Greenport village residents and officials are looking to raise money to bring back a local attraction that, for many of them, holds fond memories going back decades.
Plans are underway to build a miniature railroad on village property to replace the old Peconic Country Miniature Railroad that stopped operating its trains five years ago, Mayor George Hubbard said at last Thursday’s village board meeting.
The railroad “would be a great thing for the community,” Hubbard said, noting that the old railroad had special significance for residents who grew up riding the trains when they operated out of Third and Webb streets, near the commercial downtown and harbor area.
“Everyone that you speak to remembers it, and we’d like to bring that back,” said Hubbard in an interview Friday, adding the train would provide not just a tourist activity but “a great family event” during the fall.
Greenport resident Frank Field built the railroad in 1985 and offered rides in 13 miniature coach cars pulled by gasoline-powered amusement park versions of diesel engines. But the trains stopped operating in 2012. Field, a retired Long Island Rail Road employee, told Newsday at the time that he no longer had the energy to maintain the train and tracks.
Plans for the new mini-railroad would house it on the edge of 300 acres of village-owned property off Moores Lane. Tentative site layouts include tracks for the operation and an admissions building.
The idea for bringing back a mini-railroad came last fall when Joseph Cherepowich, a member of the Rotary Club of Greenport, contacted the mayor after speaking with Field about restarting the track, Hubbard said. After meeting with other Rotary Club members and people interested in volunteering their time with the trains, Hubbard said the push to restart the ride gained more steam.
Richard Israel, also a member of the Greenport Rotary Club, called the project “a great community effort to keep something alive in Greenport that we all know and have cherished for years.”
The Rotary Club will lead fundraising for the project and purchase materials and install the building, officials said.
While costs for restarting the mini-railroad are still in “rough” stages, Hubbard said, he estimated the project could cost around $300,000.
Israel said the club was moving slowly until members are sure the community fully supports the effort.
Greenport resident Chris Dowling said he missed the trains, adding he once took a Father’s Day ride on the old Peconic Country train with his son.
“He’s been bummed,” Dowling said of his son. “Ever since [their train ride], once or twice a year, he asks me, ‘Is the train ever coming back?’ ”
Ian Wile, another Greenport resident, also recalls riding the miniature trains with his son.
“My son doesn’t fit as well as he used to, but he rode it plenty and it was great memories, so I encourage anything and everything we can do to help with that,” said Wile.