FURNITURE SAVES ‘PIECE OF TRAIN HISTORY’ FROM LANDFILL
There’s a phrase from an American gospel song that captures the spirit of Ryan Richardson’s work. When Richardson hears, “This train is bound for glory,” he thinks of how the reclamation efforts by his company are giving new life to rail cars and preventing some of their materials from reaching landfills.
“For us, we are actually, preserving that historical moment in time where the train gets to move on,” Richardson said.
“For us, we are actually, preserving that historical moment in time where that train gets to move on.”
For wood and other box car materials collected by Boxcar Revival, that new destination may be a home, office, or restaurant in the form of a table, stool, or bar top.
In July, those handmade products came to the market for the first time at Frisco’s Boxcar House. The newly opened furniture store takes up about 2,100 square feet in a converted industrial space in West Frisco.
Richardson’s friend, Zach Carter, his wife, Delisea, and another couple, Freddie and Aspen Van Amburgh, have teamed up on the venture.
“With all of the growth [and] the history of the city with trains in all, we thought this would be the perfect place to open this store,” Delisea Carter said.
Frisco’s railroad heritage was an important connection for Richardson as well.
“It’s one thing to go see a car and take pictures with it and hang out at the museum; it’s quite another to be able to take a piece of train history home,” he said.
CHASING AFTER THE WOOD
Boxcar Revival is not the only company to refashion rail car material into furniture, but Richardson will argue very few, if any, will go through the efforts it does to salvage the wood themselves.
“It’s usually a custom deal where you go to your local craftsman and he’ll make connections to make connections to try to find enough material to build you your table,” Richardson said.
Richardson spent 18 years in the automotive salvage business. When a friend, who also makes furniture, asked him about securing a steady supply of box car wood, Richardson started learning the ins and outs of the railroad industry.
For almost two years, Richardson has cultivated relationships with various people in the railroad and reclamation industries to get access to retired box cars.
“There’s tremendous liability with letting some third party get involved to go after this wood. … So it took a lot of doing to get ourselves in a position to where they trusted us, and we had the proper training and we had the proper safety in place,” Richardson said.
Now, two cross-trained crews — equipped with hand and power tools — travel to sites as far as California, New Jersey, and even Canada for the actual reclamation.
“It’s sometimes challenging to get the material out because the cars are not all put together the same way,” Richardson said.
The oldest car they’ve encountered — dating back to the 1940s — had 5-inch-wide planks of pine while ones from the 1960s had 12-inch planks.
They’ve also found use for other rail car elements in designs such as floor grates, sheet metal, springs, ladders, bells from cabooses, and instrumentation from engines. Those pieces that incorporate two or more elements of the train fall under the company’s Boxcar Limited collection.
About 12 people are employed at the Oklahoma City production facility, where they design and create furniture. Richardson splits time between that facility and taking orders at the Carters’ and Van Amburghs’ Frisco store.
LOOKING AT THE FUTURE
Boxcar Revival’s next challenge will be getting equipped to handle demand created with the opening of Boxcar House.
“[We are] trying to get pieces now into a production format where everybody is working in unison instead of working apart doing what they do,” Richardson said.
“I think this furniture ultimately belongs there because it’s artwork.”
Aspen Van Amburgh
Delisea Carter said she imagines more store locations in the future maybe even in the Dallas Design District.
“I think this furniture ultimately belongs there because it’s artwork,” Aspen Van Amburgh said.
Richardson estimates he has about a year and a half supply of materials. Since supply is based on a number of industry factors, it’s impossible to predict future amounts, he said. But, there’s one thing Richardson does know — it won’t last forever.
“That’s the sad part, but I don’t think about that part,” he said.
Delisea Carter is hoping that’s many years down the road. She said if they get to a point where they can’t offer box car furniture, they’ll find other “one-of-a-kind,” pieces to feature.
“The whole reason we even did this is because it was something completely different that no one else was doing; In the future, it would be same,” she said.
IF YOU GO
Where: 122 Rose Lane, Suite 702, in Frisco
Cost: Prices range from $500-$8,000
More Info: boxcarhouse.com
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