Report: Progress Rail may move engine production from hallowed La Grange plant

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LA GRANGE, Ill. – The end may be near for a locomotive plant that was once at the top of the industry. Progress Rail parent Caterpillar Inc. is considering closing the famed La Grange facility, splitting the remaining engine production between a plant in North Carolina and outside suppliers, the Winston-Salem Journal reports.

The 850,000-square-foot plant near Winston-Salem employs just 160 now, compared with almost 600 at the La Grange facility. Previously, the North Carolina plant produced axles for Caterpillar mine trucks before transitioning to the Progress Rail product line recently.

Industry sources talking to Trains News Wire do not anticipate a move of the company's administrative offices from the La Grange facility, however.

La Grange has been synonymous for EMD locomotives since early in the days of dieselization. When ground was broken in 1935 on 74 acres of land adjacent to the Indiana Harbor Belt southwest of downtown Chicago, it was the beginning of a facility that would be the flagship of EMD (called Electro-Motive Corp. until 1941) for decades to come. The plant was expanded many times and at its zenith, could produce up to 10 locomotives a day on average. Almost everything that went into a locomotive was designed and manufactured on site at La Grange.

Its dominance would hold until the 1980s, when rival General Electric became the number one builder of locomotives. Soon after, EMD would announce the end of locomotive manufacturing at La Grange in the late 1980s, with all manufacturing moved to its sister facility in London, Ontario, built in 1950. The last locomotives would roll off the assembly line in 1993 for hometown customer Metra, with demolition of all but the administration and engine manufacturing buildings in early 2000.

Today, Progress Rail produces new locomotives in Muncie, Ind., with engines from the La Grange plant.
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