Another page in the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum was turned on Friday, Feb. 18 at 11 a.m. as title to the former Long Island Railroad Station was officially turned over to the Town of Oyster Bay in a brief ceremony. The event, sponsored by Knockout Pest Control Corp. and the Friends of Locomotive #35 Inc., was held to commemorate the "turning over of the keys" to the station enabling the continued formation of what will soon become the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum.
Arthur M. Katz, president of Knockout Pest Control of Uniondale greeted guests and said he has a personal connection to the Oyster Bay line. "I was born in Mineola Hospital, grew up in Albertson and every night, at 6:15 p.m. waited for the Penn Station train bringing my dad home." He said the quality of life living on Long Island taught him the value of giving back to the community. "It is the not-for-profits that make Long Island so great." He said the partnership between "the not for profit, industry and government working together is the greatest model we have."
Mr. Katz, a leading expert in bird control, recently became aware of the hazardous and unhealthy conditions present at the historical station and offered to remedy the situation by bird proofing the building. "We hope Knockout is setting an example for other businesses and to bring attention to the station's much needed future influx of cash and service."
LIRR President James Dermoty presented the key to the building to Supervisor Venditto saying, "What we are doing here is preserving a little bit of history: the history of the LIRR and its importance to Oyster Bay and Nassau County."
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, in accepting the symbolic key to the station from LIRR President James J. Dermody, stressed the importance of preserving the history of the hamlet. He said, "The personality of this beautiful hamlet and the personality of this township is grounded in our history. It is a very colorful and glorious history we share in the town of Oyster Bay. As sure as we are standing and sitting here, if we ever lose that contact with our history and what got us here, we will diminish the personality and quality of life we enjoy here in this beautiful township." He thanked President Dermody for the honor of accepting the key on behalf of town residents and Mr. Katz and the Station Restoration Committee for their preservation work.
The railroad museum will be under the auspices of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, and Director Thomas Kuehhas said, "A number of groups are currently working together to create a railroad museum here in Oyster Bay that will be housed in and about the Oyster Bay Rail Road Station. Joining forces to make the Oyster Bay Rail Road Museum a reality are the Town of Oyster Bay, the LIRR, the OBHS, the Friends of Locomotive #35, and the Station Restoration Committee." He said the location for the museum was perfect. "It is the last stop on the Oyster Bay branch, and it is one of the few stations left with an existing turntable.
"This historic station house which saw Theodore Roosevelt off and welcomed him back countless times will now be leased to the Town of Oyster Bay with Locomotive #35 here in the yard, albeit in pieces, all the major elements are in place. Rolling stock such as cabooses and passenger cars will also be on display; and informational exhibits will be housed in this old train station, which should make Oyster Bay an even more popular destination for train and history buffs in the near future. We are currently awaiting national register status for the station and turntable. The grant process should be much easier once they are landmarked.
"Much has been done; but as you can see, much more needs doing before the railroad museum becomes a reality. It will take an unprecedented level of cooperation between the friends the historical society and the town and the rail road for this project to be realized. It is up to those of us gathered here to make this happen," said Mr. Kuehhas.
Retired Oyster Bay Branch Manager Dave Morrison, chairman of the Station Restoration Committee, took the moment to thank committee member Marie Knight, calling her a pillar of the community. "One person in particular has helped us an awful lot in getting some of the wealthier people to dig deeper into their pockets and come up with the money and you need a person like that, Marie Knight." He added "She has given us a nice shot in the arm and once in awhile she gives us a shot in the head when we need it, but we are very grateful to her and to working with her in the future." Mr. Morrison introduced Jim Foote, TR impersonator.
Using the same voice quality of the president he said, "Roosevelt loved this community in fact he wrote his son Archie when he was getting ready to leave the White House, said, 'Fond as I am of the White House, and though I much appreciate my years in it there isn't any place in the world like home, like Sagamore Hill. There can be no more healthier or pleasanter place in which to bring up small children than Sagamore.' And what surrounds Sagamore? It's Oyster Bay," said Mr. Foote in the words of the 26th president.
Then he and Mr. Morrison presented Mr. Katz with a certificate of thanks on behalf of the Friends of Locomotive # 35, signed by Steve Torborg, president of the Friends.
Mr. Katz introduced the Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams representing the Uniondale area, who thanked Knockout Pest Control, "for helping to restore something historic to ensure that those who come after us will appreciate what we have."
NYS Assemblyman Chuck Lavine said, "If we want someday to be considered part of history, and we do, if not, what are we doing here today - we have to respect our history." He showed his appreciation of history saying this station was where diplomats from Russia and Japan traveled to, as Roosevelt sought and did successfully bring to a resolution the Sino-Japanese War in 1905, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mr. Katz concluded the meeting suggesting guests look at the exhibits. The station building itself dates back to the late 19th century and served the Long Island Rail Road until 1999 when commuter access/operations were relocated to the newer facilities just west of the old station building. It is probably best known for having been the home station for Theodore Roosevelt during his presidency. The building underwent several modifications over the years with regard to painting, interior decoration and the eventual removal of the original platform canopies. The actual structure however remained essentially unchanged through all these years preserving much of the original architecture. Since the station was decommissioned by the LIRR, the Friends of Locomotive #35 Inc. have been raising funds and performing work on the building to ensure its stabilization and protection from the elements. Moreover, a professional restoration contractor was hired to clean and restore the original exterior brick and wood moldings to their turn of the century appearance.
The next phase will be to hire an architect to plan the restoration work. The interior of the building shows where the original doors and windows were located. Mr. Morrison, chairman of the Station Restoration Committee, has an extensive collection of photographs that will help the reconstruction. The only piece missing is a photo of the original fireplace inside the station. There is hope that someone will find that necessary photograph in their family collection.
There was great spirit in the station house as railroad themed music played cheerfully in the background as people enjoyed the refreshments. It was cold, but a portable stove was burning to take off the chill of the cold weather. During and following the ceremony, cameras flashed as people recorded the event. Refreshments served as lunch for many of the guests. The museum was already set up with displays depicting the history of the station, Locomotive #35 and the LIRR itself. Displays were also available showing what the completed museum is proposed to look like. All in all, the event was a resounding success.
Anyone interested in viewing photos of the event may do so by going to the following web--site: http://community.webshots.com/album/276845643jlgmxa/0
Anyone interested in a tour of the station, the future museum grounds or any of the stored rolling stock may contact Steven Torborg, president at 516-887-4294. If you are interested in membership information or would like to make a donation, please e-mail us at LIRR35@aol.com or send us a note at: Friends of Locomotive #35 Inc., P.O. Box 335, Oyster Bay, New York 11771