Research Casting International looks like an ordinary industrial building until you grab the door handle to enter.
It's a bone.
It sounds like an ordinary plant, too, its air replete with metallic clanks and Metallica cranked on a dust-covered stereo, as a forklift trundles through the dim expanse of racks, machines and more bones.
When you need something big assembled, any such shop will do. When that something is the skeleton of one of the largest dinosaurs to walk the Earth - like the one that spent 45 years forgotten in storage at the Royal Ontario Museum until it was found this fall - you bring it here.
Once it arrives, an ordinary guy named Peter May will look after you - though he'd appreciate it if you could hold off until Dec. 15.
That's the day the ROM plans to unveil its rediscovered treasure, parts of which Mr. May unwittingly handled when he worked at the museum decades ago; which he had a hand in finding again in September; and which his highly specialized company is now feverishly reassembling.
When they're done, Gordo the Barosaurus will be the biggest dinosaur ever displayed in Canada and the only mounted Barosaurus in the world built with actual fossils, rather than mere castings.
For the moment, Gordo remains a little disjointed, his parts scattered about the 4,400-square-metre RCI plant as Mr. May calmly directs the biggest rush job of his 30-year career.
"We should be calling Guinness on this one," says the burly, soft-spoken 52-year-old, who grew up in working-class Hamilton and studied fine arts (sculpture) in university.
A specimen of Gordo's size and complexity would normally take two or three workers two years to prepare and assemble. For this job, Mr. May was given 6½ weeks, so he's had to push everything else aside and throw 15 experienced technicians at it.
"We haven't pulled a weekend yet, but that'll be coming," says the man whose handiwork greets museum-goers from Sydney to Berlin to Tokyo to Riyadh, and dozens of major centres in between. That includes New York's American Museum of Natural History, where the world's only other mounted Barosaurus - a casting, that is - rears up to protect its young from a meat-eating Allosaurus.
All of which explains why the ROM called on Mr. May and his team to remount its dinosaur displays in the museum's new Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, incorporating pieces that will be both familiar and new to visitors.
Last spring, after the ROM hired David Evans, a 27-year-old fresh out of graduate school, to lead dinosaur research, he was instructed to fill the last and largest gap in the collection - a Brontosaurus-like sauropod from the Jurassic period, which the old museum had always lacked the space to mount.
No one realized that just such a specimen had been hiding in plain view inside the ROM's vaults since 1962.
Dr. Evans made the discovery - with help from Mr. May, who was seated beside him - as they flew to a dig site in Wyoming on Sept. 27 to size up a Diplodocus, close relative to the Barosaurus, as a candidate for display.
As the plane climbed over Michigan, Mr. May handed Dr. Evans a 2005 article by a noted sauropod expert, Jack McIntosh, which gave a detailed history of Barosaurus discoveries in the United States.
Five pages in, Dr. Evans unearthed a verbal artifact that soon had him sitting bolt upright: "These elongate cervicals (CM 1198) probably belong to a partial skeleton, field #155 (now ROM 3670), which was originally identified as Diplodocus."
"I leaned over and hit [Mr. May]on the shoulder and said, 'Look at this,' " Dr. Evans says. "I wanted to turn the plane around."
Arcane to anyone else, the reference suggested that the random, disparate sauropod bones he'd noticed on shelves and in drawers in the ROM collections room actually belonged to a single dinosaur, and a Barosaurus, no less - a vegan behemoth rarer and larger than Diplodocus, measuring 24 metres long and weighing in at 15 tonnes when it roamed North America.
When the plane touched down in Denver, Dr. Evans fired off e-mails to colleagues in Toronto and to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, to which Dr. McIntosh had referred in his paper as the probable holder of those "elongate cervicals," or neck vertebrae, belonging to the ROM specimen.
After two days that felt like two weeks, Dr. Evans and Mr. May returned to Toronto.
"As soon as I got back, I made a beeline for the collection and started realizing what looked like a bunch of random fragments actually fit together," Dr. Evans says, pointing out the shelves and drawers where he found the pieces. "Because I knew what I was looking for, things started fitting together."
Meanwhile, ROM collections manager Kevin Seymour recalled having seen a letter from Dr. McIntosh to Gordon Edmund, the late ROM curator who retired in 1990, regarding the Barosaurus, and searched for several hours until he found it.
The letter, dated Sept. 21, 1980, gave a detailed list of the pieces Dr. McIntosh had noted during previous visits to the ROM, and further digging revealed the Barosaurus bones - originally thought to be Diplodocus - had been obtained in a 1962 trade with the Carnegie Museum, in exchange for two duck-billed dinosaurs. Additionally, a mix-up at the Pittsburgh end at the time resulted in several of the metre-long neckbones staying behind.
"That letter was basically the Rosetta stone to figuring the whole thing out," Dr. Evans says, adding that there's nothing particularly unusual about a museum as old and large as the ROM losing track of parts of its collection through several decades and building renovations. Dr. Edmund, for whom Gordo was named, had hoped to mount the big sauropod but lacked the space, and when his career ended, its story simply got lost.
Strangely enough, Mr. May was a young ROM employee in the late 1970s, and had yet to start his casting business, when he helped pack the contents of the collections room for one of those moves within the building.
When Gordo arrived in Trenton, a piece of him came in a cardboard box that Mr. May recognized as having packed himself, in 1979, using then-newfangled protective foam sprayed from a can.
That was four years before the birth of Mr. May's daughter, Amelia, who now works for RCI and drew the formidable duty of laying out Gordo's bone fragments to see what goes where.
"It's frustrating at times, because you have a million little pieces," the 24-year-old Ms. May says during a break from removing caked-on rock from one of the Barosaur's bones. "You look for the colour and the texture and you get to know your pieces really well after a while."
Daunting as it is, especially under such a tight deadline, the work is rewarding.
"When you expose a bone, you're like, 'Omigod, I'm the first person to ever see this,' " she says, adding that Gordo is 150 million years old, give or take. "You get to know the dinosaur; you think about its life and what happened to it, how it died. You become friends with it."
Gordo the Barosaurus will make his public debut on Dec. 15, when the Royal Ontario Museum opens the James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs on the second level of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.
It will stretch out along the building's Bloor Street side, and be visible from the street through the Crystal's oblique windows.