Full steam ahead as anonymous donor rescues Fry Model Railway Museum

 

A 93-YEAR-OLD retired farmer has come to the rescue of Malahide’s famous thatched house, Casino House, and a model railway museum that was recently evicted from its home in the grounds of Malahide Castle in north Dublin.

The unnamed farmer has donated €1.5 million for the purchase and upgrading of the late 17th century building to allow it to house the Fry Model Railway Museum, the contents of which has been in storage since Fingal County Council withdrew the use of facilities in the castle.

As well as funding the new tourist attraction, the farmer is also reported to have contributed €4 million to the local Catholic Church and more than €500,000 to the GAA in Malahide.

To allow the new tourist project to proceed, property developer Gerry Gannon has agreed to sell the landmark house to a newly formed trust for €600,000 and once the legal formalities are completed the trustees plan to refurbish the building and convert it into “one of the most distinctive tourist centres in the country”.

It is also hoped to open a direct access to the adjoining Dart railway station.

The decision to seek an alternative venue in Malahide for the model railway was apparently prompted by an outcry from appalled train and toy enthusiasts who called Joe Duffy’s radio programme last February after The Irish Timesreported that the model railway and Tara’s Palace at the Museum of Childhood had been given notice to quit Malahide Castle. Tara’s Palace has since been relocated to Powerscourt in Co Wicklow, while the railway collection was put into storage in Swords. Dublin Tourism, which owns the model railway, has had several inquiries from companies prepared to house and exhibit the collection.

The trust is hoping to persuade Dublin Tourism to return not only the model railway system but also Tara’s Palace to Malahide once Casino House has been restored and extended.

Mr Gannon, whose companies are in Nama, had obtained planning permission to add an additional 464 sq m (5,000 sq ft) to Casino House to accommodate a restaurant. His company has completed and sold a high-quality apartment development in the grounds of the house, which was built as a shooting lodge for the Talbot family who also owned Malahide Castle. They added a large extension in 1837 and it remained in their ownership until 1927. The house was last thatched in 1976.

Fingal County Council is currently spending more than €10 million on a makeover of Malahide Castle and gardens. The renovation will make way for a new more commercial courtyard with a garden museum and interpretation area, and a shop and restaurant which is expected to be run by Avoca Handweavers.