Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Swiss Flats Railway Storage Station

After many months of collaboration, Alberto Viramontes and Tom completed their work on a custom cabinet for a railroad engineer who collects model trains. 
The Story
"I am Jan Zweertz, 'General Manager' (GM) of the mythical Swiss Flats Railway (a large scale model railroad). This train storage project is a collaboration of two craftsmen and my wife Rae, the 'Zoning Commissioner' (ZC) and me. Ongoing discussions over a period of 3 years between the GM and ZC concerning the clutter of rail cars and locomotives on top of every horizontal surface of our home lead to  the ZC requesting a piece of fine furniture that would fit behind the couch and which would include a top surface completely devoid of train-related stuff. With these constraints in mind, I sketched, and then modeled in 3-D foam core, the basic concept of an old world train station with cobblestone platforms, canopy roof and a double level double track with storage arches below. The look of the interior arches came from a photo of a Swiss tunnel entrance. The center pillared canopy is based on a composite of old drawings and photos from my RR book collection.

Collaborators in this project were Alberto Viramontes of Hood River, Tom Herrera of Mosier and Split-Jaw Products of Portland. Cross Cut Hardwoods of Portland was the wood supplier.

Alberto is a long-time family friend who made many frames for my late father's paintings, fine wood shelves for my late mother's art supplies as well as a very nice disc storage cabinet for our home. Tom Herrera is also a family friend who collaborated with my late mother when I commissioned a steel coffee table with glass mosaic top over a decade ago. Tom is an artistic metal craftsman who enjoys a challenge. He designed and fabricated the steel framework that ties the whole piece together.

I picked out hardwoods from Cross Cuts which included African leopard wood because its pebbly grain looks like cobblestones. African kopek wood was selected for the look of a reddish canopy and American red oak was chosen for the base arches.

Split-Jaw Products is a small, locally-owned manufacturer that produces and markets large scale rail products worldwide and does custom work using the CNC milling machine. They routed the stainless steel rail into the leopard wood after pre-testing a small piece in order to prevent damage to tools normally used to route hard plastic.

Alberto, Tom and I met several times over many months to figure out the look and feel of the piece and the best way to execute the work. Alberto did a great job of joining all the wood. The wood that looked good to my layman's eye had to be milled extensively and, therefore, made interior dimensions tighter than the original plans.

Zoning Commission Rae and General Manager Jan now have a solid, beautifully made Storage Station for the Trains of the Swiss Flats Railway which we hope to enjoy for many years thanks to the wonderful collaboration of Alberto Viramontes and Tom Herrera."

Alberto Viramontes and Tom Herrera

Junior and I never saw the finished train storage station
but we would have enjoyed that tunnel!
Looks like a great place to find mice!

Enjoying one of our favorite activities together.
As you can see, Junior isn't too 'junior' anymore.