takes many threads to weave together the fabric of a community.
Bob Arbuckle lends his creative thread as a Nickel Plate Arts
member, dancer and advocate for the arts.
a week, 93-year-old Arbuckle can be found repairing sewing machines.
He and his daughter, Sara Carter, run Arbuckle's Railroad Place
less than a mile from downtown Noblesville on Vine Street. They
work on most any machine: Sears and Roebuck, Singer, Viking
and a German brand called Pfaff that's close to their hearts.
I came back from WWII, I married Beverly Pfaff, so my daughter
has that sewing machine blood in her. She's a Pfaff," he
says with a smile and wink.
sprawling property includes two retired train cars, a bike shop
and parking for about 200 cars. Built around 1970, his 15,000-square-foot
main building is designed to resemble a circa-1900 train station
and houses rows of treadle machines, the home base for an upholstery
service, everything you need to make a quilt, and collections
of bikes, ties, hats and more.
thread across Arbuckles's self-described "Root Beer Garden"
complex is twofold: the sewing machine and the railroad. Atop
eight of its 13 outdoor light poles, aluminum cast golden eagles
are perched on cast iron sewing machines. While the sewing machine
is most important to him, Arbuckles' affinity for the railroad
is a major reason he became a member of Nickel Plate Arts in
not a model railroader and I'm not pushing the railroad transportation
part, but it's been a great part of the story Noblesville has
to tell," he says. "It's a wonderful story that can
bring tourists and artists to our area."
believes there is potential in using our existing downtown
tracks to literally transport and stage performances. Attracting
arts to Noblesville is a personal passion for Arbuckle,
as a patron and participant. As a young man, he studied photography
and owned a short-lived commercial and portrait photography
studio in Warsaw, Inc., before deciding in 1948 that sewing
machine repair made more financial sense.
has collected and commissioned works from local artists through
the years. Barrels painted by the late Noblesville artist
Floyd Hopper have prominent places in the store. Most visibly
-- you've likely seen him if you've ever been to the Noblesville
Street Dance -- Arbuckle is a fantastic dancer. He took up
ballroom dancing in his 50s and has been light on his toes
wonderful exercise regardless of how old you are -- from childhood
to the grave. And you can dance 365 days a year," he
says. There's no off-season when it comes to dancing.
dreams of turning his Railroad Place into a gallery and music
venue. When he heard about Nickel Plate Arts taking up the
banner of a railroad to promote the arts, he decided it was
something he wanted to support.
of his "train station" is to emphasize the importance
of the gas light era of Noblesville in the 1880s and early
1900s. The Trenton Ditch, Arbuckle says, is a great gas pocket
that runs from Kokomo to our part of Central Indiana. This
natural resource lured glass blowers, skilled
and people with money to the Nickel Plate Road region in and
around Noblesville. Noblesville was a hub for foundry art
as well and has a history in the metal casting industry.
and Carter share their sewing skills during classes, where
the majority of their students are, perhaps surprisingly,
men and boys. They have projects for convertible tops, dog
collars and tents in mind. Arbuckle also hosts the Desert
Rose Country Line Dancers every Wednesday night 7-9 p.m. He
welcomes experienced line dancers to these weekly get-togethers.
have to wonder if Arbuckle's outlook on life helps keep him
more agile than many men half his age. He has an opinion on
what we should ideally be feeding our minds.
imagine so many things and dream so many things. Our minds
are like gardens. You don't want to plant negative thoughts
in those wonderful gardens. If you plant weed seeds, you're
going to get weed plants. If you plant positive thoughts --
flower seeds -- you'll get a flower garden," he says.
by permission from
Plate Arts, Spring 2016