Vintage Sewing Machine Guru, Bob Arbuckle of the Railroad Place

My favorite business that sells sewing machines is not one of the big chains. It is a locally owned business, named Arbuckle’s, also known as The Railroad Place. The building is like an old railroad depot and even has a caboose out front.



The man who opened and continues to operate the shop is 90 year old Bob Arbuckle. The Noblesville Current recently wrote an article about him. You can read that here:


Mr. Bob Arbuckle in front of his business

If you enter during the winter, wear a sweater. It is a bit chilly because it costs a lot of money to heat that big ole building. And no, they don’t have row upon row, isle after isle of fabric bolts like the big stores do. So what DO I find so appealing about this business? Oh, just about every intangible thing we complain the big chains don’t offer. Each time I visit Mr. Arbuckle is wearing a suit. He takes his business seriously, but greets everyone so warmly. When he is helping me, time slows down a bit. The conversation is relaxed. I feel that this is the service people speak of when reminiscing of yesteryear, before cell phones, and the countless errands we seem to fill our days with. His bright eyes will meet yours, you’ll get genuine smiles, and he wants to make sure that all your questions are answered. It’s like talking with Grandpa.

When you walk in the store you enter a field of sewing machines from your grandmother’s era or before, and they all work. Yes, I’m talking about the old treadle machines too! Mr. Arbuckle will give you a little history lesson and demonstration if you like. (I even got to try my hand at a treadle machine, but it was NOT easy to get the rhythm.) old singerHe’ll chat with you about his years in the service. He’s a WWII veteran. Once Mr. Arbuckle gave an impromptu history lesson to my young son, Benji, about the French fur traders when he showed interest in an old beaver hat on a shelf.  Ben listened to him, enthralled.  If you know Ben, that is really saying something.

Mr. Arbuckle’s daughter, Sara, works there too. She will take the time to show you sewing tricks and techniques. She has a real knack for fitting you with a sewing machine. All those used sewing machines I mentioned above – she knows what is special about each one. I needed a new machine that would be a workhorse and handle the thick felted wool. She pointed me to a machine whose presser foot raised just a bit higher than most. Perfect! Need a part for an old machine? They got that, and that, and that too.

But what will happen when he decides to retire? Where will I take my old Singer from the 1950’s? What will happen to all of those gorgeous, vintage machines? I try not to think about it.


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