Irene: Schoharie rail exhibit gets a boost from grant
Flood-damaged museum aims for May reopening
SCHOHARIE Woodwork adorning the side interior of the historic Middleburgh & Schoharie Railway passenger car survived extensive damage when floodwater last August inundated the Schoharie Valley Railroad museum complex in the village.
But the floor is buckled in the car that was once part of the defunct railway that served the valley in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The car was one of eight different structures and rail cars that sat within the reach of the flooded Schoharie Creek last summer.
It wasn’t clear after Tropical Storm Irene whether the Schoharie Colonial Heritage Association would be able to overcome damage to several buildings on the site — until board members learned American Express was drafting a $15,000 check to help.
The nonprofit SCHA wasn’t eligible for federal disaster assistance, but volunteers and contractors from throughout the region have poured labor and sweat into the site.
Board members on Thursday said they expect three of their historic structures — the weigh station, the station house and the passenger/freight car — to be open in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
“If it hadn’t been for volunteers this whole area would be gone,” SCHA president Jean Harra said.
The dust-colored, high water mark depicting the reach of the flooded Schoharie Creek is evident on several structures at the site off Depot Lane in the village, and SCHA board members are still working to account for all that was lost late last summer.
The list of things destroyed includes a detailed model of the old railway that sat inside the passenger car.
But SCHA board member Bob Price said the historic site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, has come a long way with the help of volunteers who gave their time over the past seven months.
“To see where we’re at here is really very rewarding. A huge amount of work has gone into this,” Price said.
In more than three decades, the association has maintained its historic treasures without the help of government grants and the flood didn’t change that.
“In the beginning we were told there was no help for nonprofits,” SCHA board member Ruth Anne Wilkinson said.
Money has always been hard to come by, especially for a nonprofit group looking to restore historic remnants of an old railway, so the grant from American Express was especially welcome Thursday.
It marks only the second time the association received a grant — Schoharie Recovery pitched in $4,000 earlier to help in rebuilding.
The non-profit Preservation League of New York State helped with the application process so SCHA could get the grant.
Preservation League regional director Erin Tobin, who gathered with SCHA board members to celebrate the donation, said successes such as this one are heartening.
“Facilitating these grants is part of what we do, and one of the most meaningful parts of my job,” Tobin said.
The League also helped garner a $10,000 American Express grant toward post-flood repairs at historic Old Fort Johnson west of the city of Amsterdam in Montgomery County.
American Express philanthropy director Cheryl Green Rosario said in a news release that historic preservation is important to the financial giant.
“We believe in supporting organizations and projects that preserve and sustain historic places. Supporting the Schoharie Colonial Heritage Association in its flood recovery efforts is one way we can ensure these important sites provide ongoing access and enjoyment for current and future generations,” Rosario said.