Friday, March 20, 2015

Buzzi Unicem Cement Plant in Oglesby, IL

Photo from Ray's Lasalle County Online Museum
The Marquette Cement Plant in Oglesby, IL shipped its first barrel of Portland cement in 1893. The first years were lean, it was shuttered for a while. But after the 1900s the cement industry made great strides. Engineers begin to learn how to build with reinforced concrete and roads needed to be paved. After they were invented, rotary kilns were installed and increased production by a factor of 7 to 3,600 barrels a day. Marquette Cement evolved into Lone Star Industries, which was purchased by Buzzi Unicem USA Inc. in 2004. (MyWebTimes)

 Ray's Lasalle Online Museum has quite a few more pictures of this plant.

But the economic crash of 2008, which hit the construction industry particularly hard, caused the quarry and mill to be shut down December 1, 2008, laying off nearly 80 union workers. Now just the railroad and silos are used as a distribution center. (MyWebTimes) The railroad brings cement from a plant near Greencastle, IN to fill about 40 - 80 trucks a day.

Photo from Ray's Lasalle Country Online Museum
This photo indicates an earlier plant design that probably used the wet process. Note it has two rotary kilns. The current plant probably uses the dry process because it has a tall preheat tower. I looked at Bing Map to get a better feel for the height of the buildings. I include a snapshot below in case they update their site. Note that once again Bing is a time machine. This photo has to be over seven years old because there are emissions coming out of the stack and dust coming out of a building. That is, the mill is active. So this photo is before December, 2008.
Bird's Eye View

Photo from Ray's Lasalle Country Online Museum
A plat of the site probably documents an even older plant design that did not use rotary kilns.

If you look at the second photo above, it is evident that there is a set of silos near the plant and another set of silos higher up the hill. Below is a 1939 aerial map that I downloaded from the ILHAP site to show that the close set of silos was served by the CB&Q/Illinois Valley and Northern Railroad and the higher set of silos was served by the Illinois Central Railroad. Note the plant was using the wet process.

ILHAP site: 1939 aerial map

In 2013, Buzzi Unicem indicated it would cost $20 million to put the plant back online, which will never happen. So they were requesting that the value of their property tax bill be cut by 75%. In fact, they removed a conveyor built to reduce the worth of their property. (NewTrib) So it sounds like this plant is headed to the fate of a sister Marquette Cement plant in Superior Ohio that was closed in 1986. I gather that Superior Ohio had iron ore, limestone, and coal. When the iron ore ran out, they switched to making cement until the coal ran out. (Furnaces)
The pictures in the middle of a photo gallery show some of the equipment because it is being dismantled. Near the end of the gallery are some images from an advertizing booklet including this picture of their rotary kiln.

It will be interesting if Buzzi Unicem bought and closed enough plants to force the price of cement way up after the economy recovers. Hopefully the distribution business generates enough car loads for the railroad to pay for the maintenance of the Illinois River Bridge or we are going to loose another neat RR Bridge across the Illinois River.

This is effectively my posting about rotary kilns as well, so I'll add a video on the construction of a kiln. (source)

1 comment:

  1. There was a mine fire at the Oglesby cement co. in about 1960. I have a very interesting story and have been looking for photos and info. I would like to visit the plant and get a few photos also. Email is Note: a q, not a g.