A visit to the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum offers an opportunity to return in time and experience vintage train equipment.
“The mission of the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum is to heighten public awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the railroad’s role in our heritage and to increase public understanding of rail technology and its impact on Long Island life,” according to its brochure.
Locomotive #35 served as its seed. Employing the 4-6-0-wheel arrangement and specifically designed for commuter passenger service demands, it was able to accelerate large trains from most of the stations on its line. After 27 years of service, it was retired in 1955 and was replaced by more efficient diesel-electric locomotives. Although it was donated to Nassau County and displayed in Salisbury (later Eisenhower) Park), it fell into decay and disrepair and was acquired by the museum in 2006.
“The museum maintains two locations-the historic landmark Presidential Railroad Station, which it operates under an agreement with the Town of Oyster Bay, and the Display Yard, under an agreement with the MTA,” its brochure continues.
Passengers traveled between Long Island stations and Manhattan between 1923 and 1974 in one of the latter facility’s exhibits, the P-54 Class coach, nicknamed “Ping Pong” because it provided a back-and-forth rock and hence rougher ride than the heavier wooden cars that eventually replaced it.
Car #7433, rescued from the scrap yard and now on display, is believed to be the last of its type preserved with original seating and equipment.
A pair of cabooses is also on display.
Class N52 Caboose #12, consisting of a steel frame and a wooded body, was constructed by the American Car and Foundry Company in 1927 at a $17,880 cost, and was subsequently used as sleeping quarters by volunteers of the Shore Line Trolley Museum in Connecticut before the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum acquired it.
Class N22 Caboose #50, built by the International Railway Car Company in 1956 and sporting its original an orange and black paint scheme, is uniquely devoid of the standard cupola or bay window. Appearing more like a box car, it boasts of a post-restoration oak floor.
Two four-wheeled, chain-drive, 25-ton diesel locomotive GS-1 switchers, also on display, shuttled other locomotives and coaches to and from shops between 1958 and the early-2000s. Designated “Dashing Dan” (#397) and “Dashing Dottie” (#398), they were affectionately known as “Dinkys.”
Other exhibits include a 1964 World’s Fair Alco diesel cab and three motormen simulators: an M1 and M7 Electric simulator and a DE/DM diesel one.
Its vintage 1903 turntable, recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, was used to turn steam and, later, diesel locomotives upon arrival in Oyster Bay for the return trip west. It served the Long Island Railroad until the mid-1980s.
The Oyster Bay Railroad Station, constructed in 1889 and located in town ahead of the rail yard, was both a commuter terminal and the eastern terminus for Theodore Roosevelt when he travelled to his Sagamore Hill “Summer White House.” It served as the origin and destination of his frequent trips to Washington, among other destinations.
“Beyond Roosevelt’s usage, the station served faithfully, adapting to the many changes over the years affecting both the Long Island Railroad and the hamlet of Oyster Bay,” according to the museum’s brochure. “Regrettably, over time, the building lost both of its platform canopies and underwent many interior design changes, but it also maintained its charm and unique ornate fixtures. From the inlaid oyster shells and detailed wood roof supports to its dormer and leaded glass windows, the structure has endured the test of time.”
Portions of its original exterior have been fully restored to their original appearance. In 2005, the station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Glimpses of the era can be attained through its interior exhibits. These include an Oyster Bay railroad diorama, a ticket office, a Long Island Railroad map from 1925, a Lionel model train layout, a one-fourth inch scale model of Oyster Bay Station, and “The Parts of a Steam Locomotive” model.
“The Oyster Bay Railroad Museum,” according to its self-description, “was incorporated in 2006 and is comprised of members and volunteers from all walks of life. Men and women of all ages and diverse backgrounds share a common goal-that is, of preserving our local railroad history so that future generations may experience the Long Island Railroad of yesteryear.”
A visit serves to prove that it has achieved its purpose.