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Visit the backyard of carver Bob Yorburg and you’ll find a charming space where train tracks intersect with portable sheds built by Sheds Unlimited in Lancaster County, PA. But the charm of his backyard is surpassed by a visit to his carving studio a few steps away from where he crafts and repairs full-sized carousel animals and brings handmade organs to life! Ride along as we explore Bob’s carving shop and backyard.
I got exactly what I wanted!
Carousel Horses: A Millenium of Tradition
Bob’s passion emerged out of an old convention developed in Europe and the Middle East around the time of the Crusades. With skill and superb horsemanship, Knights would gallop in a circle while tossing balls from one to another. This practice eventually evolved into carousels made of hand-carved wooden horses for children to ride.
Bob Yorburg is helping keep alive this tradition which hales back in time hundreds of years. No doubt, riding for ancient knights required more skill than it does to ride one of Bob’s carousel horses. But the skill required to carve the things found in and around Bob’s carving shop requires a unique skill retained by only a handful of remaining carousel horse carvers in the nation.
Bob’s Homemade Band Organ
Bob’s work certainly fails the test of mass production so common in the current age. He loves challenges that are new and not for the faint of heart. He might work on a project for years and continue adding year by year. Such is the case with his personal band organ which he slowly built over the past 10 years (See more on Youtube).
“It’s something that I’ve wanted to do all my life – to build an organ from the ground up,” says Bob. In another ten years, he hopes to have doubled the size!
Not that Bob spends day-in-and-day-out with the same project for years at a time, he often jumps from one project to another even in one day. “If I’m carving and find that I reach a dead end, I’ll jump to a different project before I come back, and usually when I come back to it, I find, ‘Aha, here’s how to approach it,” says Bob.
Restoring Rudolph Wurlitzer Organs
One of the most noteworthy projects he has participated in was restoring three Rudolph Wurlitzer band organs built in the 1800s. The company built only 25 Wurlitzer 165 band organs and only about half of those exist today. His job was to take three of those unique organs and repair the decorative façades which had been lost due to neglect.
It turned out to be one of his most spectacular jobs ever! “I had to deconstruct a sort of jigsaw puzzle from photographs to see how these organs were created,” Yorburg says. “Then I had to do the patterns and make models to copy all the other organs from. Then I had to glue the pieces together and make sure it all actually worked. Then I had to build it. So the idea that all these little pieces could become something so spectacular, for me, was almost a revelation.”
The collectors were delighted! (source)
Repairing Carousel Horse and More
Most of Yorburg’s carving expertise these days is spent repairing, at times 100-year-old carousel horses, band organs and other carvings which have weathered with age, storm or lack of care. At times, old pieces also need mechanical work, metal work and more.
A visit to Bob’s carving studio is a great experience for sure. But the visit is not complete without a stroll through the backyard of trains, depots, and sheds!
A Backyard of Trains and Sheds
Just around the corner from Yorburg’s carving studio, one enters a handmade train world that has been a side hobby of Yorburgs for many years. Three storage sheds from Sheds Unlimited act as train depots and tracks wind through the trees, under a flowering tunnel and make stops along the way.
Three Sheds, One Purpose
Three backyard sheds were carefully designed as train depots for Bob’s one-eighth scale train with stops at Maple Brook, Lindenwood, and Old Mill Junction. Maplebrook houses some of the metal working equipment which Bob uses for some of his restoration projects as well as train cars and other hobby-related paraphernalia. Many carving projects he builds or repairs include both wooden and metal moving parts which means he must be equipped for both wood and metal working.
Outside of Maplebrook a 1/8th scale train chug-chugs around the track with Yorburg riding and controlling the forward and backward motion. As Bob gives us a tour of his train world, he explains the details including a mail sign to let passengers know that the train may not stop for passengers. It might only stop to pick up the mail.
The sheds, which he bought from Sheds Unlimited years ago were designed to look like old-time train stations. At Lindenwood, the second backyard shed depot which is named after the wood he uses in his carving, Bob explains that “the pop-outs were there so the train master could watch for oncoming trains.” There is even a men’s entrance and a women’s entrance to make the shed depots more authentic.
A Great Experience with Sheds Unlimited
“Steve was pretty terrific,” says Bob as he describes his experience of contacting Sheds Unlimited in his search for a shed that resembled a model train depot he has sitting on the porch of Maplebrook. Bob sent a pic of a model train station and Steve said, “we can do that.” He even had some ideas of his own and when they combined the two, it turned out great!
Whether it is a train or a carousel horse or a band organ, building things by hand is Bob’s specialty. But watching his homemade band organ play a tune is a highlight of the tour around Bob’s property. Sheds Unlimited is honored to have their portable buildings in Bob’s backyard as the backdrop to a man with talent that is preserving a millennium of history!