• Belvidere, IL Chrysler Plant To Close

  • Discussion about the Union Pacific operations past and present. Official site can be found here: UPRR.COM.
Discussion about the Union Pacific operations past and present. Official site can be found here: UPRR.COM.

Moderator: GOLDEN-ARM

  by Gilbert B Norman
The Journal reports that Stellantis NV will close the Belvidere, IL assembly plant, affecting 1,350 workers. Presently Jeep vehicles are assembled there.

Fair Use:
Jeep maker Stellantis NV said it would stop operations at a 1,350-employee assembly plant in Illinois, citing the need to control costs in the face of supply-chain disruptions and high expenses associated with moving to electric vehicles.

The Netherlands-based global auto maker said Friday that its factory in Belvidere, Ill., which makes the Jeep Cherokee sport-utility vehicle, would be idled effective Feb. 28 and result in indefinite layoffs. The company said it is looking at different uses for the plant and would try to place laid-off employees in full-time positions elsewhere.
This facility is located along the former C&NW line, as well as the Jane Adams Tollway I-90, between West Chicago and Freeport, which also serves the Illinois Railway Museum at Union. While since the merger, the UP has done some work to the line, it was at best FRA Class 2 - and more likely just 1 - on the merger's eve.

Possibly another use can be found for the facility and needing rail transportation, but such "repurposings" elsewhere have met with "mixed" success.

disclaimer: author Long UNP
  by eolesen
Metra still wants to run to Huntley, and the State keeps making noise about running to Rockford on those rails. But those are long plays.

I'd hate to see the IRM become landlocked, but that looks like a possibility unless what little overhead traffic there is to Rockford is worth keeping.

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  by Gilbert B Norman
Let's see--

Insofar as closed vehicle assembly plants go, I think the only "success story" has been the former Toyota plant in Freemont CA that became Tesla's first assembly plant (they now have additional newbuilt plants in Texas, China, and Germany).

The former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, IL now produces electric Rivian light trucks, but they have had many production issues to date. Amazon has given them a large order for high capacity vans (hate to be driving one of those in a stiff X-wind, even though an electrician I use has one and tells me it is stable as an auto). So let's see if they meet delivery promises.

Lordstown (electric) trucks, which assembles such at a former GM facility located there in Eastern Ohio (quite visible from I-76, appears to be a "DOA".

So who knows what the fate of the unionized Chrysler workers will be, there are probably enough openings in other Chrysler plants to absorb them; only problem is they're not anywhere near Belvidere.

Now insofar as the C&NW line goes, yes, as Mr. Olesen notes, the IRM could easily become landlocked and having to move their equipment on or off their property over highways on flat bed trailers. Should Stellantis be successful in a repurpose of the facility, will there be enough traffic to warrant Uncle Pete to keep the line open?

Now I have read that there is some industrial development being proposed for Loves Park, which would be on line and a candidate for rail service. However, to the East of Rockford (@ Alpine Road), the IC and the C&NW parallel each other and a connection between the lines could be built there enabling the UP to abandon the line Eastward through Union and the IRM.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Here's more from The Times

Fair Use:
The Jeep Cherokee was a strong seller just a few years ago. In 2019, a plant in Belvidere, Ill., produced about 190,000 of the sport utility vehicles, employing close to 5,000 people and operating three shifts a day.

Since then, sales have fallen. The factory laid off the third shift, and then the second. This year it is on track to make fewer than 20,000 vehicles.

Even so, it was a shock when the manufacturer, Stellantis, announced this month that the 57-year-old plant would shut down indefinitely at the end of February, putting 1,350 people out of work. And there is fear across the area, an hour’s drive west of Chicago, that “indefinitely” could mean forever.
I have friends in the Rockford area (10 mi West of Belvidere), including a dating relationship (deceased), and another who has held a management position at the facility. Ron is of age (and means) to simply retire. As noted, Ann is "down below".

But that cannot be said of all workers there.

Back on the rails, I just don't know what this former C&NW line can mean to Uncle Pete. The industrial development I noted at Loves Park is pretty much "a dream" held by the "City Fathers" and if it ever develops, there is a physical connection at Rockford between the IC (CN) and the C&NW (UP).

I have no idea what industry there is to the West at the Freeport end of track. I earlier noted the "mixed" success of converting auto assembly plants to other makes or usages.

Finally and again, as Mr. Olesen previously noted, "biggest loser" could be the IRM at Union if Uncle Pete chops up the line.
  by eolesen
Playing devils advocate, the IRM could benefit. Years ago, there was a plan to move ownership of the line from CNW
over to Kane and McHenry County or the State, and have IRM do local switching. Whether or not that would get resurrected is another story.

Thats assuming UP wants to dispose of it. Elsewhere, they seem to move slow on cutting back the network.

They continue to declare Tennessee Pass and the Wellton-Phoenix mainlines as inactive vs. abandoned, and didn't dump the Harvard Sub beyond Metra territory when GM closed in Janesville. It took decades to sell the Reedsburg Sub notth of Madison. The way the Madison south to Oregon line has rebounded should be an indicator of how keeping the rail intact can pay off 5-15 years later. It wouldn't surprise me to see the short segment Evansville to Oregon restored at some point.

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Last edited by eolesen on Mon Dec 26, 2022 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Gilbert B Norman
You have a point, Mr. Olesen. With rail property a factor in assessment of such is how much revenue is generated from the particular Iine.

I cannot claim any expertise regarding all factors of real estate tax assessments of rail lines beyond what I just noted.
  by R36 Combine Coach
The plant opened in 1965 building full size Mopars, the FWD Omni/Horizon followed in 1978 and later the
  by Gilbert B Norman
Details of course "sketchy" at present, but under the tentative Chrysler-UAW agreement, Belvidere is to be reopened.

As reported today in The Times. The plant is to be open for two shifts and will produce a "mid-sized pickup truck".

Those here more familiar with Chrysler products than am I, can surmise what that entails.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Things get better for Belvidere. Today, WBBM 780/105.9 reported that, in addition to the "mid sized pickup" noted by The Times, there will also be a battery assembly facility added there. Additionally, workers will be able to move between batteries and vehicle assembly wherever their seniority will take them.

I trust Uncle Pete has been following these developments with a keen eye.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Joe and Gov. Jay were in Belvidere today, presumably to take a "victory lap" when Chrysler agreed to reopen the plant under their agreement with the UAW.

Trust Omaha is aware.
  by eolesen
Good for the UP. Can't say I'm thrilled at the thought of railcars of lithium battery components rolling thru my county or up/down the tollway....
  by Gilbert B Norman
Well Mr. Olesen, if Uncle Pete has ideas of capturing the battery business, he'd better start fixing up that C&NW line to something resembling FRA Class 3.

But it would appear to me that these batteries, assuming that the "EV" fad is not about to die (not sure I want one, even though the rental Model Y was "fun" a year ago and for 75 miles with Hertz saying "just bring 'er back, we'll charge it up), represent a traffic source both inbound for the raw materials and outbound finished goods consigned to other Chrysler plants - and might even be handled in the same cars.

What more can the Traffic Department ask for?
  by eolesen
My understanding is these plants being proposed for Belvidere and also in Michigan won't have raw materials per se, but will simply be repackaging smaller cells (manufactured mostly in China or South Korea) into the battery packs needed to fit the vehicles.

In container size quantities, that is potentially more dangerous than an oil or chemical derailment. Most fire departments just aren't equipped to extinguish a lithium battery fire.

I'm assuming they'll arrive in sea containers and possibly ship out to the assembly plants in containers, which will be somewhat new on that line.