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From Rail Cars to Garbage Trucks

Big space to fill: The former National Alabama plant’s 2 million square feet is more than enough space to house Navistar’s production line for a new work truck, the LoadStar garbage hauler.

Big space to fill: The former National Alabama plant’s 2 million square feet is more than enough space to house Navistar’s production line for a new work truck, the LoadStar garbage hauler.

The enormous plant built to make railcars in the Shoals has been redeployed by Navistar to make a designed-from-scratch garbage hauler dubbed the LoadStar. The first of the trucks is slated to roll off the production line in the mile-long facility next year, three years after the plant’s original production target.

With enormous fanfare and big subsidies, the state announced the original owner, National Alabama, subsidiary of a Canadian rail car maker, which was to employ some 1,800 people making rail cars. The recession put the kibosh on that plan and Retirement Systems of Alabama, which loaned the money for the project, was left holding the empty plant.

Late last year, RSA announced that it had leased the plant to Navistar, an Illinois firm that has two engine plants in Huntsville. To date, employment is well below the target—which Gov. Robert Bentley listed as 2,200—but Navistar officials say they expect to take orders for the new truck this year, with production to begin next year.

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