Red Bay, AL and Tiffen Motorhomes

4/17/13 Wednesday at Tishomingo, MS ( Tishomingo State Park)

Warning:  there are LOTS of images in this post, so it may overwhelm your computer….

This was supposed to be our day of rest, but, once again, curiosity and interest got the better of us. Last night I noticed Red Bay, AL was near Tishomingo State Park and thought I remembered it was where they build Tiffen Motorhomes. Sure enough, they do. Here was a great opportunity to have a tour of that process, for these highly regarded RVs (excellent customer service). This morning John called them just before 9 am to find out that the only guided tour today started at 9:30 am. We scooted and were on the road almost immediately. Of course, twice we got behind a really large commercial truck, lumbering along.

Using our GPS, we almost made it there, but it led us wrong again. At 9:30 am we called Tiffen for directions. The sweet lady stayed on the line until we were where we needed to be. Yay! She also said that they never start right at 9:30. Sure enough they were watching a movie as we walked in.

Everyone got safety glasses and a headphone with FM receiver. That headphone is the best idea. It makes it so easy to always hear the guide no matter where you are in the group. Once we all tested our receivers, making sure they work, Brenda explained where the city got its name. Red is for the Alabama red clay dirt and Bay is for the Bay tree (wild magnolia tree).

Why Tiffen in Red Bay? Bob Tiffen’s great uncle was the police chief in Red Bay the year after it incoporated. The family has been there ever since. Bob started in the construction business, then he and a brother bought a cotton gin, working cotton as a second job. But cotton is seasonal, so when he saw an RV shop went out of business, he decided he’d try that route, in 1972.

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Their first building was in a cotton gin building (on left). As time has gone by, he has added buildings or extended buildings, but never destroyed any.

 

 

 

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By 1973, he’d built his first Allegro. Why call them Allegro? He wanted a word that started with A so it would be one of the first names in the phone directory. His wife was involved in music, so she suggested Allegro, which means light and breezy.

They build from the inside out, so that’s how I’ll try to arrange my photos.

 

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They build as much as as they can from scratch, especially the wood products. Here they cut the wood to planks, then use a special pen to find/mark the bad wood pieces, then cut them out of the plank. A special ceiling adornment is sanded and stained.

 

 

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Some sample pieces where a computer guides the cutting out of pieces and some cabinet parts.

 

 

 

 

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Countertops are made of something like Corian, but I forgot the name, and some are made with Corian.

 

 

 

 

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Water tanks for the gas rigs, with a basic fullness indicator (3 black squares, give amounts in 3rds). Those for some models of the diesel rigs (more expensive) have the SeeLevel indicators (like we have now) that show the amount by percentages (green strips).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cabinets for the front of the RV. The front one is where they don’t have a TV at the front, the next is built to include a TV. This contraption carries the cabinet into the rig.

 

 

 

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Since we were not allowed to take pictures while in the chassis shop, I got some outside. They use premade Freightliner, Spartan and Ford chassis and make their own Powerglide. The next photo shows the far chassis, that’s blue, because it’s rust proof material is fresh. The close one has had time for that to cure. (You’ll probably need to enlarge to see both)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the story of a side of the RV: 1-fiberglass attached to extruded poly esther something, 2-Inputting information into the computer for a particular RV’s side, 3-computer guided machine that cuts pieces out of the side and 4-the side with pieces cut out.

This is fascinating – they use a computer to cut out designs in the cabinetry and in the fiberglass side of an RV.  I know such computer software exists to cut out mats for art framing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roof with curved wood applied to the top. Roof with fiberglass getting set on the wood layer. Roof with top elements getting set into it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The side, with pieces cut out, then attached, ready for painting. The RVs are painted in nearby Belmont (Tiffen workers).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Slides with stuff in them, then a slide as its set into the body of the coach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The gray doors are built by Tiffen and the white doors are built by others.

 

 

 

 

At this point, the windshields come from Turkey, but Tiffen is trying to be as local/US oriented as possible.

 

 

 

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Each bin contains the specific wiring apparatus required for a particular RV (each one is given a number which applies to all the parts made for it).

 

 

 

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They apply a “diamond coat” on the front cap to make it easier to keep clean.  It’s like a layer of soft plastic, like you’d apply to your Nook, to protect its surface.  He sprays a liquid underneath, then squeegees the plastic on, so there are no bubbles.

 

 

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The final result! It takes 5 days to build the chassis, 5 days to puts all the parts in and 5 days to paint. They built an average of 12 RVs a day this year, while it was 3 per day in 2008. All are ordered before they are built.  The owners are welcome to watch their own rig being built.  They even get a computer sheet showing where their coach would be at any particular moment.  We saw one such couple there.

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We went home for lunch then drove a few miles to Cave Spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Glimpses of the lovely Park we are in and will be leaving tomorrow already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swinging (suspension) bridge, built in 1939.

 

 

 

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About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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