leisure 11.21.06

A View to the Bridge

For many years, Broadway set designer Clarke Dunham carried an image around in his head of a large locomotive passing overhead on a high bridge.

One day he realized that the perspective was of a small child looking up and that he was the child: the image was of himself, age three, at the 1939 World's Fair, gazing up at a model train. It's fitting then that Mr. Dunham, with his wife Barbara, are the designers of the model train spectacular, a stage set with trains, installed in the Citigroup Center atrium, Lex and 53rd, from November 24-December 29 (no admission charge).

The couple's creation takes you on an imaginary trip from the meticulously recreated Weehawken train station up the Hudson to the Catskills and ends in a snow scene. Tiny animated people are sawing wood, climbing trees, and running a bulldozer (that's a New York mindset, huh? Even in the holiday scenes, it's out with the old…)

Mr. Dunham kept the position of the three-year-old viewer when he conceived the project. He says, "It's designed for adults and children, there are always two eye levels, the lowest one being two and one-half feet above the ground. Kids don't have to be picked up to see it."

The designer used his experience as a theatrical set designer in creating the magic and solving the technical problems. Trains cunningly appear and disappear while climbing a cleverly configured helical track around a mountain. The use of trains in three scales, with the smallest at the top, guides the viewer's perspective. The higher you go, the more real it gets.

The bridge that Mr. Dunham remembered all those years has been recreated, too.

times square

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