Those working to renovate the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum began the summer with a keen understanding of the role it is being called upon to preserve the past, and they have a clear vision of how to do that — in particular, a highly anticipated commitment to a campaign to restore the historical presidential landmark railroad station that serves the town.
“We’re all about preserving the history of our community and providing a forum for heightened awareness and understanding of the railroad’s impact on local life,” said John Speece, the president of the railroad board, who is working to raise support for restoration activities. “And we’re all about having fun while doing that.”
Progress can be seen in concrete terms by paying a visit to the station house, now in the midst of a restoration project. And it could be felt at a fundraiser at the Seawanhaka Yacht Club on June 22.
“It was the most successful revenue-producing event in many years that we’ve had, maybe going back as far as 10 years,” said attorney Rob Brusca, who is on the railroad committee. “This will help, for sure.”
Residents are encouraged to drop by to see the exhibition at the museum’s temporary offices on Audrey Avenue, which provides even further evidence of why it’s so important to complete the renovation at the station.
Among the items of interest on view right now is a model of the Oyster Bay depot and yards the way they used to be — including roundhouse, turntable, water tank, coal chutes, and a spur that went down to a dock and offloaded at a short-lived ferry to Connecticut. Additionally, there is a generous exhibition of archival photographs of railroad days, including images from the 1910 station; the 1939 World’s Fair; an experimental Tracked Air Cushion Research Vehicle — referred to as a curtain of air — created by Grumman in 1972; and even trolley photos from Mineola and other areas.
Meanwhile down at the station, several restoration activities are currently viewable from the exterior — including new roof shingles, sparkling copper gutters, and restoration of some of the original windows and doors, including leaded diamond-shaped glass patterns in some of them.
It’s all part of a two-phase, three-year multi-million-dollar restoration plan that will eventually provide not only a renovated station, but complete rebuilding of the station plaza and construction of a display yard, with easy access to Theodore Roosevelt Park and the waterfront.
The monies collected at Seawanhaka will be used for the railroad structure renovations as well as the restoration to Locomotive 25, which was last used in 1955, the final locomotive to run on the Long Island Railroad that was owned by Nassau County.
The Oyster Bay RR station has a distinguished history, according to Speece. Built in 1889 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, it was built by Bradford Lee Gilbert, known as the “inventor of the skyscraper,” and was touted as one of the finest stations in the country when new.
Moreover, it is the very same station that President Theodore Roosevelt used to travel from his home at Sagamore Hill to Washington. “Not only did TR come and go at this station, but dignitaries went through these doors,” he said. “The station was an integral part of the scene during those days, and by restoring it so that families and children can learn about our history, it will continue to be.”
Visit the museum’s offices at 102 Audrey Avenue to find out more.