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LifestyleRecreation

Where to ride steamer trains on Long Island

A member of the Long Island Live Steamers

A member of the Long Island Live Steamers give passengers a ride around the eight acres of track on a electric powered train. The Long Island Live Streamers is a live steam railroad club that provides public run days on the weekends from May thru October in Southaven County Park in Brookhaven. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Everyone gets a seat on these trains.

Passengers both old and young can hop aboard and take a ride on the Long Island Live Steamers pint-size trains, looping through a wooded line at Southaven County Park every other Sunday until mid-October.

An engineer drives the engine, built to one-eighth scale of an average train, tooting the horn as it heads out of the station, which reads "Southaven" on one side and "Jamaica" on the other.

"I was surprised it had little lights," says Caitlin Hopkins, 9, of Mastic Beach, there on the opening weekend.

It seems the parents enjoyed the trains as well, some saying that it brought back memories of when they were little and got model sets for Christmas.

"Sometimes, the parents are smiling bigger than the kid," says Thomas Dunn, president of the not-for-profit organization.

ALL ABOARD!

Get your ticket at the booth, where you may meet Dotty Lindemann. Like everyone else, from those selling T-shirts to the engineers who run the trains, she's a volunteer. There isn't an official admission fee.

"It's suggested donations," Lindemann says, gesturing to a box situated in a way that doesn't betray deposits.

Most of the riders are small kids, from babies to about 10 years old, and their parents, but there are some teens in the mix as well.

"I want to go more!" yells Griffin Schlitz, 2, of Middle Island, jumping up and down after heading off the platform.

That was the cry from many of the little ones. Riders can go on as many times as they want, as long as they go back on the line.

"They didn't have these when I was a kid," says Richard Hayde, 49, of Smithtown, there with his wife, Dorothy, and 3-year-old son, Kenneth. "He was having a ball. He was waving to everybody."

A.J. Heller is celebrating his fourth birthday, going on at least three times.

"It's like seeing that model train come to life," says A.J.'s father, Adam Heller, of Port Jefferson. "We just discovered this place last fall. We didn't even know it existed."

THE TRAINS

On a typical Sunday, the group runs six to eight trains, carrying more than 1,000 passengers on two dedicated tracks that loop through the park. The Blue Line, also called the High Line, is about three feet off the ground.

Southern Pacific Lines and a replica of a Long Island Rail Road car are just some of the trains running the first Sunday of the season.

"The Santa Fe looks just like the one you had as a kid," Dunn says.

Some of the trains are run by gas or propane, while several are built like the old-time steam-engine trains popular in the 1800s.

A manned control tower is opposite the station, with a tower master working the signals and making track changes.

LI LIVE STEAMERS CLUB

The club was started 49 years ago by a "bunch of guys who were into the hobby," Dunn says.

It took several months to lay the track. More track was added later on, expanding to a double loop.

Dunn, an insurance adjuster, notes that people are surprised about how few of the volunteers who drive the trains and do other chores work for a railroad.

"It's the joy of sharing the hobby with others," he says. "It's like having a train set at your house. Only a whole lot bigger."

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