Robert Hendrick, who recently returned from climbing the Grand Tetons, is always up for an adventure.
Hendrick is the owner of Railroad Services LLC, a railroad track maintenance and construction company.
"I've always had a love of railroads," he said. "I went to college because I graduated high school and being a rock star just wasn't in my future. My parents were pretty insistent that I should get a college degree."
With a degree in industrial engineering, Hendrick said, his philosophy was "let's give this a shot."
"I didn't know diddly about railroads at that point," he said, "so I spent the last seven years learning."
IF YOU GO
But as the economy started to wilt and not enough work was available for his crew, Hendrick turned to his design background and his appreciation of history. His desire to preserve the pieces of the railway otherwise destined for scrap metal or incineration lead him to an unusual project: furniture design.
From there was born Rail Yard Studios (www.railyardstudios.com) based in Nashville.
"(The workers) looked at me like I was out of my mind," he said, "because they're used to dealing with rail that's 39 foot length. I was having them cut stuff up into 4 inches and 28 inches."
A coffee table made from railroad cross ties? How about a wine rack? Or a bed?
"I started designing all these pieces and started creating them," Hendrick said.
Now, Hendrick said, they have at least 30 different pieces and 40 additional concepts waiting to be made.
Hendrick said he grew up helping his father, Jim, with projects around the house. "I didn't realize at the time I was actually learning," he said. "He would make pieces of furniture with scraps and different things."
Now the father and son work together. And the younger Hendrick is in charge.
"It's kind of payback," he joked.
Rail Yard Studios will be participating in several shows over the next few months, including RailFest this weekend at the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum.
"We're excited to get out in front of the rail fans," he said. "We thought this was a place we could really be appreciated and really be part of the crowd."