Saturday, January 20, 2018

Navistar/IH/Buick: Melrose Park Plant, both airplane and truck engines

Melrose Park: (Satellite)
Willow Springs: (Satellite, it has been completely rebuilt by UPS and BNSF)

(Update: a comment on a post indicates Navistar announced they are closing Melrose Park by Nov 2021.)

I attended a presentation given by James A. Brown at a Railroad & Shortlines Club meeting about the industrial development of the Santa Fe corridor in the Chicagoland area. I knew that the land for the current UPS facility was previously used by a GM Stamping Plant. I learned that it was originally a Buick plant and that it also made the Buick J-65 jet engine between 1952-55. (The Korean War was 1950-53.) During the life of the stamping plant, it made parts for all of GM's divisions. It closed in 1989.

I write about coaling towers (see label "towerCoal" in this and my other blog) because they demonstrate the strength of well-built reinforced concrete. Not only do they still exist after a half-century, they are so strong that many times it is not economical to tear them down to reclaim the land. As another testimony to the strength of concrete, the test stands for the jet engines still stand. James mentioned that some of the Santa Fe people that he interviewed for his book talked about how noisy this test stand could be.

3D Satellite
A Buick stamping plant making jet engines raised the question: How did Buick get into the aircraft engine business?" The short answer is World War II.

The Melrose Park plant now owned by Navistar to make engines was one of 19 plants that were owned by the government but operated by General Motors. In 1946, the government sold the 2,030,000 sq. ft. plant to International Harvester. Of the 173,618 Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial aircraft engines built, Buick assembled 74,198 of them in this plant, or 43%. These engines were used in the B-24, and later, in the C-47. (Chevrolet also helped build R-1830s) Later in the war, Buick also built some Pratt & Whitney R-2000 engines for the Douglas C-54. (Buick also made Hellcat tanks in a Flint, MI plant and several smaller items such as anti-aircraft gun mounts, shell bodies, aluminum cylinder heads, and crankshafts for Detroit Diesel engines.)  [USautoIndustryWWII]

This WWII era photo gives an aerial view of the Melrose Park, IL, plant looking northwest. The complex covered 126 acres.
For the J-65 jet engine design, Buick partnered with Wright Aeronautical. [Smithsonian, Wikepedia] "Buick built an aluminum foundry in 1942 to build airplane engine parts during the war. In 1952, a Buick factory was built south of East Stewart Avenue to make jet engine parts." [Mlive] Parts were made in both Flint and Willow Springs, but the assembly and testing was done in Willow Springs.

Probably Buick's last contribution to the aviation industry was to provide big V-8s to start the SR-71 in the AG-330 Start Carts. [WVI]

One of 13 photos in an album about this plant
The J-65 jet engine produced by Buick and assembled and tested at Willow Springs.

Navistar History
Navistar Re-established Its 75 Year Relationship with Cummins
When Navistar’s innovative Advanced EGR system did not receive EPA approval, the company re-established its relationship with Cummins. Late in 2012, International® ProStar®+ Class 8 trucks equipped with the Cummins ISX15 and SCR-based Cummins Emission Solutions aftertreatment system began rolling off the production line in Escobedo, Mexico. This long-awaited pairing of truck and engine was well received by dealers and customers alike.
New Engine Facilities
In 2002, a new plant was constructed in Huntsville, Alabama to build Mid-Range diesel engines.Then in 2008, a second plant was constructed nearby to build Big Bore diesels.The production lines in both of these high-tech plants are flexible with the ability to build various engine sizes on the same line, at the same time.These engines represent state-of-the-art construction with their durable, light weight, compacted graphite iron blocks. [This would help explain why the Melrose Park building is practically empty]

In 1984 the agriculture business was sold and in 1986 Navistar was created with just the bruck, bus and engine business.

