For many, The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse in Sumner is known for its model trains as much as its furniture.
Around the holiday season, even more trains make an appearance around the 5,000-square-foot warehouse.
“We have trains everywhere,” said animation technician George Bono. “The owner was really motivated to make this a fun place. If you entertain the kids, the parents have fun.”
On the main floor, four G Scale model trains chug along their railroads well above the heads of those down below. These trains run year-round on a 1,700-foot track from 9:30 a.m. until around 5:30 p.m. The Santa train, circus train and the Santa Fe Super Chief are among favorites.
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An observation platform gives shoppers the chance to get a view of the track from up above — and even a view of a real train outside.
We have trains everywhere. The owner was really motivated to make this a fun place. If you entertain the kids, the parents have fun.
George Bono, animation technician at The Old Cannery
“You can see everything from up here,” said Bono, 69. “It’s a cool spot because if you look out the window you can see the Union Pacific Railroad.”
Another layout in the warehouse’s kids room features a miniature carnival, cityscape and logging camp. Three HO Scale model trains run in and out of each diorama, operated manually by buttons that children — or those any age — can press.
The layout is a big hit for the kids, said Bono — and it’s educational, too. Bono, along with other members of the staff, research the buildings and print out pictures before making or ordering models.
“(The kids) run around, push the buttons and follow the trains,” he said. “We have some fun, we do a little teaching.”
The third layout in the building features a snow-covered city with two trains running through it. Children watched the display in the store’s “Santa Land,” decorated by The Cannery’s promotion department, as they stood in line to wait for Santa, who appeared at The Old Cannery on some weekends in November and December.
It takes several days to set up the train holiday display, said Bono and animation technician JT Gehrke, but they assemble the layout in their downstairs storage and repair room.
“Setting it up didn’t take very long, but getting it to do what we want it to do — it takes some time,” Bono said.
Currently, there are three employees tasked with monitoring the trains — and other animatronics — throughout the store. The job is a fun one, but can be challenging.
It’s a lot of electronic work. (The trains) are like toddlers — you’ve got to keep your eyes on them.
JT Gehrke, animation technician at The Old Cannery
“It’s a lot of electronic work,” said Gehrke, who’s been working at The Cannery for a month now. “(The trains) are like toddlers — you’ve got to keep your eyes on them.”
Gehrke, a retired police sergeant and firefighter, doesn’t have prior model train experience like Bono and the third technician, Dennis Reeve. But he’s been catching on quickly, according to his coworkers.
“He’s a get-it-done guy,” Bono said. “I just give him the tools and he’s off and going.”
Reeve is an active member of a model railroad club, Bono a former member.
“I started model-railroading seriously in 1990,” said Reeve, 70. “My favorite is building things — constructing and detailing things to go on the layout.”
I started model-railroading seriously in 1990. My favorite is building things — constructing and detailing things to go on the layout.
Dennis Reeve, animation technician at The Old Cannery
Growing up in Hoboken, New Jersey, Bono was used to trains surrounding him, fostering his interest in locomotives, and eventually, authentic train models.
“We had four major railroads that converged (there),” he said. “I’d go down with my friends and ride the train for a quarter.”
After Bono retired from being a mechanic, he started his shift at The Old Cannery in 2010. He was the only one working on the model train layouts at the time, but heard stories of the three men that spent nine months to build the ceiling layout in 2003. As the train layouts grew, more technicians were needed to make sure the trains were running properly.
Now, Bono says his job is perfect for him.
“This is a really nice place to work,” he said. “This (job) is right up my alley.”
The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every weekday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends. The store is located on 13608 Valley Avenue E. in Sumner.