Monday, October 2, 2017

General Mills in St. Charles and West Chicago have closed

(Update 2019: This is a complete rewrite.)

Mark Llanuza posted two photos with the comment: "its the 2006 in St Charles riding on the former CGW line with famous Radio Rex Hauser going across the Fox River and switching General Mills."

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I was able to determine that the train was heading westbound across the bridge because I found the building in the left background of that photo.
Street View

It appears there were two General Mills plants near St. Charles. Tom Burke's 2007 Flick photo allowed me to find the one in St. Charles because he says "Olcott Plastics now occupies the former General Mills building but the tracks were ripped out several years ago." This 37-year old plant closed in 2002. It was a food products plant that produced "more than 200 types of food including cereal and single-pack food items for the military, schools, airlines, prisons and restaurants. The announcement comes nine months after General Mills completed its $10.4 million buyout of Pillsbury, which a spokeswoman said has caused excess capacity in the company's production system." [NWItimes]

Global Earth goes back to Mar 1996 in this area. Randall Road is on the left, IL-64 is at the bottom, and Dean Street slants across near the top. (Satellite) I include the buildings in the upper-right corner because they were the only ones that existed out here in 1939. You can see the industrial spur that curves south just east of Randall Road.
Global Earth, Mar 1996
The old buildings were gone by 1999. Also note that there are three freight cars parked on a siding.
Global Earth, Mar 1999
The year of the closing, 2002.
Mar 2002
The south part of the building was removed by Apr 2005 to make room for a new strip mall along IL-64.
Global Earth, Apr 2005
Those old buildings in the 1996 image are about the only thing that existed in 1939.
1939 Aerial Photo
The industrial spur existed in Nov 2011, but was gone in Mar 2012. By June 2010, Olcott Plastics had added the storage tanks on the west side of the building. Many plastics plants want rail service. But UP doesn't want to provide rail service. They want companies to clutter up our urban roads with more trucks. Even if they reduce their carbon footprint by using a transload or intermodal facility, it still puts trucks on the roads that are already crowded. Big trucks significantly reduce the number of cars that can get through an intersection while a light is green. The tracks on the mainline existed in Apr 2013, but were gone by Mar 2015.

Satellite
The CGW remnant now terminates east of Tyler Road. I found one industry along the remnant and one along the connection to the UP tracks that have freight cars by the building. I also found Pillsbury Drive, but no Pillsbury building. A spur still goes to RR Donnelley, but the tracks by the building have been paved over for parking. And judging by the curve of the parking lot, there used to be a spur here.



While looking for the St. Charles General Mills plant, I found another General Mills plant in West Chicago. This is along the remnant of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy's original mainline from Aurora to the Galena & Chicago Union tracks, which it used to access Chicago. (G&CU became the C&NW, and it is now the UP. CB&Q built its own route to Chicago during the Civil War.) This 1959 plant was closed in 2017 affecting 500 employees. It produced "three major lines for the Minneapolis-based company, including Bugles snacks, General Mills cereals like Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Hamburger Helper products....The food manufacturer, which has been up against shifting consumer tastes that are moving away from packaged, processed foods, has been trying to make changes to keep up with the times. It has eliminated some artificial colors from its cereals and reduced sugar in its yogurts. Amid sluggish sales last year, the company laid off about 1,400 employees....The company has already announced plans to close facilities in Lodi, Calif., New Albany, Ind., Midland, Ontario, and Methuen, Mass." [ChicagoTribune and IllinoisPolicy]

BNSF does still run a local freight train on this branch. While I was taking photos of the former CB&Q roundhouse in Aurora, I heard the horn of a local leaving Eola Yard and heading north on this branch. But I was not familiar enough with the roads in the Fox River area to attempt to chase it. On a later trip to take photos of dams on the Fox River, I stopped at a gas station across the road from the branch and asked the attendant if trains still run on it. He said once a day during the week.

Satellite
[Note that his image is old enought that there are several freight cars parked in the small yard by the plant.]
Once I knew where it was, I was able to find a 3D version of it on Google Maps.
3D Satellite


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