Rail Yard Studios

1947

This piece is finished with a ’47 date nail designating the year of manufacture of a crosstie. It has since been scavenged from the railbed and reused to individually number and catalog one of our pieces from Rail Yard Studios.

Since 1947, some things have changed, others remain the same. 

The Yankees are still a perennial championship team and in 1947, they managed a World Series Championship in seven games.

No stranger to controversy in the season rankings even in 1947, the college football season ends with three teams posting perfect unbeaten and untied records. Ultimately Notre Dame got the votes to claim the national championship over Michigan and Penn State. 

And, the 1947 “Chicago” Cardinals won the NFL championship.

The ’47 date nail that graces this piece looks much the same as it did the day it was made, but the tie it had marked is long since decayed and gone.

Oak

Strength and consistency are preeminent characteristics of oak and of the railroad. That’s why oak ties stand out among the species used for crosstie material.

Wooden ties are manufactured from any and all hardwood – hickory, beech, maple, elm. But only oak is singled out among the bundles, which are designated as either oak or mixed hardwoods. 

Oak is a premium product, a necessary luxury . Jack Daniels’ uses only white oak for its barrels.

Finely crafted furniture passed down through the years is often oak, and we prize the species at Rail Yard Studios for its workability.  It cuts cleanly due to its consistent nature, and it has a graining that is subtle yet finely intricate and refined among the hardwoods.

It takes materials “strong as an oak” to get the Rail Yard Studios brand.

Brand

Rails tell stories.

This story begins in the hills of Birmingham, Alabama at the Tennessee Coal & Iron Company Foundry as noted by the TCI CO brand. The 70 AS designates the weight per yard (seventy pounds) and the profile or shape of the rail (AS).

In its day, it was crafted with cutting age technology as the method of manufacturing rail replaced the older Bessemer process. Eight irregular marks tell us it was rolled in August and the 06 dates it to 1906.

During at least some portion of its service life, it most likely was part of the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) rail system.

Ultimately installed in Kentucky, its last point of service was a crosstie manufacturing plant from which we harvested the rail.

And while that could have been the end of the story, it’s only the beginning as it begins its next service as a piece from Rail Yard Studios.

Bend but don’t break. 

Rail is manufactured to be strong and hold straight and true, yet also be flexible enough to bent under tension to traverse hills and navigate curves.

It is also engineered to be reusable, reused and put into service in different places. For that reason, the service life of a rail is a story often lost to history. Sorting it out is like detective work heavy on observation.

The distinctive cant of the head serves as enduring proof that the rails in this piece were once in a curve. This punch (hole) in the back section of rail tell us it came from one end of a 39 foot long piece of steel where it was joined to another piece of rail.  Measure it and the height of the rail will be slightly shorter on the end with the punch where years of freight have pounded the ends down with the flex allowed in the joint.

It served for over 100 years, in heat and in cold, in good times and in bad times.

It bent, but it never broke.

Dome Head

The Rail Yard Studios logo echoes the silhouette of the this dome head drive spike. 

Designed with a sharp spiraling shaft like a massive screw, the dome head makes its appearance on the rail line at timbered crossings. 

Crossties are laid parallel to the rails leaving just enough room for the flange of the wheel to pass by. Then a dome head drive spike securely fastens the two timbers together.

Unlike other screws, dome head drive spikes are driven in with a spiking hammer, and we watch in awe as the head of the shaft twists with each resounding blow that echoes in our ears as the metal sings.   

Mrs. Bowen took all of the love out of the English language for us in 7th grade. 

Red ink flowed freely. 
She took pride in of the number of red Bic pens she would consume over the course of the year like a fighter pilot marking kills on the side of the fuselage. By the end of that year, we all understood that grammar was a dangerous thing that could do harm in the wrong hands.
Mrs. Lowry returned to us our love of English that Mrs. Bowen had stolen. 
The bent little woman twisted into the profile of a question mark was a few months back from a year-long hiatus due to a heart condition when she excused herself from the room - feeling poorly. 
Minutes passed. 
Debate began.
Should we go check on her?
But it’s the ladies room.
Should we inform the office?
Who would be going?
Just as we were certain we needed to go for help, the bent little woman of 80+ years of age burst in wearing a full military regalia and proceeded to regale us with the day’s lesson on A Farewell to Arms.
We aspire to making each of these women proud in the telling of the history behind the materials we use with the Certificates of Authenticity that accompany each piece. 
We think Mrs. Lowry would be proud. Mrs. Bowen would have some corrections.

RAIL YARD STUDIOS | SHOW YOUR WORK

Mr. Womack didn’t teach art, he gave it a stage.

Tucked away in a corner of the campus in a small building, the arts deserved a better and more prominent venue. Over the course of his career, he installed the arts as a central piece of the curriculum and the campus. 

Ours is an art. It is comprised of many different disciplines like math, history and science, but art draws on each of the disciplines in unique ways. Our efforts manifest in the form of furniture crafted like the Knuckle Desk (pictured here) crafted from century old rail.

People tell us they love the history of what we do. That they love the craftsmanship and the designs. 

We enjoy giving our work a stage.

RAIL YARD STUDIOS | SCIENCE

Mr. Novak was infamous for blowing things up and starting fires as our Introduction to Science teacher. In all fairness, we students were responsible, but he was the common denominator.

To his credit, Mr. Novak gave us the opportunity to experiment, and in exchange, we lent ever more credence to his legend. He taught us to never stick our nose over a beaker when using smell to identify its contents – always wave a hand over it toward your face to pull the smell in.

As we selected the finishes for our products, those words came back and we took advantage of measurable qualities like VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) to determine the most eco-friendly stains and finishes. 

At Rail Yard Studios, we go to great lengths to be sure we don’t set any fires or blow anything up, and just to be safe, we wear our ventilators to protect us from the fumes.

Lesson learned, Mr. Novak.

RAIL YARD STUDIOS | HISTORY

Coach Tommy Owen was a legend on the football field, but his day gig was teaching history, and that’s what put Rail Yard Studios in motion.

If only steel could speak, oh the stories it would tell. Much of it has carried livestock, building materials and even loved ones and munitions during wartime. We know where it began its life and where it ended and we do our best to help it tell its own story.

We scour our stock for the rail for the best looking and most interesting brands because those speak to us of when and where the rail was manufactured – in the Carnegie Steel Mills of Pennsylvania or the Tennessee Coal & Iron Company in Birmingham, Alabama. They even tell us the month and year of manufacture. After that, it’s often difficult to say exactly where the could have been other than it’s last point of service which we faithfully document and record on each piece we use.

At the end of the day, we don’t make history, we just make something of it.

RAIL YARD STUDIOS | GEOMETRY

Coach Regen taught geometry and that’s about as close as math gets to art. In fact, we draw on those deeply ingrained and well-learned lesson on complementary angles and how to calculate the distance of the third side of a triangle pretty much every single day at Rail Yard Studios.

Crossties start out at 150 pounds, but a few well-placed perpendicular cuts will knock them down into more manageable pieces. Carefully considered angles shave even more weight, as we shape the sections into the recognizable form of a leg.

The raw edge on a crosstie timber is never square, straight, perpendicular or any other geometry-worthy term implying consistency – unless they’ve added inconsistent or undulating as an official definitive term since we were in school.

Nature just doesn’t age in a straight line, so we wind up having to put one on it. We plane surface flat where we can - places like the undersides of the timber, which won’t be seen. It gives us an edge we makes for a neat and secure assembly.

There’s a decided art in achieving a straight line, and it only sounds simple to define it as the shortest distance between two point.