PlaneLoverA380 and all Gentle Forum Members, the Railroad Museum of Long Island has been weathering the storm of 2020. Forced to close in March, we were unable to celebrate our 30th Anniversary or our award of an Absolute Charter from the New York State Education Department. All of our special events and outreach programs had to be cancelled and five of our closest friends and active members were lost to us.
2020 has taken a heavy toll. But we are not to be defeated! Through it all, the active membership of the Railroad Museum of Long Island stepped up to the plate to reimagine our place – and successfully worked to salvage this year at the Museums.
As part of "New York Forward" - Phase I, we were able to open the Riverhead gift shop to the public on June 13th. Museum Members returned the following week to work-sessions on Tuesdays at Riverhead and Wednesday evenings at Greenport. We limited attendance to no more than twenty-five people and everyone wore masks and maintained a distance of six feet unless we had to put many shoulders to the wheel! Work picked up where we left off in March. New exhibits were finished, discovery and cataloguing resumed in the Library. The gift shop came to life and expanded its presence on e-Bay to promote sales to support the Museums - our bills still need to be paid! Slowly, the rhythm and hum of the Railroad Museum of Long Island could be heard again.
We created an Infectious Disease Protocol to guide us in safely opening the Museums and we were ready for Phase IV of “New York Forward” on July 18th when we reopened to the public. There are changes to the experience this year, but nothing that limits a day of railroading at the RMLI. We wear masks and social distance. Visitors follow markings on our floors and don’t move into the next “block” until the folks ahead move out! In accordance with “interactive exhibit guidelines,” we removed the eighty-three accessory buttons from around the Historic Lionel Layout and we don’t open the GP-38 simulator to visitors. Passengers on the G-16 park train are separated from each other by an empty seat and we encourage everyone to wash their hands and use the hand sanitizers we have around the buildings. Our visitors and members have gladly complied with all of the new rules and safety regulations and we have enjoyed an average of fifty-five people visiting the Museums each day we have been open!
Capitalizing on our open space at Riverhead, we erected our big top tent to provide outdoor, open-air distanced dining for our members on work days and exhibit space for visiting train clubs during the month of September. On Columbus Day weekend we utilized our tents to provide open-air distanced space for a mini railroad flea market and swap meet. This not only gave our visitors a chance to experience something more each weekend but it gave our railroading friends and colleagues an opportunity to safely meet and show during these difficult times.
At both Greenport and Riverhead we experienced many new, first-time visitors who have recently moved into our area from New York City and beyond. And a “Tip O’ the Hat” with a hearty THANK YOU to our volunteers who have averaged nineteen members at each Tuesday work session and ten docent-members on each day the Museums have been open to the public.
Sadly, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, we had to cancel our 2020 Holiday Open Houses with Santa at Greenport and Riverhead. For the safety of our visitors and our volunteers we will maintain a lower impact visiting environment with physical distancing and wearing of face masks in effect as our Riverhead Museum site remains open on Saturdays throughout the month of December. Special Holiday admission pricing will be in effect throughout the month.
Along with every organization in America, the RMLI is looking forward to a resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the limitations that we have to endure. We hope for a 2021 that becomes more “normal” with each passing month. We will take it day by day and follow the recommendations and directives of our Health Officials. We wish each and every Forum Member safety and good health during this Holiday Season and into the New Year!