At the turn of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt would ride an iron horse from his beloved Oyster Bay home to wherever his political career took him.
Powering and pulling Roosevelt’s train from the head was a steam locomotive with a whistle and large bell. At the end would be a caboose with a railing and platform so passengers could enjoy fresh air. Although that railroad technology has been retired, Long Islanders are still able to enjoy it, thanks to the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum.
The museum’s visitors center features a genuine locomotive bell taken from Locomotive 35, a steam-powered engine that once sat at Eisenhower Park, and an old desk featuring all of the tools that a historic train dispatcher would use, including a telegraph key and a typewriter. There is also an interactive diorama that looks and sounds like an early 20th-century rail town.
It’s already quite the experience, but the museum’s staff is looking to give the public much more. Locomotive 35, which is in the museum’s train yard nearby, is to be restored so it will operate at the museum.
When the restoration project begins, students from the Joseph M. Barry Career and Technical Educational Center in Westbury will help, an experience that Oyster Bay Railroad Museum chairman Ben Jankowski says could help them land engineering jobs.
Once the locomotive is operational, guests will be able to board it, and be driven onto a turntable, a device operators once needed to turn the engine around.
Although an exact date for the locomotive’s restoration isn’t set yet, the turntable is expected to start functioning this spring. Jankowski, who is also a recent retiree from the Long Island Rail Road, said it turns slow enough that people will be able to experience the turntable just by sitting on it.
When the the restoration is complete, said Jankowski, “People will be able to see a real steam locomotive. You’d have leave New York to see that before.”
The museum has an even larger project in the works. Across the parking lot from the museum visitors center is the historic Oyster Bay train station, which is currently being renovated and will eventually become the new visitors center.
Museum president John Specce said the project would be completed sometime in 2014.
The museum, at 102 Audrey Ave., is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. during the winter. The hours are expanded during the warmer months.