I was well aware of WE's Hawthorn Works. The following taught me that WE had a plant in Montgomery, IL.
|Lost Illinois Manufacturing posted|
In 1969 comes this photo from the Western Electric plant in Montgomery, Illinois. Courtesy of their employee Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/55128958916/
Joe Murray Some of that western electric equipment is still in place inside the central offices. It’s all ‘retired in place’ until the engineers decide they need the bays.
Dennis DeBruler I worked for Bell Labs back when both BL and WE were part of Ma Bell (AT&T before it was broke up). I was aware of the Hawthorne Works. I was not aware of a Montgomery Works. The caption reminds me that the existance of integrated circuits was "cutting edge" at the beginning of the 1970s.
An understanding of the organization of the Manufacturing Division requires a brief digression into intra-company terminology. It’s a question of semantics, really. Words like “Plant," “Works," and "Shops," when capitalized have specific meanings at WE, though the reasons may not always be clear and the distinctions do not necessarily apply elsewhere in the Bell System. To take one example, Webster’s defines "plant" as “… the machinery, apparatus, fixtures, etc., sometimes the real estate employed in carrying on a trade or mechanical or other industrial business." In Western Electric usage, "Plant” has a more limited meaning. Strictly speaking, there are only two WE Plants - with a capital P. One is at Buffalo, New York; the other in Laureldale, Pennsylvania. Specifically, "Plant” refers to a separate, medium-sized manufacturing facility, encompassing several “Shops." “Shop" is used to describe a manufacturing unit under the direction of a superintendent, that produces one particular product family, like crossbar equipment or cable. Major manufacturing facilities, which comprise many Shops, are designated Works. There are 11 WE Works and they are responsible for the great bulk of the company’s manufacturing output. Five of these Works operate satellite Shops with large manufacturing facilities employing sizable numbers of people and located physically apart from the Works to which each reports. The Burlington Shops, for example, where the Speakerphone and ground radar and missile guidance equipment for the armed forces are made, covers well over 700,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
I found it interesting that before United Wallpaper bought the land, it was a yard for the CA&E. But I could find no trace of this yard or the track that went south across the CB&Q branch and followed IL-31 in a 1939 aerial photo.
|1944 ed of 1925 map|
I've retired from Bell Labs. Back in the 20th Century, we used to receive a weekly Bell Labs News newspaper. I remember an article talking about how they invented a solvent based upon a chemical found in oranges for cleaning printed circuit boards. The article made a big deal about the new solvent being "environmentally friendly." After a little research, I learned: "Many industrial cleaning processes have relied heavily on the use of chlorinated solvents, specifically 1,1,1- trichloroethane (TCA) and 1,1,2-trichloro-1,2,2-trifluoroethane (CFC-113). They are regulated as hazardous wastes. These chlorinated solvents also have been identified as ozone-depleting chemicals and are being phased out under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990" [epa-oh] So now I understand why the new "orange-based" solvent was considered such a breakthrough. Not only would it reduce cancer rates and protect the ozone layer, it would avoid millions of dollars of cleanup costs. We keep a bottle of Goo Gone to clean off adhesive after removing tape. The front label has photos of it removing paint & varnish, gum, grease & tar, and glue as well. It also has an image of an orange with a face and two strong arms with the words "Citrus Solvent No Bad Oder!". The epa-oh article was written in 1992 and states "At this time, there is no common or simple substitute for the wide variety of solvent uses." I assume Bell Labs solved at least the PCB (printed-circuit board) cleaning problem. Solvents for spring-wire manufacturing are no longer needed because logic and switching relays were replaced by electronics by 1990. As an alternative to better solvents, "Some AT&T plants are using a low-solids flux for wave soldering in an inert atmosphere which eliminates the need for PCB cleaning altogether. For this no-clean approach AT&T Bell Labs has developed a low-solids fluxer (LSF) that can apply fluxes on PCBs reliably and so accurately that little residue is left." [p2InfoHouse] The LSF solution is a high-capital manufacturing machine. But in the 1990s, Western Electric was still making enough PCBs that expensive machines that removed the no-value-added cleaning step was obviously cost effective.