The Eden Train Wreck- A story of who and what Drexel was and is.
A few weeks before July 4th, 1992 was a very busy time in our companies history. Sales were booming and our team was growing and running on all cylinders… (sound familiar?)
Then the great train wreck of Eden, Wisconsin happened on June 24, 1992.
See this link to view some great pictures of this historic event.
It hit national news and was certainly the talk of the area. Many “family field trips” were assembled to go see the pile of ruined steel.
My dad had a few decisions to make. As you can see in the pictures on the link there were a few cars of lumber on this train.
This lumber was not destined for us. We did receive lumber by rail car on this very line, but this lumber was meant for someone else. We had enough lumber already.
Our team at that time was less then 10 people. Yet my dad saw that lumber and wondered if somehow there could be an opportunity.
As you can see it really made no sense, and at the minimal this deal would require some guts, some luck, a ton of communication and some all balls out work!
So… of course my dad passed on this opportunity, didn’t he…I mean a pile of steel with a few cars of lumber in between… who wants that headache? But of course, there is no story if he passed up on this.
It was a few weeks before July 4th, contractors needed orders placed, there were loads to pull, and we needed a float for the parade. Dad had no one to lean on to make this all come together. Surely he passed.
One phone call couldn’t hurt… So he called the railroad station, not once but several times. He was persistent and finally got the right person on the phone. This had to happen fast, like now, the rail had to get re-opened. Turns out the lumber was 2×4, and not only that, it was top quality, in fact a few grades higher then what we sell. These 2x4s were destined for a truss plant.
It wasn’t easy, but this lumber had to go and there were limited buyers. Dad stuck to his low offer. He still had no plan in place on how he would actually move the product. We had no boom truck, no moffet, no semis. And “almost” no workers. We were already working 10 to 12 hours a day just helping the customers we already had.
Yet he continued and pursued.
In under 48 hours after he purchased the lumber, we had to have the material GONE. Semis were rented, forklifts were moved, labor was found; we all agreed to work until dark after our 12 hour days and my dad’s childhood friend and a loyal contractor Steve Schrauth agreed to help.
My mom helped out and bought us burgers from Tuckers in Fond du lac every night. These were some of the best burgers I’ve ever had.
We were “rockstars” in this little town (5 miles north of Campbellsport) as we pulled and prodded each 2×4 onto any truck we could find. People came from miles to see the wreck and my dad worked the crowd as he new many of the people. He was P.T. Barnum in his own little circus. Many of the units had to be picked apart by hand. The work was grueling. It was hot and we only had one forklift, so often each board was hand loaded onto a truck. One board at a time. It was great exposure for our little lumberyard. Scott Rosenthal, Ron Neitzel, Craig Johnson and myself all helped. I believe we each got a cash bonus on top of our overtime pay. It was hard work, and we worked until dark, but also very enjoyable.
On the sales side, we made very good money off of the train wreck 2x4s, and since they were truss grade, to this day the best framing lumber we have ever had. I know we were proud and some of our customers too (surely Steve Schrauth) when some of this very lumber went into homes around the area that summer.
I do hope and pray that no matter how big we are, or how big we get, we could still pull this off. At that time we didn’t have core values, but it did take a great deal of:
- winning attitude
- team work
- have fun
And of course the things we promote here… don’t be afraid to fail, work your ass off… and one of my favorites, READY, FIRE, AIM. If my dad sat down with us and built a team to decide and just slowed it down and didn’t react quickly and took a big risk… surely this opportunity and part of our legacy would of passed. It was an experience of a lifetime, it just made sense for us, it’s who we are!
I hope we can all learn a lot from the train wreck of Eden in 1992*.
Yep, that dude with hair? That’s me!
– Joel Fleischman. Joel is Head Coach of the solution providers for Drexel Building Supply. (drexelteam). You can follow him on twitter: @JoelmFleischman. Our mission is to be a supplier of others happiness. I hope this little post did just that.
*** The For River Valley train rail from Eden to West Bend did close in 2000, and was named the Eisenbahn walking trail. Who named the trail? Rumor has it, it was one of the guys hauling those 2x4s out of the Eden train wreck.