Granted, it has absolutely nothing to do with air cargo, but given that the original building stems from a village close to my Austrian roots, the idea is amazing, and it’s the start of a new year that will certainly bring all kinds of new surprises in logistics, those reasons are enough for me to report on the story in our first CargoForwarder Global issue of 2022.
When the first trees were felled to construct the original farmhouse in Weerberg, Tyrol, Austria, in 1587, Canada (from the overheard Iroquoian word ‘kanata’, meaning ‘village’), had just begun
appearing on world maps. However, it would be another 300 years before the Canadian town of Vernon was given its present-day name. Little did the Tyrolean farmer know then, that over 430 years
later, his family home would be completely dismantled, moved half-way around the world, and rebuilt on foreign turf to give the people there a taste of Austrian culture.
It’s been done before…
Dismantling and rebuilding Austrian farmhouses isn’t all that rare. One beautiful example of this is the Tyrolean Farmhouse Museum, the region’s largest open-air museum, located in Kramsach, Austria. Opened in 1974, it consists of 14 farmhouses (similar in age to the one above), complete with annexed buildings such as a mill, a blacksmith, and a chapel, that were all carefully taken brick by brick or log by log from their original locations across the state, and restored to their former glory on the expansive grounds of the museum.
Over in the U.S., there are whole companies dedicated to shifting antique buildings – often in their entirety – using beams and dollies. And not just there. YouTube offers a wealth of fascinating videos of impossibly large buildings being moved. Simply Google “structure relocation”, for examples also in China and India.
… just not to quite so far away
Yet, all those examples are mostly of buildings that do not move all that far. Interestingly, the Guinness Book of Records includes an entry for “the farthest building relocation by means of beams and dollies”. The Canadian company, Warkentin Building Movers, Inc, holds the record, having successfully shifted an entire 130 m² house a total of 1,650 km in August 2006, after 40 hours of driving. Nice, but the Weerberg project, admittedly slightly different in set-up, beats that by far. The distance between Weerberg, Austria, and Vernon, Canada, is a staggering 8,187 km, and this particular project took almost 2 years to complete.
Who triggered the project and why?
Over in Vernon, B.C., Canada, it was Sparkling Hill Resort’s owner, Gernot Langes-Swarovski of Swarovski Crystal, who launched the project, having decided on the farmhouse as a special Austrian culinary attraction at the resort. Given that his birthplace and family’s Austrian crystal business is located not too far away from Weerberg, in Wattens, Tyrol, Austria, he probably knew the building well. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see his project’s completion (finally in OCT21), as he passed away on 21JAN21.
Preparing for the move
Lynden Logistics was tasked with the move in cooperation with Sparkling Hill Resort – a project that took nearly 2 years to complete given a number of obstacles, including the pandemic. In 2019, engineers meticulously dismantled the building, numbering each piece. The worn timbers were then brought to an Austrian warehouse to be carefully cleaned of all the dirt and moss they had accumulated over the years, before being loaded into five different open-top containers for the ocean voyage from the Port of Antwerp to Vancouver, B.C. This took place in the Spring of 2020, and the first challenges began when “not all five containers were loaded on the same vessel as planned,” Elodie Gergov, Lynden’s International Manager in Seattle, explains. “This created issues with Canadian customs upon arrival in Vancouver, accentuated by issues with the fumigation certificates. These delays caused storage issues and mounting charges at the port. We reduced the financial impact of these costs for our customer by moving the containers in-bond until things were sorted out and the customs clearance was processed.”
Strict controls and then… the pandemic
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) insisted on an onsite inspection for each container at the exact time it was delivered to the resort in Vernon. “We overcame all these challenges, but the last hurdle was the longest and the toughest,” Elodie continues. “This project took place right when the world went on pandemic lockdown. By the time the cargo arrived, the carpenters and engineers who took the farmhouse apart in Austria, could not travel to Canada to reassemble it.” It would be another year before restrictions eased and four men from the Austrian firm, Holzbau Maier, an expert in timber home construction, were able to travel to Canada to reassemble the building within just 10 days.
Since the end of OCT21, Gerni’s Farmhouse, named after its owner and which seats 54 in the restaurant, is open. A spa is planned for the upstairs of the building. “For those who have never been to Europe, Gerni’s Farmhouse provides an opportunity to experience authentic Austrian dining and a bit of time travel, too,” Sparkling Hill Resort Project Manager, Barry Jackson, encourages. The menu includes specialties such as warm meatloaf with sweet mustard (Leberkas), sausage (Bratwurst), crispy, roasted pork knuckle (Schweinshaxn), the infamous Schnitzel, and Apple Strudel – all washed down with regional Canadian (Okanagan) Gruener Veltliner and Zweigelt wines that are varietals originating in Austria.
Elodie sums up the project experience: “International shipping is always exciting due to its complexities and challenges. Managing one-of-a-kind projects like this makes my job even more rewarding. Lynden teams in Seattle and Canada worked together to make it happen.”
It’s not every day that you hear about an ancient farmhouse emigrating on a road and sea voyage to a new destination on the other side of the world, is it? When will the first farmhouse fly?
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