When Jeremy Erickson saw an unfilled need for building and reconditioning locomotive wheelsets for the railroad industry 20 years ago, he parked his mobile service truck for good. Today, Messiah Locomotive Service manufactures and re-machines the parts that go into the 4,000- to 4,200-pound train parts. When he saw other shops in the Midwest shutting down, he knew it was time to act. Spokane-based Messiah Locomotive now serves much of the Southern, East Coast, Southeast and Western U.S. feeder-rail network.
SBJ: What inspired you to take your business from mobile repairs to lasering in on one specific need?
Jeremy Erickson: For me, the biggest one is in the industry; a lot of the wheel shops have closed down because of consolidations. A lot the railroads quit doing it. There was a demand and a need for a lower-cost option for a lot of the railroads in the middle of the country.
SBJ: What are some of your greatest challenges recently?
Erickson: Availability of the parts. We were buying from a company that made them in Ukraine, but because of the war, we’ve had to go to another vendor in the States. I was paying attention to (conflict brewing in Ukraine) for a while since we did business there. Even the people over there didn’t see it coming. They knew (Putin) was doing military training across the border in Belarus. I haven’t talked to anybody (in Ukraine) for a month.
SBJ: You source nearly everything else locally. What’s the appeal?
Erickson: I can get it now. I can get whatever parts and supplies that I need now. Sometimes you always have something you run out of, like an oil or a special tool that we use. It’s pretty nice to be able to go get it. Springfield is big enough it can carry almost all of my supplies. There are certain ones you have to order because what we do is so specialized.
SBJ: You’re planning a building expansion to help prepare for expanding your business. What all will that involve?
Erickson: We are currently replacing outdated equipment and reconfiguring our facility to get a better workflow for fast lead times. We’ll be more efficient and create a better, safer environment for the guys who work here and be able to handle more.
SBJ: What’s next for Messiah Locomotive?
Erickson: We’re finishing what they call an AAR M-10003 quality control certification by midsummer. We have one now, but this one will give us the stamp of approval for American Association of Railroads systemwide. It’s not a government association. This is probably one of the strictest quality controls in the country. Then we’ll move on to bigger, larger customers and increase by about 25% once that’s completed this summer. We’ve never slowed down.
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