Manufacturer in the Spotlight Bergen National Laser

January/February 2015 Issue

About ten years ago I changed careers. I went from talking to people all day as a psychotherapist in Michigan, to becoming a watchmaker for Patek Philippe in New York City. Something about this new direction in focus, a focus on small, detailed, and intricate things, opened up my mind to new interests. When one of my three sons found a very old N-scale train set in the attic and asked me if we could build a layout, I said, “why not”? I was hooked in no time. We bought a 3’ by 6’ layout kit and had a blast building it over the next year and a half. 

During construction, I learned about prototype modeling and knew I wanted to reproduce the branch line that ran through the little valley where I grew up in Utah.

When visiting my grandparents back in the 1970s, we drove by old abandoned factories and granaries along the tracks, and they were the highlights of the trip for me. I had to have them on my layout. But, of course there were no models of these buildings available, especially in N-scale. Scratch-building seemed the only option. This way, I could replicate the buildings exactly!

I found a CAD program that ran on my smartphone, so during my commute into and out of NYC I would design my buildings on my phone, send in my files to a laser cutting service to have them cut, then finally build them. This was immensely gratifying, but I was limited. I couldn’t make fine-tuned adjustments, or create my own textures; processes that need experimenting and recreating with the same piece sometimes repeatedly. So last March I made the plunge and purchased my own laser cutter.

Grain elevators are some of my favorite trackside structures, especially those with corrugated siding and roofing. Even though there are plenty of these on the N-scale market, I wanted to include one in my repertoire. To make it hopefully more interesting, I offer it with a choice of three different siding materials and three kinds of roofing. The corrugated texture is accurate to scale, and is perforated on all four sides of each panel. There are actual waves! I designed it so I could easily and quickly adjust the size of the panels, and create a sheet of whatever the customer desires.

The kit I just released is based on a sugar beet refinery that captured my imagination for as long as I can remember. It was one of those abandoned factories that was the highlight of the car ride when visiting my grandparents. Abandoned in the early 1960s, it continues to stand out in the middle of a field of weeds in the countryside. Its unusual architecture and narrow width make it an ideal N-scale kit. Following another modeler’s recommendation, I am dividing the industry into three buildings that can each be free standing or combined to match the original prototype.

Along with the structures, Bergen National Laser also offers several kinds of textured sheets including the textures found on the models, such as brick, board and nail, corrugation, and shingles. Also, laser engraved brick smoke stacks will be available in the future, produced from wooden dowels. All of our textures are high-definition and represent true-to-scale dimensions.

Going forward, I hope to continue to offer many new and exciting products that will capture the imagination and recreate the detail and accuracy model railroaders love.