Maywood Train Station Museum Celebrates 10 Years

Photo by Edward S. Kaminski

Photo by Edward S. Kaminski

On September 21st the Maywood Station Museum will celebrate its 10th year anniversary at its Annual Railroad Day event from noon to 3pm. The museum first opened its doors on September 25, 2004 when it hosted a Grand Opening that was attended by many dignitaries including members of the television and print media; the historical community; U.S. Senators, State Senators; members of the NJ State Assembly, Bergen County Freeholders; the Bergen County Executive; and others. In the last 10 years, the Maywood Station Museum has grown to see an average of 2500 visitors each year during the seven or eight open houses and events that the museum hosts each year between April and December. Admission has been free since its inception and the museum survives solely on visitor donations, sales from items in its gift shop and the hard work of its volunteers. However, for as successful as the museum has been the past ten years, the plight of the station itself has not always been so rosy.

Originally built in 1872, Maywood Station served as a stop on the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad until 1966 when passenger service ended. The station went relatively unused in the 1970’s and began falling into disrepair until 1979 when Maywood’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #7408 leased the station as a meeting hall and performed necessary repairs. The VFW continued to lease the station until 1992 when the station once again began to fall into disrepair as the railroad searched for a new tenant. By 2002, the station had fallen into such a sad state that the Borough of Maywood signed a demolition order. When it was reported in Janet Hollenbeck’s article in the early May issue of the Our Town Newspaper that the station was threatened, a group of concerned local citizens led by Ed Kaminski united and formed the Maywood Station Historical Committee (MSHC) on May 29, 2002 in an effort to save the historic station, which at the time was the fifth oldest station in the State of New Jersey. On June 20, 2002, the MSHC aligned and became a division of the 501(C)3 non-profit New York, Susquehanna & Western Technical & Historical Society, Inc. and formal fundraising and restoration of the station began. The volunteer restoration continued on by MSHC members for twenty-seven months culminating with the Grand Opening of the Maywood Station Museum on September 25, 2004.

Ed Kaminski, who has been the Director of the MSHC since its inception recalls, “when we started working on the station and shortly afterward realized that our goal of a complete restoration was within grasp, we began discussing the idea of creating a museum. Our initial concern was in stabilizing the building. Once this was accomplished in the summer of 2002, we seemed to gain a thrust and saw that we had an excellent opportunity to create a unique museum like no other in Bergen County.” Kaminski went on to say, “we had a dedicated group of 15 to 20 members meeting each Saturday morning working on the building and having fun doing it. We all felt a sense of accomplishment after each work session and we knew were doing something good, not just for ourselves, but for the community as well.” Kaminski went on further to say, “we had a lot of volunteer help as well from true professionals including our Architect, Thomas Fenniman; George Haag and his crew from Haag Construction; Ed Hazuka and his crew from Hazuka Electric, Tom O’Donovan and his carpentry crew; Kevin Kiefferle and his plumbing expertise; and Henry and Barbara Miller and Steve Tamayne of Maywood Hardware. Without their collective efforts things would have would have likely taken a much more difficult road to achieve our goals.”

All of the work was not going unnoticed either. The restoration was receiving constant attention in the press and the MSHC was being recognized from many different channels. To date, the MSHC has earned thirty-seven different awards, commendations and resolutions ranging from the United States Senate to the highly coveted State of New Jersey Preservation Award. Only sixteen different organizations in the history of the State of New Jersey have ever achieved this award. The MSHC even earned a documentary film award from the Bergen County Division of Historic and Cultural Affairs for its DVD “THE MAYWOOD STATION STORY“, which was produced by MSHC member Matthew Greco, written by MSHC member Ed Kaminski with cover photography and design by MSHC member Robert Pisani. The documentary was narrated by Carl Quintanilla of NBC-TV. In 2010, the book, “MAYWOOD – THE BOROUGH, THE RAILROAD, AND THE STATION” written by Ed Kaminski was released by Arcadia Publishing worldwide and features a full chapter about the restoration and museum.

