After a short and successful four-month inaugural season, the ALCO Heritage Museum is closed for the winter and looking ahead to the future.
Museum director Jim Cesare said the group’s facility at 1910 Maxon Road attracted more than 6,000 people on weekends between June 10 and Oct. 7. He expects the museum to re-open the first or second weekend in April 2013, possibly in a different building but at the same Maxon Road location. The site formerly housed Dimension Steel and is now owned by Schenectady Floor Covering.
“We had a very good year, I think we succeeded in what we were trying to do, and I thought we had a great product,” said Cesare, who performed his duties as a volunteer. “I think the city of Schenectady was generally very receptive, and I think we got a wonderful response from the public. Considering this was a real grass-roots organization starting out from scratch, I think we did a great job.”
The details of a move to another building on the site aren’t complete yet, but Cesare expects everything to be finalized within the next few weeks.
“We are going to be open, and we are staying in the city so we’re very happy about that,” said Cesare. “But with the economy being what it is, we could not sustain that building. So, our next best step was to get another building, a smaller one, where we will still be able to function. And, we’ll still have access to the railroad tracks, which is important because we’ll be able to host the CP [Canadian Pacific] Holiday Train again this year.”
The CP Holiday Train will roll into Schenectady on Nov. 29 and make a stop at the museum at 6:45 p.m., according to Cesare. He’s also hopeful of bringing another attraction to the museum, an old steam locomotive, sometime in 2013.
“It’s currently in New Hope, Pa., but it’s ours and we will get it here, eventually,” said Cesare. “It’s very big, it’s hard to move, and it’s not going to happen overnight. But we will get it here. It’s one of the last built in Schenectady, so we’re very happy to have it.”
The steam locomotive is currently on loan to the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad. It had previously been on display at the Altamont Fair and had been the property of the now-defunct Great North Eastern Railroad Foundation.
The ALCO-built M-47 tank that was on display all summer will remain an important artifact in the museum, and officials hope to have a locomotive simulator up and running sometime during 2013. This past summer, the simulator, which will be located inside the cab of a Reading Railroad locomotive, never became operational.
“It’s a great project, and we’re not giving up on it,” said Dave Gould, the museum’s volunteer curator. “With the economy being what it is, we just ran out of money to finish that project. But we’re hoping with General Electric’s help we’re going to have it running next year at some point.”
An arm of the ALCO Historical and Technical Society, the museum was established to help preserve and share the history of the American Locomotive Company and its antecedent, the Schenectady Locomotive Works. The original company was built in 1848 by John Ellis, and in 1901 it merged with seven other companies to form ALCO.
Manufacturing at the plant began to slow down after World War II, and the facility closed its doors in Schenectady in 1969.