Chamber members are taking special pleasure in the new Oyster Bay Rail Road Museum. Former chair of the Downtown Redevelopment Committee Robbie Hallock said the centerpiece of the museum came to town as a result of their work with the town and then Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Lew Yevoli.
He explained the chamber's participation as Mr. Ben Jankowski of the Friend of Locomotive 35 Restoration Committee, who, under the auspices of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, are creating the proposed railroad museum, concluded his talk to the chamber.
Robbie Hallock said the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce deserves a lot of credit for bringing Number 35 to Oyster Bay. In 1994, the chamber, working with then Senator Ralph Marino, the Town of Oyster Bay, and Friends of the Bay's then-Executive Director Mike Deering, were aware that the railroad needed an environmental cleanup. "We saw it as an opportunity to open the downtown area to the waterfront. Then Supervisor Lew Yevoli was aware that number 35 needed a home and brought it to our attention to have it as a piece of historic memorabilia along with the last turntable on Long Island," he said.
The chamber paid for the Saccardi and Schiff study, to create waterfront access from downtown, by moving the yard west and adding more commercial space closer to the waterfront. It was received on Jan. 6, 1995. He said they hoped the LIRR could change the rail yard but unfortunately, the LIRR added a cab car to their trains and they became 85 ft. long - too long for the proposed location. The LIRR had at that time proposed to turn the station over to the chamber for an office and as a location for a police booth.
The chamber started their planning in 1994. He said a chamber person saw the LIRR turntable being dismantled and got the work stopped and saved it.
Robbie said, "A lot of people thought the chamber was doing nothing, but we were doing it, sitting down with Lew Yevoli, making plans for what is coming to fruition now. From five years ago to now - it takes a long time."
Tom Kuehhas, director of the Oyster Bay Historical Society credited Dick Keppeler, chief conservator for the Museums of Nassau County, for giving the first letter to Supervisor Lew Yevoli with information about Locomotive 35.
"It really is an example, that it takes a long time for things to happen," said Claire Bellerjeau.
"It's like garbage and parking," quipped Barbara Hadel, former chamber president. She said when Senator Marino lost his title of Republican Majority Leader and left the senate, the progress they had made was lost. His connections had been a great help with the downtown revitalization but without him, they had to start over again.
Railroad Museum Presentation
Representatives from the new Oyster Bay Railroad Museum site and Friends of Locomotive #35 spoke before Robbie Hallock did. Ben Jankowski, a resident of Oyster Bay and a LIRR conductor for 19 years said they plan to be located in Oyster Bay in the late quarter of year 2000 or early 2001 and Cathy Manning of the Friends of Locomotive #35 sees a great future for the museum.
The museum will run under the auspices of the Oyster Bay Historical Society. Richard Kappeler, chief conservator for the Nassau County Museums is the curator and conservator for the OBHS. Mr. Kappeler and Tom Kuehhas, director of the OBHS are currently formulating a collection policy for the museum.
"It was Mr. Kappeler's idea, in 1992, to bring Locomotive #35 here and has been involved in the process since then," said Mr. Kuehhas. The collection policy will include the rolling stock.
"There is not a single museum like this around New York City," Ben Jankowski said. It will specialize in trains used by the LIRR. Locomotive #35 is their centerpiece. The last time it was used was in 1955. The Friends of Locomotive # 35 are restoring her.
Mr. Jankowski and Ms. Manning showed a drawing of the employee welfare facility (for their lockers) the LIRR plans to build south of the future OB RR Museum.
"We still need a repair facility," said Mr. .Jankowski. "We are investigating nearby buildings, but none are available at this time." They know from other train museums that the public enjoys seeing actual restoration work in progress.
The group is looking for funding from the federal government and are applying for an Intermodal Transportation Grant, formerly called Ice Tea grants, they are now TA-21s. "Most museums tap into that," he said. The initial seed money will be used to renovate the station and the turntable. They hope to get about one-third from the federal government.
"The key is presentation and political support," he said. "Without political support, we can't get the full amount we need." They are also ID-ing grants and endowments.
"This is one project that is good for the community. Look at Sagamore Hill and the waterfront development - there is a synergy going on - to make Oyster Bay a destination location! Day trippers will be coming to pet something in the aquatic tank, buy a gift, have dinner. They will be saying, 'what a nice town this is.' We see ourselves as part of a viable project," said Mr. Jankowski.
Cathy Manning gave an overview of the history of the Friends of Locomotive Number 35, which incorporated in 1995. She said the Danbury Railroad Museum in Connecticut started with rolling stock from the northeast. Although they put out a minimal amount of publicity, in 1999 they attracted 183,000 visitors and had 12 special events during the year. If each patron spent $10, she said, that comes to about $1,830,000!