Flood at Danbury Railway Museum could delay ‘Santa Trains’
DANBURY — Flooding at the Danbury Railway Museum has forced the building to close for the next few days and could jeopardize Santa’s visit this weekend.
Six to seven feet of water was discovered in the basement of the museum midday Monday, damaging electrical and mechanical systems. Water has been pumped out, and a contractor was scheduled to evaluate Tuesday whether there is structural damage.
“The flooding in the basement was severe,” Mayor Mark Boughton said.
A broken water line caused the flooding, but it’s unclear whether there was a faulty valve or crack in the main, said Stan Madyda, president of the nonprofit museum. The flooding started Sunday, when the museum was closed due to the storm.
The water did not reach any of the model trains and other memorabilia upstairs.
“None of the artifacts or the collection were damaged,” Madyda said. “Everything on the first floor, the main floor was fine.”
But if power is not restored to the building, the first of a series of “Santa Trains” would need to be postponed.
“It puts us in a real bind if we don’t have any power,” said Tom McCullough, a volunteer with the museum.
At this popular program, children ride a vintage train to visit with St. Nick. The event was planned for the three weekends leading to Christmas and raises money for the nonprofit.
The museum could choose to run the trains on Fridays to make up for any cancellations this weekend, McCullough said. The museum plans to decide Wednesday what it will do.
Held since 2001, the program attracts hundreds of children each year and raises $10,000 to $15,000 for the museum, Madyda said. The first weekend usually has the lowest attendance, he said.
“That’s our lightest weekend as far as attendance goes, so if we do have to cancel or rearrange people for a later date, it's not that bad,” he said.
The museum was closed Tuesday for its regular winter hours, and will be closed Wednesday and Thursday.
The museum rents the building from the city. The city has insurance, but it the cost of repairs was unclear Tuesday afternoon until any structural damage is assessed.
“We don't really have our arms around how much we’re talking about,” Boughton said.
The 1903 train station was turned into a museum in 1994 after Metro-North closed the station the year before, according to the organization’s website. The museum is run by volunteers and relies on donations to preserve antique trains and other equipment.
“Being staffed by volunteers, it makes it difficult for them to be able to respond to this kind of stuff,” Boughton said. “But we’ll work with them to get the building up and running as soon as we can.”
Little was stored in the basement, aside from some old chairs that needed to be tossed, Madyda said. But a computer server and a couple modems kept downstairs will need to be replaced, he said.
“The basement has always been damp, so that’s why we never stored anything down there,” Madyda said.
Water frequently seeped into the basement, and a valve failed a few years ago, he said.
“But nothing like this,” Madyda said.