Even if we hadn’t been in an antique furniture store, I’d have described this as a piece of furniture, but it’s original purpose was much less obvious, and I had to ask to learn it was made over 100 years ago, to hold the preprinted but undated tickets railways then sold to the traveller. Each ticket was then individually stamped for date of travel, either that day or some time in the future.
Made of the wood nogal (sp?) , rather like teak and very hard wearing – the cabinet? (fechero de billetes) was recently auctioned along with all the other office fittings from the old central rail office in Montevideo. The owner of the store we were in also bought several other interesting tables with drawers and even a large bell embossed ‘FCM’ for ferrocarril (railway) central montevideo, which once rang to signal “all aboard”. On reflection, there are parts of the world where this would never have been allowed to happen, and the whole place would have been turned into a museum, although there are pros and cons to that one which I won’t go into here. Last year I was in a marvellous old station in downtown Santiago which is now a cultural centre – there are several galleries, a restuarant and bar, and the huge interior is now a flexible space used for performances and large conference gathering kinds of presentations. The grand old Montevideo railway station building would be fantastic for such purposes, and may one day be so, as it is in the port area of the old part of the city where such things are starting to happen, just as they have in the Rocks area of Sydney, Fremantle in Western Australia, and similar areas of other cities around the world.
The little panels each have round indentations so you can use a fingertip to easily slide one aside to access the tickets behind it. The lack of one panel on each row gives the sliding space needed, a much more elegant design than any door system or open shelves. There is no sign on the lovely woodwork that there was any kind of labelling attached, but I guess working in the then busy ticket office it didn’t take long to know which niche held the required tickets.
As soon as my eyes lit on this marvellous unusual piece, I saw its potential as a storage unit for my sewing room, and DH commented ‘You can have that if you’d like it, it would be good in your sewing room’ , bless him. And so, we bought it, and it was delivered late yesterday. The store owners are pleased it has come to a loving home where it will have a new lease of useful life, not just be a conversation piece. You can see it’s very shallow so although it is large it doesn’t impinge at all on movement in the working area of my relatively long narrow room. The upper part is only about 10cm deep, and the cupboards below about 15cm – still shallow, but they’ll be marvellous for large cones, bottles and the like which currently hang out on the bookcase, either in open boxes or just balancing in a spare space. It will be fun sorting and putting stuff there, and a delight to use it every day. A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.