RELCO Locomotives was founded in 1961 by George Bachman to lease quality locomotives to railroads and industrial companies throughout the Midwest.
In its earliest days, RELCO leased locomotives to customers and provided full-maintenance. George’s son, Don, pioneered the development of RELCO’s field service division in the 1970’s ensuring that RELCO’s locomotive lease fleet and any customer warranty issues were handled in a timely and efficient manner. During the 80’s, RELCO’s fleet of leased locomotives became the largest privately owned fleet in the nation.
With the class one railroads’ focus on larger high horsepower locomotives, the growth of the Short Line Railroads, and the age of medium horsepower and switcher locomotives getting much older throughout the 90’s, RELCO realized the need to fill the growing opportunity of remanufacturing locomotives. RELCO is now run by the third generation of the Bachman family. The Bachman family has formed a team to ensure that customers receive the highest levels of service and that RELCO remains ahead of the curve both operationally and technologically. It has expanded, increasing its capacity more than five times over its original size. RELCO now has far greater capabilities while the organization’s integrity and ultimate goal remains the same: Provide a complete package of motive power solutions to railroads and industries.
RELCO was founded by George Bachman. George was the Chief Mechanical Officer for a Chicago-based railroad and by the late 1950’s he noted that the railroad’s customers desperately needed a way to outsource their in-plant locomotive operations. The customers were experts at their particular industry, but not experts at locomotives, and a broken down locomotive could quickly bring a plant to its knees. He dug into his savings, bought his first locomotive, and thereby pioneered the concept out-sourcing locomotive operations.
By 1961 the concept had become so popular that he resigned his position as CMO and founded RELCO as a full-time company. On October of 1961 RELCO Equipment was born. The outsourcing model continued to grow and RELCO opened its first maintenance shop and warehouse on Cass Avenue in Joliet, Illinois.
The 70’s marked the beginning of a rapid expansion period. RELCO soon outgrew its original shop and warehouse and purchased a new facility on Gardner St. in Joliet, IL. The new facility enabled RELCO to start building some of the components typically needed to service its own fleet of locomotives and dramatically expanded the warehousing capability. Both of these were critical pieces to the strategy of minimizing locomotive down time.
During the 70’s RELCO also started evolving local maintenance centers to shorten the dispatch time to maintain or repair a locomotive. Meanwhile locomotives from RELCO’s fleet were being cycled through the Joliet facility for rebuild. But because of the space and logistics limitations, RELCO turned down rebuild projects for others.
The 80’s saw RELCO’s fleet of leased locomotives become the largest privately owned fleet in the nation. RELCO also made its third move to a greenfield facility in Minooka Illinois which was specifically designed and built from the ground up to accommodate the needs of a growing fleet of leased locomotives and expanding customer service offering.
The new facility enabled RELCO to start re-manufacturing locomotives for itself and for others. Projects from the US Navy, US Army and a myriad of industrial customers expanded RELCO’s capabilities to handle almost any kind of locomotive, and soon demand required that the facility be expanded so the number of locomotives could double from four to eight.
RELCO’s name and reputation for quality built locomotives was growing and in turn, the business was expanding. The class one railroads had been concentrating on larger horsepower locomotives and with this focus, GM and GE had followed the demand and started producing higher horsepower locomotives, and had stopped producing the lower horsepower switcher type locomotives. The class one railroads had also been divesting themselves of track, which had enabled the growth of the short line railroads. With these two changes, the opportunity to grow the remanufacturing market grew tremendously.
In 2004, RELCO continued to grow with the purchase of locomotives from the David J. Joseph Company. This allowed RELCO to provide its customers with the locomotives needed to meet their demand and introduced new customers to RELCO’s World Class Service.
In 2005, the world class Albia Iowa facility was opened ushering in a new stage in RELCO’s ability to serve our customers. The main locomotive shop is over 100,000 square feet, has six overhead cranes, and has five tracks, two of which are served by a single-axle drop table. The site has nearly 30 miles of track for locomotive run-in and testing, including a Y-turn track.
The current decade has shown continued growth. With the introduction of the XD series of locomotives, RELCO has challenged the industry to offer better products to serve the customers. Good enough is not good enough for RELCO, we push to build the best locomotives and to take care of our customers at the highest level.