Sunday, March 27, 2016

March 27, 1935 -- Electro-Motive Chooses McCook

March 27, 1935 -- Officials of the Electro-Motive Company, a subsidiary of General Motors Corporation, break ground for a new plant in McCook, at which diesel-electric locomotives will be produced. H. L. Hamilton, the president of the company, says, 'This new industry created by the railroads' demand for high speeds is as strange to us as it is to Chicago . . . we are planning in such a way that we can add to the plant as we get experience in the new art of building locomotives with diesel-electric power plants." Just west of Chicago, McCook, with a population of under 400, makes a particularly attractive choice for the locomotive manufacturer. First, it is close to the Indiana Harbor Belt line tracks, so getting raw materials in and finished locomotives out will be fairly easy. Secondly, the area has a bed of Niagara limestone just below the surface, an excellent foundation for the heavy fabricating equipment of the new production facility. In 1938 the first road freight is tested on an 83,764 mile, 11-month run. The test shows that the new locomotive can do twice the work of a steam engine at half the cost. With Chicago's ever more stringent ordinances against smoke pollution (the first such legislation went back at least to 1909), the new plant in McCook was profitable from the beginning. It stopped producing locomotives in 1991 when operations were transferred to London, Ontario. Pictured above is demonstrator FT103, the innovation that changed an industry.

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