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Union Tank Car celebrates 10 years at new facility

Modified: Tuesday, Oct 28th, 2008

Union Tank Car Company opened up its facilities on Union Road on Thursday to give tours to members of the public in celebration of 10 years at their new facility. Here is a 1954 GE Switch Engine, used to move the train cars around for maintenance and repair./ After 34 years in Evanston and 10 years at their new facility, Union Tank Car Company boasts 74 employees and has grown to be a major part of Evanston’s economy. COURTESY PHOTO/ Gilbert Olson, (far right), manager of Union Tank Car Company in Evanston, explains the timeline and history of the company to interested residents during their 10 year anniversary celebration on Thursday. Union Tank Car Company has been at their present location on Union Road for 10 years and has operated in Evanston since the 1970s. HERALD PHOTO/Erin Buller

Union Tank Car Company has been a fixture in the Evanston business landscape since the early 1970s and on Thursday afternoon, they opened up their shop doors, giving tours and celebrating 10 years at their new facility on Union Road.

Gilbert Olson, manager of the facility since the company began in Evanston, said in 1974 Wyoming Railway Car Corporation began operation in the Union Pacific Railroad Roundhouse and Machine Shop with seven employees.

In 1986 Wyoming Railway was sold to Lithcote Company, a subsidiary of Union Tank Car Company, and at that time had 30 employees. Soon thereafter, Lithcote was absorbed by Union Tank.

In 1998, Olson said they were growing out of the Roundhouse and Machine Shop, and so began new construction on the current facility on Union Road, still within sight of their roots — the Roundhouse.

Later in ’98, they moved into the new facility with 60 employees.

Today, Olson said they have 73 employees and are adding new hires all the time.

Olson said Union Tank Car Company is a nationwide railroad car corporation, with facilities in Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa and, of course, Wyoming. The company has three divisions: manufacturing, leasing and repair.

The Evanston facility is one of the premier repair and maintenance facilities in the company, he said.

Residents and interested individuals were encouraged to take tours of the entire facility on Thursday.

They saw the entire process of a tank car getting repaired and refitting, with federal codes and laws always in mind.

Dale Revelli, material supervisor at Union Tank, said the cars carry anything from molten sulphur, petroleum and gas, to chocolate milk, powders, corn syrup and other household items.

“They carry anything you can imagine,” he said.

Thus, he said, the cars have to be checked over for leaks and any imperfections every few years to meet federal codes.

“The main thing done here is welding repair,” Revelli said.

He said they work 20 hours a day, shut down for four, and run 10 hour shifts, four days a week.

And they do everything from cleaning out and repairing the inside of the cars, doing maintenance on all the fittings and fixtures, to blasting grafitti away and repainting with fresh, shiny black paint.

He remembered working in the old Roundhouse (currently being restored by the Evanston Renewal Agency) and said they could only fit five cars in there at one time.

Today, when a car comes to them for repairs, Revelli said their goal is to finish it completely in 20 days.

“Our goal today is to finish six cars a day,” he said. “We finish 1,200-1,400 cars a year.”

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