Schenectady County

State museum’s carousel fixed, much to the delight of children

After being out of commission for 71⁄2 months, the 93-year-old carousel at the New York State Museum

After being out of commission for 71⁄2 months, the 93-year-old carousel at the New York State Museum is back.

Thomas Smiley was happy to see it working Thursday.

“I like it back again,” the 4-year-old Delmar resident said, as he took a break from riding.

The 36 horses, two donkeys and two deer were carved around 1895, 20 years before being put on the carousel, by Charles Dare of Brooklyn, a museum statement said.

The richly decorated carousel includes paintings of natural water scenes around the center pole, and paintings of flowers alongside grotesque and colorful relief-sculpture faces on the outer circle.

“Here it goes, the spinning one,” noted Thomas, pointing out a chair that spun around next to the steeds.

Thomas’ mother Natalie said they had made repeated trips to the museum’s fourth floor in recent months, keeping on hoping despite disappointments that the carousel would be restored to life.

It reopened Wednesday on a trial basis, and is now back on its regular 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule.

The horses, which go up and down as well as around and around, are connected by poles to a central gear shaft, said museum director Clifford Siegfried. During routine maintenance at the end of the last school year, after the busiest school-trip season, workers found filings in the grease and indentations in the teeth of the main gear, which signaled the likelihood of a future breakdown. Fortunately, Siegrfried said, the California company that restored the carousel seven years ago (Brass Ring Entertainment) still had the crown gear to make a mold from and so could replace the damaged gear. The museum ordered two, so as to have a backup, at a total cost including installing one of $35,000.

A young girl named Kate from Albany was among the riders. She played a part in establishing a fund set up by her grandparents to help address any future mechanical problems that may occur, and to try to prevent the kind of long shutdown that happened in recent months.

The Carol and Carl Ernst New York State Museum Carousel Fund was established with a $3,000 contribution from the Ernsts, and the museum will be seeking additional donors.

Carl Ernst had brought his granddaughter to the ride around Thanksgiving last year, when they found it closed.

Siegfried introduced Ann “Carousel Queen” Winnicki, the West Sand Lake woman who sets it in motion and rides herd.

Winnicki said she had spent the last few months working elsewhere in the museum, and is glad to be back. “I liked that. I love this. This is home,” she said.

In its early years, the carousel traveled around fairs and parks, coming to rest for almost four decades at the Olivecrest Park on Cuba Lake in Allegany County, the museum said. That park closed in 1972, and the museum bought the carousel in 1975. It is housed in a bright spot on the south side of the building, at the south end of Empire State Plaza.

Entry to the museum and the carousel is free, although donations are accepted. The carousel is open every day, except during late-June maintenance and on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

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