Train show will go on at historic New Milford station, but not smaller meetings

NEW MILFORD — The 29th annual toy train show drew onlookers last week at New Milford’s historic train station, but not without some worries about what will come of the event after its home for the past three decades changes hands.

The majority of the Clifford C. Chapin railroad station — currently used as community space for civic events and meetings — will become a gallery for the town Arts Commission in coming months. Abutting Chamber of Commerce offices, and a small Police Department substation, will remain. The Chamber of Commerce previously controlled the community meeting space.

While formal plans are still in the works — the town planner just applied for a use change to the Zoning Commission Wednesday — some events, including the free, hands-on train show will go on.

“We’re going to try to blend with the events that already go on there,” said Diane Dubreuil, Arts Commission chair. A gallery at the train station will be a “cultural center,” she added. “It’s advantageous for us all to work together.”

Adam Weaver, a longtime train display attendee and coordinator who had six tracks running Saturday, said he’s sure he’ll be back next year.

While some annual events, including the train display, will continue, civic groups’ meetings will have to move.

Mayor David Gronbach has said his plan is for nonprofits and private groups to meet elsewhere including the senior center, Town Hall or the library.

As for bigger cultural events at the train station, Dubreuil said the Arts Commission will assess each group hoping to use the space on its merit; events such as the New Milford High School arts show and the train display will likely continue.

Open community meetings such as last month’s Ameresco Solar presentation “would be tough” to hold, she said. It would prove difficult to hand over the keys of the building with several pieces of art on the wall, she added.

When the move plans were announced in August, Gronbach faced backlash from chamber members who said they were “shocked.” The mayor said he was just “putting the town first.”

“Ultimately, this is a change that would benefit the town and support these institutions,” Gronbach said back in August.

blytton@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3411; @bglytton