LPG Spotlight: Appalachian Propane

December 30, 2019 By    

How do I position my business above the rest?

The train is built mostly out of repurposed propane supplies and equipment. Photo courtesy of Robert Coffman

The train is built mostly out of repurposed propane supplies and equipment. Photo courtesy of Appalachian Propane/Robert Coffman

It’s a question propane marketers face when it comes to expanding their businesses to new customers and enhancing brand recognition. Oftentimes, the answer is a unique approach to marketing. Appalachian Propane, a company that specializes in portable propane tank filling and propane supplies based in Summersville, West Virginia, put its unique solution literally on track to attract customers.

Located outside the company’s storefront is a train built mostly out of repurposed propane supplies and equipment. Robert Coffman, the owner-operator of Appalachian Propane, says the train was an opportunity to stand out.

“I didn’t want the cookie-cutter stuff that everyone has along the road,” he says. “I wanted to do my own thing here.”

Instead of placing the typical sign displaying the company’s logo outside the location, Coffman worked with customer and local resident Bob Kinser to erect an alternative. The train is built from old propane cylinders, gauges and other supplies Coffman had around the yard. The body of the train is made from a 1,000-gallon tank; the wheels are rings from the bottom of 1,000-gallon propane tanks; forklift cylinders act as wheel guards; and regulators and copper piping provide decoration. Housed in a 1,000-gallon tank ring on the front of the train is the company’s address.

“People think the train is real,” says Coffman. “Then I start pointing out the things that make up the train. Like here is a propane tank that came off of a forklift, and here’s a high-pressure oxygen tank, and then everyone starts to see what we’ve got.”

The train, Coffman explains, stands out along the crowded highway.

“We thought a sign was too expensive, and I wanted to do my own sign,” Coffman says. “I didn’t want to do something that everyone did. I wanted something different, so I drew a picture of a train and decided this was going to be my sign.”

Coffman got the project off the ground, but Kinser is credited with most of the fabrication work. Kinser is a skilled fabricator who enjoys this kind of tinkering work, Coffman explains, and saw the project through its completion.

“One day he called me and said it was done,” Coffman says. “I couldn’t believe how good he did.”

The train was placed on tracks outside the company’s location in time for July Fourth, 2018, festivities. Since then, the branding tool has attracted all different groups of people to Appalachian Propane, from propane customers to children to train enthusiasts.

“Everybody loves it,” Coffman says. “I’ve got people coming from all over to see it. People from Georgia stopped in because they heard about the train from a friend who came to fill a cylinder. I’ve got some folks come from a few counties over because they used to operate trains and wanted to see what we had.”


FOUNDERS & OWNERS // Robert and Cathy Coffman
FOUNDED // September 2015
HEADQUARTERS // Summersville, West Virginia

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About the Author:

Joe McCarthy was an associate editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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