SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 19, 2013

Train wheel benches grace Danvers Rail Trail

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — You can thank Danvers High senior and Eagle Scout Tim Jordan for those three train wheel benches that appeared along the rail trail earlier this year.

It was Tim, 18, who came up with the idea of using old train wheels and axles as benches to capture the historical essence of the Danvers Rail Trail, which was completed earlier this year.

The base of the benches, which weigh 2,500 pounds each, are made from wheels and axles Tim and his father, Ed, procured from Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway earlier this year.

“These wheels came right off one of those old trains,” Tim said.

With the help of his father, the owner of Metallic Fusion, a high-quality commercial welding company on Mill Street, and others, Tim had the benches built and installed, at no cost to the town, along the Danvers Rail Trail at the end of the summer.

“I think Timmy basically got the idea; he wanted to do something historic for the rail trail,” Ed said.

The effort was part of Tim’s Eagle Scout project, and Ed said his son recently got word that he was officially an Eagle Scout.

Senior Planner Kate Day said Tim came to the Rail Trail Advisory Committee looking to install benches along the rail trail.

In August, when he sent a photo of the completed benches, the committee was floored by how good they looked.

“I don’t think we had any sense how grand his vision was on this,” Day said.

Day said the benches have won rave reviews from users of the 4.3-mile rail trail, with some wondering what the circular black base of the benches are made of. This even sparked speculation on the rail trail’s Facebook page. Others connected with regional rail trails have been swooning over them, Day said.

“To say that we were astonished by the results was an understatement,” Day said. Volunteers, rail trail committee members and fellow Scouts of Troop 16 helped install them.

“Everyone loves them,” Tim said. “All the users of the rail trail want to take pictures with them.”

Tim came up with the idea for a project along the rail trail in May 2012. He and his father batted around ideas.

The inspiration came from walking on the rail trail with his father growing up, exploring the trail at a time when the rails and ties were still down on the abandoned railroad right-of-way, Tim said. The original idea was to set the benches on old rails, but Tim decided that would be too complicated. The heavy benches are buried and staked down.

To procure the wheels, Tim called the manager of the Conway Scenic Railroad, which agreed to sell them “for a very low price.”

“So, we got them, and we used a company called Five Star Towing in Danvers, and they put them on a flatbed, and they brought them all the way from North Conway,” Tim said.

Other Scouts also helped in the process to get the wheels to Danvers.

Jordan and Metallic Fusion helped fabricate the benches. The Scouts helped clean them up, scrape, prime and paint them. Ed did a lot of the hand welding. Scout Leader Joe Pierro, who works for Varian Semiconductor Equipment in Gloucester, helped Tim design them. The two worked on a blueprint using CAD software. The benches took 40 hours over the course of two months to build.

To get the benches in place, Jeff Bunk of Bunky’s Marina in Danversport used a piece of heavy equipment to haul the benches to their locations on Pine Street, Holten and Burroughs streets, and Charter Street.

The experience of building the benches was so important to his son, it even became the basis for his college essay, Ed said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.