One of the nation's largest railroad services companies plans to reopen a Tacoma Tideflats locomotive and rail car repair and rebuilding facility that closed last summer because of the recession.
Progress Rail Services Corp., a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc., is acquiring the buildings and machinery owned by Coast Engine and Equipment Co., which shut down at the end of July after the railroad overhaul business fell steeply. The recession has forced railroads to mothball thousands of engines and railcars, so the need to overhaul those cars and locomotives had diminished.
Progress, headquartered in Alabama, will lease the nearly 14-acre site on South Frontage Road from the Port of Tacoma, port spokeswoman Tara Mattina said Friday.
That lease runs through 2029 with options for two 5-year extensions.
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Progress Rail communications manager Barbara Cox said the company will do much of the same kind of work CEECO did at the site – locomotive and railcar overhauls, repair and painting.
Cox said she had no information about the size of the work force at the Tacoma facility, but Progress executives told the Port of Tacoma that the company plans to hire 30 workers at first. As business expands, that work force could grow to as many as 100. At its peak more than two years ago, CEECO employed 140 workers. The payroll had dwindled to 70 by the time the closure was announced.
Progress has 4,500 employees nationwide at about 120 facilities. Most of Progress’ facilities have nonunion work forces.
CEECO had been in business on the Tideflats since 1947, first specializing in marine diesel engines and then gradually shifting its business to railroad equipment.
The facility’s last major job was the rebuilding and updating of two narrow-gauge diesels for Skagway, Alaska’s White Pass and Yukon Railway Route. That job involved giving the two locomotives new fuel-efficient engines and new control systems.
CEECO also did maintenance update work on passenger cars used for Amtrak’s Cascades service from Eugene, Ore., to Vancouver, B.C.
The new company will pay the Port of Tacoma $26,148 a month for the land plus a 12.84 percent leasehold tax.
Those seeking jobs can apply at Progress Rail’s Web site, www. progressrail.com, Cox said.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663