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Construction chugs along on schedule at Connellsville's railroad museum

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 5:17 p.m.
Michael Edwards, Fayette Cultural Trust president, looks over plans for the new railroad museum, located on West Crawford Avenue, downtown Connellsville. Siding is being placed on the outside to mimick the original station which was demolished in the 1980s. The inside will boast plenty of room for a cafe, open mic events and the display created by late Harry Clark which was transported from Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Lori C. Padilla/For the Daily Courier

Don't let the frigid weather fool you.

Construction is under way at a heated pace inside the building that will showcase the late Harry Clark's model railroad display in downtown Connellsville.

Pounding hammers and clattering power saws recently greeted visitors to the structure along West Crawford Avenue. A crew from Shallenberger Construction is working at full tilt to finish the building, which will house the Connellsville Canteen, a cafe, as well as the model train display.

The 25- by 50-foot replica features mini Connellsville landmarks, including the B&O Railroad station on Water Street that was torn down amid controversy in the early 1980s. It was purchased from the Clark family by local entrepreneur Terry “Tuffy” Shallenberger, who donated the display to the Fayette County Cultural Trust last summer.

Construction is on schedule, according to Michael Edwards, the Fayette County Cultural Trust president, who also serves as the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority's executive director.

“We are planning a grand opening celebration for May,” Edwards said.

One hurdle remains.

Approximately $300,000 is needed to finish the project. Shallenberger purchased the model train display and has contributed greatly to its design and construction. The cultural trust purchased the lot, which was formerly the site of Burns Drug Store, with grant money obtained from the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

The structure will look similar to the old B&O Railroad station, thanks to design work completed by K-2 Engineering of Uniontown. The cultural trust, working hand-in-hand with Shallenberger, has applied for additional grants and is seeking help from area railroad buffs.

“We are seeking sponsors and welcome donations from local businesses and civic groups,” Edwards said.

Playing up the military aspect of the Connellsville Canteen — local women who fed 500,000 World War II soldiers and sailors who stopped at the B&O station during the war — the trust urges local residents to purchase commemorative dog tags.

Complete with beaded chains, the metal tags range in price from $25 to $500 a pair. More than $2,500 has been raised from the dog tags since they were introduced last fall. They are available at ArtWorks Connellsville Gallery and Learning Center along West Crawford Avenue next to the model railroad museum building.

The model railroad display was the lifelong hobby of Harry Clark of Normalville, who died in November 2011 at 91. Shallenberger initially displayed Clark's masterpiece of railroad history at the Wild Side, which was part of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort of Farmington.

Laura Szepesi is a freelance writer.

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