Bowling Green’s Historic RailPark & Train Museum reopened to the public Thursday after closing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the pandemic, visitors were able to tour five train cars and explore the two-story museum. Now, with guidelines in place to enforce social distancing, the RailPark will operate while conforming to those guidelines.
Executive Director Jamie Johnson said the reopening is part of a four-phase plan, the first phase of which has been getting the facility prepped.
“We’re going to be able to offer train tours to people, we are still going to allow people to wander through our museum and see all of our exhibits and for the most part we can do everything that we were doing before just on a smaller scale,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that instead of the normal-sized tour groups – which are as large as 15 people – the groups will be limited to those who travel together and there will never be more than one group in a train car at once.
Johnson said tour guides will maintain 6 feet of distance between themselves and the groups of visitors. Johnson said the train cars will have a no-touch policy in regard to the artifacts.
Johnson said the museum will remain self-guided and that pre-sale or online tickets are not available at this time.
“What we’ve done is we’ve set up a one way in and one way out for the museum with arrows and paths and signs everywhere so people know where to go,” Johnson said.
One group will be let into the museum at a time and will be given a 15-minute head start before the next group is allowed inside, according to Johnson, who said it will be first-come, first-served to those entering the museum.
“We are also using this first week of being open to gauge what the traffic will be like to know if we need to bring in more volunteers and more staff,” Johnson said.
As of Thursday’s reopening, hours at the RailPark will be Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hours will be reevaluated at the end of the week.
“Our goal is to be open at the times when we would have the highest amount of foot traffic,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the numbers during Thursday’s reopening were less than normal during the travel season, but that the decrease was expected.
“We were very excited to greet our guests on the reopening day,” Johnson said.
RailPark Board President Barry Williams said several small projects were completed while the RailPark was closed, which included cleaning and painting. Williams said Plexiglass will also be installed in the train cars.
“We’ll use all the guidelines that have been established as far as the number of people in a particular area and kept in family groups, which is mostly the way they come to the park,” Williams said.
Williams noted the RailPark depends on patrons’ support to help keep the site in operation. Donations can be made via a link on the Railpark’s website.