Boothbay Railway Village

BRV closed for season, but not for opportunity

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 12:45pm

    Boothbay Railway Village will not open this summer. BRV’s board of directors held off on deciding as long as it could, changing scenarios to reflect Gov. Janet Mills’ latest COVID-19 guidelines.

    The final decision was made at the May 21 board meeting. “Ultimately, not opening was what was feasible. We aren’t blessed with easy options here – just the design of our facility; a lot of our buildings are small, our restrooms are small ...,” explained BRV Director of Operations Steve Markowitz. “Our staff is in the high risk group – and we’d have had to hire additional staff to meet the guidelines.”

    “In April we started hearing about a lot of events being canceled, including Windjammer Days ... bus tours were canceling … part of our annual budget is based on admissions,” said Board President Charlie Bamberg. “But, we are going to protect three events this year.”

    Those events are the Fall Foliage Festival (the major fundraiser for the Boothbay Information Center) over Columbus Day weekend and the North Pole Express in late November and December. The board has also committed the Village to being the venue for the Boothbay Charities Classic to benefit Special Olympics Maine in late September, if it is held.

    “These things can change, but right now the board is committed to that. And we have funding for deferred maintenance that got deferred in 2018 – but now we’re back on track,” said Bamburg, a self-professed meat and potatoes man who doesn’t sleep to New Age waves. “The staff can take advantage of the summer weather to take on projects. We aren’t rolling up shop; we are going to be improving our product.”

    This summer, the plan is maintenance and sprucing up. Projects include replacing roofs on the barn and Harrington House; repairing, scraping and painting the Village buildings, which are exhibits in themselves, freshening up the gardens; mowing the grounds, washing and waxing the antique cars; and reorganizing and rearranging the exhibits.

    Model train buffs could work with staff members servicing the model trains, assist with the planned extension to the model train building, renamed the Ron Spinney Building in 2019 in honor of Spinney, BRV’s first hire. He was deeply involved with the development of the exhibit and was a big model train fan.

    BRV has been interested in expanding capabilities to service other people’s model trains, being a resource for model train owners,  and getting supplies for its own layouts.

    “We have people who are redesigning the front of the Ron Spinney Building to accommodate a repair shop and resource room,” Markowitz said. “There’s never a dull moment at the Village!”

    “We want volunteers to come aboard and help out with their favorite exhibit, share their expertise,” said Bamberg. “It’s called Adopt A Project. We will give them what they need to complete the project of their choosing.”

    And if you love history and writing, you might want to research and write about the buildings housing the exhibits or about the antique cars. For example, did you know the antique car museum has the Series 75, seven-passenger limo that reputedly belonged to Thomas Edison’s second wife.

    Ever dreamed of working on the railroad? Or maybe just one of the cars or coaches? A restoration project is happening with BRV’s 1900s combo rolling post office (an RPO) and coach #11 – the last remaining combo of the narrow gauge railroads in New England.

    BRV will hire an education director and curator this summer. One of the job’s major tasks will be cataloging the collections.

    BRV’s new marketing director Lori Reynolds, founder of Boothbay Region Harbor Fest, has worked with an events team to develop events based on Maine’s Bicentennial (partly funded by a Maine 200 grant Reynolds wrote) – to be celebrated in 2021 due to COVID-19.  A bicentennial-related exhibit will be featured  in each building - such as a specific piece of furniture in the Harrington House or a spinning wheel or carriage in the barn.

    Next season will kick off on the Fourth of July 2021 with Olde Village Days. “We’ll have an old time fair, games, reenactments, a dunk tank ... and so much more,” Reynolds said. “The event will last for one week with live exhibits, art, music, food, antique train and car rides, a Maine history themed scavenger hunt, and a parade.”

    Other new events scheduled for 2021: Campfires, Cocktails and Concerts on the Green – a monthly series; Antique Auto Day (July 17): Sock Hop, Soda Pops & Whistle Stops; and Boothbay Harbor Fest Vintage Market. Returning events include Books In Boothbay, Cars & Coffee, Family Harvest Days, and the Father’s Day train.

    Interested in helping out this summer and helping preserve history? Families, individuals and civic groups are all invited to adopt a project!

    Speaking of projects, Reynolds is breathing new life into the Village Store beginning with a new name, the Iron Horse Antique & Village Shops. Reynolds is looking for consignors of vintage goods and antiques, artisans and makers for the shops in 2021. Contact Reynolds at

    ”Be outside. Help restore an exhibit and spend some enjoyable time at the Village this summer,” said Reynolds.

    All aboard!