbara, have largely financed, and refinanced, the exhibit.

"Then again, there’s always ‘Spiderman,’" he continued, referring to the most expensive show in Broadway history, which was saddled with numerous actor injuries and poor reviews.

The state Route 9 attraction will include four exhibits.

"The Station" details the New York City to Adirondack rail line, complete with bridges, towers, and mountains on a 1:48 scale. The "Hell’s Gate Bridge" exhibit takes onlookers through the massive downstate chasm.

The four- tiered Park Avenue subway/train station and the 1939 World’s Fair are also included in the upcoming exhibit. The larger-scale models are complete with period automobiles and tiny figurines clad in appropriate attire.

"The larger ones we expect to be exactly correct," he said.

Other exhibits in the collection will be periodically rotated in and out.

John Dowdy is one of the half-dozen artisans, electricians and sculptors that work part time at Dunham’s Studios. He’s been a model train enthusiast since his youth.

"I’m not sure what the draw to it is. I’ve been modeling trains since I could look out of my crib," he said. "I’m in heaven here. Someone else pays for the track, and I get to work on it."

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