The gears will always be turning at Saddle Point Machinery Shop

Amidst a sea of trusses, Rob Brown used a lift truck to install blocking along the central bearing wall of his new shop on the North Fill. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

Cordovans may have noticed the rapid construction of a large frame building on the North Fill beside Jim Poor Avenue. The 6,400-square-foot structure will be the new location of Rob Brown’s Saddle Point Machinery Shop.

Brown, who can be seen going full-bore from dawn to dusk at the site, is one of those guys who always seems to have a smile on his face and view life from the cup-half-full standpoint.

With rain clouds threatening, workers scramble to get metal roofing in place on Rob Brown’s new machine shop on the North Fill.
Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

Several years ago, the Copper River Highway washed out at Sheridan River while Rob was down at Pete Dahl with Mike Arvidson at the Arvidson cabin, and I was at our nearby place.

It was time to close the cabins for the winter, so we buttoned things up, went roaring upriver in overflowing sloughs, and left our boats and vehicles stranded at Alaganik Landing until the road could be repaired.

Gus Arvidson had lined up a plane to ferry us to town, and we all were a bit startled when a bulky Cordova Air Beaver on floats landed and putted up to us in water all the way to the top of the ramp.

“Well, Gus sure knows how to pick ’em,” commented Rob, with a laugh. “I’m surprised he didn’t come along to help load all the stuff in the plane.”


Needless to say, it was not a surprise to find Rob in tip-top, cheerful, high-energy form when I stopped by to check out progress on the construction of his new facility.

Dave Sjostedt of Eagle Contracting uses Jerry Blackler’s boom truck to lift a section of 10 trusses onto Rob Brown’s new shop on Jim Poor Avenue.
Photo by Rob Brown/for The Cordova Times

Trusses for the large 80-foot-by-80-foot wooden frame structure were being lifted into place, but he paused by a contractor’s boom box to give me a quick rundown over the sounds of hard rock, nail guns, and skill saws.

“You gotta check this out,” Brown said, pointing to a large pile of trusses that measured over 40 feet at their base. “Dave Sjostedt figured out it would be a lot faster and safer to lift 10 trusses at a time, and it has worked out great.”

With typical Rob Brown insight, he added “Rome wasn’t built in a day, only because Dave wasn’t there.”

Equipped with a loaded tool belt and perennial smile, Rob Brown pauses for a moment as his crew labors away in the background on what will be his new machine shop on the North Fill.
Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

Brown explained the use of wood frame construction, rather than pre-fab metal buildings common to several sites in the North Fill.

“Darn things are just too cold, and also harder to heat,” he said.

Which may seem a bit ironic for a craftsman that works with metals and specializes in propeller shafts and customized parts for commercial fishermen. Brown indicated he looks forward to working in conjunction with boat repair and modification projects at the nearby boat haul-out and shipyard.

Brown anticipates the new shop will be up and running by next spring.

He had high praise for everyone who helped expedite the project, including Scott Jones, SAJJ Architecture; Oien Associates, Structural Engineering; Uni-Group Mechanical Engineers; EIC Electrical Engineers, Eagle Contracting and the City Planning Commission as well as Leif Stavig, city planner.

“Everyone did an amazing job of working together to expedite this project,” Brown said.

Speaking of planning and creativity, it was Brown who engineered likely the most exciting entry ever in the Annual Fourth of July Kelp Box Races several years ago. Nicknamed “The Rocket”, it included considerable metal work as well as a pair of propane-fired torches that shot flames out the back.

Alas, it was banned after a once-in-a-lifetime appearance, apparently over concern about what might happen if it veered off course.

But who knows?  With his new shop located just over the hill from the starting ramp of the big race, perhaps another innovative entry will soon secretly be in the works – once his new facility is in full gear.

Construction workers begin adding roofing to the new Saddle Point Machinery Shop, which is nestled between Bayside Storage and AML/Lynden Transport vans on the North Fill.
Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times
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Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at