Exactly thirteen months after the initial proposal was submitted to the City of Port Jervis, New York, the new railroad equipment for the Port Jervis Transportation History Center is on track for arrival at the historic Erie turntable site in late summer and early fall of 2021. Operation Toy Train, an all-volunteer non-profit organization that collects toy donations for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Foundation, signed its final agreements with the Outdoor Club of Port Jervis and the City of Port Jervis yesterday to bring its historic railroad equipment to the City-owned property. The new Port Jervis Transportation History Center is the culmination of a joint effort by four local non-profit groups (Operation Toy Train, the Outdoor Club of Port Jervis, the Friends of Port Jervis Art & History, and the Tri-States Railway Preservation Society) to turn the Erie Railroad turntable and surrounding grounds into a publicly accessible attraction and historic site, making it an asset to the surrounding community. Operation Toy Train submitted its initial proposal for the site to the City on June 26, 2020, exactly thirteen months ago yesterday, and extensive planning and collaboration in the intervening year has led to this project finally becoming a reality.
One of the final roadblocks to the History Center was the privately-owned railroad equipment still stored on the site by the prior tenant, whose agreement to use the property expired in early 2009. After several years of negotiations with the City, the owner ultimately removed most of this stored equipment on April 29th, freeing the track space for the arrival of Operation Toy Train’s equipment and the development of the History Center. One privately-owned locomotive remains on site, waiting to be removed by the owner. Over the next several weeks, Operation Toy Train’s historic railroad equipment will begin to arrive in Port Jervis, where volunteers from the organization can start restoration work on the railcars. Among the arriving equipment will be three original Erie Railroad cabooses that operated through Port Jervis from the 1940s through the 1970s, as well as several boxcars specially painted and outfitted for the collection of toy donations during the holiday season. “After over a year of effort, we’re ecstatic to see this project finally coming to fruition,” says Rudy Garbely, a director for Operation Toy Train. “Instead of just organizing a once-a-year regional
Toys for Tots collection event, our group and our historic railroad equipment can now be an asset to the Port Jervis community all year long.” The control house on the historic Erie Railroad turntable, which fell into disrepair under the care of the previous tenant, will be one of the first restoration projects undertaken by Outdoor Club volunteers in the coming weeks. Since only one track in the railyard is connected to the Metro North mainline, the turntable is needed to move railroad equipment onto other tracks in the yard. The fully operational turntable is the largest of its kind surviving east of the Mississippi River. A small locomotive owned by Operation Toy Train will be used to move equipment throughout the yard tracks for restoration and display, and this locomotive will be one of the first pieces of railroad equipment to arrive on site so that it may be used to move the rest of the arriving equipment onto
Operation Toy Train’s volunteers will maintain and restore the railroad equipment on site. Volunteers from the Outdoor Club will maintain the grounds and construct improvements to provide safe pedestrian access to the equipment throughout the railyard, much as the organization has done at several other City-owned parks and properties. Displays and artifacts within the historic railcars will be provided by the Tri-States Railway Historical Society, which currently maintains a small museum in the Youth Community Center on Pike Street. This museum collection will be moved to a permanent home inside a railcar at the turntable site. The Friends of Port Jervis Art & History plan to erect structures on the site that help to tell the story of transportation in Port Jervis and expand the available exhibit and restoration space. Most of the historic railcars in Operation Toy Train’s collection are used to operate an annual toy
collection train each December to benefit the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Foundation. This train provides one of the largest single donations to Toys for Tots in the United States. In just four days, the train typically collects over 25,000 toys, which are then redistributed by the Marines to children in need within the collection areas just in time for Christmas. During the rest of the year, the equipment sits largely idle, making it ideal for public display and historic interpretation at the Port Jervis Transportation History Center.
It is anticipated that the first public event to be held at the new venue will be a “soft opening” and toy collection event during Port Jervis’s annual Christkindlmarkt, scheduled for Sunday, November 28, 2021. Shortly thereafter, some of the railcars will depart from Port Jervis, collecting toy donations throughout northern New Jersey and Orange County, New York before arriving back at the Port Jervis Transportation History Center in mid-December during a special collection event. Details on this event, and the rest of this year’s toy collections, will be released in early September.
For more information or to get involved in the Port Jervis Transportation History Center, visit www.pjthc.org. For information on Operation Toy Train’s Toys for Tots collection operations, visit www.operationtoytrain.org.
-via Press Release