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Mysterious donor backs train museum with $1.6 million pledge

Dave Naples, right, answers questions as people visit the Christmas Train Display at the Moffat Road Railroad Museum in this file photo.
Amy Golden / agolden@skyhinews.com

An anonymous philanthropist, who “adopted Granby,” is committing funds to Granby’s railroad museum and more could be on the way.

Last week, Granby Mayor Paul Chavoustie described a wealthy man who reached out wanting to contribute money to nonprofits in Granby related to issues important to this donor.

The mysterious benefactor, who the mayor said does not wish to be named at this time, picked out the Moffat Road Railroad Museum as one project he was interested in financing.

Railroad museum director Dave Naples said this donor has already committed to contributing $1.6 million to finish what Naples called “Phase I” of the train museum.

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“We have the vision. We have the plan. We now have the resource,” Naples said. “That was what was missing for the last 11 years.”

The donor plans to release even more funds to the museum if he can get assurances the museum will have guaranteed land.

The railroad museum sits on land that is technically a part of Kaibab Park. Naples said the museum is 10 years into a 30 lease on the land, paying $10 a year. Because this land is not zoned for a museum, he also has to get a conditional use permit annually.

The land would be critical for the donor before providing additional funding for the museum.

While deeding the public land to the train museum would be difficult and likely have to go to voters, the town board expressed interest in arranging a long-term lease with the museum.

Naples plans for the museum are divided into two overarching phases. Phase I relates to the improvements on the land currently leased to Naples, which he has already started implementing thanks to the donor.

Within the next week, Naples said, gas heating will be installed. He hopes to finish the visitor’s center by June with a grand opening on July 4. This summer he’s also planning to asphalt both parking lots and put in a security system, along with refurbishing two train cars and more.

Naples wants to complete Phase I in eight months, prompted by the donor’s enthusiasm.

But as Naples described these plans to the donor, the donor asked for more, Naples said, explaining the donor wanted plans to turn Granby’s train museum into a world-class location.

Ten years ago, Naples made his “Walt Disney approach” to the train museum with big dreams. Over the past 10 years, he has tempered them down to fit funding realities. When the donor asked Naples to go bigger, Naples went back to his first plan.

“He saw this and said, ‘Now you’re talking,’” Naples said.

According to Naples, “Phase II” is a two story, 10,000 square foot railroad museum. The first floor would be a two stall engine house to hold two cars, including the second largest locomotive ever built.

The second floor then could be an open, 5,000 square foot space with a model railroad. According to Naples, these plans would make it the largest model railroad of its kind in the world.

Naples said this second phase will cost about $8 million, including $3.5 million for the building and the $1.5 million model railroad, which the donor is willing to contribute if the land can be guaranteed.

On Tuesday, board members voted to renew the railroad museum’s conditional use permit for three years and expressed their enthusiasm for the plans.

“This is the missing piece that I think we’ve all been waiting on,” Trustee Josh Hardy said.

Extending Naple’s lease in time and scope is just a discussion at this point, and Naples will come back to the board once plans are finalized. Naples said the donor plans to eventually reveal himself and talk to the board directly.

The mayor indicated the donor is looking at large contributions to two other charitable organizations in Granby as well.

In other business:

  • The board approved an annual resolution establishing a public place for posting meeting notices and an ordinance amending certain sections of town code regulating undesirable plants, abandoned vehicles and outdoor storage of waste and receptacles.
  • The trustees expanded the downtown infill development program, which provides financial incentives for projects in Granby, to include any commercial business in town limits.
  • The board approved a contract with the new town manager, Ted Cherry, who starts Monday.
  • The town board set a hearing for adopting a public works manual on Feb. 25.


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