In spring of 2013, Solomon Group was chosen to provide the complete fabrication and A/V systems integration services necessary to help bring The National WWII Museum’s vision for the Train Car Experience to life.
The attraction’s journey begins as it did for thousands of young men all over the country more than 70 years ago … on the platform of a train station. Visitors will experience what it was like to board a Pullman train car as a new recruit, headed to basic training camp.
Part of Solomon Group’s scope was to fabricate the entire exhibit. Our talented in-house draftsmen created several sets of drawings before touching a single tool. One of our challenges was not only to replicate a Pullman car, but to make sure that it looked as realistic as possible. In addition to working closely with the designers at Gallagher & Associates to make sure every detail was historically accurate, our scenic artists went to work aging the train so that it appeared to have been in regular use for five to ten years. Wherever possible, our fabrication team utilized period building methods. For instance, metal screws were often replaced with tongue and groove woodwork, which offered a more historic appearance.
At times, authentic pieces from surviving Pullman cars could not be found to help outfit the exhibit. In those cases, Solomon Group replicated them using specialty equipment like our CNC routers. These included period-looking elements such as HVAC grills routed from brass. And when actual flip signage of the day proved too cost-prohibitive to obtain for Phase I of the project, our team CNC-routed and physically distressed an entire period flip sign to use as a temporary placeholder until an authentic one could be purchased at a later time. But the museum was so pleased with the quality of the replica we had fabricated, they decided to use it instead of purchasing the real flip sign as part of Phase II.
If the craftsmanship and detail work make the Pullman car look historically accurate, it’s the A/V integration that brings the exhibit to life. Visitors experience steam effects and a layered soundscape beginning on the platform. Once aboard, G.I.s relay their thoughts and feelings about why they signed up to fight, their stories displayed on monitors set in the car’s wooden benches. The train’s shifting motion can be felt through the seats as it bumps along, while the American countryside appears to stream by in the car’s many “windows.”
The Train Car Experience showcases Solomon Group’s ability to seamlessly marry A/V systems integration with newly-fabricated architecture and elements. And for The National WWII Museum, it’s a vibrant example of their mission to connect with younger generations by offering didactic exhibits that look, sound and feel like theme park attractions. Win. Win.