International Begins to Build Trucks with Cummins Engines
In 1938 International Truck dealers on the west coast began replacing International engines with Cummins engines to provide the power customers wanted—especially customers hauling heavier loads or double trailers.That same year International began building the heavier duty D-Series trucks with extended hoods to accommodate the larger Cummins engines.
The First Diesel Engine
In 1933, International Harvester produced its first diesel engine, the D-40, which was a four-cylinder, four-cycle, overhead valve, pre-combustion, full-diesel engine.These engines were made at the company’s Tractor Works in Chicago and were used in TD-40 crawler tractors.Three years later, the company introduced its first six-cylinder diesel engine, the D-80, followed by its first diesel-powered truck in 1937.
International Innovation — The Wet Cylinder Sleeve
In 1924, International introduced to the truck manufacturing industry what was hailed as revolutionary and “the greatest single improvement ever made on a motor truck engine”—removable, wet cylinder sleeves. Since that time, replaceable sleeves have been virtually standard on truck engines of all makes. Before this, having worn or scored cylinders meant removing the engine and re-boring the engine block.With replaceable sleeves, the engine could be easily and inexpensively rebuilt without removing the engine from the chassis.
Fort Wayne, Indiana Factory
As roads improved and demand for motor trucks soared, International Harvester began construction of a truck factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Production at the site began in 1923, the same year that truck production started at the Chatham Works in Ontario. Meanwhile, the Springfield Works had been converted to truck manufacturing in 1921. [They don't brag about closing this plant on July 15, 1983.]
First McCormick Gasoline Engine
In 1897 E.A. Johnston developed the first McCormick gasoline combustion engine, for stationary use on farms. The following spring, Johnston modified the design and installed the engine on a lightweight wagon chassis. The stationary engines would go into full production in 1905.

In 2012 Navistar continues to expand its operations in Alabama with a new truck assembly plant.

Navistar is still making trucks, but because of EPA regulations, I don't think they are still making engines in America. The A26 may be made in China because I read about a plant in China that uses a Navistar license. The rest are made by Cummings. [InternationalTrucks] Note the emphasis on global when describing the A26. Conspicuously missing are the N9, 10 and 13 engines that was previously on this page.

A 2015 report of the cost to Navistar for trying to make EGR work from 2008 to 2012. It must have been the Tier 3 regulations, not the Tier 4 regulations that practically killed the company. It is interesting that GE and EMD (RailProgress) now use EGR to meet Tier 4 because the railroads refused to use Diesel Emissions Fluid. It is also interesting that a lot of old locomotives are being rebuilt. I presume that is because they can grandfather emission regulations. I remember when the EPA didn't think they had to regulate diesel emissions because rain washed the particles out of the air. But did they go too far with Tier 4?

Navistar did stop production of an engine in Melrose Park in 2018 because "Looking at the financial impact it would take to keep this engine compliant with (Environmental Protection Agency) standards, it just wasn't in the cards." [ChicagoTribune] That was the last engine still being made in this plant. Navistar is reusing the building by moving some engineering, testing, sales and service functions there. [ConstructionEquipment]

Navistar is also downsizing their relatively new headquarters in Lisle by leasing 225,000 sq. ft. to Amita Health. "Navistar, which makes commercial trucks, buses and defense vehicles, has been seeking tenants to lease as much as half of its 1.2 million-square-foot headquarters campus after decreasing its employee count significantly in recent years." [ChicagoTribune, Aug 24, 2017] I remember when Western Electric built that campus because I worked at Bell Labs just west of there. Lucent sold this campus to Navistar as part of their downsizing effort.

"Truck maker Navistar International plans to shut down and sell its Melrose Park manufacturing campus late this year, making way for planned redevelopment of the 84-acre site....In a regulatory filing, Navistar said about half the 500 workers in Melrose Park will be transferred to other facilities. It plans to take an approximately $85 million charge as a result of shutting down the facility, which includes $22 million for employee separation and other pension and post-retirement costs." [ChicagoTribune, Jan 2021]

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