This morning the Narrow Gauge Museum announced that it will continue to run its mini-trains from its current location at the bottom of Munjoy HIll – Portland Foreside, (formerly known as 58 Fore Street) into at least 2024 with an option to renew its track lease with MaineDOT. That is good news for supporters of the fundraiser Polar Express because it will continue its popular seasonal run.
The announcement also stated that its popular executive director Donnie Carroll, one of the longer serving directors there, will retire from his post this June. A search is currently underway to replace him and it is hoped a decision will be made in early May.
According to a spokesperson for the Portland Foreside management team, CPB2 several months, ago it had guaranteed the “two-footers” a location to comply with its agreement with the Maine DOT that it could use the tracks at a bargain price until 2024 and perhaps beyond. The announcement did not say in which building at Portland Foreside the Museum will be located, although it is presumed not in the same building where it currently resides. That had been slated to be a new luxury hotel by West Elm, unless those plans have changed as well.
Significantly, mIssing from today’s announcement is any reference to the Museum’s over six year effort to relocate to a large parcel of wooded land behind the shopping center in Gray – the town in which Carroll lives – incidentally. As recently as last fall, negotiations with the shopping center owner, Dan Craffey, were underway to buy the property. But as Carroll once acknowledged, it was an expensive piece of property. Craffey, of Casco, also owned a marina in the area.
Carroll, a former state legislator with med tech experience, has spent much of his almost five year tenure at the Museum, looking everywhere for funding to make the move up to Gray from Portland. Back in 2016, Gray offered a grant to the Museum, but voters were required to make the final decision in a referendum. They did not approve the grant, a major financial setback for the Museum. The grant money was to have assist in preparing the Gray property for the two-footers arrival there.
The omission of any mention of this transaction may signal that the two parties have not come to mutually agreeable terms for the relocation to Gray. The proposed relocation of the Museum to Gray and the construction of a state-of-the-art Museum, designed by architect Paul Stevens, was estimated to cost many, many millions of dollars – a figure the Museum kept downsizing.
Prior to the almost five year tenure of Carroll as executive director, the mini-railroad was handicapped by short serving executive directors. Carroll’s tenure brought stability and civility to a non-profit severely in need of those characteristics. These historic cars were previously part of the Edaville Railroad, South Carver, Massachusetts that were transported to Portland in 1993 by a convey of all volunteer antique trucks owned by the late Irv Bickford and many of his friends.
For more background information, please see post dated November 24, 2017 as well as numerous previous posts on the subject.