Ever wondered what was is going on in that parking lot near the DuPage County Airport in West Chicago, that is one day filled with new cars and the next day nearly empty?
It is the Union Pacific Railroad West Chicago Auto Facility, where new and some used automobiles and trucks arrive by train from all over the U.S. for transportation to dealerships throughout nearby states.
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Between 14,000 and 20,000 automobiles arrive each month and are moved by Union Pacific Auto Facility employees to vehicle parking bays, where auto haulers pick them up.
In 2010 the facility handled more than 150,000 vehicles, mostly new Toyota and Nissan vehicles, but occasionally Fords and Chryslers.
The 90-acre facility can handle 48 rail cars at a time, and each can hold nine to 15 vehicles, depending on size. The rail cars are staged on four unloading tracks in groups of up to six connected cars.
Drivers board the rail cars, remove the wheel chucks, secure steel crossover ramps between each rail car, then drive cars one at a time down a mobile ramp and into specified auto load lines. Workers then return to the rail car via a van to repeat the process.
The unloaded cars are driven over a specially designed bridge with several right turns to prevent excessive speed to the vehicle parking bays, where auto haulers load them for transport to local and regional car dealerships.
"This whole business is about moving assets, getting one vehicle out and getting one in its place," says Bob Jumbeck, Union Pacific senior manager of auto facilities operations.
The facility, which is guarded and not open to the public, only closes on major holidays.