Thursday, August 2, 2012

Salem man is building bridges with scale model train hobby turned business

From Statesman Journal:  Salem man is building bridges with scale model train hobby turned business

Johnny Hanson
Preparations are being made, in a backyard 2,100 miles away, to install a 10-foot-long replica of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The bridge was made by Johnny Hanson of West Salem, and his craftsmanship will be on display during the upcoming 2012 National Garden Railway Convention in the Chicago area.

“I hope more people see what I do,” Hanson said. “Right now it’s only been word of mouth.”

That’s how I learned about Hanson and his hobby-turned-side-business. A source from one of my recent columns lives in the neighborhood, had seen some of his handiwork, and thought I might be interested in his story. She was right.

Hanson makes custom bridges for G scale train enthusiasts. G scale is a scale for model railways and, because of its size and durability, often is used outdoors. They call these installations garden railways.

If you’ve ever visited The Oregon Garden in Silverton, you might have seen Hanson’s work. He donated the bridge that is part of the train garden there.

Hanson has been building these bridges since around 2006. He initially learned how to make them through a fabricator he became acquainted with while working for Industrial Welding Supply.

“It started out as something to do,” Hanson said, “and the hobby got out of hand.”

The hobby did help him heal during a difficult time when he lost his parents and brother in a span of a couple of years.

“I just crawled in the shop and started building these things,” he said. “It was my space.”

Hanson taught himself to weld years ago while working as a mechanic on a dairy farm in California. After moving to Salem in 1993, he took a couple of summer classes at Chemeketa Community College.

He’s not a professional welder — he’s a mechanic for Emory & Sons Construction — but prides himself in his craftsmanship and attention to detail.

All the welds on his bridges are ground down to look smooth. And if you look down a row of beams on one of his bridges, or a row of cables, you can see the perfection.

“It’s his artistic eye, that’s what makes them different,” wife Eileen said.


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