Lucin Cutoff Railroad Trestle
Once the wood from the trestle hits the shore and is remanufactured into a usable product, one key task, perhaps the most important one of all, remains: marketing. Actually, this statement is oversimplified. It implies that marketing follows neatly on the heels of salvage and remanufacturing. In reality, the marketing of the wood from the trestle has driven the salvage and remanufacturing of the wood at least as much as it has been driven by them. Trestlewood's salvage and remanufacturing efforts have been heavily influenced by the company's marketing successes and failures.
And, yes, Trestlewood marketing has seen both successes and failures. Marketing the wood from the trestle can be both simple and difficult at the same time. On one hand, the wood from the trestle has a lot going for it. It is beautiful, unique, full of history and character and 100% reclaimed. Much of it is very tight-grained.
This does not mean, however, that the wood sells itself. Trestlewood's uniqueness and other characteristics, while tremendous advantages, make it different from standard products on the market. As a result, Trestlewood has found that it has to take a very active role in identifying, and sometimes even creating, markets that fit each element coming off the trestle and then in educating the players in each market about Trestlewood. Each trestle element has its own set of physical characteristics that impact product development and marketing. Yes, new products benefit to a certain extent from previous marketing efforts associated with other products, but they also require their own specific market development efforts.
Much of the product development process boils down to turning negatives into positives, disadvantages into features. This does not mean tricking customers into thinking negatives are really positives. It means (1) identifying markets which are likely to value the characteristics of a particular element and then (2) getting the element in front of the right people in the market.
Even after investing much effort in market identification and creation and Trestlewood product education, one other important ingredient is invariably required: time. Often it takes just the right project or set of projects to catch the market's attention and get a particular product line moving. The specific time frame varies, but the process is essentially the same from product to product.
Consider the history of Trestlewood's custom-cut timber product lines. Trestlewood's first significant custom timber sales were of timbers cut from the trestle's 8" x 16" x 30' Douglas Fir stringers (which timbers came on line several months after the crib blocks cut from the metal side of the same stringers became Trestlewood's first major product.) Over time, these timbers became very popular.
When the stringers were depleted, the primary custom timber source became the demetalled 14" x 14" x 18' Douglas Fir pile caps. The pile caps were from the same project and of the same species as the stringers, but they were a very different product. Most importantly, they were full of holes (and large holes, at that). Initially, there was a large drop-off from stringer timber sales to pile cap timber sales. Given some time and a handful of impressive projects which featured the pile caps, however, the situation reversed itself. Eventually, the pile cap timbers became very popular in their own right. The holes in the pile cap timbers became a selling point, especially among customers who wanted a rustic, "distressed timber" look.
By the end of 1998, pile cap quantities were also dwindling, and Trestlewood's new primary custom timber source became the Douglas Fir piling. Timbers cut from the piling are as different from the pile cap timbers as the pile cap timbers were from the timbers cut from the stringers. The salt and other minerals in these timbers create their own unique challenges and opportunities. Sales of timbers cut from the piling (which Trestlewood calls its "Trestlewood II" timbers) started slowly while the pile cap timbers were still available. By mid 2000, Trestlewood II timber sales are picking up steam and are well on their way to becoming Trestlewood's best custom timber source yet.
As has already been indicated in the "Remanufacturing" section, the breadth and depth of Trestlewood's product lines has grown with time. What started as a limited set of products, focusing on crib blocks and rough stock, has become complete flooring, timber, accessory (millwork, siding, decking, etc.), pole and industrial lines.
The Great Salt Lake is a key player in the marketing of wood reclaimed from the trestle. The history surrounding the lake and the wood is an attractive selling point. Even more important is the Great Salt Lake's contribution to the physical characteristics and, hence, the unique selling points, of each element salvaged from the trestle.
There are no better examples of the Great Salt Lake's role in creating unique wood products than the Trestlewood II products produced from the Douglas Fir piling that have been submerged in the lake for close to a century. When these poles were first driven into the lake bed, they were long and straight but otherwise rather ordinary. The Great Salt Lake made sure that the poles were not ordinary by the end of their stay in the lake. Flooring, timbers and other products cut from the "pickled" piling boast unique, stunning coloring that sets them apart from other wood products. Even as the Great Salt Lake was creating remanufacturing challenges, then, it was more than making up for it by imbuing the trestle's wood with unique physical characteristics that play primary roles in the marketing of the wood.
Finally, it should be noted that distributors play an important role in Trestlewood's marketing efforts. The quantity of materials coming off the trestle made it imperative that Trestlewood involve others in selling the trestle's wood. Over time, Trestlewood has assembled a solid core group of distribution partners who help get Trestlewood into the hands of its ultimate users. Intermountain Wood Products and its Antiquus Wood Products division have been an especially valuable distribution partner.