EAST WINDSOR — The Connecticut Trolley Museum has big plans for a $3.5 million expansion in which it would transform into more of a regional tourist attraction and living history experience rather than just a local destination spot, according to Gina Maria Alimberti, executive director of the museum .
Alimberti on Friday said the goal is to transform the trolley museum into a living history experience on par with Old Sturbridge Village and Plimouth Plantation, both in Massachusetts, and Mystic Seaport on the Connecticut shoreline.
For the expansion, the museum needs $3.5 million, which Alimberti hopes will be obtained through grants, state and town funding, and donations.
The museum, located on 17 acres at 58 North Road with 1½ miles of rail line, has been neglected for years, Alimberti said.
“We’re in the beginning stages,” she said of plans to transform the site. “It’s going to take years for us to raise this money so we’re going to tackle what we can and go from there.”
The museum is the oldest incorporated museum dedicated to electric railroading in the country.
During a Board of Selectman’s meeting last month, Michael Speciale, chairman of the development committee for the museum, listed six components that the museum is currently working on, including:
• Repair/replacement off the rail line
• Renovation of the visitor center
• Trolley car maintenance and restoration
• Upgrading the grounds
• Updating the organizational structure of the museum board
• Creating the visitor experience
According to a pamphlet from the museum outlining the work that needs to be done, the lobby and gift shop in the visitor center needs to be re-configured and plumbing and lighting efficiencies are needed.
Officials want to replace the restoration barn due to its limited capacity and the fact that it can’t be properly heated, which impacts the ability to recruit volunteers. They also want to pave the parking lot, which is currently gravel.
According to the pamphlet, officials are also want to add trained docents, historical re-enactors, and professionally built exhibits, which will require an education department with staff, something the museum does not currently have.
So far, the museum has received multiple grants totaling $200,000 for the purchase of electrical upgrades, safety equipment, trolley car restoration, and more, Alimberti said.
Plus, Alimberti said US Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, is on board with the plans.
She added that the museum’s Development Team has been identifying supporters from the private, corporate, and government sectors that could help with funding.
First Selectman Jason E. Bowsza said the town officials will act as ambassadors for the museum’s expansion plans, including meeting with state and federal leaders as well as looking for grant opportunities.
“I think they are trying to make it more than just trains. They are trying to be able to give more insight on the trolley and train era,” Bowsza said. “They have really kicked it into high gear this year.”
The museum celebrated its 81st anniversary on Sept. 4 with an event showcasing its historic collection.