Tiny workers unload cargo on the platform of a 1950s-era Greenport Railroad Station.
Trees dot the brick-lined walkway of a miniature replica of Love Lane in Mattituck, back when the Capital One building still bore the North Fork Bank sign.
A tiny replica of Riverhead’s Polish Hall boasts an even tinier Polish Eagle emblem on its front, with its trademark red-and-white awnings lining the sides of the building.
The sprawling diorama of some of the North Fork’s most iconic buildings and locations is the result of decades of loving work and care, much of it carried out by local hobbyists at the Railroad Museum of Long Island in Greenport.
“We wanted to represent the North Fork with everything that makes this place so special and important,” said George Summers, volunteer coordinator at the museum and pastor of the Advent Lutheran Church in Mattituck.
The diorama found its beginnings about 20 years ago, when a local railroad modeling association built a replica of the Greenport Railroad Station and its surrounding buildings and streets from the mid-20th century. It even includes a miniature depiction of the ferry to Shelter Island and a replica of a nearby water tower, which has since been torn down.
“A few years ago, a few of us decided we wanted to add to it,” Summers said.
Over the past three years, Summers and a small group of volunteers have worked painstakingly on doubling the size of the diorama with a more modern depiction of the rest of the North Fork.
There is obviously not enough space for them to build the entire region to scale, so the group has decided to focus on a handful of well-known locations, including Mattituck’s Love Lane and the area around Greenport’s sister railroad museum in Riverhead.
He plans to add Southold’s Main Road across the street from the strip of Love Lane to marry the two locations.
One area of the diorama, which includes a fictional vineyard, a farm stand and a newly-planted pumpkin patch, has been created to symbolize the North Fork’s thriving agri-tourism economy.
“You have to make some poetic adjustments,” Summers said.
And of course, railroad tracks wind throughout the entire scene with detailed model trains traveling over them, tying everything together — and delighting youngsters of all ages.
Most of the replicas are constructed from scratch by Summers, who carefully studies photos of the buildings before he creates his tiny replicas with some matte board and an exacto-knife.
He often needs to get creative to replicate every last detail, slicing up strips of construction paper and drawing small lines on them for shingles and roofing – even printing out very small images of real signs on buildings.
It can take up to three months for him to construct a single building, like the replica of Polish Hall, which he just finished this week.
“The skill is to try and figure out how to make things,” Summers said. Pointing to some tufts of beach grass, he said, “This is some old pieces of twine.”
Though impressive to look at, the diorama is far from finished. In addition to adding buildings from Southold Village, Summers wants to create a replica of the Riverhead water tower.
Check out some more photos of the miniature North Fork below. The tiny vehicles throughout the replica are about the size of Hot Wheels cars.
The museum in Greenport will reopen for the season on Memorial Day Weekend.
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Katie Blasl
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