Construction begins on new Greenport Express station

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The Greenport Express is gaining momentum.

On October 15, the Rotary Club of Greenport held a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off construction of a station for the miniature railroad it is building to revive a historic Greenport tradition.

From 1985 to 2012, Greenport resident Frank Field took the public on a miniature railroad he built near his home. Like many Greenport residents, Rotary members have fond memories of taking their children and grandchildren to ride the Frank Field train, and for several years the club worked in partnership with the Village of Greenport to build a new railway in the woods near Moore’s Lane. .

“As a Rotary club, we want to try to promote and maintain the traditions that have made Greenport a special place to live,” says Richard Israel, who chairs Rotary’s train committee.

The children of Israel grew up on the train, especially on Halloween. “Everyone was doing sleight of hand tricks and then taking a ‘scary’ ride on the train afterwards.”

The railroad revival project was started by the late Joe Cherepowich, a longtime Rotarian who had fond memories of taking his grandchildren to ride the Frank Field train on Sundays.

Rotary supports the Greenport Express

Cherepowich “was very active in the community of Greenport, always trying to make it a better place any way he could,” says his daughter, Heather Walker. “He believed bringing back the model railway would provide families of all ages with a fun activity in our village for generations to come.”

The train was nicknamed the Joe Cherry Choo Choo in honor of Cherepowich, who died three years ago of pancreatic cancer.

Walker, a Rotarian, is helping move her dad’s project forward and is thrilled to see him take the next step after many challenges, including a lengthy approval process and, since the pandemic began, rising material costs, limited worker access and a longer than normal wait for supplies.

“We’ve had a few bumps, especially with COVID-19, but our incredible group of Rotarians never stopped having fun,” says Walker. “We are getting closer to the finish line.

Approvals were obtained from the Department of Environmental and Village Conservation, the train locomotive and three passenger cars were acquired and restored, the railway track and sleepers were secured, the path was cleared and the station was designed.

Greenport Express is a community effort

“The community as a whole has rallied to support this project,” Israel says. “There’s a huge list of people asking what they can do. People donated money, railway sleepers and stones. An electrician offered to do all the wiring in the building.

The next steps for Rotary are to build the station, lay tracks and continue fundraising. According to Israel, Rotary still needs to raise $250,000. But two donors recently offered to match donations up to $125,000, doubling the impact of donations up to that amount.

“So now we only have to raise $125,000 to reach our goal,” Israel says.

Rotary is also looking for volunteers from various trades, such as carpenters and plumbers, to help build Greenport Express.

Greenport Express
All aboard the Greenport Express!

After Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony, the plan was to start digging the foundation Monday for the station, where people will buy tickets and board the train. The station will be around 2,000 square feet and will include a community hall, which Israel says can be used for various exhibitions and educational programs, as well as storage space for the train and public restrooms.

“The station is near ball fields and a skate park, and there are no toilets nearby, so we are happy to be able to provide them,” Israel notes. “When Rotary was founded in Chicago in 1905, one of its first projects was to build public restrooms. So that struck a chord with us Rotarians.

The railroad will serve as a family attraction to draw people to Greenport, similar to the village’s famous antique carousel, Israel said.

“It will eventually be self-funding through ticket sales and it won’t cost the village anything,” he adds.

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