Thrall Car Manufacturing Company

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Thrall Car Manufacturing Company was a manufacturer of railroad freight cars in Chicago Heights, Illinois from 1917 to 2001. The company was sold to Trinity Industries in 2001.

Trinity Industries Inc. is an American industrial corporation that owns a variety of businesses which provide product and services to the industrial, energy, transportation and construction sectors.


Company history

A.J. Thrall established the Union Wagon Company in 1916, selling used and reconditioned rail car components. [1] This became the Thrall Car Manufacturing Company in 1917. [2] By mid-century, under the leadership of Richard L. Duchossois, the company focused on building specialized freight cars, such as high-cube boxcars for auto parts, all-door boxcars for building products, gondolas, rotary-dump gondolas for coal, bulkhead flatcars and centerbeam flatcars for lumber, double-stack container cars, covered hoppers, autorack cars and single-level trailer cars. [3] In the 1980s, Thrall acquired five competing railcar manufacturers [1] , including autorack builders Whitehead & Kales and Portec, and became the largest such manufacturer of these cars in the United States. In 1984, Duchossois purchased the remaining shares of the company owned by the Thrall family, and the company then operated as part of Duchossois Industries. [3] In the 1990s, Thrall had a production capacity of over 16,000 freight cars per year, with more than 3,000 employees. [1]

Richard L. "Dick" Duchossois is an American businessman and racehorse owner. He was the founder and Chairman of The Duchossois Group, Inc., a family-owned company headquartered in Elmhurst, Illinois that is known for its ownership stakes in Arlington Park and Churchill Downs race tracks, as well as for rail car and defense manufacturing.

Double-stack rail transport Railway freight transportation with shipping containers placed on rail cars two-high

Double-stack rail transport is a form of intermodal freight transport where railroad cars carry two layers of intermodal containers. Introduced in North America in 1984, double stack has become increasingly common there, being used for nearly seventy percent of United States intermodal shipments. Using double stack technology, a freight train of a given length can carry roughly twice as many containers, sharply reducing transport costs per container. On most North American railroads, special well cars are used for double-stack shipment to reduce the needed vertical clearance and to lower the center of gravity of a loaded car. In addition, the well car design reduces damage in transit and provides greater cargo security by cradling the lower containers so their doors cannot be opened. A succession of larger container sizes have been introduced to further increase shipping productivity on shipments within North America.

Covered hopper

A covered hopper is a railroad freight car designed for carrying dry bulk loads, varying from grain to products such as sand and clay. The cover protects the loads from the weather–dry cement would be very hard to unload if mixed with water in transit, while grain would be likely to rot if exposed to rain. However, they are unsuitable for perishables such as fruit or meat–these are transported in refrigerator cars, where they can be kept at low temperatures, as well. Similar to an open hopper car, covered hoppers tend to contain two to four separated bays. Each of these can be loaded and emptied individually, with access at the top to load the materials and visible chutes at the bottom for unloading.

From 1997, a European subsidiary Thrall Europa manufactured wagons in York, UK (Thrall Europa, York works, closed 2002). [4] In 2000, Thrall Europa acquired the railway vehicle manufacturer ČKD Vagonka Studénka (Czech Republic), renamed Thrall Vagonka Studénka, a.s.. [5] (In 2006 Trinity Industries sold off its European operations to International Railway Systems)

The closely held company was sold to Trinity Industries, based in Dallas, Texas, in 2001. The company was subsequently renamed Trinity Rail Group, LLC. [6]


Thrall was mainly a freight car fabrication and assembly operation. Additional car types manufactured included boxcars and gondolas. Most cars were designed for standard gauge interchange service on AAR-approved railroads within North America. Many tri-level autoracks built by Thrall exist today, identifiable by the blue Thrall rectangle logo present on either the extreme right or left end of the car side. Cast or forged parts, such as grab irons, trucks, axles, and wheels, were purchased from suppliers from the Chicago area.[ citation needed ]

Boxcar railroad car that is enclosed and used to carry freight

A boxcar is the North American term for a railroad car that is enclosed and generally used to carry freight. The boxcar, while not the simplest freight car design, is probably the most versatile, since it can carry most loads. Boxcars have side doors of varying size and operation, and some include end doors and adjustable bulkheads to load very large items.

Gondola (rail) open-top railroad freight car used for carrying loose bulk materials

In US railroad terminology, a gondola is an open-topped rail vehicle used for transporting loose bulk materials. Because of their low side walls, gondolas are also suitable for the carriage of such high-density cargos as steel plates or coils, or of bulky items such as prefabricated sections of rail track.

Interchange (freight rail) In freight rail transport

In freight rail transport, interchange is the practice of railroads conveying freight cars from other companies over their lines. This benefits shippers, whose cargo might otherwise have to be transhipped if the point of origin and destination are not both served by the same company.

Manufacturing locations

Union Pacific Railroad Class I railroad in the United States

Union Pacific Railroad is a freight hauling railroad that operates 8,500 locomotives over 32,100 route-miles in 23 states west of Chicago and New Orleans. The Union Pacific Railroad system is the second largest in the United States after the BNSF Railway and is one of the world's largest transportation companies. The Union Pacific Railroad is the principal operating company of the Union Pacific Corporation ; both are headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.

Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway

The Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway was a Class I railroad, operating between Waukegan, Illinois and Gary, Indiana. The railroad served as a link between Class I railroads traveling to and from Chicago, although it operated almost entirely within the city's suburbs, and only entered Chicago where it served the U.S. Steel South Works on the shores of Lake Michigan. Nicknames for the railroad included "The J" and "The Chicago Outer Belt Line". At the end of 1970, the EJ&E operated 164 miles of track and carried 848 million ton-miles of revenue freight in that year alone.

Both of the Chicago Heights facilities have been redeveloped.

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 The Duchossois Group, Elmhurst, IL. "The History of the Duchossois Group." Accessed 2013-11-10.
  2. Chicago Historical Society. "Duchossois Industries Inc." Encyclopedia of Chicago. Accessed 2013-11-10.
  3. 1 2 Worthington, Rogers (1986-08-24). "Citizen Duchossois". Chicago Tribune.
  4. See Holgate Road carriage works, York §Post-privatisation (1989-).
  5. "CKD DS break-up imminent",, 1 Apr 2001
  6. Inside View, Inc. (2013). "Trinity Rail Group, LLC." Accessed 2013-11-10.

Coordinates: 41°29′34″N87°36′41″W / 41.4929°N 87.6114°W / 41.4929; -87.6114