Tehachapi Railroad Depot and Museum returned to the main line Saturday as it reopened after a year-long closure due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The opening marks a resumption of docent-led tours through railroad history.

“It’s so much fun to share our knowledge of the history of railroading in Tehachapi. The town is here because of this history,” said long-time docent Jim Blackburn.

The Depot and Museum are operated by an all-volunteer organization known as the FOTD. These Friends of the Tehachapi Depot maintain a steady number of nearly 250 members, who enjoy spending time as uniformed docents, gift shop cashiers, archivists, researchers and board members. Supported solely by donations, the Depot admission is free and for the next few weeks will be operating on a limited schedule of weekends only. Hopefully by the end of May the museum will return to its normal five-day-a-week schedule. Hours will continue to be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

During the long closure, members worked individually and held many Zoom meetings to help change, refresh and install new exhibits. The Depot was thoroughly cleaned and polished in anticipation of its reopening. Visitors will be asked to follow all current Kern County pandemic guidelines. Social distancing and mask wearing will be enforced in the building.

“The Loop Overlook Project (as originated by the FOTD) is well on its way to becoming a reality,” said FOTD Board President Steve Smith.

An engineering marvel, the Tehachapi Loop brings visitors from around the world to watch as long freight trains cross over themselves and traverse up the Tehachapi mountains. The county of Kern and the city of Tehachapi, along with private corporations and individuals, have raised thousands of dollars for the construction of a safe viewing platform. On-site pedestrian and parking safety upgrades are included in the project plans.