Trekking in Ticonderoga: Local man builds ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’ replica set

TICONDEROGA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — September marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series making its on-air debut.

Just two hours north of Albany, there is a place fulfilling many childhood dreams of being on the original set. It also happens to be the only one of its kind in the country under license by CBS Consumer Product.

People of all ages can experience what it would be like to visit the original set in the 1960s thanks to a super fan’s dedication. The quick trip down memory lane starts in Ticonderoga where many experience something they thought was gone forever.

“It takes me back to my youth,” James Cawley said.

Cawley’s day job is an Elvis impersonator, but he was a Trekkie from his youth.

“I don’t want to convince you that you are on a space ship, but that you’re on a sound stage in 1966,” he explained as he took NEWS10 ABC on a tour.

He started the tour at the magical doors that would swoosh open during the original series.

“NASA called Gene Roddenberry and asked how do you get your doors to open? With a laugh, Gene said, ‘It’s just a man behind the wall pulling on a rope,’” Cawley said.

“We are going to go back in time 50 years,” he continued. “And you’ll see everything the actors see when they were on set.”

Cawley has spent the last 15 years rebuilding the entire sound stage using the original blueprints.

“This was how I lost myself from the real world, the tension of working in show business,” he expressed.

His passion blossomed into detective work by finding rare odds and ends to fill each set. The casual fan will recognize the transporter room, sick bay, and the briefing room.

“It’s pretty magical when they get through this juncture where the corridor starts,” Cawley said. “I see tears, and I feel like I’ve done something special.”

When you enter Captain Kirk’s Quarter’s, you’ll notice the Tribbles are still causing trouble. Cawley added, “I really want to preserve this and want it to be accessible.”

When you watch fans young and old walk through, you’ll see their faces light up.

“It’s amazing to see,” Michael Taddeo, a tourist from Syracuse exclaimed.

What’s more amazing are the details Cawley built into each set. It took him years to find a match for the material Trekkie’s saw in the transporter.

“I was on stage, and I looked at his drums and said, ‘Oh my, your drums are covered with transporter stuff,’ Cawley remembered. “It’s actually drum wrap.”

Even the machinery is built to specs. Complete with the exact controls, knobs, and switches.

“They would make rubber molds of marbles and fill them; pop it out,” Cawley described. “These are corners of ice cube trays.”

Even the bedding in Kirk’s room is custom made to match what viewers saw on TV in the 60’s.  Of course, the center piece of the entire enterprise is the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and the Captain’s chair.

“The leather part of the chair is over 60 years old,” Cawley explained. “It’s a vintage office chair. They pulled the base off of it and built the famous grey cradle and put it in there.”

Cawley found the make and model of that old office chair for his set. On his set tour, it’s treated like a throne.

“When you sit there you feel like, ‘Wow, this is what it’s like to shoot the show and imagine yourself on the ship in space,’” Taddeo said.

It’s a moment fans have dreamed of since childhood, and even as adults, their imaginations take off.

The dollar value of what’s inside the old grocery store converted into a studio is astronomical. Cawley and his friends spent hours looking at screen shots to find props circa 50 years ago.

However, it has become more than just a hobby for Cawley. He’s built a time machine to live long and prosper, reminding people of a sci-fi show that had some important life lessons along the way.

“Look at the cast,” he said. “They were doing things the real world was not doing. Star Trek speaks to so many people for so many reasons, but ultimately, it’s hopeful and optimistic.”

Even Hollywood doesn’t have anything close to what you’ll find in Ticonderoga. History preserved through a show that’s inspired generations.

Tours are offered Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets cost $24.30 for adults, and $11.88 for children.

You can visit http://startrektour.com/general-information/ for more information.

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