Steve Smith, president of the Friends of the Tehachapi Depot.

Like many entertainment venues and events, the Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum was forced to close its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Last week, the Friends of the Tehachapi Depot announced the museum will reopen as of April 10, and will feature a president, curator Steve Smith, who will take over the reins from outgoing president Tim Trujillo on April 1, the beginning of its fiscal year.

"We’ve been saddened during this COVID year to not be able to be open and we really miss the human interactions with our volunteers and our visitors. Now that we’ve got COVID on the run, we’ll be reopening soon and the future of the Depot Museum is very bright," said Trujillo, who served as president from 2011-21.

This is the first time Smith has been elected to serve on the board. He became a docent in 2017.

"One of the responsibilities that I had, and that I still have, is to be in charge of Depot publicity and training of our docents," Smith said.

In addition, Smith, along with a group of docents, formed a curator committee, which heads and performs research and updates exhibits.

"We started a process of formally cataloguing our belongings and artifacts, which will be a multiyear process," Smith said.

One of the Depot's ongoing concerns is for the safety and well-being of the public and its volunteers. According to Smith, the board has developed a comprehensive plan to provide personal protective equipment, supplies and procedures to keep everyone as safe as possible when they are in the Depot.

"We are anxious to open up again," Smith said.

Said Trujillo of the new president, "Steve is highly qualified to take on this role. His strong background, including his education, work experience, and proven work as an FOTD director, give him all the tools needed to be our next leader."

Trujillo said that operating the all-volunteer organization has been a very exciting and enriching experience.

"Our community is blessed with such a wonderful population of people willing to devote themselves to Friends of the Tehachapi Depot and to other similar local enterprises," Trujillo said.

During his years as FOTD president, Trujillo said, he has been fortunate to be supported by an outstanding board of directors who have given so much of their time and energy to make the Railroad Museum a great place to visit.

"We’ve been able to continuously improve the visitor experience over time and our venue has become a highly respected and sought-out destination," Trujillo said. "I’m confident that with Steve Smith at the helm, that we’ll continue to consistently improve our collection of artifacts and our operating processes."

Trujillo plans to turn more of his attention to his counseling practice, and will remain active as a board adviser.

For more information, call the Tehachapi Railroad Depot Museum at 823-1100.