Two electric locomotives and a steam locomotive built by Alco in Schenectady are the intended showpieces for a museum set to open next spring at the former Dimension Steel Fabricators site.
The Alco Historical & Technical Society announced Thursday that the American Locomotive Company Heritage Museum will be established in an 18,000-square-foot building at 1910 Maxon Road Extension. The 3.3-acre property is located near the mainline of the Canadian Pacific Railway and is the future home of Schenectady Floor Covering, which is leasing one of the buildings on the property to the museum.
Now, the group is working to acquire a 600-volt electric locomotive built by Alco and General Electric in 1904 for the New York Central Railroad as well as a steam locomotive Alco built in 1946. A number of other steam and diesel locomotives as well as several World War II and Korean War-era Army tanks will also be housed at the museum, according to a news release from AHTS.
Museum director Jim Cesare said he is ecstatic that the Alco museum project is moving ahead after 21⁄2 years of planning. “Alco made over 60,000 locomotives during their 100-year history,” he said. “It was a very significant part of Schenectady. That’s why we targeted Schenectady.”
The steam locomotive is located in New Hope, Pa., and museum officials are working with a group there to bring it here.
“We’re hoping that New Hope is going to deliver the one steam locomotive relatively quickly because that’s pretty much done,” he said. “It’s just a matter of working out the logistics.”
The arrangements aren’t quite at that stage for bringing the electric locomotives to Schenectady but Cesare is optimistic.
There will also be a display of other Alco memorabilia, a science education area for children, gift and hobby shop and a large operational model railroad.
“We’re negotiating with a gentleman down in Texas whose father had a layout, which was 14 by 40 feet. It was published in a lot of railroad magazines — professional quality,” Cesare said. “He wanted to donate it to an organization that would keep his layout and showcase it.”
To start, the museum would be open only from about April through October because the building is not insulated and one area lacks mechanical systems, according to Cesare.
Museum officials hope to remove the vinyl siding and install insulated metal panels and a glass wall in front of the property to display a locomotive. “It will give us a very nice visual from the street,” he said.
There will be room for a research library to store documents. They cannot be stored in the building until it is temperature- and humidity-controlled.
He hopes to complete the build-out within the first five years.
Museum officials project between 15,000 and 25,000 visitors annually within five years of opening.
The S/L/A/M Collaborative, whose regional offices include Syracuse and Boston, is the architect for the project. Cesare estimated the entire cost of the renovation at between $250,000 and $500,000. The group hopes to kick off a capital campaign sometime in September with a fundraising goal for this year of $50,000, according to the museum’s website, www.ahts.org.
The organization also hopes to have a cleaning day next weekend and an open house in mid-July.
The next step is to hire an executive director for the museum.
The organization, which has more than 120 members, spent about a year and half looking at six different sites.
At one point, it had hoped to locate the museum in a building at the former Alco site on Erie Boulevard, where locomotive production ceased in 1969.
Buildings at the 60-acre property are currently being demolished for The Galesi Group’s proposed $200 million mixed-use project, which will feature condominiums and a marina along 1.5 miles of Mohawk River waterfront, retail shops, commercial offices and possibly a hotel.
Ray Gillen, Schenectady County commissioner for economic development and planning, said this site is far superior than the Alco site that the group had considered.
“It also has an active rail spur and rail line behind the building, which they need to get locomotives rolling into the building.”
The museum signed a five-year lease whose terms were not disclosed.
There is an option to buy the building in the second five years and an option in the third five-year period to buy the whole property.
Jeff Smith, co-owner of Schenectady Floor Covering, said the company bought the property in September with the intention of tearing down two other run-down buildings at the site.
However, its contractor recommended that they renovate one of the buildings for its store and rent out the other one.
The contractor introduced him and co-owner Bill Kelly to the people from the locomotive museum. Although hesitant at first about the idea, Smith said he was persuaded by the group’s commitment.
“They’re very passionate about this museum,” he said. “They seem to have all their ducks lined up.”