TRENTON — With the auctioneer performing linguistic acrobatics sounding like some new strain of urban hip-hop, the salesman surveyed the crowd.
Three massive presses capable of flattening huge sheets of steel as thick as a brick were on the block.
“I told (the auctioneer) ‘You buy me dinner and tell me the names of the people that didn’t win and I’ll come help out,’” said Steven Bonnay, regional sales manager for Davi.
His company built the three presses. Bonnay was on hand to answer questions and try to sell gear to the folks who missed out.
The presses, like everything other than the walls and the lights, are up for auction this week as the province’s brief foray into wind turbine tower manufacturing comes to an end.
Corporate Assets Inc. is auctioning off 2,000 items ranging from 40-tonne cranes to old rail cars, hand tools and even a wheelbarrow with a flat tire.
Then there is the modern, lightly used equipment required to take plates of steel and roll them into wind turbines.
In 2010 then premier Darrell Dexter came to the former railcar manufacturing plant in Trenton to announce the province was pumping $60 million into a new joint venture with Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering.
Daewoo put in $20.4 million and retained a 51 per cent stake in the new manufacturer of turbine towers dubbed DSME Trenton.
According to David Boyd of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the province hopes to recoup $5 million to $6 million of its investment.
“Daewoo was not a secured creditor, they were a shareholder,” said Boyd, senior vice-president for the court appointed receiver.
“The (DSME Trenton) closed. Daewoo would have taken the loss on the books.”
Built in 1912, the four 300-metre-long buildings are now quiet testaments to Trenton’s industrial history.
Millions of artillery shells were manufactured within their walls to feed the guns of the First World War.
At peak activity during the 1970s, some 2,500 people worked building rail cars at the heart of a community busy with the life that comes with decent paying blue collar jobs.
Now the buildings belong to Nova Scotia Lands Inc., a Crown corporation that will seek to lure new industry to them.
Attempts over the past two years during which they were kept in an idled state, however, failed.
Corporate Assets Incorporated, was waiting in the wings.
“We kept an eye on their status,” said Ryan Haas, who heads the auctioneering outfit.
By New Year’s Day 2019, his team will have travelled to 11 more industrial sites around North America for similar sales.
“There are some bargains here,” said Haas.
Andy MacGregor, owner of MacGregor’s Industrial Group in nearby Thorburn, was perusing the lots looking for deals and contemplating his county’s blue collar past.
“There’ll be interest,” said MacGregor.
“The equipment here isn’t unique to a single kind of manufacturing. The hours of use on most of it appear to be relatively low.”
At the security building out front, the discussion among the guards was the future of Smokey the cat (known to some employees as Sammy).
“She’s the last of the plant mousers,” said John Boehk.
For 16 years Smokey has been a diligent caretaker, roaming the Trenton Works plant and hunting vermin.
After she had a litter of kittens some years back, workers at the plant passed the hat to get her fixed.
They’ve been feeding her ever since.
“She’s friendly enough, but she’s used to her freedom,” said Boehk.
“If you tried to keep her as a house cat, she’d just walk out the door. She’d probably end up back here.”