However, for all the recognition the MSHC has earned, possibly none weighs more to members than the models of the actual Maywood Station that Atlas Model Railroad Company has released worldwide to date in three different scales. MSHC member Kevin Quinn remarked, “the models are the real trophies for us. To see our station available in hobby shops across the world really makes you step back and think what have we done? We really must have put Maywood Station on the map!” MSHC member Kevin McCoy related to what Quinn said and added, “there is also an HO scale model of our restored New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad locomotive #206 that just came out this year and that is pretty cool too.” McCoy was referring to the original 1942-built locomotive on the Maywood Station Museum grounds that was added in 2008 and cosmetically restored by membership. The locomotive as well as the station itself have been now been listed as historic landmarks on the National Register. A caboose was also previously added to the station grounds in 2005 and restored by membership. Today, it contains additional displays and features an operating model train layout, which is a hit with youngsters and oldsters alike at museum open houses. Kaminski chimed in that “the time when Vanity Fair Magazine contracted the Maywood Station Museum for a photo shoot for their November 2006 issue ranks up there in my personal favorites. We had six Grammy Award music recording artists photographed at the museum including Ryan Adams. It was a great time and I have a Fender Stratocaster guitar signed by all of them that I display at the museum from time to time.”

The museum, to no surprise, features a lot of local railroad history, artifacts and photographs. Sprinkled in is some town history to keep things in context. Some is from members own collections like Ed Quinn’s steam whistle, various lanterns and cap badges worn by train conductors from a century ago. A steam engine headlight is lit inside the museum, which is also from Quinn’s collection.

Founding MSHC member Tim Moses noted, “as the restoration was concluding and we were starting to organize items for the museum, members started donating items from their personal collections, myself included. We all started to vision that this would be a great place to showcase some really neat items for all to see. Once the museum opened, visitors started donating items and today, we need to rotate items since we’ve collected so many and we want to keep the visitor experience fresh every time they come to the museum.”

Founding MSHC member Keith Smollin said, “We notice a lot of visitors see certain items or photographs in the museum and it evokes a trip down memory lane for them. Our members enjoy hearing their stories whether it is from their childhood or actual experience on the railroad.”

Founding MSHC member Gus Aversa added, “People come from miles around to visit the museum when it is open. We’ve even had people from around the world who have heard about the museum and when they are in the area, they stop by for a visit. At our June open house earlier this year, we had a visitor from Germany who found out about the museum on a travel site on the internet and said he had to visit when he came for his vacation in New York City.”

The museum is open from April to December each year starting with the Annual Meet the Easter Bunny event and concluding with the Annual Santa at the Maywood Station event. The museum is closed to the public during the winter months. Each year there are open houses and special events, which have included free concerts in the summer months. Founding MSHC member and Treasurer Robert Pisani commented, “we have a great relationship with several Maywood businesses and organizations. Park Ave BMW supports our annual Santa event each year, Park Ave Acura has sponsored our Maywood Station Museum Backyard Free Summer Concert Series; Myron Corp. continues their involvement with our annual holiday ornament; and Moon Doggie Coffee Roasters helps out and serves refreshments and snacks when the museum has larger events.” School class trips and visits by local scouting troops are regularly arranged each year as well.

The current MSHC membership remains stable from age 21 to 76 with approximately twenty-five members pitching in wherever necessary.

Perhaps retired Maywood Police Chief and founding MSHC member Patrick Reynolds sums it up best – “the group has held together since May 2002 against many obstacles and has restored, preserved and maintained a fantastic museum that is like no other in the area that also benefits the community. No Maywood tax dollars are involved, just volunteer members that want to show and keep history alive.”

Happy 10th Anniversary, Maywood Station Museum!

Visit the Station’s website at http://www.maywoodstation.com/index.html

Peace, love, toodles.

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