Lucin Cutoff Railroad Trestle
Once the wood salvaged from the trestle reaches the shore, it typically requires some processing, or remanufacturing, before it can be sold. When Trestlewood started salvaging trestle materials, it did not picture itself doing much remanufacturing. After all, it had over 30 million board feet of wood to deal with (approximately 10 million BF of Douglas Fir timbers; 2 million BF of Redwood decking; and 20 million BF of Douglas Fir piling)-why not focus its efforts on salvaging the wood and loading it onto trucks and railcars for immediate shipment to companies who were better equipped to manufacture it into products?
It did not turn out this way. Manufacturers who were large enough to handle the volume of trestle materials being salvaged were used to dealing with new logs and lumber. They were looking for standard stock that they could run through standard processes and turn into standard products. Trestlewood was not standard stock. Trestlewood discovered that it needed to take an active role in identifying and creating markets and producing products that were ideally suited to the unique features of the wood from the trestle.
The wood from the trestle has presented several challenges to Trestlewood's remanufacturing efforts. Probably the most prevalent challenge is metal. Essentially all of the timbers salvaged from the trestle have nails, bolts and/or spikes in them. Trestlewood uses a variety of approaches in dealing with this metal. In some cases, it can produce metal-free timbers by cutting off ends or ripping timbers into one metal-free piece and one metal-infested piece. Where markets do not require timbers to be free of metal, Trestlewood often just cuts any protruding metal flush (or leaves it protruding for more rustic applications).
Finally, in many cases Trestlewood removes metal from timbers in order to make them metal-free. The most noteworthy example of this involves the trestle's 14x14 pile caps. As they come off the trestle, these timbers have numerous 3/4" to 1" diameter bolts and spikes protruding from all four faces at a variety of angles. They seem impossible to demetal. However, Emil Hein of Hein Timber Products designed and built a special hydraulic machine that can successfully remove all of the metal from a high percentage of the pile caps. The result is a metal-free, albeit holey, timber that has become very popular in "distressed" timber applications.
In general, metal and other issues (checking, grit, etc.) make reclaimed wood more difficult to process than new wood. The Great Salt Lake introduces additional issues that are unique even for reclaimed wood. This is especially true of the Douglas Fir piling that have been submerged in the Great Salt Lake. These poles are water and salt saturated as they come off the lake. Tests show that the poles often consist of more than 20% salt by weight, all the way to the core.
The salt and other minerals in the piling result in unique, colorful flooring and timber products (see "Marketing" and "Applications" sections). They also create remanufacturing hurdles. As might be expected, the salt is hard on saws and other wood-processing equipment. The weight of the piling creates handling and transportation challenges. The affinity of salt for water makes lumber cut from the piling more difficult to dry than "normal" Douglas Fir lumber (Trestlewood's experience has been that it takes about twice as long to kiln dry 4/4 (1") lumber cut from the piling as it does to kiln dry typical green 4/4 Douglas Fir lumber.) Cutting into the brine-soaked piling unleashes some very strong odors which tend to go away as the wood dries, but which can make processing wet poles a bit unpleasant.
One of the most important things that Trestlewood has had going for it in its remanufacturing efforts is its complete lack of experience in processing new lumber. Trestlewood has not faced the temptation of trying to fit materials from the trestle into an existing new lumber manufacturing processes. It has not had to decide if it is willing to put reclaimed wood through expensive, high-production machinery. Instead, Trestlewood has been able to design its remanufacturing processes and machinery from the ground up, based upon the physical characteristics of the wood from the trestle.
Trestlewood has increased its involvement in the remanufacturing process incrementally. It started by bringing on line the circular saw and cut-off saws necessary to produce 3' crib blocks for mines. It has since upgraded its sawmill capabilities and invested in such improvements as the pile cap metal removal mill discussed previously; a rough planer; a 30,000 board foot dehumidification kiln; and storage facilities. Since early in the project, Trestlewood has done most of its rough, industrial-grade processing at Promontory Point and most of its finish, higher-end processing at its headquarters in Blackfoot, Idaho. Trestlewood has also supplemented its own remanufacturing efforts with the processing capabilities of a handful of small, but talented, manufacturing partners.
Trestlewood's incremental improvements to its own remanufacturing capabilities and its selective use of remanufacturing subcontractors has significantly increased the breadth and depth of its product lines. In the early years of the trestle project, a very high percentage of Trestlewood's revenues came from crib blocks and rough timber stock. By mid 2000, revenues were spread across many more product lines, with Trestlewood's focus moving increasingly in the direction of higher-end, further-processed products like flooring and architectural timbers.